The Met gala 2021 red carpet was—in a word—sublime. After the year-plus we've had, any glimmer of normalcy is a treat and that includes the spectacle of best dressed stars arriving at what some call the Oscars of fashion.
Ranking the best style is, however, a difficult proposition: Every guest showed up in an outfit or look they so clearly felt their best in and one that adhered to the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute Gala-Benefit's theme, “In America: A Lexicon of Fashion"—a tribute that couldn't be more fitting at this moment.
“I’ve been really impressed by American designers’ responses to the social and political climate, particularly around issues of body inclusivity and gender fluidity, and I’m just finding their work very, very self-reflective,” Andrew Bolton, the Wendy Yu Curator in charge of the Costume Institute, told Vogue. “I really do believe that American fashion is undergoing a renaissance. I think young designers in particular are at the vanguard of discussions about diversity and inclusion, as well as sustainability and transparency, much more so than their European counterparts, maybe with the exception of the English designers.”
So, while everyone killed the carpet in their own way, there were some guests whose looks kicked the glamour we associate with the Met gala up a couple of notches while giving us classic American style, both nostalgic and forward-thinking. Below, some standout looks from the Met gala 2021 red carpet.
As for whether any of these new looks earn a place on the Met Gala best dressed ever list? We'll let you be the judge.
Palmer had the stressful-seeming task of co-hosting Vogue's livestream of the 2021 Met gala red carpet so it's a sure bet her look was highly, highly considered by multiple parties. Good job, everyone! The actor's metallic gold crystal encrusted backless gown by LA-based luxury designer Sergio Hudson was a hit. It's hard not to look at Palmer and see another American icon—Diana Ross—and her unmatched glamour during the 1970s, specifically at Studio 54, an American institution (for better or worse.)
The devil works hard but J.Lo's travel and expense team works harder. She's everywhere, all the time and for that we say thank goodness. Lopez clearly—say it with us—understood the assignment and brought some iconic star power to the 2021 Met gala red carpet wearing a western-inspired Ralph Lauren getup. Components included: a plunging fringed brown gown, a faux fur bolero, a brown leather belt, a silver statement necklace, silver earrings, a leather choker and a hat that probably would have earned a yeehaw from John Wayne himself. Cowboy boots? Way too on the nose. Plus, it's Jennifer Lopez so metallic platforms it was.
Dressed in blue Vera Wang with a garland crown, the poet said the Statue of Liberty was top-of-mind when creating the striking look. She even carried a book! As for those facial rhinestones (facestones?) though, Lady Liberty could never.
The pop star stepped out of her aesthetic comfort zone—which typically includes covered-up-on-purpose clothes with a goth bent—for the 2021 Met gala and is clearly channeling golden-age Hollywood bombshells like Jayne Mansfield and Marilyn Monroe in a peach Oscar de la Renta confection with a Rihanna-rivaling train. She also could pass for a Disney princess, so gets extra "America!" credit. To be fair, Eilish did appear on the May 2021 cover of British Vogue looking extremely Marilyn-esque, so it's probably safe to say that when she's not in oversized sweaters and jeans, she identifies with sirens of yore.
A hint of Vegas showgirl! But also an obvious icon in British-American designer Harris Reed.
Ella Emhoff and Julia Garner
Emhoff—VP Kamala Harris's stepdaughter—walked the carpet with actor Garner since they both were dressed by Stella McCartney. Emhoff repped the designer's streetwear cred by wearing Adidas by Stella McCartney (and easily looked as if she could have been a classic ‘90s supermodel kicking it with the likes of Christy Turlington, Amber Valletta, and Shalom Harlow. Garner, conversely, clearly honored a long line of our nation's glam first ladies (of fashion, relax) by showing her undergarments and toned bod through a sparkly dress in the tradition of Jennifer Lopez, Kim Kardashian, and—most recently—Megan Fox.
Justin and Hailey Bieber
What's more American than dressing like the best-looking couple at the high school? No gimmicks, just a fitted velvet gown and a wide-leg suit because that cute guy from chem class is edgy now!
Megan Thee Stallion
Old Hollywood has nothing on MTS, who wore Coach (!!!) and told Vogue livestream co-host Keke Palmer that she wanted to serve "Hollywood glamour." Accomplished!
The actor and model also gave us old Hollywood vibes with a side of prohibition with her pearl-entrusted flapperesque Jonathan Simkhai look.
Disney villain, The Matrix, stirrups, wearing your boyfriend Reuben Selby's design, and a mask? A true patriot!
The singer—also Vogue's September 2021 cover star and obvious pilates devotee—showed up to the 2021 Met gala in a Bode outfit featuring "repurposed antiques" but also white leather FLATS! Thank you, Lorde, for not even pretending to honor America's tradition of wearing ridiculous shoes to the function before changing into a sensible pair for the afterparty.