Opinions & Features Workshop (Oct 26th)

Illustration by Valery Perez

Political Fashion: How Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez intertwined the two at the Met Gala

By Roog Kubur, October 13 2021—

The Met Gala is considered the biggest night in fashion and invites some of the biggest names in the public eye to impress onlookers with outlandish looks that adhere to the year’s theme. Taking this into account, the appearance of Democratic congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, also known as AOC, turned into a question of both performative activism and the idolization of politicians. However, when taking into account what this year’s Met Gala was attempting to achieve, her appearance is more logical than expected. AOC’s Met Gala appearance was the perfect display of the Met Museum’s America: A Lexicon of Fashion exhibit despite her less than impressive fashion choice. 

This year’s Met Gala theme perfectly coincided with what made AOC such a successful politician in the first place. The theme pays homage to the exhibit, America: A Lexicon of Fashion, emphasizing the “patchwork” quality of the United States, embracing its multiculturalism. This theme draws on 12 central emotional qualities including affinity, confidence, strength and consciousness. Having a politician make a surprise appearance for this theme was a logical conclusion because AOC’s origin story and goals coincide perfectly with the Met’s idea of the “patchwork” America.

Her personal story is just as integral to her political stance as her platform emphasizing sustainability, equality and progression, appealing to the younger generation who strive for just that. Her origin story from bartender to congresswoman shows strength, drive and brazen confidence that hasn’t been seen by Americans before. Her appearance at the Met Gala does not turn into the idolization of politicians but instead skillfully capitalizes on the celebrity culture that has been cultivated by the nation. 

Since the dawn of her career, AOC had made it very clear that she was just as much a social-media figure as a politician. This makes sense when considering that her platform of equality and progression leans on the accessibility of politics and policy to all Americans, advocating for minority groups who may not have had a voice if not for social media. While she is not the first politician to utilize social media as a tool for connecting with her supporters, she has the youthful and relatable advantage that her colleagues in congress don’t.

This edge was carried all the way to the Met, where she was able to, once again, brazenly share her platform to people who otherwise may not have seen it. She is once again displaying the theme by showing a consciousness that seems to lack at an event like this – understanding she is surrounded by “the rich” that she plans to tax and deliberately choosing to call them on this abhorrent display of wealth. Her appearance was merely an extension of her position as a public figure rather than as a politician, hence explaining why she would have been invited in the first place. 

While her physically being there was a brilliant display of theme, her fashion choice did not hold up to scrutiny. She donned a white mermaid-style gown with the words “tax the rich” written in bold red across the back. As fashion is an integral part of this event, her gown did not hold up to scrutiny. Despite this event emphasizing the story and designers as much as the costumes themselves, most onlookers could only see and appreciate what was in front of them. She was accused of performativity, ignoring the fact that she has actively been attempting to put in legislation that would “tax the rich” and also  make society more equitable.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has never been the standard image of a member of congress and this allows her to break barriers of what it means to dual wield the title of congresswoman and public figure. The Met Gala was long overdue for someone to challenge this institution of wealth and they could not have selected a better candidate to do so. By inviting her, the Met Museum was able to embrace the theme of their lexicon of fashion without compromising the prestige of the event. At this point it is unknown if AOC will make an appearance at the second half of this event but there is no doubt that she will continue to do what she does best: make some noise.

This article is part of our Opinions section and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Gauntlet’s editorial board.


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