The Gorgeous and the Not So Glamorous

Sycamore fashion students comment on the 2021 Met Gala theme, “In America: A Lexicon of Fashion”


Vogue U.S.

Singer Billie Eilish was one of the many notable celebrities at the Met Gala, stunning crowds in her voluminous gown and iconic look.

Flashing lights. Hollering paparazzi. Gorgeous gowns. On Monday, Sept. 13, hundreds of celebrities donned exquisite outfits and walked the red carpet at the Met Gala. Some looked glamorous, others fell a bit short. Read on to hear Sycamore fashion students weigh in on their most and least favorite looks from this year.

   The Met Gala is a fashion fundraiser that supports the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute. However, due to COVID-19, the Gala last took place in May of 2019. Every year, the Costume department has a new installation and the Met Gala has a corresponding theme. This year we were gifted a two-part installation and theme. The first part, “In America: A Lexicon of Fashion,” explores the way in which we discuss the industry and opened on Sept. 18, while part two, “In America: An Anthology of Fashion,” will showcase the timeline of American fashion, and will open on May 5, 2022. 

    At every Gala, some designers and models follow the theme better than others. This year, however, has been especially scrutinized. Many believe that the theme of American fashion was largely ignored. Some of our fashion students have offered their opinion.

   Sycamore has a robust fashion program with many multi-talented student designers. They spend a class period every day working on clothes for our spring fashion show. Juniors Trisha Chidambaram, Ify Okonji, Morgan Robbins, and Gabby Herrera, as well as seniors Pippa Zolla and Kai Blunt, were asked their opinions on the Gala’s looks and theme as well as what they would design if they had the chance. 

   Our student’s opinions varied greatly when choosing a favorite look. Chidambaram and Blunt’s favorites held personal significance. “My favorite was Lili Reinhart because I just feel like that design spoke to me because it was an idea that I thought of as well… and I really love the idea of… embracing the beauty of the United States,” said Chidambaram. Reinhart modeled a stunning pink dress adorned with all 50 state flowers. Chidambaram had a similar idea for a design earlier this year to incorporate state flower paintings into a dress caped in plastic to represent trash coving the world’s beauty. 

   Similarly, Blunt’s “favorite was Nikkie de Jager (also popularly known as Nikkietutorials) [because] it was a nod to Marsha P. Johnson.” De Jager wore a bright teal dress that was decorated with flowers and stated “pay it no mind,” a famous quote by transgender activist Marsha P. Johnson.

   In addition, Zolla and Blunt were both intrigued by the men’s looks. Zolla loved “Dan Levy. [She] thinks it had a very clear message without being tacky.” Levy sported a decadent suit with a map textile. His suit promoted gay rights and paid homage to David Wojnarowicz, an American AIDS activist and artist. 

   Lil Nas X rocked an extravagant three-part avant-garde look that made it Blunt’s “favorite men’s look… obviously.” Lil Nas X’s ensemble included a glorious cape, a suit of gold armor, and a bedazzled bodysuit. His look certainly turned heads and broke norms at this year’s gala. 

   Contrastingly, while designers had differing opinions on a favorite they could all decide on what was their least favorite. Zolla, Robbins, and Herrera all agreed that Kim Kardashian’s outfit was their least favorite. Robbins “did not know what [Kim Kardashian] was wearing.” Kardashian wore a full black dress including a face covering that showed absolutely no skin or features. Similarly, Blunt and Chidambaram, whose least favorites were Anitta and Channing Tatum respectively, both cited these looks as boring.

   The student designers were also asked if any designs held a meaning that resonated with them. Zolla, like Chidambaram, “really liked Lili Reinhart’s… and thought it was a good way to incorporate the theme in a non-divisive way.” In addition, Robbins loved ASAP Rocky’s quilt “because it was about this poem that was about different heritages and cultures from different countries, who are making a quilt to embrace their cultures.” Many other models incorporated deeper meaning into their outfits this year, including Dan Levy and Nikkie de Jager, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Cara Delevingne

   The theme this year, and the various designer’s portraits of it, was a hotly debated topic among our student designers. Okonji thought “a lot of the people didn’t really follow the theme…  but [I] do think it’s a nice theme.” Robbins agreed that “they kind of did a mediocre job.”

   Zolla, however, took a different side. She “really liked the theme… because this year is a two-part theme… [and] when you look into the looks I think they did [represent the theme well].” This year had a variety of loose interpretations, thoughtful interpretations, and a lack of interpretation altogether.

   Lastly, and most importantly, the designers were asked what they would design given the chance. The designers varied in their interpretation, but they all stuck close to the theme. Zolla would “take a classic, iconic look from America’s history… and recreate it in a modern way.” 

   Similarly, Chidambaram would modernize a classic look by using “a sparkly fabric, something that’s a little bit out there since back then it was more of earth-toned colors… a boned corset with a low waist…and straight down skirt.” 

   Blunt would make a design based on a “1920 ballroom scene, or [he’d] partner up with a Native American bead artist to do something heavily Native American inspired.” 

   On the other hand, Robbins would take a more political angle and construct a design based on “systematic oppression.” These thoughtful designs would surely radiate on the Met Gala red carpet.

   All in all, there were many triumphs that brought dynamic and revolutionary outfits, and also many disappointments that proved boring for the Gala. Hopefully one day these inspiring student designers will be at the Met Gala where they themselves will see flashing lights, hollering paparazzi, and gorgeous gowns.