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In America: A Lexicon of Fashion – the 2021 Met Gala theme explained

For up-to-the-minute red carpet coverage, see our Met Gala 2021 arrivals.


As I write this, my fingers are quivering with the excitement that only the Met Gala can bring, because we finally have a look at the theme for 2021 - In America: A Lexicon of Fashion.

For most of us watching the Met Gala arrivals is a feeling of joy second only to perhaps, the tantalising period leading up to the evening. Who is on the guest list? What is the theme? These are the questions we dissect with a fervour that is almost religious. And with last years Gala cancelled due to the pandemic, the excitement has only intensified.

This time around, the Met exhibition will be split into two parts, a departure from tradition to account for the events cancellation last year, and the planning time lost due to the pandemic. Consider this your explainer on how it's all going to work.


What is the 2021 Met Gala theme, In America: A Lexicon of Fashion?

As always, the Met Gala theme mirrors the Costume Institute's exhibition. The first instalment, which opens September 18, will hinge on the theme In America: A Lexicon of Fashion. The exhibit will be a homage to young and emerging American designers; those who are interacting with ideas around identity, self and power. So expect red carpet looks from Collina Strada, Eckhaus Latta and Christopher John Rogers.

In an interview with Vogue, Andrew Bolton, the Costume Institute’s Wendy Yu Curator in Charge said, “American designers are at the forefront of conversations around diversity, inclusivity, sustainability, gender fluidity, and body positivity. The framework of the show enables us to focus on the younger designers who are engaging thoughtfully and deeply with those ideas." It's for this reason we will see an influx of influencers and TikTok stars on the red carpet, a decision that has been viewed as polarising.

Unlike the previous explorations of Americana by the Costume Institute, Andrew Bolton will deal with potent lessons learned in 2020 from movements like Black Lives Matter. One of those being the power of language and its ability to shape ideas, hence the emphasis of lexicon. After all, the first thing that greets visitors to the Anna Wintour Costume Centre is a red, white and blue Prabal Gurung silk sash with the words, "Who gets to be American?". On the red carpet, this will surely translate into sartorial choices grounded in the social and political, à la Lena Waithe's 2019 Met Gala suit.


What's different this time?

As previously mentioned, there will be a few notable changes to the Gala this year. For starters, there will be two separate exhibitions with two separate Met Galas. The first exhibition, In America - A Lexicon of Fashion, will open on September 18 following the Gala scheduled on September 13. The second Met Gala will return to its usual slot in the first week of May and In America: An Anthology of Fashion the exhibition will open on May 5, 2022.

For the first time, we will see red carpet looks completed with masks, as per the mask mandate introduced for the event and guests will have to observe physical distancing. No crowded mirror selfies this year. Due to border closures we expect to see an absence of faces like Kate Moss and Salma Hayek who reside overseas. Although, this will be remedied by newcomers to the guest list like Addison Rae and Emma Chamberlain. This year invites have been extended to a variety of influencers and TikTok stars as per the exhibitions focus on a youthful dialogue of fashion.

Both instalments will spotlight American designers only, a decision made in earnest to show support to the US fashion industry after it was ravaged economically by the pandemic.

Images: @voguemagazine

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