Art critique

Fashion critic reflects on Met Gala looks: NPR

Monday evening, the Gala made its return. NPR’s Mary Louise Kelly chats with fashion critic Rachel Tashjian at GQ on interpretations of this year’s theme: American independence.


Now on to what is – for the fashion industry, at least – one of the biggest events of the year, the Met Gala. If you’re not familiar, it’s a fundraiser for the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Oh, but it’s so much more. The guest list includes the rich, the powerful and the beautifully dressed. The theme of the gala this year, American independence, which has given rise to many politically charged interpretations. Musician Grimes brought with her a medieval-style sword made from a molten assault rifle, while MK Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez donned an elegant white dress adorned with giant red words – tax the rich – running through the back.

Well, GQ fashion critic Rachel Tashjian is joining us in talking about that, talking about politics and fashion at this year’s Met Gala.

Rachel, welcome.


KELLY: Glad to have you with us. Let’s start with the AOC dress, which has made the rounds on social networks. What was your first reaction?

TASHJIAN: Yeah. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is therefore someone who is actually quite invested in the New York fashion community. You know, she was someone carrying a Telfar bag, you know, as she walked into Congress late last year. And that caused a big sort of viral moment for this designer. And he’s a designer based in Queens. So for this Met Gala, she decided to go with designer Aurora James, who is – she won the CFDA award. She designs a brand called Brother Vellies. And together they created this dress that says tax the rich on the back.

And it created, I think, in fact, this kind of amazing, old-fashioned glamor moment where she glances over her shoulder with a sort of nod to photographers, which, I think, is sort of a classic representation of how AOC somehow manages her own fame and her awareness of her power as an image maker. First off, it was pretty effective, I have to say, because at the end of the day Tax on the Rich was one of the most googled phrases of the night. But it’s quite a statement to go into a room where there is so much money and power and bring that kind of controversial and divisive message, I think.

KELLY: At the same time, there were a lot of people arguing that her presence at the Gala and in a designer dress, that it was kind of the antithesis of her character, you know, a carefully crafted character that is everything. about progressive politics and fighting for the people. And it’s interesting how she straddles that. Do you think there is any validity to this review?

TASHJIAN: I have to tell you, really not (laughs). You know, it’s interesting. If you look at that kind of a year and a half after the Met Gala, it really shows, I think, a shift in our own larger conversation about fashion and appearance and vanity, glamor and interest in beauty and that. kind of thing. You know, even if you look at maybe five or 10 years ago, a lot of fashion reporters were like, oh, is it okay for us to watch what politicians wear, discuss what they wear? carry ? Is it humiliating?

And there’s been a huge change, I think, over the last five years, especially with the Trump administration being so aesthetic. We realized that you can’t help but watch what people are wearing. You know, like, that tells us so much about what that person believes and what they stand for, what they stand for, even if they themselves don’t wear it, you know, written on the back of their dress or on a T-shirt or, as Melania Trump once did, the back of a jacket. We have all become so much more tuned to watch, criticize, and read clothes. I mean, we’ve all become kind of fashion critics. I mean, it’s pretty wild.

KELLY: I wonder if you also saw – putting politics aside for a moment – something like a generational shift on the red carpet last night as we all came out of a year and a half of lockdown.

TASHJIAN: Yeah, sure. I mean, I think there was – a lot of the participants were, you know, a lot younger than we would have seen even a year and a half ago. You know, we had photographer Tyler Mitchell and also musician Lorde, both of whom wore Bode. And it’s something that I think is really interesting that a lot of these kinds of young participants chose to wear new American designers, you know. And these are people who aren’t necessarily known as Emily Adams Bode or, you know, ASAP Rocky wore California designer Eli Russell Linnetz. You know, a lot of these kinds of designers that aren’t necessarily famous but are really exciting and essential voices in American fashion. And I think, you know, these exciting young folks are wearing this kind of lesser-known designer, it’s kind of a possibility for these designers to become known names like Ralph Lauren.

KELLY: It’s Rachel Tashjian, fashion critic at GQ.

Thank you.

TASHJIAN: Thank you very much.

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