The mundane Met Gala shows that we are in the age of boring celebrities

It’s the perfect celebrity story: At the height of her purported affair with JFK, Marilyn Monroe donned a super-tight dress and gave a rousing show of the president’s happy birthday to a party attended by more than 15,000 people, including other celebrities, while JFK’s wife, Jackie, was at Elsewhere, she spends the day with their two children. It’s a typical tabloid moment: It involves superstitious and powerful whispers of adultery, and an inappropriately intimate gesture, all done in an unnecessarily public fashion. It is the best service a celebrity can do to an eager onlooker: to be charming, interesting, and mysteriously open.

The dress has become infamous from this moment, and has spent 60 years since going among auction winners — most recently in 2016, when the Ripley’s Believe It or Not Museum bought it for $4.8 million — and living off mannequins. That was, until last night, when Kim Kardashian wore it to the Met Gala to fit the “In America: An Anthology of Fashion” theme, whose dress had a “gilded luster.” The Met Gala is synonymous with the art of tailoring, a night when the world’s most famous designers display their unfiltered ingenuity. For many people, this dress was a great gimmick – gorgeous enough to declare Kardashian’s win for the night.

Looking beyond the gimmick, what do we see? The dress is simple and perhaps beautiful, but unremarkable – squint, and you can find something similar in the high-end department of Zara. Its crystals cost over a million dollars, which is of course a number, but it was the actions of another woman from another century that made this dress. The story alone is what makes it worth digging into the billionaire’s archive. As an item of clothing, it’s so similar to the kinds of dresses the Kardashians have worn so much that they’ve made it into a defining trend of the decade: a neutral-toned mermaid dress.

Choosing the Kardashians is emblematic of a trend that’s become inevitable on red carpets: a boring look that relies heavily on some external factor—a gimmick, or an exorbitant cost—to make it look like an act of genius. Take a look at Gigi Hadid’s “heavy dress” (something we’ve seen many times from people like Rihanna and Cardi B, who wore a heavy dress in the same color in 2019); or the procession of “naked” bejeweled dresses, with sheer material and adorned with precious stones, which have been looking monotonous from the Met look du jour for more than half a decade; and the Kardashian sisters, Kendall and Kylie Jenner, whose entire outfits seemed to center around having blonde eyebrows and wearing a baseball cap, respectively. Scanning the look from the Met Gala – meant to be fashion’s most creative night – it’s hard to find one that isn’t safe, tired or ugly, something closer to a cheap outfit you find on BooHoo than a masterpiece. People trying to do something different often rely on ill-conceived shapes — obviously hoping that making a dress look weird would be enough to make it fun — or stunts we’ve seen before. Most of them don’t even try.

Think of the celebrity who won almost unanimous praise for her look last night: Blake Lively, whose copper dress unfolded as she climbed the stairs to reveal a long, wide train that changed the dominant color of the gown to a bluish green—a nod to the oxidation of the Statue of Liberty. While the Lively dress was undoubtedly the best of the night, we’ve seen this medium action at the Met Gala many times before. Zendaya’s Cinderella dress changed color after being sprayed with chemicals from a stick in 2019, Karlie Kloss threw a layer in 2016 to show off a different dress hidden under her original gown, and Lady Gaga made four outfit changes on the red carpet three years ago. Sidney Sweeney even revealed a similar dress from the medium carpet last night, as did Cara Delevingne.

In an event that claims to be the pinnacle of fashion, shouldn’t that level of imagination be the bare minimum for celebrity guests, a class of people with nearly infinite wealth and access to countless people who can outsource their creativity? A dress that opens up to reveal a slightly different color scheme is not so inspired, especially when compared to the technology and materials available to the designers (who often work more than a year in advance on these looks). It only stands out when you line up with the short-sighted and uninspiring show of a cast of public figures who constantly choose to evade dangers, despite being the most willing people in the world to actually take them.

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The Met Gala isn’t alone in this trend: It’s hard to think of a red carpet last year who didn’t have a similar problem. (I would encourage you to try to find an attractive or beautiful look, say, from this year’s Oscars or Grammys.) Our age of celebrity requires security and symmetry, a level of uniformity driven by social media, which rewards certain styles of images is being. As a result, creativity and fun are implemented within narrow scales of acceptance. Like the Kardashian dress, celebrities today often choose to ride on derived bounces and superficial tricks to make their choices look smart or even interesting, rather than wearing anything (or, God forbid, actually user) interesting themselves.