Monday night’s Met Gala was filled with iconic looks delivered by notable celebrities and athletes, from Lil Nas X’s three outfit changes to gymnast Nia Dennis showing off her skills in a royal blue bodysuit. But for some attendees, this year’s theme of “In America: A Lexicon of Fashion” was about raising awareness about social issues.
Perhaps one of the biggest moments was the unveiling of New York Representative Carolyn B. Maloney’s dress, which featured large wings that read, “Equal rights for women.” She also held a tambourine with the words “ERA yes,” alluding to her support of the passing of the Equal Rights Amendment.
The amendment, which would explicitly provide women with Constitutional equal rights, has yet to be officially passed, roughly 100 years after it was first introduced by Republican Alice Paul.
New York Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez also used her arrival to make a statement about wealth inequality in the U.S., wearing a long white dress with “tax the rich” in large, bold red letters on the back.
On Instagram, Ocasio-Cortez said, “the medium is the message.”
“The time is now for childcare, healthcare, and climate action for all. Tax the rich,” she wrote. “And yes, before anybody starts wilding out — NYC elected officials are regularly invited to and attend the Met due to our responsibilities in overseeing our city’s cultural institutions that serve the public.”
Many used their outfits to raise awareness about LGBTQ issues and show their support for the community.
Makeup artist Nikkie de Jager used her dress to pay homage to transgender rights icon Marsha P. Johnson, whose middle initial famously stands for “Pay it no mind.” Johnson is one of the transgender women praised for her role in the 1969 Stonewall Rebellion, and is known for creating a housing a support shelter for LGBTQ youth and sex workers in 1970.
Along with featuring the colors and a flower crown seen in a famous portrait of Johnson, de Jager’s dress also included a sash with the words “Pay it no mind.”
De Jager, known for her YouTube channel NikkieTutorials, announced last year she is transgender after she says she was blackmailed by someone who wanted to leak the information to the press.
U.S. soccer star Megan Rapinoe donned a bright red suit with a blue, star covered shirt — and a bright blue marbled clutch with “America” on one side and “In gay we trust on the other.”
Actor Dan Levy’s bold outfit was, in essence, a roadmap for change. His top featured two silhouetted men kissing, a depiction that Levy said on Instagram serves as a tribute to American multimedia artists and LGBTQ activist David Wojnarovicz, who died in 1992.
Levy said his team was inspired by one of Wojnarovicz’s pieces that also featured two men kissing, called “F*** You Fa**** Fu****.”
“[It was] named after a homophobic cartoon the artist had come across,” Levy wrote on Instagram. “But rather than feed on the message of hate, we wanted to celebrate queer love and visibility — Wojnarovicz had to fight, while also presenting the imagery in a way that offered a hopeful message.”
“Tonight, we’re celebrating the resilience, the love, and the joy of the community while honoring a crucial American voice that was taken from us too soon,” Levy wrote, adding that one of the brands he worked with, Loewe, is also donating to Visual AIDS, an organization that Wojnarovicz supported.