Amidst the flash and bright lights of the Met Gala 2021, Elliot Page stands out with his sharp and sophisticated look. For her first red carpet appearance since transitioning earlier this year, the Umbrella Academy star donned a slightly oversized black Balenciaga suit, pairing it with matching chunky sneakers. The clean lines only accentuated how comfortable Elliot felt in his own skin. But in that simple context, Elliot’s unique choice of boutonniere makes a powerful statement. Pinned on his chest is a blue rose.
The vibrant flowers are almost certainly a nod to eccentric father Oscar Wilde, the famous Irish poet and playwright, who was persecuted for his sexuality in the late nineteenth century. Wilde famously was tried on charges of infamy and vulgarity, before facing prison and dying in exile.
According to gay historian Dr Andrew Lear, founder of Oscar Wilde Tours, Wilde’s preference for blue flowers dates back to the 1892 premiere of his play Lady Windermere’s Fan, when he requested a one of the actors wore a blue carnation and told some of the young fans to do the same.
Despite the slight difference that Wilde is associated with blue carnations rather than blue roses, Elliot’s homage still seems intentional on the Met Gala carpet.
While it’s hard to say whether Wilde intended the flower to be an expression of his sexuality, the blue carnation has certainly been seen as a secret symbol of the exotic. As LGBTQ+ historian Sarah Prager noted in a recent review of flowering plants with exotic codes, since 1892, “wearing a blue carnation on a lapel is suggestive the subtle, secret idea that you’re a man who loves other men.”
It may not be a common practice anymore, gay people have been using blue carnations and other flowers to announce their identities to each other in public. Elliot’s decision to commemorate that history on fashion’s biggest stage is significant, especially at a time when transgender people are facing public mistreatment around the globe.
His triumphant look at the Met Gala feels especially poignant given the hardships he says such appearances have caused him before taking the field. In a one-on-one interview with Oprah Winfrey this spring, Elliot recalled not being able to look back at photos of himself when he first rose to fame following the premiere of Juno.
“For the Oscars, for example, I can’t look at a photo from that red carpet,” says Elliot. “People can watch this and say, ‘Oh my gosh, this person was crying the night they went to the Oscars.’ , even started to sit down and start to bring it all up and eventually confront all of it. “
Since its launch, Elliot has become a welcome pop-culture platform for transgender perseverance and joy. The smile that shone on his face at the Met Gala was by far the most inspiring look of the night. And the blue rose on his jacket sent a message of solidarity to any oddball who has ever felt compelled to hide who he is.