“Gilded Glamour” – 2022’s Met Gala theme – was the easiest of themes to interpret.
The reference was to New York’s gilded age, a time period between 1870 and 1900 that saw unprecedented industrialisation, new inventions and the growth of a class of nouveau riche who had far too much money and very little to do with it.
The Gala’s own roots stem from the grand New York society events of this era, particularly the Vanderbilt Costume Ball.
It was also an era of wage slavery and labour unions, with protests over wealth disparity and “industrial slavery”. The Met Gala encouraged guests to celebrate both the grandeur and the dichotomy of the age.
And we still managed to get celebrities and designers who didn’t do their research. Despite the Kardashians and the Biebers who underwhelmed, there were a few who managed to look good and stay on theme.
If any outfit deserves as much buzz as it got, it was the one worn by the breakout star of Bridgerton and Derry Girls. She collaborated with Richard Quinn, who took inspiration from his own Fall 2022 collection to create a late-19th century silhouette made of duchess silk. Coughlan said she spent hours on Pinterest researching for the event because she wanted to fit the theme.
The Moonlight actor was one of a few who eschewed the white tie-coattail look, opting for a Canadian tuxedo reminiscent of the Buffalo Soldier uniforms, a Blacks-only regiment of the US army formed in 1866. The gold accents enhance the waist, giving the impression of a corset. The gold gloves, brooch and binoculars tie the look together.
The Game of Thrones actor wore a Thom Browne-designed three-piece suit that combined to appear like a woman in the middle of undressing. The pleated, floor-length skirt from Thom Browne’s fall 2022 collection seems to blend into her jacket, which is shaped like a bustle at the back and held together with rouleau button loops. The heart of the outfit is the boned corset.
Collaborating with Atelier Versace for a modern take on the theme, the model wore a modern corset over a stiff catsuit. Her styling borrowed from many eras, with her Y2K-inspired hair, deep red lipstick and mid century-looking necklace. The standout, though, was a high-collared puffer jacket, cinched at the waist and extending into a lengthy train.
The french tips, corset and pearl pocket chain were almost enough to make up for the movie adaptation of Dear Evan Hansen. Designer Christian Cowan said the look was a classic white-tie look with a queer subversion, representing the men who had to live life underground during strict 19th century sodomy laws.
Dressed in a Head of State corset suit and Cartier jewellery, the star of HBO’s Gossip Girl understood the assignment. What pushes the look over the top is the non-Gilded Age influences. The high, ruffled collar adds an Elizabethan twist to the Victorian outfit, while his short-cropped dyed hair and bum cleavage are 21st century through and through.
Probably the most controversial on this list, the Boyfriend singer managed to wear something abstract while still staying on theme. The Iris Van Herpen custom dress resembled Victorian era corset-boning, but took the base ideas of Gilded Age structure and shape into a completely new era. The metal and tassel gloves looked like a bustle when she held her arms at a particular angle and were a nice touch.
Jewellery can elevate what would otherwise be a standard gown, and that was what Chasinghorse achieved with her look by collaborating with Antelope Women Designs. She wore indigenous jewellery made of earth elements, such as shells and porcupine quills, used by her ancestors. The Ogala Lakota and Hän Gwich’in activist and model wanted to present a Native American view of the Gilded Age.
Ahmed shed light on an often-neglected side of 19th-century fashion. The Oscar winner opted for a look “inspired by the working class immigrants of the gilded age”. The end of slavery meant Americans let in swaths of immigrants to carry out cheap labour with very little protection. The outfit is a reminder not of the extravagant oligarchs who gave the Gilded Age its name but the workers who made it possible.
Honourable mention: Johnny Suh
The K-pop artist was the most mentioned guest on social media according to market research firm Netbase Quid. K-pop has a short and underwhelming history at the Met Gala, but the Peter Do effort held its own by drawing inspiration from his upcoming spring 2023 collection to create a loose silk, genderless look. The waistcoat and the floor-length train on his cloak were a nice nod to the theme.
The actor, who was the gala’s co-chair, set a high standard at the very beginning of the red carpet that no other guest was able to reach. The custom Versace gown involved draped copper and bronze held together with an oversized bow, which unraveled as she walked the red carpet to reveal a green train, mirroring the oxidation of the Statue of Liberty, a Gilded Age icon. Other details that paid homage were Lorraine Schwartz crown with seven spikes. The outfit as a whole is also an homage to Gilded Age socialite Alice Vanderbilt’s electric light dress, which is often credited as the beginning of New York City’s love affair with fashion.