2021 Met Gala: Our favorite looks from the arrivals red carpet

A photo illustration of Met Gala co-chairs Timothée Chalamet, Naomi Osaka, Billie Eilish and Amanda Gorman
(Micah Fluellen / Los Angeles Times; Getty Images for the Met Gala / Vogue; Theo Wargo)

We didn’t realize how much we missed the Met Gala red carpet until we were forced to wait more than two years to see how the fashion flock and celebrity set interpret a dress code. (Last year’s gala, scheduled for May, was postponed and later outright canceled because of COVID concerns.)

The official dress code, which always keys into an upcoming Costume Institute exhibition, somehow makes the walk from the limousine and up the stairs into the New York-based museum far more entertaining than it otherwise would be. Who could forget Rihanna as the pope and Jared Leto as Jesus in Gucci for a 2018 dress code of “Sunday Best”? Or Zendaya as a light-up Cinderella for 2019’s “Camp: Notes on Fashion”?

This year’s official dress code is “American Independence,” and it references the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s new exhibition “In America: A Lexicon of Fashion,” (which opens Saturday). The co-chairs of this year’s fete are Timothée Chalamet, Billie Eilish, Amanda Gorman and Naomi Osaka, and honorary chairs are Tom Ford, Anna Wintour and Adam Mosseri.

Rapper Nicki Minaj voiced her vaccine hesitancy in response to the Met Gala’s jab requirement and in doing so opened up a bizarre can of worms.

Sept. 13, 2021


How did they do Monday? Let’s just say that if you were looking for a distraction (or perhaps palate cleanser) from California’s underway exercise in democracy, you couldn’t have asked for a better dose of all things Americana. Scroll on!

Timothée Chalamet

A man wears all-white clothes.
Co-chair Timothée Chalamet reps the white of the red, white and blue by pairing his double-breasted satin Haider Ackermann blazer and drop-crotch Rick Owens sweatpants. A pair of white Converse Chuck Taylor high-top sneakers adds that extra dash of Americana.
(Theo Wargo / Getty Images)

Amanda Gorman

A woman wearing a blue dress.
Co-chair Amanda Gorman keyed into the blue of the red, white and blue, opting for a custom gown by Vera Wang. She told E! Entertainment television the look was inspired by the Statue of Liberty — right down to the book. The National Youth Poet Laureate accessorized with a jeweled laurel crown.
(Theo Wargo / Getty Images)

Some of the most memorable looks to come down the red (well, pink, technically) carpet at Monday night’s Met Gala — for which the stated theme was “Camp: Notes on Fashion” — had us in a serious quandary as to what was calculated camp, what may have been meta-camp and what could have simply been shoulder-shrugging disdain for the theme.

May 7, 2019

Billie Eilish

A woman wears a peach-colored ball gown
2021 Met Gala co-chair Billie Eilish channels an American icon — Marilyn Monroe — in a fairy-tale-appropriate Oscar de la Renta gown and Cartier jewels.
(Kevin Mazur / MG21 / Getty Images for the Met Museum)

Naomi Osaka

A woman  in a colorful dress.
The fourth co-chair of this year’s gala, Naomi Osaka, riffed on her American — and Haitian and Japanese — heritage by collaborating with her sister Mari Osaka and Louis Vuitton’s Artistic Director of Women’s collections in Nicolas Ghesquière to create this custom Louis Vuitton gown.
(Kevin Mazur / MG21 / Getty Images for the Met Museum)

Russell Westbrook

A man in a tuxedo with a star dyed into his hair
Fashion plate and freshly minted Los Angeles Laker Russell Westbrook used his head to get into the stated dress code of “American Independence,” by dying his hair blue spangled with a few white, five-pointed stars. It went perfectly with a blue peak lapel, contrasting collar tuxedo by a designer long associated with all things Americana — Ralph Lauren.
(Arturo Holmes / MG21 / Getty Images)

Debbie Harry

A woman in a flag-stripe gown and blue denim jacket.
George Washington crossing the Delaware would have a hard time evoking American Independence better than Debbie Harry on the 2021 Met Gala red carpet in a custom Zac Posen gown that combined a hoop skirt of red and white flag-style stripes and a jacket in blue denim — a fabric long associated with American workwear.
(Theo Wargo / Getty Images)

You would be forgiven if you had mistaken Elle Fanning for Lady Gaga, Mindy Kaling for Donatella Versace or Priyanka Chopra for Effie Trinket while watching the celebrity arrivals at the 2019 Met Gala.

May 7, 2019

Lupita Nyong’o

A woman in a denim dress.
Another gala attendee that tapped into denim’s place in America’s wardrobe was consistent red-carpet standout Lupita Nyong’o, whose denim bustier-and-train gown was created by Atelier Versace.
(Mike Coppola / Getty Images)


A woman in a dress with a long train stands on the red carpet.
The American flag wasn’t the only one represented in the night’s most memorable on-theme looks. Saweetie told E! that her Christian Cowan gown incorporated stripes from both the Black American Pride flag and the flag of the Philippines. “Because I’m both Black and Filipino,” she said.
(Theo Wargo / Getty Images)

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

A front and back photo of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez at the Met Gala.
What’s more American than speaking up for a cause? Maybe being a member of Congress and wearing a dress with the words “Tax the Rich” on it like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez did in a white, off-the-shoulder gown by Brother Vellies.
(Kevin Mazur / MG21 / Getty Images for the Met Museum /Vogue)

Dan Levy

A man in a very colorful suit.
There was plenty of speak-your-mind message clothing at the 2021 Met Gala, including Dan Levy’s bespoke Loewe suit whose inspirational starting point was imagining what a gay superhero might wear. It incorporated imagery from two works by artist and LGBTQ activist David Wojnarowicz (1954-1992).
(Mike Coppola / Getty Images)

Karlie Kloss

A woman in a bright red dress with roses at the shoulders.
Some references to all things American were more subtle like Karlie Kloss’ red Carolina Herrera dress with immense rose details at each shoulder and down each arm. As her escort for the evening — the label’s designer Wes Gordon — pointed out on the arrivals red carpet, the rose is the official national flower of the U.S. of A. (Remember that when Zoom trivia night rolls around. Is that still a thing?)
(Kevin Mazur / MG21 / Getty Images for the Met Museum)

Jennifer Lopez

A woman in a cowboy hat and a low-cut dress.
Jennifer Lopez took her inspiration from the American West — like everything west of Chicago, apparently, in a va-va-voom on-the-range ensemble by quintessential American designer Ralph Lauren, right down (make that up) to the cowboy hat. Thank you, ma’am.
(John Shearer / WireImage)

Yara Shahidi

A woman in a metallic mesh dress.
Yara Shahidi wore a Dior Haute Couture brown embroidered silk dress with a gold tulle cape and she told E! that the look was inspired by American-born French entertainer Josephine Baker.
(Theo Wargo / Getty Images)