Here Are 17 of the Best Americana-Themed Looks at the 2021 Met Gala Next to the Great Works of Art That (Probably) Inspired Them

From Timothée Chalamet's collaboration with JR to Lupita Nyong'o's Lorna Simpson-inspired updo, here are the artiest looks from the gala.

Timothée Chalamet and JR attend the the 2021 Met Gala Celebrating In America: A Lexicon Of Fashion at Metropolitan Museum of Art on September 13, 2021 in New York City. (Photo by Arturo Holmes/MG21/Getty Images)
Timothée Chalamet and JR attend the the 2021 Met Gala Celebrating In America: A Lexicon Of Fashion at Metropolitan Museum of Art on September 13, 2021 in New York City. (Photo by Arturo Holmes/MG21/Getty Images)

After a Met-less 2020, the Met Gala returned to New York on Monday with a bang. Designers and their muses put their best foot forward to respond to this year’s exhibition, “In America: A Lexicon of Fashion,” which questioned, among other things, what defines American fashion and, further still, who gets to be American in the first place. 

The red carpet saw a fair number of art-world stars, too—among them the young artist (and second daughter) Ella Emhoff, American artist Rashid Johnson, and French street artist JR. The latter orchestrated an elaborate pre-show with actor Timothée Chalamet, one of the gala’s co-chairs, just a few blocks south of the Met, at the Frick Breuer.

Livestreaming his performance on Instagram, Chalamet began in the museum’s Fragonard galleries and then ripped through a flag-themed paper banner to explore the rest of the museum.

 

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“We enter in an American flag, to find a place, an identity, a position, a future, between the stripes and the stars,” JR told Vogue. “To get to the end, we need to confront our rifts, our flaws, those of our nation, of our family.” (As the Art Newspaper reported, these rifts were also exemplified in a demonstration outside the museum for racial justice; a police spokesman said there were “several” arrests during the flashy event.)

Some celebrities wore art on their sleeves, like Dan Levy, who sported a Loewe suit emblazoned with a work by the late David Wojnarowicz.

In celebration of the gala’s return, we rounded up 17 looks and the artworks that either inspired them, or that they evoke, below.

 

Rebecca Hall

Rebecca Hall and Grant Wood's American Gothic (1930). Photos courtesy Getty Images.

Rebecca Hall and Grant Wood’s American Gothic (1930). Photos courtesy Getty Images.

In her custom black and white pinafore-style dress designed by Batsheva, Hall reminded us instantly of the woman in Grant Wood’s 1930 painting, American Gothic, complete with the white collar and stone face. 

 

Whoopi Goldberg

Whoopi Goldberg and Henri Matisse’s Robe violette et Anemones (1937). Photos courtesy Getty Images.

Goldberg donned a violet ruffled gown designed by Valentino’s Pierpaolo Piccioli, recalling the purple robe of Matisse’s Robe violette et Anemones (1937). 

 

Debbie Harry

Debbie Harry and Jasper Johns’ Three Flags. Photos courtesy Getty Images.

Is it Debbie Harry in an American-flag themed dress by Zac Posen or… Jasper Johns’s 1958 work, Three Flags

 

Tracee Ellis Ross

Tracee Ellis Ross and Anish Kapoor’s 2016 Sky Mirror (Blue). Photo courtesy Getty Images.

Ross in a cerulean couture gown by Demna Gvasalia for Balenciaga is a dead ringer for Anish Kapoor’s Sky Mirror (Blue) (2016)

 

Lupita Nyong’o

 

Storm Reid

Storm Reid and Fra Angelico’s Annunciation (1440–45). Photos courtesy Getty Images.

In her rose-toned feathered gown by Prada, the Wrinkle in Time star recalled the pink-winged angel of Fra Angelico’s Annunciation (1440–45). 

 

Allyson Felix

Allyson Felix and George Seurat’s the Seine Seen From La Grande Jatte. Photos courtesy Getty Images.

In a Fendi ball gown adorned with 240,000 ostrich feathers, the Olympic sprinter recalled George Seurat’s periwinkle pointillism in The Seine Seen From La Grande Jatte. 

 

Gabrielle Union

Gabrielle Union and Yayoi Kusama's Infinity Net (1959). Photos courtesy Getty Images.

Gabrielle Union and Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Net (1959). Photos courtesy Getty Images.

Gabrielle Union’s Iris Van Herpen dress, designed to move as she walked up the Met steps, reminded us of one of Yayoi Kusama’s 1959 Infinity Net paintings. 

 

Kim Kardashian

Kim Kardashian and Kazimir Malevich’s Black Square. Photos courtesy Getty Images.

Kim Kardashian, clad in head to toe black—no, but really—by Demna Gvasalia for Balenciaga, found her art counterpart in Kazimir Malevich’s Black Square.  

Devy Levy courtesy Getty Images. David Wojnarowicz, "Fuck You Faggot Fucker" (1984). Image courtesy of the Estate of David Wojnarowicz and P·P·O·W, New York.

Left, Devy Levy courtesy Getty Images. Right, David Wojnarowicz, Fuck You Faggot Fucker (1984). Image courtesy of the Estate of David Wojnarowicz and P·P·O·W, New York.

Dan Levy

In a nod to the LGBTQ+ community, the Schitt’s Creek co-creator and star literally wore art—an interpretation of American artist and AIDS activist David Wojnarowicz’s Fuck You Faggot fucker (1984), to be specific—courtesy of Loewe’s Jonathan Anderson.

 

Billie Eilish

Left, Billie Eilish (Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for The Met Museum/Vogue). Right, Andy Warhol and his Marilyn Monroe, 1967 (PA Images via Getty Images).

While the singer-songwriter’s Oscar de la Renta ball gown may have been modeled after her favorite Barbie doll, when it comes to her hair and makeup, we’re seeing Andy Warhol’s Marilyn Monroe (1967).

 

Ella Emhoff

Left, Ella Emhoff (Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic). Right, Georgia O’Keeffe, Red Canna, 1923 (courtesy of Georgia O’Keeffe Museum/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York).

Vice President Kamala Harris’s artist-designer-model stepdaughter stepped out in a Stella McCartney look whose strategically diaphanous top and petal-like skirt recalled Georgia O’Keeffe’s abstract Red Canna paintings.

 

Amanda Gorman

Left, Amanda Gorman (John Shearer/WireImage). Right, Yves Klein, Monochrome Blue, without title, 1960, at the Schirn Kunsthalle in Frankfurt (Thomas Lohnes/DDP/AFP via Getty Images).

The American poet, activist, and co-chair of this year’s Met Gala wore a custom Vera Wang dress that was inspired by the Statue of Liberty—albeit in Yves Klein Blue.

 

Grimes

Left, Grimes (Arturo Holmes/MG21/Getty Images). Right, a ca.-1500 suit of German tournament armor at Amsterdam’s Hermitage museum (Remko de Waal / ANP / AFP via Getty Images).

Accessorizing her custom Iris van Herpen gown—featuring a 3-D “laser-cut labyrinth”—with a metallic face mask and a sword, the musician transported us to the arms and armor department by way of Dune.

 

Iman

Left, Iman (Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for The Met Museum/Vogue). Right, Christ Pantocrator at Saint Catherine’s Monastery in Sinai (Jean-Luc Manaud/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images).

Leave it to a fashion icon, clad in an ethereal ensemble with a halo-like headpiece by the designer Harris Reed, to channel another icon—i.e., the 6th-century Christ Pantocrator of St. Catherine’s Monastery in Sinai.

 

Yara Shahidi

Left, Yara Shahidi (courtesy of Dior). Right, Josephine Baker ca. 1925 (Estate of Emil Bieber/Klaus Niermann/Getty Images).

With her Dior Haute Couture embroidered silk dress, gold tulle cape, gloves, and hair accessory, the actress and activist paid homage to Josephine Baker.

 

Lil Nas X

Left, Lil Nas X (Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for The Met Museum/Vogue). Right, Gustav Klimt, Judith and the Head of Holofernes, 1901 (Collection of Österreichische Galerie Belvedere, Vienna).

The rapper-singer-songwriter’s trio of gilded Donatella Versace ensembles—including this glittering bodysuit—brought to mind Gustav Klimt’s golden phase.


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