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Previewing Met Gala 2023: Dress code and controversy

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This year’s Met Gala prepares to honor late fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld.

The 2023 Met Gala dress code is dripping in high-fashion flare and public controversy. 

On Wednesday, Jan. 18, via Instagram, Vogue officially released details regarding this year’s Met Gala theme, “Karl Lagerfeld: A Line of Beauty,” specifying the dress code will be “In honor of Karl.” The theme, which was officially announced during Paris Fashion Week in September, is set to pay tribute to the late German designer, who is often regarded as one of the most influential and significant names in fashion. 

Lagerfeld, who served as the creative director of Chanel, Fendi and his eponymous brand until his death in February 2019, was well known for his heavy contributions to the fashion world. He designed for brands such as Paltou and Balmain, and acted as Chloé’s creative director on two separate occasions. 

According to a Vogue article detailing this year’s theme and fashion guidelines, attendees are expected to take the dress code in one of three directions: Vintage Lagerfeld, modern Fendi and Chanel or a look inspired by the designer’s own signature style. While this theme is not the first to honor well-known fashion names, such as 2011’s “Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty,” and 2017’s “Rei Kawakubo/Comme Des Garçons: Art of the In-Between,” its focus on a particular designer does make the dress code open for less interpretation than some years past, such as 2019’s “Camp: Notes on Fashion,” and 2021’s “In America: A Lexicon of Fashion.” 

Despite Lagerfeld’s undeniable contributions as a designer, this year’s theme is not necessarily being met with the enthusiasm that officials may have hoped for. Lagerfeld, who became known for making controversial comments on women and politics, has had his character called into question on multiple occasions. One example includes an instance where he told Numéro Magazine that he was “fed up” with the #MeToo Movement and questioned why victims took so long to “remember what happened.” He also sparked controversy in 2017 after referring to Syrian refugees entering Germany as “[the Jewish people’s] worst enemies,” and has been known to make misogynistic comments regarding consent and female body weight. 

The Met Gala’s initial Instagram post revealing the theme in September of 2022 was flooded with comments condemning the decision to honor Lagerfeld, and even resulted in a #boycottmetgala2023 hashtag. While it is unknown if any attendees will use their red-carpet moment as an opportunity to make a statement opposing Lagerfeld or his views, it will be interesting to see if the controversy dies down with time or increases as the event approaches. 

Regardless of whether or not attendees choose to share their stance on this controversy through their attire, there is still bound to be the gala’s yearly dose of incredibly on and off-theme looks.  Since Vogue’s article hints that the most “authentic” way to approach the theme would be with an archival-inspired design from a Lagerfeld-led label, I personally suspect many in attendance will choose to go this route. There are however bound to be some that opt to embody Lagerfeld’s personal style, choosing to sport dark sunglasses, a low pony-tail and and his signature high white collar. 

The 2023 Met Gala will be held on May 1.

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