It seems like every year someone makes a splash at the Met Gala with their fashion choices. In 2018 it was Lena Waithe's "queer cape" that enthralled the press and public alike, with its simple but powerful message about inclusivity and LGBTQ rights. In 2016, Emma Watson used that year's technology theme to send a more subtle but equally powerful message about the environment with a dress made entirely from sustainable products.
Even with America and much of the world still reeling from COVID-19, this year is no different.
In fact, two dresses, in particular, have gone viral with very different but very powerful messages about life in 2021. This year, the honor of showcasing the most talked about outfit is being shared between singer Billie Eilish and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY). And much like Waithe and Watson before them, one dress wore its heart on its sleeve (or tails to be exact), while the other was subtle in its vital message about animal rights.
First was Eilish. Everyone is talking about her stunning homage to Marilyn Monroe and we get it. Eilish has been getting increasingly comfortable stepping out publicly in more adult, form-fitting attire, such as her appearance on the June cover of Vogue. During the Met Gala, Eilish talked about finding new confidence in having her figure on public display and the personal empowerment she's gained while staying true to her past comments about body positivity. "I've always wanted to do this," she said during her red carpet appearance when asked about the Monroe comparison.
However, it wasn't just about a killer gown. There was a catch and we love Eilish all the more for it: She only agreed to wear the Oscar de la Renta dress on the condition that the acclaimed fashion designer agrees to stop using animal fur.
"It is an honor to wear this dress knowing that going forward Oscar de la Renta will be completely fur free!!!" Eilish, who is vegan, wrote to her 91 million Instagram followers. "I'm honored to have been a catalyst and to have been heard on this matter."
At the same time that Eilish was going viral, AOC was making waves of her on the political front. The New York Democrat showed up to the Met Gala in a white dress with red lettering on the back that read "Tax the Rich." Ocasio-Cortez said she was proud that her dress was drawing attention to what she called the nation's unfair taxation system which enables seemingly endless loopholes for wealthy Americans and corporations.
The medium is the message. https://t.co/b4Ssr6HkYR— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez)1631593932.0
"When Aurora and I were first kind of partnered, we really started having a conversation about what it means to be working-class women of color at the Met, and we said, 'We can't just play along, but we need to break the fourth wall and challenge some of the institutions,'" AOC said during a red carpet interview about her collaboration with designer Aurora James. "While the Met is known for its spectacle, we should have a conversation about it."
Ocasio-Cortez did receive some criticism from both the political Right and Left for her appearance, with some saying it was hypocritical for a public servant so critical of economic privilege to appear at an event with a $30,000 ticket price and attendees paying an estimated $250,000 per table. However, others praised the lawmaker for bringing her message of equal taxation directly to those who would be most affected by it.
Regardless of your politics, it was refreshing to see both Eilish and AOC using their respective perches and power to make bold statements for the causes they care about. And let's be honest, it doesn't hurt when those more serious topics are conveyed with some top-level fashion sensibility.
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