A Round of Applause for Met Gala Celebs Who Actually Followed the Theme

The brave souls who gave “In America: A Lexicon of Fashion” a go.
Lauren O'Neill
London, GB
billie eilish met gala
Billie Eilish at the 2021 Met Gala. Photo : Rob Kim/GC Images

The Met Gala has happened over a year late, and now everyone is talking about an overly literal dress, Kim Kardashian, and Nicki Minaj’s cousin’s friend’s balls, which is to say the internet ate itself and it was basically business as usual. 


The theme for this year’s event was “In America: A Lexicon of Fashion”, which might as well mean absolutely nothing - though there were clear directions to take, from the boring (Old Hollywood) to the actually cool (hip-hop and cowboys, neither of which there was enough of).

Of course, most celebrities usually ignore the guidance anyway – muttering noncommittally about “classic looks” and “global fashion” when asked about the inspiration for their ensembles – in favour of simply Being Thin and Looking Rich, and as ever, there was a lot of that this year.

But there were, of course, are a few who bravely had a go; as such, here is a moment of appreciation for those who did:


Probably not formal enough for the occasion, sure, but this did bring together Rodarte and a clear reference to Tina Turner’s famous fringed stage costumes, which is a combination that made me very happy (I expressed this by saying “yes” weirdly and under my breath as I sat in bed in my pyjamas watching the Vogue livestream.)


Harris said this Tommy Hilfiger look was inspired by Aaliyah’s 90s fashion, which is exactly the type of thing I really wish this year’s Met had more of!


You have to give Megan Fox credit for going two for two over two consecutive evenings. First, her whole sexy mermaid thing from Sunday’s VMAs – which itself was possibly inspired by Kim Kardashian’s instantly iconic Mugler look from the 2019 Met Gala – and secondly this custom Peter Dundas dress for the Met Gala (Fox’s first appearance, which is kind of astonishing, considering the fact she’s quite uniquely symbolic of a specific moment in late-2000s pop culture).


This look is good, because there’s enough of a gentle reference to epochal American pin-ups like Bettie Page for me to feel satisfied that the theme was engaged with, and enough of Megan’s own considerable sauce in there that said theme did not swallow her. 


I initially thought this custom Balenciaga outfit was a bit “my new sleep paralysis demon”, but this very enlightening Twitter thread by Museum of London curator Danielle Thom changed my mind.

Thom basically posits that in emphasising the body shape that made her famous, and hiding her face to acknowledge that at times she has been a canvas onto which some American cultural anxieties have been projected, Kim actually engages with the theme in one of the more interesting ways of the night. I agree! 


Rebecca Hall turned up dressed as the kinkiest matron on the Mayflower, and THAT’S American fashion, baby. Good for her!


It may not be as much of an immediate hit as her 2015 and 2017 looks, but as always, Rihanna is explicitly and thoughtfully on theme, with what feels like a love letter to oversized 90s hip-hop silhouettes, crowning the look with a beanie, which is genius and irreverent and, crucially, fucking cool. 



In general, men, as usual, did a “just OK” job of the Met Gala, with lots of boring tuxedos (bless Channing Tatum for saying his Versace suit was a reference to JFK, meaning that it was simply… a suit); Thom Browne, for those who wanted to spice things up with a kilt or a safety pin or two; and whatever tracksuit bottom nonsense Timothée was wearing.

Colombian singer Maluma, however, showed up in a much-needed red leather, Western-inspired get-up, with – say it reverently – matching boots and diamanté top, accompanied on the red carpet by Donatella Versace. Ridiculously good.


I don’t know what this is but it is definitely American and thank god for it.


“Iman in ballroom culture-inspired Harris Reed” is the sort of thing you could whisper in my ear to rouse me from a years-long coma. “Major”, as fashion people say. 


If the success of a Met Gala look is based on the amount of keyboard smashing it evokes, Billie Eilish had the moment of the night. Context is important here: while Eilish embraced more feminine silhouettes for her recent British Vogue cover, we are still more used to seeing her in streetwear than we are ballgowns, and so while this Oscar de la Renta dress was obviously show-stopping in and of itself, it also offered a still relatively new side of Billie Eilish.

While some noted that it’s a little bit Princess Diana, I think the more immediate, obvious and on theme reference is to Marilyn Monroe, an American symbol unlike any other. It should also be recorded for posterity that Billie acted the shit out of this dress, giving the cameras defiant ingenue eye contact and the type of delicate hand poses that only an outfit like this could produce. Simply: yes!

An earlier version of this article stated that Billie Eilish appeared on the cover of American Vogue rather than British Vogue. VICE regrets the error.