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Who Won the Met Gala Red Carpet?

Fashion Prom was missing some familiar faces this year, but plenty of celebs still turned up in their best patriotic couture.
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Every year, those of us who love high fashion (and good, ol’ fashioned spectacle) look forward to the Met Gala. Nicknamed “fashion prom,” the annual event features the biggest stars in the world decked out in daring couture. Or at least that’s usually what happens.

Last year, the event was canceled for Reasons (TM). This year, it was pushed back from its usual spring slot to mid-September. And while the red carpet might have been ever so slightly diminished–mostly because some of our favorites decided to skip this year–it was still a sight to behold.

Honestly, though, we really missed Zendaya, Harry Styles, Beyonce, Katy Perry, Sarah Jessica Parker, Cardi B, and even Kylie Jenner. But let us not think about what we lost and focus on the things we have, shall we?

2021 Met Gala Theme

The Met Gala always has a theme that sounds like somebody’s college thesis. For 2021, the theme was “In America: A Lexicon of Fashion.” The gala takes its theme from the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute major exhibition. A quick glance at their explainer for this year’s theme led me to expect denim, sportswear-inspired looks, and classic American designers like Halston and Ralph Lauren.

Would I be doomed to disappointment? The celebrity interpretations of the theme range from “Nailed it!” to “That is just a party dress, why are you here?” every year. Unfortunately, those who tend to understand the assignment best and put in the most work skipped this year. But there were still some surprising wins to be found this year!

Jennifer Lopez

Following up her red carpet debut with on-again beau Ben Affleck at the Venice Film Festival, JLo jetted to New York just in time for the Met Gala. While I wouldn’t give her look Best in Show, I respect that she chose an iconic American designer in Ralph Lauren.

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Her ensemble–which is faux fur, btw–wouldn’t look out of place in a post-apocalyptic Old West show on a prestige cable network. Weirdly enough, I can imagine Jason Momoa wearing the exact same outfit from the waist up–and quite possibly pulling it off even better than Jennifer Lopez. She does look fantastic in a big hat; not everyone can manage to wear one without it pulling focus from their face.

Lupita Nyong’o

I flat-out loved the custom Versace Lupita Nyong’o wore to the gala this year. The high-fashion denim gown has a high degree of difficulty; just ask Britney how hard it is to look good in head-to-toe denim.

The styling was on-point, with the more traditional diamond parure contrasting gloriously with Lupita’s asymmetrical hair. This is so close to being my favorite look of the night.

Kristen Stewart

Kristen Stewart–who is getting rave reviews for her portrayal of Princess Diana in Spencer, thankyouverymuch–showed up in a bonkers outfit but looked like she was having a great time.

Her rockability pompadour and disco Colonel Sanders look should not have worked. And to be honest, I’m not sure it DID work. Not to sound like her concerned aunt, but it was just so nice to see her wearing a bright color and grinning on the red carpet. I don’t think her partnership with Chanel has ever done her any favors, but this look is fun and fresh. I don’t even hate the blonde Betty Page thing she’s got going on. And speaking of blondes….

Billie Eilish

As one of the co-chairs of this year’s gala, along with Timothée Chalamet, tennis champ Naomi Osaka, and Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman, Billie Eilish delivered a major fashion moment. Plenty of folks compared her to Marilyn Monroe, and it’s easy to see why.

Her Oscar de la Renta peach ballgown was well received, but can we talk about that hair? Her stylist really let her down with this look, in my opinion. Not only does her hair look like a Halloween wig straight out of the package, but the helmet-like style and heavy makeup make her look much older than 19. We know for a fact that she’s a beautiful, interesting young artist, so I’m not sure why this was the look for her at the gala.

However, Billie did score a major fashion victory. As a co-chair of the gala and one of the biggest pop stars on the planet, she had designers vying to dress her. She agreed to work with Oscar de la Renta on one condition: They stop selling fur.

Yara Shahidi

Obviously, there’s way, way more to the Met Gala red carpet that we can’t cover here. Y’all should definitely check out Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan’s excellent coverage of all the major looks, but for me, one gown stood out above the rest.

Not necessarily because it was the most showstopping. Not even because it nailed the theme–although it was apparently inspired by iconic American ex-pat entertainer Josephine Baker.

Sometimes a celebrity and a stylist get together and something magical happens. Yara Shahidi’s Dior look was pure magic. Perfect fit? Yes. Thoughtful details? Oh yeah. It all adds up to an understated look that nonetheless pulls focus from other, more elaborate gowns. For me, Yara Shahidi wins the Met Gala.