Courtesy of Evan Agostini / Invision

November 4, 2021

‘Tax The Rich’ — Looking Back at The Met Gala

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The Met Gala which took place on Sept. 13 elicited mixed responses. Overall, people felt underwhelmed by the stylistic choices, which sparked confusion as many outfits did not seem to align with the theme: ‘Celebrating American Fashion Part 1.’ We all expect over-the-top extravaganzas and the unexpected at the annual Gala, and a few people did live up to that: Iman stole the whole show with her gold and bold ensemble! Normani channeled Princess Tiana! America’s sweetheart, the lovely Amanada Gorman looked stunning! Yara Shahidi and Billie Eilish gave us Old Hollywood, as did Megan Thee Stallion with her simplicity! Who knows what they’ll all bring to the table when Part 2 takes place next year with the same unclear theme. But nobody caused as much controversy or stirred the pot for Part 1 as much as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY-D). 

AOC showed up to the Met Gala in a white, off the shoulder dress that memorably proclaimed “Tax the Rich” in bright red words on the front and back of the dress. She received heaps of criticism from people on both side of the aisle, including people who claimed it was hypocritical for her to enjoy an event surrounded by the upper class while wearing the dress to somewhat justify her presence at such a wealthy, exclusive event; never mind her efforts to decrease the wealth gap that she’s been working on in Congress! They argued that her work on the wealth gap was a moot point, since tickets cost around $35,000 and tables can range from $200-300,000 (though AOC was invited and attended for free). Was all the criticism fair? Maybe, maybe not. But as Briahna Gray put it, the controversy arose because Ocasio-Cortez “is held to a unique standard exactly because people expect more of her.”

But beyond the general uproar, did anything come out of the initial controversy surrounding her dress? AOC stood her ground and defended her decision to wear the dress (‘the medium is in the message,’ she said), even as she trended online for hours following the conclusion of the event – for what seemed to be more negative reactions than positive ones. Her response was that often a fair tax code is discussed among the working class and isn’t brought to the attention of the upper class as much as it should be. In her eyes, wearing the dress would put them on the spot. And it wasn’t the first time AOC used fashion to make a statement: She often wears the color white in order to reference the women’s suffrage movement; she did the same for her swearing in  in 2019, famously wearing all white with many of the other women who swore in alongside her as a tribute to every woman who fought for her to be able to run for office.

And at the end of the day, she didn’t wear the dress for nothing. After the Met Gala, online searches related to ‘Tax the Rich’ surged tremendously, as AOC herself and multiple articles detailed later on. Thus, AOC arriving on the carpet in that dress meant more awareness for what she was trying to promote, and more awareness means more action! Power to her.

Oluoma I. is a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences. She can be reached at [email protected].