The most exciting part of this year’s Met Gala involved a cockroach. The (thankfully) solo creepy-crawly was fashionably late. But not as late as Rihanna and A$AP Rocky, who show up about two hours after most attendees had already arrived at the Metropolitan Museum of Art fundraiser.
The internet celebrated the arrival of the six-legged party-crasher, which is not a normal occurrence. Cockroaches are usually greeted by disgusted screams of “GET RID OF IT”, not cheers from onlookers and a photographer rushing to get its close-up. Once the bug’s inevitable death-by-stamping took place, social media mourned its brief life and paid tribute to its “icon” status.
Celebrating and then grieving a cockroach at what is regularly dubbed fashion’s event of the year tells you everything you need to know about how the 2023 Met Gala was received. The theme revolved around the legacy of Karl Lagerfeld, who died in February 2019. He is currently being honoured in an exhibit titled “Karl Lagerfeld: A Line of Beauty” at the Metropolitan Museum.
But Lagerfeld left behind a controversial legacy, filled with derogatory comments about women, marginalised groups and public figures. Many of his fashion beliefs were rooted in fatphobia – he once declared that “no one wants to see curvy women on the runway” and criticised models for not being “that skinny”. The theme has been met with protest from some models, who condemned Vogue’s editor-in-chief Anna Wintour for choosing to “[revere] figures like [Lagerfeld] without even acknowledging their regressive views”.
On the red carpet itself, it appeared that most of the attendees were unwilling to court the divisive designer’s reputation head-on. Many chose to stick to Lagerfeld’s signature black-and-white style, including Olivia Wilde, Michelle Yeoh, Maude Apatow, Gisele Bundchen, Ben Platt, Margot Robbie, Kim Kardashian and Rihanna. A few did go against the grain by turning up in pastel pink or nude (Harvey Guillen, Emily Ratajkowski, Quannah Chasinghorse), and just a handful donned brighter colours (Ariana DeBose, Pedro Pascal, Gabrielle Union, Kylie Jenner).
This isn’t to say that the classic colour combo can’t make for striking looks. But in a sea of black-and-white dresses and tuxedos, most of the celebrities simply blended into one another. On Twitter, viewers lamented just how tedious the fashion extravaganza was, with one person writing: “This might be the most boring Met Gala of all time, no mess, everyone’s on theme and seems to look at least medium to super well, I guess everybody slayed then… No notes.” Surely someone could’ve brought Lagerfeld’s beloved cat Choupette on a leash, just to liven things up a bit? She would have outshone every single star and become the viral moment that Met Gala organisers can only dream about.
There were a couple of nods to Choupette, to make up for her fluffy absence. Doja Cat lived up to her stage name by donning feline facial prosthetics, complete with cat ears on her hooded Oscar de la Renta gown. But then Jared Leto may have outdone the singer by arriving in an oversized costume of Choupette, before he removed the cat head and unzipped the costume to show off a full-black caped outfit.
Other stand-out looks included Lil Nas X’s almost-nude “outfit”, which consisted of a metallic thong, an eye mask and huge platform boots. He was covered in silver body paint and dotted in Swarovski crystals and pearls that nearly covered his face – reminiscent of Doja’s all-red Swarovski look during Schiaparelli’s spring 2023 couture show earlier this year. Jeremy Pope also brought the drama with a 30-ft silk chiffon cape by Balmain featuring a hand-drawn illustration of Lagerfeld, while Florence Pugh debuted a bold buzz cut under a large feathered headpiece by Valentino.
But as a whole, the Met Gala’s reputation for weird and wonderful fashion moments has been dampened this year. It has failed again to recapture the magic of what has been lauded as its best-ever year, 2018’s “Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination”, which served up so many unforgettable and provocative looks. Instead, this year’s unimaginative, glorified red carpet was held in honour of a man who was so misogynistic, he once said models should “join a nunnery” if they “don’t want [their] pants pulled about” by men in the fashion industry. Yikes.