“The Importance of the Met”

Kaissidy Homolke and Haden Gross

Opinion / News

Sept. 22, 2021

On Sep. 13th the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute Benefit (Met) in New York, NY hosted its 70th gala. Since 1948 the Met has been the pinnacle of galas. Both celebrities and designers alike strive to capture the attention of other patrons and the camera. This year designers were challenged to imitate the theme “American independence.” The purpose of having a theme is to provoke designers’ creative intellect, for them to collaborate with their celebrity model and interpret what “American independence” means to them.

The 2021 Met gala did not disappoint spectators as patrons of the gala showed a wide range of ensembles representing their views on this year’s theme. However, like the rest of the events of 2021, some of the looks at the Met gala challenged the way people view commonly accepted ideas such as what constitutes fashion to be luxurious.

“I do not watch the Met Gala, nor do I find it important. It doesn’t feel like it’s worth my time to watch rich people dress up, I tend to pay attention to events that hold significance in my interests.” Said Noor Hassan-Contreras (‘22).

The Met is no longer an event used to showcase only high fashion luxuries afforded to the rich, but now is a place of activism among many of its attendees. The co-chair of the MET, Billie Eilish demanded that her dress be free of animal cruelty and that designer Oscar de la Renta go “fur-free”. Eilish urged other designers to do so, creating an open door to discuss and remove animal cruelty from luxury brands.

“Fashion-focused red carpet events in general are entertaining and a good way for designers to be recognized for their work.” Said Karmella Williams (‘23) president of both the Alma College Fashion Club and International Club.

Attendees such as Alexandria Ocasio Cortez used their dresses to promote political activism. Her dress “Tax the Rich” was designed by Brother Vellies, a black-owned business, and made a large statement concerning her political ideologies. The dress was also created out of sustainably sourced fabrics, all qualities the congresswoman upholds.

“It is important for people, especially young people, to see themselves represented during events like this. There were many women and men of color at the MET and a few younger artists. Seeing many different types of people in a big media event is great because it shows that fashion is for everyone.” Said Williams (‘23).

Of all the guests to capture the theme “American independence,” indigenous model Quannah Chasinghorse did an outstanding job. Her bold and beautiful turquoise jewelry came from Jocelyn Billy-Upshaw of the southwest Navajo culture. Chashinghorse grew up with Billy-Upshaw and the Navajo people and wanted to emphasize their culture through the jewelry’s

symbolism which means love, strength, and protection. The rest of Quannah Chashinghorse’s look referenced her ancestral lineage of the Hän Gwich’in and Oglala Lakota.

“I would be more inclined to watch the Met if it continued to head in the direction of activism.” Said Hassan-Contreras (‘22).

Although much appreciated and needed, Chasinghorse’s display of underrepresented artists and overall cultures made spectators wonder why more attendees did not sport similarly representative looks. The answer is unfortunately too simple, showcasing artists of color and women artists is uncommon, not just at the Met gala. According to a 2019 survey conducted by a research team at Williams College in Williamstown, MA 85% of artists showcased in museums are white and 87% of them are men.

Responses came from 45,000 archival records at 18 popular U.S. museums including the Metropolitan Museum of Art. If the representation of diverse artists based on gender, age, race, ethnic origins, and geographic location lacks in the places that showcase and teach the public what art is and who can be an artist then how can viewers expect over-publicized events like the Met gala to be inclusive of artists with diverse backgrounds.

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