Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney Calls for 'Equal Rights for Women' with Suffragette-Themed Met Gala Dress

The New York Democrat also wore a bag emblazoned with "ERA YES," an endorsement of the proposed Equal Rights Amendment 

Carolyn Maloney
Carolyn Maloney at the 2021 Met Gala. Photo: Cindy Ord/MG21/Getty

New York Rep. Carolyn Maloney made a bold statement on the 2021 Met Gala red carpet Monday, donning a floor-length gown displaying the colors of the suffragette movement (purple, white and gold) along with sashes embroidered with the words "equal rights for women."

The 75-year-old Democrat also wore a bag emblazoned with "ERA YES," an endorsement of the proposed Equal Rights Amendment, which would add a line to the U.S. Constitution prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sex. (The amendment has been taken up by various state legislatures in recent years after an unsuccessful campaign to ratify it in the '70s.)

According to an Instagram post, Maloney's gala dress was designed by Antonios Couture, a fashion house by Beirut-born couturier Ghassan Antonios.

The congresswoman explained the thought behind her ensemble for Monday night's event, writing on Twitter that she has "long used fashion as a force 4 change."

"As the Met Costume Institute reopens w/ their inaugural exhibit celebrating American designers, I am calling 4 the certification of the ERA so women can be equal once and for all," Maloney wrote.

Carolyn Maloney
Carolyn Maloney. Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty

In her tweet, Maloney included a photo of herself in the dress posing in front of the Women's Rights Pioneers Monument in Central Park.

Maloney has raised eyebrows with past looks worn to the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute Gala, such as in 2019, when she wore a firefighter jacket to tout her support of a bill to compensate the victims and families of the 9/11 attacks.

Her clothing statements have also drawn criticism, as in 2001 when she delivered a speech on the floor of the House of Representatives while wearing a burqa.

"It's an expensive, heavy, cumbersome garment which covers the entire body. And it includes a mesh panel covering the eyes," Maloney said in that speech, in which she argued in favor of the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan and attempted to draw attention to the Taliban's harsh treatment of women.

Carolyn Maloney
Carolyn Maloney. Kevin Mazur/MG21/Getty

Maloney wasn't the only member of Congress to send a political message with her fashion at this year's Met Gala (an annual event that was canceled last year due to COVID-19).

Fellow New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez made her debut appearance at the gala wearing a white gown by Brother Vellies with the political slogan "Tax the Rich" splashed across the back in red lettering.

The Democratic congresswoman, 31, told reporters that the gown was "really about having a real conversation."

"It's about fairness and equity in our system and I think that this conversation is particularly relevant," Ocasio-Cortez said of the inspiration behind the statement.

Of the backlash she inevitably faced from some, Ocasio-Cortez told reporters, "I think I'm kind of at the point where no matter what I do, if I wake up in the morning, there's going to be someone who has something to say about that. So at the very least, what we should do is act in our integrity and do things with intention and purpose."

The Metropolitan Museum of Art confirmed in April that the annual fashion fête would be back in 2021 and would include two parts.

Part one, titled In America: A Lexicon of Fashion, will debut on Sept. 18, 2021 and run through Sept. 5, 2022 to "celebrate The Costume Institute's 75th anniversary and explore a modern vocabulary of American fashion," according to a release.

Part two, In America: An Anthology of Fashion, will open on May 5, 2022 and "will explore the development of American fashion by presenting narratives that relate to the complex and layered histories of those spaces." It will also close on Sept. 5, 2022.

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