The theme at the 2021 Met Gala was “American Independence” or “In America” and, that was exactly what we got.

Some celebrities wore thoughtful and creative ensembles with deep symbolism and meaning, such as National Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman’s blue gown and headpiece inspired by Statue of Liberty. There were political statements, including Rep. Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez’s white dress with “tax the rich” scrawled in red on the back. Actor Dan Levy showed off an outfit that was a map of the world with two men kissing on the front. Megan Fox explained her dress fit the theme because she’s American, and she was wearing it.

Then there was Nicki Minaj, regularly a staple of the gala, who refused to show up because the event required vaccinations. (Attendees, who can also provide a negative coronavirus test, also have to wear masks indoors.)

All in all, it was America.

The annual spectacle of celebrity and fashion — and also a fundraiser for the Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute — lit up social media Monday night, as expected. (Although Minaj’s follow-up tweet about her cousin’s friend seemed to generate just as much chatter.) Here are some of the highlights and best looks:

Rihanna and A$AP Rocky

When Rihanna and A$AP Rocky finally appeared, that meant the Met Gala was officially back.


Lil Nas X

The rapper unveiled his Versace ensemble, one piece at a time:


Kim Kardashian

She took the mask requirement seriously.


Frank Ocean

Ocean walked the red carpet in a pretty plain black jacket, but the focus was on what he was holding, instead. It was a green baby doll in an abstract blue onesie, smiling and — HOLD ON A SECOND, DID THAT THING MOVE? Yes. Yes, the green baby is moving. Okay, wow. That was unexpected. We’re not sure what this has to do with America, but this was the year that the U.S. government released a UFO report, so maybe it has something to do with little green men? Anyway, we look forward to seeing how other guests react to this robot alien baby.


Simone Biles

The Olympic gymnast says her look can easily go from “mat to Met,” which is an incredible phrase. She also said her gown weighs 88 pounds.


Jennifer Lopez

Ralph Lauren’s plan for Lopez: Spaghetti Western, but make it fashion. She wore a low-cut, brown beaded gown, with a leather brimmed hat, leather choker and low-slung belt that could have been a holster. All of this was topped by a fur bolero that was just the right amount of campy, making this Indiana Jones-esque look a fan favorite of the night.


Emily Blunt

The actress said her gown reminded her of an old Hollywood “flair of madness,” and while we’re not exactly sure what that means, it feels very accurate.


Jennifer Hudson

The Oscar-winning singer drew gasps from the red carpet hosts, who deduced she was channeling Aretha Franklin, whom Hudson is playing in a new biopic.


Grimes

“I love America — I know you’re not supposed to say that,” the singer said on the red carpet, which is puzzling, given the theme of the event is “America.” According to Vogue, her sword “is based on a western European sword from the end of the Middle Ages around 1400” and “is a permanent piece of the Met’s collection, and the sword is also cast from a Colt AR-15A3.”

She also said her ensemble is inspired by the movie “Dune,” and added that it works with the theme because it was created by an American. Okay, Grimes.


Naomi Osaka

The tennis star and co-chair of the event said the inspiration for her Louis Vuitton look was to bring together her two backgrounds, Haitian and Japanese, since America is a mix of all cultures.


Dan Levy

The “Schitt’s Creek” star took the theme seriously, as his worldly ensemble instantly became one of the highlights of the night. The image of two men kissing, embroidered onto the front of his top, is taken from the work of David Wojnarowicz, an artist who died of AIDS in 1992, at the age of 37.


Amanda Gorman

The poet who became a sensation after her reading at the presidential inauguration in January is a co-chair of this year’s event. She told Palmer on the red carpet that her gown was inspired by the Statue of Liberty, and her laurel crown was selected because it fits in with her poet laureate title. She also carried a book that said “Give Me Your Tired” on its cover, a reference to the famous poem on the statue.


Kim Petras

Pop singer Kim Petras trotted up the red carpet wearing a sculpted horse’s head as a bodice — it sort of looks like this popular Halloween mask -— and a massive bustle in the back that bounces up and down like a horse’s haunches. Her ponytail — extensions, obvi — is supposed to be an actual pony’s tail. The dress is Collina Strada. Call her Kim Thee Stallion: “We’re representing horse girls and all horse humans out here today,” she explained on the step-and-repeat.


Debbie Harry

Most of the Met guests opted for subtler nods to the evening’s Americana theme. Not Zac Posen, dressing pop icon Debbie Harry: She wore a deconstructed denim jacket and a red and white flag-striped hoop skirt. Posen said that the dress was intended to encompass “the structure of the country, the unraveling of the country and the rebuilding of the country.” But it comes across a little “God Bless the U.S.A.” — more patriotic than the designer perhaps intended.


Lorde

Lorde said this is her third Met Gala, but “this one has real energy — it feels more like the America that we all know.”


Billie Eilish

Another co-chair, the Grammy-winning singer instantly inspired Marilyn Monroe comparisons.


Iman

The model decided to go as the literal sun in this Harris Reed ensemble.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.)

From the front, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s structured white dress seemed like a sleek ode to the suffragettes — they wore white, after all. But then host Keke Palmer made her turn around. Scrawled on the back in red — perhaps a late retort to Melania Trump’s “I Don’t Really Care Do U?” jacket — was a pointed message: “Tax the Rich.” What could be more American than using the red carpet to make a political statement? AOC explained the process of making the dress with designer Aurora James: “When Aurora and I were first partnered, we started to have a conversation about what it means to be working class women of color at the Met. We said, we can’t just play along … we need to challenge the institution.”

Megan Fox

What makes this look fit into the theme? “It’s on an American girl, that makes it American fashion.”


Ben Platt

The actor called this look “Studio 54 gay cowboy dream,” which he deemed very American.


Ciara

People say that the Met Gala is like the Super Bowl of American fashion, and Ciara took that literally. Her husband is Russell Wilson, the quarterback for the Seattle Seahawks. So the singer wore a green sequined dress modeled after a football uniform — shoulder pads and all — with a jeweled football clutch. America’s game inspired a fun and campy red carpet look. The final touch? A piece of jewelry no other celebrity could match: Her husband’s Super Bowl ring.


Whoopi Goldberg

Goldberg marched onto the red carpet in mountains of purple ruffles with lime green gloves — a daring combo to attempt, for its easy comparisons to the likes of Barney and Grimace. But the challenge in pulling this Valentino look off was what made it American, because originality is the essence of American fashion: “Anybody who has any sense of who they are can be part of it,” she says.


Normani

Normani’s definition of American fashion? “Black girl excellence,” the “Motivation” singer told Palmer on the red carpet. Her princess-y mustard ball gown — Valentino — made a simple, dramatic statement. “Yellow is our color, it pops on dark skin.”


Emily Ratajkowski

The model/actress looks very pretty in clingy red Vera Wang, with a red, sea anemone-esque neck pouf. Aside from the fact that Wang is an American designer, we’re not sure what this has to do with the theme, and neither does she: Asked what American fashion means to her, she replied, “I don’t know, I need to go inside and find out.”


Regina King

Michael Kors dressed the actress, and the duo walked the carpet together. One of the icons of American design, Kors tossed out a word salad when asked about his inspiration for King’s pinstriped gown and suit-cape, which is giving us Lady “Wolf of Wall Street” energy: “Strong, smart, talented and glamorous … tailoring, and riffing on something that’s boyish but glamorous at the same time. These are definitely not your dad’s pinstripes.”


Olivia Rodrigo

The breakout pop star said she was wearing Yves St Laurent because she loves punk rock, and the brand makes punk rock “feminine.”


Kris Jenner

The most interesting thing about the momager’s Met Gala get-up might be her purse, which appears to be a ball and chain. What are you trying to tell us, Kris? Anyway, she told the red carpet hosts that the sight of so many people around her was giving her anxiety. “Oh my goodness, I can’t wait to get my mask on,” said Jenner.


Maisie Williams

The “Games of Thrones” actress is serving what you may call “haunted doll.”


Pete Davidson

The SNL comedian told GQ he thought his invitation was a joke at first, but was thrilled to attend. “If you’re gonna wear a dress, what better way or place to do it than the Met, you know?” he said. “I’m really excited and really stoked that they thought I could pull this off, which is hilarious.”


Suni Lee

There is nothing more American than winning gold at the Olympics. So champion gymnast Lee’s fringed and beaded dress is perfectly on-theme, and even though she’s being modest about it, she knows it: “I just went to the Olympics and won a gold medal, so that’s where I got the inspiration from.” Start the chant: U-S-A! U-S-A!


Camila Cabello and Shawn Mendes

The singing couple said their goal was not to match — and they succeeded.


Lupita Nyong’o

An all-denim dress is risky — it always brings back echoes of Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake in 2001. But Lupita Nyong’o’s interpretation, via Versace, is — thankfully — a tad more sophisticated. The dress is obviously American: “America has made denim so popular,” the actress told Keke Palmer. Her hair, she says, is inspired by the American artist Lorna Simpson, who depicts Black women’s hair in her work.


Kacey Musgraves

The country star said she went with this look because she has grown very comfortable in loungewear during the pandemic, and this Ralph Lauren ensemble still looked very comfortable.


Ella Emhoff

Vice president Kamala D. Harris’s stepdaughter, who just walked a few days ago in the Proenza Schouler show at New York Fashion Week, went with a Stella McCartney design.


Chloe and Halle Bailey

The sisters said that Chloe’s look had a “Hollywood siren” theme, while Halle was inspired by Tina Turner.


Anna Wintour

Wintour, the Vogue editor and one of the honorary chairs of the event, said on the red carpet she’s wearing Oscar de la Renta as a tribute to her friend. She added that the event’s underlying theme is: “New York is back.”


Timothée Chalamet

The Oscar-nominated actor and star of the upcoming “Dune” told KeKe Palmer on the red carpet that it’s a “stupidly big honor” to be a co-chair of the gala, along with pop star Billie Eilish, poet Amanda Gorman and tennis champion Naomi Osaka. He also said he is careful to remember tonight that although everyone is enjoying themselves, there are other people in the world who are still suffering.


KeKe Palmer

The actress took a break from her red carpet hosting duties to pose.


Ilana Glazer

The “Broad City” star, also a co-host with Palmer, said this is one of her first nights out of the house since she had a baby about 12 weeks ago.


Emma Chamberlain

One of the narratives leading up to this year’s gala was that influencers (gasp!) are taking over the high-profile event. (Anonymous agents and publicists bickered in Page Six over whether the Met is still “cool,” or if complaints are simply because the “old guard” didn’t get invited.) Anyway, this is another way of saying that extremely popular YouTuber Emma Chamberlain was one of the first stars on the red carpet.


Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (D-N.Y.)

The congresswoman wasn’t the only one with a political message on the red carpet, but hers may have been the most outwardly visible.


Leon Bridges

The singer said on the red carpet that his ensemble is a tribute to Texas, where he grew up, but he “doesn’t represent the politics there.”

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