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The 2022 Met Gala: What is the Gilded Age and did attendees embody it?

The Met Gala took place last night in New York City, returning to its traditional first Monday in May slot. Hosted at the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art, the gala is an annual celebration of fashion and a fundraiser for the the museum’s Costume Institute. Both the 2021 and 2022 exhibition themes were an exploration of American fashion, with 2021’s being In America: A Lexicon of Fashion and 2022’s In America: An Anthology of Fashion.

Over and above themes for the exhibition, at the bottom of the invitations sent out, the Met Gala guests are given a dress code. This year’s dress code was ‘gilded glamour, white-tie.’ This invited a host of interpretation from the invited guests who were asked to embody the Gilded Age of New York, a period stemming from 1870-1900.

The term ‘The Gilded Age’ was coined by Mark Twain in 1873 and speaks to the period just after the U.S. civil war ended and World War I began. Considering that the country was recovering from the economic fallout of the war, but going through an industrialisation period that brought obscene wealth to a few families, the comparison has been made that the country was going through a period of gilding; the technique of applying a thin coat of gold over a solid surface so as to appear to be constructed of solid gold itself. The name of the era then points to the difference between a strongly formed society and one that applies a thin coat of gold over it to cover its flaws.

A layered dress code, it could be interpreted in many ways. And the manner of interpretation is usually one that we look forward to seeing on the red carpet going in to the event. On the surface of it, one could simply replicate the fashion of the period; a combination of textiles and textures with rich and deep colours, replete with corsetry and bustles. mutton sleeves , and bell shaped skirts. But it wouldn’t be a Met Gala if attendees only dabbled on the surface of fashion play, now would it?

Alicia Keys and Blake Lively stood out with unique homages to New York City, Kylie Jenner and Nicki Minaj donned baseball caps in some of the most critiqued looks of the night, and Kim Kardashian wore Marilyn Monroe’s “Happy Birthday, Mr. President’ dress. Have a look at some of the looks of the night below.

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