The message of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Met Gala dress sparked controversy. Why ‘slogan fashion’ is returning to red carpets

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez attends the 2021 Met Gala along with Aurora James, who designed her dress. (Ray Tamarra/GC images)

Fashion lovers watched Monday night as the who’s who of art, culture and politics sauntered down the red carpet at the Met Gala 2021, the most anticipated event of the year in the fashion industry. While attendees fed the global fashion world, there is one particular moment that stands out.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez turned heads when she appeared in a white dress designed by Brother Vellies, with red lettering on the back that reads: “Tax the Rich.”

The New York Democratic congresswoman repeated her message on Instagram a few hours after she walked on the carpet: “Now is the time for childcare, healthcare and climate action for all. Tax the Rich,” she captioned a photo to which she was tried on by designer Aurora James.

While AOC’s message about economic inequality was heartfelt, it did not resonate with some who viewed its presence as hypocritical, with some pointing out that the high-level event is attended by some of America’s wealthiest people.

According to Fashion, those on the guest list do not have to pay. But those not on the list may have to pay about $30,000 for a chair — and buying a table can cost about $275,000.

“Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez at the $35,000-a-ticket” #MetGala in a Brother Vellies gown that exudes ‘Tax the Rich’ is a complicated proposition,” said Vanessa Friedman, chief fashion critic at the New York Times, wrote further Twitter. Other actors and opinion leaders, such as actor Michael Rapaport and Ana Navarro, echoed similar feelings.

Ocasio-Cortez later cleared the air by pointing out that she was invited to the event and did not pay to attend, despite some comments and reports otherwise suggests.

“BEFORE anyone starts to ramble, NYC elected officials are regularly invited to and attend the Met because of our responsibilities in overseeing our city’s cultural institutions that serve the public. I was one of many who attended,” Ocasio-Cortez wrote. She also noted that she borrowed the designer’s dress.

Ocasio-Cortez was far from the only politician to attend the Met gala. NY Rep. Carolyn Maloney also used her presence this year to send another political message by wearing an outfit that read “Equal Rights for Women” embroidered.

Ocasio-Cortez later took to her Instagram stories to say that while “haters hated,” the event was an incredible opportunity to “have a conversation about taxing the rich for the people who lobby against it” before they double-standard women. recognize color face in politics.

“The more intersections one has, the deeper the disdain,” she said. “I’m so used to doing exactly the same thing as men — including popular male progressive elected officials — and getting a completely different answer.”

Using fashion to convey a political message – subtle or otherwise – is nothing new.

if Teen Vogue points out that denim played an important role in the civil rights movement, becoming a “symbol of the black freedom struggle.” Before that, denim was often associated with black tenant farmers in the South.

Fashion also played a prominent role during the women’s liberation movement, the publication notes. During the 1968 Miss America Protest, protesters dumped items such as lipstick, stockings and bras into a trash can to send a message about unrealistic beauty standards faced by women.

The color white also has historical significance for the women’s suffrage movement. In the early 1900s, wearing white became an accessible way for anyone to join the cause — meaning women of any race or economic status could afford to dress the part. Ocasio-Cortez has talk about the color white in the past and why she still uses it today as a tribute to suffragists.

The evolution of fashion activism reverberates today. Bronwyn Cosgrave, author of Made for each other: fashion and the Academy Awards and former editor of British Vogue, tells Yahoo Life that today’s fashion is entering a new phase where self-expression and “slogan fashion” are at the forefront.

“When you see these ‘best and worst’ dressed lists, you don’t even see the designer’s name on the list,” says Cosgrave. “You just see the person and they say ‘worst’ when they haven’t even bothered to look at the real identity of the designer, or the kind of inspirations behind the designer. That’s what makes me angry. There is no “best or worst” anymore. We live in an age of fearless self-expression. Get used to it.”

While in the past, Cosgrave argues, red carpet fashion has been a great way to “make a political statement,” what she calls “slogan clothing” is a thriving art that is “more overt.”

Red carpets are often the most powerful place to make such bold statements.

At the 2018 Oscars, attendees embraced the Time’s Up movement by wearing black or wearing Time’s Up pins in solidarity. In 2019 Joy Villa wore a bright pink latex dress with the text “F*** Planned Parenthood” to the Los Angeles premiere of Not planned, an anti-abortion film based on the book by former Planned Parenthood clinic director Abby Johnson.

Cosgrave refers to designers like Anthony Vaccarello, creative director at Saint Laurent, who found success in reviving Saint Laurent’s slogan “Love” by putting it on the backs of jackets — a creative move that other designers (and celebrities) ) followed.

“It’s a ‘love’ decal, which is a very positive message and it was on T-shirts,” she says. “Then you saw a controversial sample of it by Melania Trump when she said ‘I really don’t care, do you?’ wore. jacket on her back. It’s ‘slogan clothing’ – and you see it all over the streets of New York.”

Still, she admits that there is a double standard when the wearer of such fashion is in the political sphere, such as Ocasio-Cortez.

“If you sow division, you can’t win,” Cosgrave, podcast host Another tweed, says Ocasio-Cortez. “Let’s look outside of politics at someone like Madonna or even Susan Sarandon when she went to the Oscars and wore an AIDS pin. That was considered controversial by the Hollywood establishment [at the time], believe it or not.”

“If AOC went to the Met gala in something sober — or something that’s just an afterthought — her critics would jump all over her anyway,” Cosgrave said. On the other hand, she argues, if Ocasio-Cortez had been given a beautiful ball gown from a luxury brand, she would have had a similar reaction.

Instead, the congresswoman decided to profile an independent designer, James, who is known as the leader of the 15% Promise initiative, which urges retailers and businesses to spend 15 percent of their purchasing power supporting black-owned businesses.

“She’s a fearless character,” Cosgrave says of Ocasio-Cortez. And let’s face it, she’s an attractive woman. She knows how to project herself and that’s how she goes for it. She uses fashion as a platform to take a designer who needs the support to the next level, and at the same time, she’s going to put some groceries in it. It’s a collaboration, right? And it works. People are talking about it. Right?”