CNN  — 

Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez took to the 2021 Met Gala on Monday evening with a bright red message for Americans: “Tax the Rich.”

Dressed in a white off-the-shoulder gown by Brooklyn-based designer brand Brother Vellies, the New York politician revealed the statement, scrawled in bold lettering on the back of her dress, as she ascended the steps of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Making her Met Gala debut, Ocasio-Cortez completed the look with trademark gold hoops and a single pink flower pinned into her hair bun.

Speaking to reporters at the event, she explained why she had brought her message to the Met Gala, an event attended by many of Hollywood’s biggest – and wealthiest – stars.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez attends the 2021 Met Gala accompanied by Brother Vellies founder Aurora James, who designed her dress.

“When we talk about supporting working families and when we talk about having a fair tax code, oftentimes this conversation is happening among working and middle class people (on) the senate floor.

“I think it’s time we bring all classes into the conversation,” she continued.

Ocasio-Cortez’s choice of white echoed the long history of American congresswomen wearing the shade in reference to the women’s suffrage movement. She wore a white suit to her swearing-in ceremony in 2019, later saying on Twitter that it was in honor of “the women who paved the path before me, and for all the women yet to come.”

Ocasio-Cortez was joined on the cream-colored red carpet by Brother Vellies’ creative director Aurora James, who is known for spearheading an initiative known as the “15% Pledge.” The pledge, which began on Instagram, urges retailers and corporations to commit 15% of their purchasing power to supporting Black-owned businesses.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez shows off her message to waiting photographers.

While the gown was celebrated by many onlookers as bold and subversive, critics called the move hypocritical – pointing to the fact she was rubbing shoulders with the rich and famous at an event that charges $35,000 for a ticket.

Vanessa Friedman, chief fashion critic at the New York Times, took to Twitter to say, “Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez attending the $35,000-a-ticket #MetGala in a Brother Vellies gown blaring “Tax the Rich” is a complicated proposition.”

Others took a firmer stance. Political commentator Ana Navarro-Cárdenas wrote on Twitter: “Not an @aoc hater. But come on, going to an event for super-rich with ‘tax the rich’ written on your ass, won’t change a thing. It’s a stunt to justify her presence at an fancy shin-dig that doesn’t match her political persona.”

Meanwhile, James addressed criticism during an interview with CNN saying, “I think ultimately a lot of these conversations that we have about economic justice usually happen in spaces with working class people…and (the congresswoman) wanted to make sure that this message was brought into that room and into a group of people who ultimately have to be more wiling to be more liberal with their economic values as well.”

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 13: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (L) attends The 2021 Met Gala Celebrating In America: A Lexicon Of Fashion at Metropolitan Museum of Art on September 13, 2021 in New York City. (Photo by Mike Coppola/Getty Images)
Designer of AOC's 'Tax the Rich' dress responds to criticism
04:38 - Source: CNN

There were other bold statements on show at the annual fundraiser, which generates money for the Met’s Costume Institute and borrows its theme from the museum’s latest exhibition (this year, “In America: A Lexicon of Fashion”). Earlier, soccer star Megan Rapinoe was seen carrying a clutch which read “In Gay We Trust,” while Ocasio-Cortez’s fellow Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney arrived in a vibrant dress covered in bold text which read “Equal Rights for Women.”

On Twitter, Maloney addressed her bold outfit, which celebrates the 19th amendment, granting women the right to vote. She wrote: “Across the country, women’s rights are under attack.”

“As the Met Costume Institute reopens (with its) inaugural exhibit celebrating American designers, I am calling 4 the certification of the ERA (Equal Rights Amendment) so women can be equal once and for all,” she continued.

Other stars interpreted the all-American theme by paying homage to US icons, channeling old Hollywood and paying tribute to the country’s melting pot of diverse cultures.