AOC, Ella Emhoff Dealing With Politics of Fashion After Met Gala

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The Met Gala’s celebrity guests always create a firestorm of publicity for their designer choices and Monday’s extravaganza was no exception, as Lil Nas X, Blackpink’s Rose, Naomi Osaka, Serena Williams and scores more can attest.

But this time a trio of politicians — Democratic New York Congresswomen Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Carolyn Maloney and New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio — faced some online backlash for attending the elite event. Individual tickets are $35,000 and tables are $200,000 to $300,000.

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A spokeswoman for the museum declined comment Tuesday.

All three politicians and Ocasio-Cortez’s boyfriend Riley Roberts were said to be guests of The Met. The museum does not provide transportation for guests.

A spokeswoman for Ocasio-Cortez confirmed the congresswoman was a guest of The Met. In response to a media request, the spokeswoman noted that Ocasio-Cortez had answered some of the questions in her IG Stories and via an Instagram post. She declined the opportunity to comment further.

Despite being a scaled-down gala due to COVID-19 precautions, Monday’s Met Gala raised a record-breaking $16.75 million, according to a spokeswoman for the museum.

Ocasio-Cortez lit up social media by wearing a Brothers Vellies dress stitched with “Tax the rich.” In theory, that message applied to many of the uber-wealthy attendees at the gala, who had paid for admission rather than be invited by the evening’s chief sponsor, Instagram, or corporations and brands that bought tables.

The gala is the major fundraiser for the Costume Institute, which is the only one of the Met’s curatorial departments that is self-funded. The bash coincided with the opening of “In America: A Lexicon of Fashion,” the first installment of a two-part yearlong exhibition that celebrates the institute’s 75th anniversary. Ocasio-Cortez and Maloney embraced this year’s dress code of “American Independence,” unlike many guests who opted for French and Italian designer brands rather than American ones.

The congresswoman posted a photo of herself wearing the dress with Brother Vellies designer Aurora James early Tuesday morning and noted that it was borrowed. Ocasio-Cortez posted that she was proud to work with James “as a sustainably focused, Black woman immigrant designer who went from starting her dream @brothersvellies at a flea market in Brooklyn to winning the @cfda against all odds — and then work together to kick open the doors at the Met.

“The time is now for childcare, healthcare and climate action for all. Tax the Rich,” she posted. “And yes, BEFORE anybody starts wilding out — NYC and elected officials are regularly invited to attend the Met due to our responsibilities in overseeing our city’s cultural institutions that serve the public. I was one of several in attendance.”

The post had more than 1.9 million likes as of Tuesday afternoon.

A few outlets like Fox Business noted how Ocasio-Cortez and Maloney missed part of the House Financial Services Committee’s markup of the $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation package, which wrapped up shortly before 8 p.m. on Monday. Maloney posted a photo of herself dressed for the Met Gala before 6 p.m.

Media requests to DeBlasio’s team were not acknowledged Tuesday.

A spokesperson for Maloney declined comment. However, the spokesperson had emailed press information about the dress the congresswoman wore to the gala early Monday evening, well before other brands did so to identify their respective guests.

Maloney, a sponsor of the Equal Rights Amendment, wore a dress in purple, white and gold — the original suffragist colors — and a cape embroidered with “Equal Rights for Women” and white “ERA” letters on the front of the dress. The press material that was circulated by Maloney’s office described it as “fashion with a purpose.”

Carolyn B. Maloney - Credit: Lexie Moreland/WWD
Carolyn B. Maloney - Credit: Lexie Moreland/WWD

Lexie Moreland/WWD

An invitation to a charity fundraiser is not considered a gift if the primary purpose of the event is to raise funds for an organization that is qualified to receive tax-deductible contributions, and if the organization — not another source, such as a corporate sponsor — extends the invitation, according to the U.S. House of Representatives’ Committee on Ethics’ gift guidance guidelines.

Although Ella Emhoff is not an elected official, her choice of Stella McCartney and Adidas was a head scratcher for some. Although Adidas is featured in the new Costume Institute exhibition, it is a German brand, not an American one. In addition, Emhoff’s stepmother, Vice President Kamala Harris, is an advocate for small domestic businesses, especially those in underrepresented communities.

Ella Emhoff - Credit: Lexie Moreland/WWD
Ella Emhoff - Credit: Lexie Moreland/WWD

Lexie Moreland/WWD

On a professional level for Emhoff, an IMG model, it made sense, however. An Adidas spokeswoman said Emhoff is the face of the campaign for Adidas by Stella McCartney’s newest collection “Earth Explorer.”

Media requests to Emhoff and her manager Joseph Charles Viola were not returned. A receptionist at IMG, which represents Emhoff as a model, said all media requests must go through her team at the White House and he offered to forward a request. That request was not acknowledged at press time.

Celebrities and politicians will have the chance to spark more fireworks next May when another Met Gala is planned to mark the opening of the exhibition’s second part, “In America: An Anthology of Fashion.”

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