Met Gala 2023: Not-so-hot haute couture

May 6, 2023, 2:44 p.m. | By Sophia Li | 1 year ago

Basic, bare-necked and a whole bunch of boring

The Met Gala is “fashion’s biggest night,” and so of course, it invites much public opinion. Overanalyzing the questionable outfit decisions of celebrities couldn’t be more polarizing – some may love a model’s dress, while others may absolutely loathe it. This year, the Metropolitan Museum of Art donned the theme, “Karl Lagerfeld: A Line of Beauty,” and well, there were quite a few misses. 

The theme itself is controversial – Karl Lagerfeld, late creative director at Chanel, was the opposite of a man worth delivering a tribute to. He’s made countless offensive and tone-deaf remarks, particularly against plus-size models, gay marriage and the #MeToo movement. Besides his insensitivity, the theme itself was very limited and didn’t encourage people to dress outside the box. Most just stuck with black and white, a touch of Chanel and then called it a day – you can only do so much to mimic one designer (not pardoning any of the bad fashion, though). Considering that several designers have passed away in recent years, including Issey Miyake, Vigil Abloh and Vivienne Westwood, the theme could have expanded into a more inspiring tribute to all the late fashion influences. 

Karl Lagerfeld (Photo courtesy of Christopher William Adach)

In addition to a questionable theme, this year’s carpet was atrocious. For a sea of black and white, a toothpaste-colored “red” carpet was not the right choice. Lagerfeld is known for neutrals, and it is surprising the Met didn’t pick up any hints from the public’s poor reaction to the Oscar’s beige colored carpet earlier this year. Dirty and covered in lint, the white-but-not-quite-white carpet washed pale complexions out and brought the photos to a much lower class – certainly not “exclusive” Met Gala level. Nonetheless, the craftsmanship of the carpet is to be admired. Woven in 70 days by 40 workers, the Keralan artistry and quality truly shows. The carpet being out of place was completely at the fault of the organizers who commissioned the piece – not the artisans who simply followed instructions. 

Of course, though, the Met Gala’s big focus is the fashion, not the carpet. Relative to the disappointing amount of people who missed the theme last year, more attendees did well dressing accordingly this year. Though, compared to prior themes like “gilded glamor” or “camp,” the theme was much more literal and formulaic – it demanded much less creativity. Hence, the many pearls, bows, neckties, rosettes, camellias and tweed fabric. Some dressed up as Lagerfeld himself, taking the theme a bit too literally. Other celebrities fell trap to this formula by going “off the rack” (or as off the rack Chanel can be), simply pulling out archive Chanel as a shortcut to following the theme. Sure, Dua Lipa looked gorgeous in her Chanel wedding gown, but when you compare her to the reference – Claudia Schiffer in the Chanel fall 1992 couture collection – she is severely lackluster. 

Dua Lipa represents the main issue with this year’s looks. “She looks pretty!” End of discussion. Her garment, along with many others’, worked well with the theme and looked pretty, but lacked dimension. One of the main issues was the lack of accessorization – ironic, since Lagerfeld was known for his excessive use of jewelry, hats and chunky gold accessories. Even with the 30 million dollar Tiffany & Co. necklace, Lipa’s look was severely understated. Her hair is flat and uninspiring – subtly pretty, yes, but by no means Met Gala level. The disregard for hair, and the lack of interesting headpieces was disappointing to see in this event particularly.

While Lipa at least wore some jewelry, others wore none at all. Olivia Rodrigo attempted old Hollywood glamor with a gown by Thom Browne, but missed the mark. While she followed the theme, her clavicle definitely needed a necklace. She’s not the only one – most female attendees with exposed collarbones opted out of a necklace, resulting in an incomplete look. 

Dua Lipa and Olivia Rodrigo weren’t the only people who missed the mark. Emma Chamberlain’s outfit looked cheap, and many of the men this year once again just wore tuxedos (no surprise). Some men, however, did explore more fashion-forward concepts. The black tuxedo was replaced with ASAP Rocky’s look which featured more interesting cuts and textures. Bad Bunny’s sleeve train of camellias and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander’s tweed take on the traditional tux were also fun twists. 

Among some bizarre looks was Lil Nas X, which neither fit the theme nor “slayed” the carpet. Since Doja Cat had basically debuted the look in January but with red Swarovski crystals, his rendition felt uninspiring – though it certainly still retained a shock factor. Both Doja Cat and Jared Leto camped it up by dressing as Lagerfeld’s cat, Choupette. Doja Cat went for a more glammed up catwoman, while Lagerfeld just went for “football mascot.” While it was much harder this year to stand out in a good way (or at least put in effort above the bare minimum), several attendees killed their looks. 

In no particular order, here are the top looks of the night: Anne Hathaway, Cardi B, Janelle Monáe, Bad Bunny, Anok Yai and Sora Choi.

The 2023 Met Gala was safe, to say the least. The theme was problematic, and most of the attendees didn’t venture beyond surface-level Karl Lagerfeld. Still, some unexpected attendees surpassed expectations by exploring beyond gender (or animal) norms. Next year, hopefully this trend continues, as attendees take baby steps up the style staircase and broaden the world of fashion for all to see. 

Last updated: May 15, 2023, 9:12 a.m.

Sophia Li. Hey, it's Sophia, SCO's blog editor and fact checker! I love eating hot pot and any other spicy foods. More »

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