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Why ‘Slogan Fashion’ is Returning to Red Carpets After the MET Gala

The Met Gala 2021

Fashion-lovers viewed the who’s who of culture, art and politics sauntered down the Met Gala 2021red carpet, the fashion industry’s mega event of the year. While the attendees gave the fashion industry plenty to chew on, one moment eclipses all.

Creator: Kevin Mazur/MG21, Kevin Mazur/MG21, Kevin Mazur/MG21 | Credit: Getty Images For The Met Museum/Vogue | Copyright: 2021 Kevin Mazur/MG21

Democratic congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s gown message sparked serious controversy and turned heads when clad in a Brother Vellies designed white gown, with red letters printed across the back that reads: “Tax the Rich.” The New York politician reiterated her goals on her Instagram account, some hours after walking the red carpet: that the time for climate action, childcare, healthcare for all, was now. Tax the Rich,” she wrote alongside a pic of her being fitted by the designer Aurora James. AOC’s message on economic inequality is genuine, but did not resonate for some who viewed her attendance as rather hypocritical, while others insist that the posh event is traditionally attended by America’s wealthiest people.

The Masses and the Classes Controversy

Creator: ANGELA WEISS | Credit: AFP via Getty Images

As per Vogue, the guests listed do not pay, while others fork out $30,000 for a seat and booking a table costs a cool $275,000. Vanessa Friedman, chief fashion critic, New York Times, wrote on Twitter, AOC attending the $35,000-per-ticket #Met Gala in a beautiful Brother Vellies gown reading ‘Tax the Rich’ is a complicated proposition”.  Other actors and thought leaders, such as Ana Navarro and Michael Rapaport, echoed similar sentiments. Ocasio-Cortez said she was invited to the event and did not pay to attend, despite some snide comments. NYC officials are very regularly invited to attend the gala due to their responsibilities in managing the city’s cultural institutions that are open to the public. She also stated that the dress was borrowed from the designer.  N.Y. Rep. Carolyn Maloney sent another political message by wearing an outfit embroidered with: “Equal Rights for Women.”

Creator: Dimitrios Kambouris, Dimitrios Kambouris | Credit: Getty Images for The Met Museum/Vogue | Copyright: 2021 Getty Images

Ocasio-Cortez later defended the event as an incredible chance to talk about Taxing the Rich, right under the noses of the very rich people who would lobby against it, before even acknowledging the prevailing double standard that women of color face in politics. The more intersections one has, the deeper the disdain,” she said.

The Message and the Medium

Using fashion to drive home a political message, whether subtle or not is not new. Denim played a huge role in the civil rights movement, as a symbol of Black freedom struggle and  was associated with Black sharecroppers in the South. Fashion played a prominent role during the women’s movement for liberation. During the 1968 protests of the Miss America pageant, protesters dumped items like stockings, bras, lipstick into a trashcan to highlight the unrealistic beauty standards that women face. The color white had a historic meaning for the women’s suffrage movement. In the early 1900s, as wearing white was an accessible way for anyone to join the cause, without race or economic status and dress the part. Ocasio-Cortez has spoken about the color white in the past and why she uses it today in homage to suffragists. Red carpets are a powerful place to make such bold statements.

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