One has come to expect a certain sense of fun, whimsy, comedy and exuberance when it comes to Katy Perry’s fashion choices. And no more so than at the Met Gala.
In her nine appearances at the annual event celebrating the exhibitions at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute, the star has become a reliable fixture on the red carpet. Donning everything from angel wings and a chandelier to glow-in-the-dark lights and a crimson veiled Margiela gown, Perry’s red carpet looks are highlights that have helped to helped to solidify the event’s cultural currency as well as her own her fashion legacy. When the singer sported a Moschino cheeseburger at a Met Gala after party in 2019, the event gained an even larger pop culture following almost overnight.
The fashion industry, however, seems to have mixed feelings on those marquee moments. Ahead of this year’s Met Gala, Tom Ford lamented the event’s fashion evolution, singling out two of Perry’s past looks (both of which were designed by Moschino’s Jeremy Scott). “You didn’t have to dress like a hamburger, you didn’t have to arrive in a van where you were standing up because you couldn’t sit down because you wore a chandelier,” Ford told Time magazine in April.
When Perry stepped onto the red carpet this year, she was decidedly more demure, wearing a custom one-shouldered black-and-white Oscar de la Renta gown accented in black floral lace and chiffon with sheer gloves, paired with clear Aquazzura sandals.
“I wanted to take it somewhat seriously. There would have been a world where I would have done something like Billie Eilish — I loved the sleeves,” Perry told FN in her June cover story. “I wanted to be more modern, to almost look like the underpinnings of the era, as if you took one of those dresses and X-rayed it. I think it was a step in the right direction and it kept people guessing. It’s about keeping people on the edge of their seats and surprising them.”
Regardless of her motives, Perry’s fans probably would have preferred the hamburger or chandelier. Fashion already has the ultra-serious, from Demna Gvasalia’s normcore perversion at Balenciaga to Ford’s own glam-luxe world of bespoke tailoring and sexy gowns (many of which Perry has herself worn). But when it comes to the average person, it’s more often Perry’s cartoonish ensembles that make headlines.
“I decided once you show up as a cheeseburger to the Met and conquer the theme of ‘camp,’ you can do anything! I feel like that is peak,” Perry says with a sense of pride. “We all know that women are not just one thing. That goes for me with my fashion personality. I’ve taken a satirical approach to fashion. I’ve always had fun with it, I’ve never taken it too seriously.”
Perry’s blend of fun, whimsy and satire also courses through her Las Vegas residency, “Katy Perry: Play,” which debuted in December and runs through October. Onstage, the star can be seen prancing in red latex chaps with a mushroom hat; wearing a metallic mini dress made of crushed beer cans; or playing Alice in Wonderland to a gigantic toilet.
Her footwear collection is something more like camp-lite, with seashell-shaped kitten heels, floral sneakers and sandals decorated with daisy- themed beads (no doubt a nod to her nearly-2-year-old daughter, Daisy). As a millennial, Perry has been especially savvy at translating her generation’s penchant for ’80s and ’90s nostalgia: The brand’s best sellers are an array of themed jelly shoes.
That millennial brand of pining for the past has also inevitably circled back to her music catalog, especially as many of her hits have reached the decade mark, solidifying into anthems for a generation that is now looking back at their 2010s young adulthood.
“Enough time has passed where people are telling stories of that time,” she says. ”Once I got onto the scene in 2008, it was basically 10 years of just going, going, going and putting out tons of music and things were bursting. It’s nice to be able to be a part of that time and to keep putting out music in such a popular way. I am so grateful for all of it — the peaks, the valleys, the ups, the downs, all of it is a blessing.”