I get what socialist congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez thought she was doing. She shows up to the Met Gala, the glitziest event of the year, where tickets are upwards of $30,000 and a table can run nearly a quarter of a million bucks, wearing a white dress with the words ‘Tax the Rich’ scrawled along the back.
How cute, she thinks she’s trolling, you know, like the kids do. Except none of the kids on her side are any good at it. AOC, their leader, also proved Monday evening she doesn’t understand how a joke works. That put her in good company. Increasingly like the pop stars and celebrities she spent the evening hobnobbing alongside, her dress stunt showed she, too, bleeds tedium.
Take, for example, a comparable incident from last week. On a stop in Pennsylvania, President Joe Biden posed for a photo with a group of smiling, adorable little girls, his favorite demographic. Take a second glance at the photo and you see at least two of the girls are wearing pro-Trump baseball hats and apparel. The picture went viral. No one had to think about the joke. It was charming and hilarious, these little rapscallions beaming alongside the confused, doddering, grinning old president, who either wasn’t aware of what lay atop the girls’ heads or didn’t mind because he found the scent of their shampoo so magnetic.
Then you have AOC’s political fashion photo-op. ‘The medium is the message,’ she tweeted above a picture of the dress, just to let everyone know she read Marshall McLuhan in college. After getting bombarded, the most frazzled woman in Congress ran back to Twitter to elaborate on that bold declaration lifted directly from freshman comms class.
‘And before haters get wild flying off the handle, New York elected officials are routinely invited to and attend the Met due to our responsibilities in overseeing and supporting the city’s cultural institutions for the public. I was one of several in attendance in this evening,’ she wrote in a follow up tweet.
How noble of AOC to volunteer to be a social-media punching bag for what she considers a good cause. Never mind that most of her constituents, who comprise some of the poorest parts of the city, have probably never even been to the Met, let alone heard of its annual gala. In an interview from the red carpet that evening, AOC declared that the dress, you see, draws attention to ‘what it means to be working-class women of color at the Met.’
Like most huddled and downtrodden working class women of color, AOC has 12.7 million Twitter followers and was speaking to a reporter from Vogue. ‘We can’t just play along, we need to challenge some of the institutions,’ she continued.
It wasn’t the text that made the outfit so cringe-inducing. It was the dress itself: dingy chiffon hot-glued to the bottom of some two-tone crinoline satin slip. The edges weren’t pressed down and they puckered. It fit like an old sock, but AOC didn’t see any of that. The most painful part of this whole moment is that the dress wasn’t intentionally bad. The whole thing looks sincere, like something made by the first contestant to get booted off a season of Project Runway.
While ugliness has been in fashion for some time, to be effective, if at all, the grotesque must be self-aware, a trait AOC lacks both in her wardrobe and everything else. Much like First Lady Jill Biden, there’s a creepy, childlike idiocy in how both these grown women put themselves together and that was fully on display at the Met Gala.
If the medium is the message, then we heard that cheap Lycra loud and clear: I’m clueless, juvenile, and desperate to be liked. She’s not merely tacky. Tackiness is an art, and an aesthetic I often embrace. I’m quite tacky. My summer wardrobe is best described as Fort Lauderdale Sex Pig: a rayon shirt unbuttoned to the navel with a gold chain, dark aviators, skin fade, nut-hugger shorts and slathered in so much Sauvage by Dior it hits you from a block away, proclaiming I’m down and know a spot. As Dolly Parton famously says, ‘It costs a lot of money to look this cheap!’ It’s a vibe, a look, an awareness.
AOC’s not working class, obviously. She’s just basic. Her message of sticking it to the elites fooled no one because she so clearly aspired toward some level of elegance, to fit in, and failed miserably. She tried, but just couldn’t quite pull it together. She’s such a stranger to courage, she sincerely believed marching into the lion’s den involved a crowd of people who already love her, follow her, and, however hypocritically, agree with everything she has to say.
She went to a place where she would never be challenged and thought she was making a difference. Sorry honey, you offended no one, changed zero minds and risked nothing. If you really wanted to drop a bomb in a room full of all your friends — and these are her friends — try to be a little more shocking with your political message, perhaps a purse emblazoned with KILL ANNA WINTOUR. Since this is a fundraiser for the Metropolitan Museum of Art, maybe she should have demanded the Met return its entire Egyptian wing to the Middle East. What if she called the whole building a monument to imperialism? There weren’t any statues of white men inside she could complain about? Did the Greeks not have slaves?
That may have crossed the line. AOC was just there to be a pet, and that’s how she was treated. If you really wanted to give the finger to this crowd, there are plenty of ways to have done it. Stroll in looking like you just rolled out of bed, get hammered on free booze, insult a few people, then skedaddle with a bottle under your arm for the road. That’s what any decent working class person would have done. But AOC wouldn’t know that; she’s never actually been around them. Her true constituency doesn’t live in Queens or the Bronx. In fact, basking in the golden glow of a September sunset from the Met’s roof garden, AOC’s real people couldn’t even point to Queens.