Everything About The "In America: A Lexicon Of Fashion" Theme And A Post-Pandemic Red Carpet

After taking a year off, the Met Gala is officially back for a September 13th red carpet!

After taking a year off, the Met Gala is officially back! But not in May…September 13th is the new date, and the theme is “In America: A Lexicon of Fashion!”

Met Gala Red Carpet, 2021, In America, Museum of Art
image source: Daily Front Row

The Costume Institute Benefit, popularly known as the Met Gala, has been an annual event ever since 1948, inviting esteemed guests to celebrate art and bestow generous donations. The gala is known most for its elegant red carpet where we watch celebrities, and other members of high-society, strut chic, and occasionally outlandish, outfits that coincide with a particular theme.

This year, the Met has chosen its “In America: A Lexicon of Fashion” exhibit as its theme. But what is American fashion? What makes American fashion American? Which artists define this style? Well, look no further.

Here’s everything you need to know about “In America: A Lexicon of Fashion.”

What Exactly is American Fashion?

Despite its name, defining American fashion can be quite difficult due to its many shapes, artists, and eras.

Met Museum, Met Gala, 2021, In America, Fashion
image source: Metropolitan Museum of Art

Most simply, American fashion is exactly that: American. Unlike other themes from Met Gala’s past, American Fashion is meant only to celebrate American creators who encompass American life in their fashion and art.

During the formation of the United States, American fashion was founded on the idea of practicality but has since evolved into a reflection of the nation’s self-invention, diversity, and innovation throughout its various eras.

The theme is meant to examine American fashion in the “context of race, gender, and materiality” while also observing its “stereotypes” and “[foreign] counterparts.

Not only will the “In America” exhibit tell the story of America through the lens of fashion, but will also show how fashion helps define what it is to be American, and how its unique flavor stands out amidst a world of limitless creativity.

How is Each Year’s Met Gala Theme Chosen?

Each year’s theme is chosen based on current exhibits within the museum, but there’s more to the decision than meets the eye.

Met Museum, Camp, Theme, Met Gala, 2021
image source: Washington Post

Just like 2019’s “Camp: Notes on Fashion” and 2018’s “Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination,” this year’s “In America: A Lexicon of Fashion” occurs simultaneously with an art exhibit within the Met museum.

Andrew Bolton, a curator with the Costume Institute, always chooses a theme that matches an exhibit in order to further submerge their guests in the experience. However, just because an exhibit is popular doesn’t mean it’ll be chosen as that year’s theme.

Bolton describes his selection process as one of debate, not spectacle. He always hopes to choose a theme that is “timely” and “generate[s] debate...and...expand[s] people’s ideas about a topic.” A theme shouldn’t only be nice to look at, it should also reflect a “cultural shift that’s happening or is about to happen.

Why This Theme and Not Another?

The choice to further showcase this school of fashion was by the design of Andrew Bolton, the Curator of the Costume Institute, in response to the social justice movements in America within the past decade.

Met Museum, Met gala, Camp, Theme, 2021, exhibit
image source: Metropolitan Museum of Art

Bolton defends this choice of the theme by illustrating his respect for creativity during a pandemic and surge of social justice. He says: “I’ve been really impressed by American designers’ responses to the social and political climate, particularly around issues of body inclusivity and gender fluidity.” He feels that recent American fashion has been “very self-reflective,” and he “believe[s]...[it] is undergoing a Renaissance.”

The Costume Curator also highlighted the importance of young artists during the recent BLM movement, among other social justice waves within the past decade, explaining that these movements reclaim the “narrative...abilities” of American fashion and reflect the American dream of innovation and identity.

The theme was chosen in concurrence with today’s social and political climate, but it also coincides with the Costume Institute’s 75th anniversary and is meant to thank the American fashion community for its support since 1946.

“In America” is a Two-Year Theme

For the first time in Met Gala history, its celebrated theme will be spread out across two years, not one.

Met Gala, Met Museum, 2021, In America, Fashion
image source: Metropolitan Museum of Art

A sister theme to “A Lexicon of Fashion,” “An Anthology of Fashion” will be displayed next year just in time for Met Gala 2022. The second part “In America” will focus primarily on the stories of American individuals, examining the history of inclusivity in the United States.

So, while “A Lexicon of Fashion” aims to more broadly embrace American artistry in fashion, “An Anthology of Fashion” will more specifically use fashion to discuss the long road to acceptance and equality that the U.S. continues to grapple with.

Who Will Be On The Red Carpet?

Every year, the Met welcomes all sorts of industry heavyweights, but this year will also have celebrity hosts!

Hosts, Met Gala, 2021, Billie Eilish, Timothee Chalamet, Naomi Osaka, Amanda Gorman
Gala Co-Hosts Billie Eilish, Naomi Osaka, Timothee Chalamet, and Amanda Gorman - source: Elle

The Met prides itself on inviting successful members of many industries to its famous gala, but the celebrity guests hold court often, and with great style.

Timothee Chalamet is set to host the red carpet alongside the delightful Amanda Gorman and Billie Eilish. Tennis icon Naomi Osaka will also be joining them, forming a collective of actors, singers, writers, and athletes that represent the sprawling community that the Met wishes to share its art with.

Let’s get this out of the way: Rihanna will probably be there. The singer/songwriter has attended seven Met Galas, famously (or infamously) wearing a glimmering papal metre to 2018s “Heavenly Bodies” gala, and parading a royal gold dress and headpiece for 2016s “China: Through the Looking Glass.” Her outfits are notably iconic for accurately reflecting each year’s theme. Her absence from the 2019s gala had fans tear-jerked, but her possible presence in 2021 has us hoping once more.

Expect other industry leaders and icons to appear on the carpet, possibly Lady Gaga, Ariana Grande, Harry Styles, Blake Lively, or even Elon Musk.  Met gala chairs and staples will undoubtedly appear as well, such as Tom Ford, Anna Wintour, and other world fashion leaders.

What Does a Post-Pandemic Met Gala Look Like?

Despite many vaccination distribution centers around the world, covid-19 still poses a threat. So, how will the gala adjust?

Covid-19 and the Met Museum, Met Gala, 2021
image source: BBC News

Despite the typical 600-ish guest list from previous years, it's safe to assume the Met will not be hosting this same amount of guests in 2021. Government restrictions on public gatherings for the covid-19 pandemic are still in effect, so chances are we’ll see a toned-down red carpet entourage, and a limited seating arrangement.

The red carpet is still happening, though, albeit, with social distancing. Poparazzi will most likely be arranged in the safest orientation possible, with staggered guest arrivals to prevent close contact.

And will we see masks? Yes. Journalists, photographers, security, and staff will most likely be masked for the entire event. The only exception to mask-wearing might be for guests when strutting down the red carpet, and when seated at their tables. Otherwise, we can expect a fully masked, socially distanced Met gala.

Many people will be vaccinated come September’s gala, but you can’t be too careful when it comes to Timothee Chalamet’s safety. Protect the jawline!


The “In America: A Lexicon of Fashion” exhibit will officially be up for display this Fall on September 18th, 2021. It will be shown in the Met’s Anna Wintour Costume Center and will run until September 5th, 2022.

Its counterpart, “In America: An Anthology of Fashion,” won’t open until next year’s gala on May 5th, 2022. This exhibit will display in the Met’s various rooms in its American Wing, and will remain until September 5th, 2022 alongside “A Lexicon of Fashion.”

Chris is a recent Brooklyn College grad who's eager to share his thoughts on entertainment, lifestyle routines, and the state of the world.

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