Met Gala 2021: Where PR & Fashion Intersect 

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), center, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute benefit gala in New York, Sept. 13, 2021. (Nina Westervelt/The New York Times)

The Met Gala has garnered a reputation for being fashion’s largest and most exclusive event of the year. Although the event’s primary purpose is to fundraise for the Metropolitan Museum of Art, most just pay attention to the artistically beautiful (and sometimes unintentionally comical) outfits worn by celebrity attendees.  

The theme for the 2021 Met Gala was, “In America: A Lexicon of Fashion.” As one can imagine, a broad theme such as this resulted in a variety of different looks, ranging from pleasant American classics to cutting political commentary.  

One thing is for sure, though- the once purely fashion event seems to have transformed into an international stage for celebrities to make a statement.  

At the 2021 Met Gala, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez caused absolute media chaos by wearing a white gown with the statement “tax the rich” written on it in red. Some commended Ocasio-Cortez on her powerful message. Others labeled it hypocritical considering the financial excess of many Met Gala attendees.  

Ocasio-Cortez wasn’t the only celebrity to make a statement through fashion, though. Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, actress and model Cara Delevingne, and actor Daniel Levy wore outfits of a political nature, ranging from the topic of women’s suffrage to LGBTQ+ rights.  

At a fashion event, why would celebrities stray from their pleasant gowns and tuxedos and instead opt for political commentary? Simply put, PR.  

In 2021, celebrities are expected to be socially responsible. Boasting such large platforms, it almost seems wrong for celebrities to not advocate for the best interests of humanity. It can be as simple as sharing a petition link, educational resources, or even donating to social justice organizations. Particularly in wake of a politically turbulent 2020, people expect those with the largest platforms to use them for positive social change.  

To some celebrities, the Met Gala fashion serves as another platform to share their beliefs. Ocasio-Cortez’s dress wasn’t just a dress— it was political commentary, a candid remark to the wealthy she rubbed shoulders with at the gala. It was a visual representation of the beliefs she thinks would benefit American society at large.  

Year after year, millions of people tune in to watch the Met Gala online. And, year after year, our demand for social responsibility seems to grow. As the Met Gala and social responsibility become increasingly intertwined, it’s clear the Met Gala isn’t just a fashion event; it’s an intersection of fashion and PR. 

—Laila Samphilipo, Account Associate

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