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Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's Met Gala debut included a high fashion gown with pointed political message that left social media divided.
The New York congresswoman hit the red carpet at the prestigious fashion event wearing an off-the-shoulder gown by Brother Vellies, a Black-owned fashion brand by designer Aurora James. The look included red text splashed across the back of the dress and a matching handbag that read, "Tax the rich."
The 31-year-old's polarizing statement quickly sparked an online debate about whether or not the look was hypocritical, given the Met Gala's elite and affluent guest list.
Although celebrities and public figures are invited by designers, a ticket to the Met Gala can cost upwards of $30,000 while tables are reported to begin at $275,000. Despite the hefty price tag, the event helps raise millions for the Metropolitan Museum of Art; in 2019, the Met Gala raised a record $15 million to support the museums fashion department, the Costume Institute.
“If Ocasio-Cortez hates the rich so much, why is she attending an event that only the wealthiest people in America can afford to attend?” one Twitter user wrote.
To all the people claiming AOC got a "free" ticket to the #MetGala -- just because she did not pay for it does not means it is "free." Someone paid 35K for her to attend. Just seems she might have wanted that money used for something other than an elite party ticket.
— Vanessa Friedman (@VVFriedman) September 14, 2021
"Not an Ocasio-Cortez hater. But come on, going to an event for super-rich with 'tax the rich' written on your a— won’t change a thing," wrote political commentator Ana Navarro -Cárdenas. "It’s a stunt to justify her presence at a fancy shin-dig that doesn’t match her political persona."
If AOC cared about taxing the rich she would have protested the Met Gala, instead she joined the party.
— thebradfordfile (@thebradfordfile) September 14, 2021
Although some criticized Ocasio-Cortez's look, others applauded her for utilizing her presence at the event to send a political message.
"You know what," someone wrote. "I think AOC's dress was really brave and a big, round, earth-shaking middle finger to the rich."
AOC said this was about how revolutionary it is that two working-class women of color like them are now able to attend the Met Gala and I think we should leave it at that. We need praxis to be courageous, not perfect. https://t.co/kH6X2ZyO2H
— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) September 14, 2021
Many of Ocasio-Cortez's supporters pointed out that the gala is a fundraiser for the Met and although expensive, the funds are ultimately helping the public access artwork and exhibits at an affordable cost.
Emily Amick, a political analyst defended the congresswoman's look as one of the few looks that adhered to the Gala's theme of "In America: a Lexicon of Fashion."
"There’s nothing more American than arguing about taxes,” Amick wrote. “She does not ‘hate’ the rich- she’s just saying they should pay their fair share of taxes. The richest Americans pay $0 in taxes!”
idk why people keep bringing up the cost of a ticket to the met gala as if it’s an own on aoc and her “tax the rich” dress like y’all know the met gala is a fundraiser… for the met… right.
— maybe: diane (@dianelyssa) September 14, 2021
Prior to the Met Gala, Ocasio-Cortez took to Instagram to share the meaning behind her look to her more than 8.7 million followers. The congresswoman praised designer Aurora James for her success before preemptively defending her attendance at the event.
"The time is now for childcare, healthcare, and climate action for all. Tax the Rich," Ocasio-Cortez 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. I was one of several in attendance."