Can we ignore a problematic past for Met Gala fashion?

Every year, the Metropolitan (Met) Gala marks a momentous night in fashion. The biggest celebrities and designers come out to construct masterpieces of clothing, some of which take days to put together.

This year’s theme was in tribute to one of the biggest designers in the fashion industry — “Karl Lagerfeld: A Line of Beauty.” During his transformative career, Lagerfeld created many iconic designs, his most notable being the double “C” logo that is projected on all Chanel designs. Other classics include the multi-layered pearl necklace and the Fendi baguette bag.

Lagerfeld passed away in 2019 following problems with pancreatic cancer, but his legacy persists in his work for some of the biggest houses in fashion, including Chanel and Balmain. Creative director of Chanel from 1983 until his passing, Lagerfeld famously revitalized the fashion house with styles that were innovative yet faithful to its brand.

Monday’s looks included combinations of corsets, pearls, black and white attire and floral appliqués frequently used in Largerfeld designs. On the whole, the outfits presented at the Met were well-constructed, chic pieces. Balancing elements of tradition and modernism, they largely succeeded in embodying the work of Lagerfeld. Although the night did not fully deliver the “wow” factor often associated with the Gala, we saw magnificent touches and designs that made for majestic moments in fashion.

Previous Met Gala themes have produced some astounding and everlasting fashion moments. Some of those themes include “Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination” (2018) and “Costumes of Royal India” (1985). Compared to past years, the 2023 theme almost seemed to lack the pizazz and extravagance of outfits that can’t simply be worn at your everyday red carpet. Still, it remained relevant to the world of fashion, with Lagerfeld having pushed concepts and raised the bar for designers and fashion houses. 

Some of this year’s most notable dresses included Gigi Hadid in a sheer corset gown and adorned with pearl jewelry, Gisele Bundchen in a vintage sheer feathered Chanel white couture gown and Brian Tyree Henry with a suit accompanied by a ruffled black cape. Stanford’s own Eileen Gu ’26 even attended in a wine-stained A-line dress.

One of the best dressed, to no surprise, was Cardi B in a black and white gown. The gown’s voluminous skirt was covered in camellias, a flower Lagerfeld used frequently. The tailored button-down top pulled it together into a classic look combining both Chanel and Lagerfeld designs. It was a quintessential representation of classiness and modernism.

Others, like Jared Leto, came dressed as felines in a representation of Lagerfeld cat Choupette. Leto’s outfit was an interesting take for the Met and not one of my favorites. It did not fit with the chic and prestigious glamor, nor did it make for a timeless look. 

Lagerfeld’s dedication to fashion was not the only legacy left he behind: he was also involved in multiple controversies due to comments he made about women and immigrants. For example, in 2012, he said, “She’s a little too fat,” in reference to Adele during an interview with Metro. Later, Lagerfeld justified his response by saying that he was referring to another woman. 

He later engaged in victim-blame during the #MeToo movement. During an interview with Numero, as stated in CNN, Lagerfeld said, “What shocks me most…are the starlets who have taken 20 years to remember what happened. Not to mention the fact there are no prosecution witnesses.” 

When confronted about his hateful and even homophobic comments, he once claimed, “Everything I say is a joke.” 

Lagerfeld was a mastermind in fashion, but does that mean we should ignore his past and praise him for his work? Acknowledge his past and discourage his designs? Or both?

As the 2023 Met Gala comes to an end and preparation for next year begins, we cannot forget the best dresses at the Gala over the years. Women like Bianca Jagger in her strapless black full-skirts dress for the 1981 Gala, “The Eighteenth-Century Woman,” or Cher in 1885 with an extravagant sheer jeweled bodysuit and low waist skirt, have set the bar high for fashion.

Moments like these make dresses into pieces of art fit for a museum like the Met — they are not just clothes. Despite the controversies that come with events like the Met Gala, they do lend us memorable moments.  

This year’s moment, in my opinion, was Rihanna’s fashionably late entrance up the steps, in a long white bridal dress emphasizing her baby bump. She closed the 2023 Met Gala in a bridal dress in honor of Lagerfeld, who used to close his runways with show-stopping wedding gowns.

Now, time to begin planning for next year!

Editor’s Note: This article is a review and includes subjective thoughts, opinions and critiques.