What Wendy Wore: Met Gala Fashion Statement

What Wendy Wore: Met Gala Fashion Statement

Wendy Brandes

I haven't dressed up since New Year's Eve 2020, so it felt great to squeeze into a vintage Arnold Scaasi dress and go to tonight's celebrity-packed Costume Institute Gala at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Photo by George De Castro Day

Okay, I wasn't actually inside the Met Gala, but protesting in front of the Met with the tireless activists of Rise and Resist was close enough. The theme of the exhibition that the gala was celebrating is "In America: A Lexicon of Fashion," so our signs were designed around that. As you can see, I was outdressed by my fellow activist, Jay Walker, who came as Uncle Sam.

We briefly blocked 5th Avenue. Photo by George De Castro Day.

We weren't the only ones making a statement. At least two attendees dressed to impress my activism-loving heart, making it easy to choose my Best Dressed/Wear What You Want award winner. My congresswoman, Carolyn Maloney, is my runner-up thanks to her sartorial promotion of the Equal Rights Amendment.

From Maloney's Instagram.

I actually walked by Maloney and mistook her for another madly dressed protestor. I should have stopped and gotten a photo of her holding one of our signs and posing with Jay, even if I didn't recognize her.

My Best Dressed/Wear What You Want winner was another attendee from the world of politics: Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. She was wearing a "Tax the Rich" dress that made me regret donating my iconic dollar dress to a Los Angeles museum last year.

Honestly, I keep going back and forth about whether this messaging worked for someone attending a notoriously expensive event. I do think it serves as a "fuck you" to the gala's corporate sponsor, Instagram (aka Spacenook, aka the wealth generator for Mark Zuckerberg). It would have been more satisfying if the exceptionally repugnant Jeff Bezos was there to see it, or perhaps Bernard Arnault of LVMH, but hopefully a few thin-skinned billionaire museum donors -- and Anna Wintour -- were discomfited for at least a moment. On the plus side, provenance is everything, so I was happy to learn from stylist Karla Welch's Instagram post that an independent Black fashion designer created the dress: Aurora James, founder of Brother Vellies and an outspoken supporter of other Black creatives. And this dress got people talking -- both in favor and vehemently against -- which nails the "Wear What You Want" controversy-seeking part of my award.

More serious activism continued outside the Met, thanks to a large crowd of Black Lives Matter protestors who took to 5th Avenue, resulting in multiple arrests. I missed the chance to support their efforts, unfortunately. After my team was pushed behind police barricades in front of the Met, we went into Central Park to see if we could get any traction behind the museum. (We did find passersby who were enthused about joining us.) When we re-emerged, I found a protest flyer.

The reference to Artem Prusayev -- a cop who pulled a gun on protestors in January after one asked him to put on a face mask -- makes me think that at these activists included members of a small group I spontaneously joined last Thursday night as they marched by my apartment building. Hopefully, no one was injured in the arrests after today's action.

The Met fashion exhibit officially opens to the public on September 18. The clothes on exhibit are organized into 12 sections exploring “defining emotional qualities” of American fashion: Nostalgia, Belonging, Delight, Joy, Wonder, Affinity, Confidence, Strength, Desire, Assurance, Comfort, and Consciousness. I can see how those qualities apply to fashion in general, but the minute you add "America" to the mix, "Comfort" is the last thing that springs to mind.