Met Gala 2022: There was a theme?


Demetri Kambouris

Blake Lively stuns the Met Gala with her Empire State Building inspired gown.

The Met Gala. Run by Anna Wintour, editor-in-chief at Vogue and a prominent figure in the fashion industry, since 1995. It’s a charity event fundraiser for the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute and one of the most esteemed events in New York that takes place on the first Monday in May. This year, the exhibition celebrates the theme “In America: An Anthology of Fashion” which focuses on inclusivity, the evolution of American style, and remembering those that have been overlooked in the fashion industry. What actually goes on inside the charity event is a mystery that only adds to its prestigiousness. With such secrecy of the event itself, outsiders tend to focus on the outside of the event, primarily the red carpet, where designers collaborate with celebrities to create a look for the red carpet. Every year the suggested dress code is white tie, requiring a suit for men and a gown for women, along with a theme for the event. This year’s theme was “Gilded Glamour,” a two-part theme with the Met Gala’s “A Lexicon of Fashion” theme in September of 2021.

According to Vogue, this year’s theme “should resemble that of Gilded Age New York ” (The Met Gala 2022 Dress Code? Gilded Glamour). The Gilded Age was between the years 1870 to 1890. During this time there was a wide wealth disparity where the wealthy were incredibly rich and the poor were living at the poverty level. To cover up how poor the majority of society was, the upper class would dress in excess and wear extravagant clothing which is how the name of the era came about. During this time, the fabric was cheaper and easily produced because of improvements in industrialization. With this theme and era in mind, on the red carpet, it is expected to see looks of historical accuracy representing the late 19th century. When asked what she thought of when she thinks of “Gilded Glamour ”, high school senior Lily Cecere said, “I think of jewels, gold, over the top- elegant- dresses and tuxes, updos, and accessories.”  Outfits would be adorned with “over-the-top” textiles such as ruffles, silk and satin, fringe, velvet, bows, and lace with jewel toned colors. Many outfits are expected to be accessorized with a plethora of hats, jewels such as pearl, gems, and diamonds, corsets, opulent fur-lined cloaks, and elbow-length gloves. An overlook of vintage opulence, wealth, and status was to be displayed on the carpet.

On the night of the Met Gala, I tuned into the 6 p.m. live stream on the Vogue Website and watched as celebrities graced the carpet with their unique looks. My initial thought was confusion as I was immediately aware that many people were not going for a historically accurate approach of the Gilded Age. After adjusting my expectations slightly, I realized that a lot of the looks included small elements of the theme to incorporate it into a more modernized look. Some designers focused on the silhouette while others focused on the luxuriousness of the time period. Some focused on the extravagant textiles, while others focused on deep, rich, jewel-tone colors. No doubt some designers completely missed the mark on the theme, but this could have been a calculated move to earn more traction for their brand by going against the grain.

There were a few that stuck out to me in particular that undoubtedly fit the theme. A prominent celebrity that was many people’s favorite, actress and co-chair Blake Lively most notably from CBS’s Gossip Girl. Both high school seniors, Ashley Ambolino and Lily Cecere mentioned Blake Lively as one of their favorite looks of the night. The celebrity that never fails to disappoint, this time graced the carpet in a rose gold Atelier Versace gown with a “crystal-encrusted art-deco under-layer, inspired by the architecture of the Empire State Building ”. On her dress was a large bow which she unraveled on the steps before overturning the train. This revealed a light blue skirt as she removed her rose gold elbow-length gloves with light blue ones to match the train of her skirt. The skirt was also embroidered with the same celestial map from the Grand Central Station in New York. This dress was inspired by the Statue of Liberty as it was a gift from France during the gilded age. The colors were meant to mimic the copper color of the statue and its oxidation into a blue-green color. I feel the concept of the look perfectly fits the theme with an aspect of New York during the gilded age. I also appreciated the lavish materials like the crystals and tiara, the rose gold color of the dress that still ties into the modern white tie dress coded with the gown and gloves. This looked like the most on-point design with a creative concept and a modern take on the theme. Definitely one of my favorites of the night.

At the Met Gala, you have those who fit the theme almost perfectly, those who miss the mark, and everyone else is in between. I talked about Blake Lively in her jaw-dropping dress, but I also want to mention a lot that had my jaw drop for completely different reasons. While watching the live stream, I could not help but see someone in the corner of my screen as my attention was being drawn to such a bright color I was not expecting to see at this year’s Met Gala. Low and behold, it was Sebastian Stan, most notably known for his role as Bucky Barnes in Marvel’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier. The camera, not even focused on him, was somehow able to distinctly pick up his monochromatic neon pink outfit from yards away. As it was his turn to walk up the carpet, I was still stunned in confusion simply because he completely missed the mark for this year’s theme. Sebastian Stan walked the carpet in an all-pink look from Valentino. This outfit consisted of an oversized t-shirt layered with a button-up and an overcoat paired with baggy, ill-fitted slacks, sneakers with matching laces, and to accessorize, a pair of aviator-style sunglasses. Now I applaud Stan for not showing up in an unoriginal black tuxedo like most men at the Met Gala do every year, but the complete disregard of the theme and dress code, unfortunately, does not give him any brownie points. There is no doubt it was a very unique outfit, but at the very least I felt that it should have been at least white tie appropriate for the event. Unfortunately, this look was probably one of my least favorites of the night.

We’ve discussed those on theme and those not. Now I want to bring to light an honorable mention. The look that almost broke the internet, was Kim Kardashian’s look. The business mogul and Los Angeles socialite arrived at the Met Gala wearing one of Marilyn Monroe’s most iconic dresses of her lifetime. She wore the same dress Monroe wore to sing Happy Birthday to President John F. Kennedy at the White House in 1962. This dress was so prominent at the time because of the scandalousness of her dress during such traditional times. It was a skin-tight, sleeveless, nude-colored dress, adorned with jewels. This dress was kept in Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Museum but was removed for this special occasion for Kim Kardashian to wear to the Met. Kim Kardashian insisted on keeping the integrity of the dress as much as possible so she made no alterations to the dress at all. This required her to lose 16 pounds in three weeks and walk in 7-inch heels to be able to wear this dress. Along with the dress, Kardashian wore a fur coat and her bleach-blonde hair in a slicked-back bun.

There is a lot of controversy on whether or not she should have worn this dress and whether or not it was appropriate to lose so much weight in such a small window for something as trivial as fitting into a dress. High school senior Ashley Ambolino said, “I really liked Kim K’s Marilyn Monroe dress and the meaning behind it”. While yes, I do feel like losing all of that weight is not ideal for anyone to be doing or even promoting, I respect her efforts to keep the dress as it originally was. She changed into the dress at the Met, only wore it on the carpet, and immediately changed into a replica to wear for the rest of the night. Being able to wear this dress is an amazing opportunity and brought back more life to this dress after so many years. Lily Cecere had some changing views on Kim Kardashian’s look. “I really liked Kim K’s Marilyn Monroe dress and the meaning behind it,” Lily said. “I think it honored Marilyn and looked amazing on Kim, but I didn’t realize she had to lose weight to fit into the dress which actually changes my view on it a bit because it’s supporting the idea that we have to change our bodies to fit into clothes vs the other way around.” Giving Monroe’s dress another moment to shine almost 60 years later shared a piece of pop culture with a new generation through the vessel of a modern icon. Although this dress was not completely on theme, some aspects of the dress fit the theme enough for me to give Kim Kardashian a pass due to how iconic this look really is. The jewels on the dress along with the fur coat and the innate lavishness and opulence of the dress fit the concept of someone wealthy, like Kim Kardashian, being able to showcase it in such an extravagant fashion, such as wearing Marilyn Monroe’s dress.

My overall opinion of the Met this year was that I really did enjoy the looks I was seeing on the carpet. I did wish that there were some more outfits that fit the theme though. For example, I loved the looks of Billie Eilish, Evan Mock, Gemma Chan, Laura Harrier, Emma Chamberlain, and Madelaine Petsch. But I found early on that many were straying away from historical accuracy. I understand the appeal to take a more modern approach but simply taking inspiration from different aspects of the era, but I think as an event as a whole, this theme had the potential to go viral especially with period dramas, such as Bridgerton on Netflix, gaining traction in the media. I saw this year as not a disappointment but a missed opportunity, and I wonder if the backlash celebrities and designers received from their looks this year will make them more willing to stick to the theme in the years to come.