The Gilded Age: the indiscreet charm of Met Gala

The Gilded Age: il fascino indiscreto del Met Gala
For all those in love with costume history and vintage (pardon, archive) fashion, this year’s Met Gala was bound to provide some fun. The Gilded Glamour, White-tie dress code aimed to reflect the Gilded Age (a term fist used by Mark Twain in 1873) of New York, spanning from 1870 to 1890. During this period, the city became progressively modernized socially, economically, politically, and even fashionably. In those years, the skyscrapers that would grow to define the city’s skyline were being built, while European immigrants flocked to the harbors of the American Dream. The bourgeois and noble families, whose American lineage went as back as the Mayflower, struggled to keep out of their league the so-called “new money”, the industrial nouveau riche which would soon overtake them in the power and prestige race.  In more recent times (as in, last year) the Gilded Age also inspired Julian Fellowes’ latest Hulu series featuring, among others, Cynthia Nixon. 
On a sartorial level, the Gilded Age’s upper class was all about excess: cleavage-exposing tulle dresses, fur-lined cloaks, elbow-length gloves and, of course, corsets. Top hats and tuxedos for men.  As Elise Taylor explained on Vogue Us, the recent invention of electric looms meant that fabric had become cheaper and quicker to produce. Consequently, women’s clothes often featured a combination of different textiles – satin, silk, velvet and fringes, all decorated with lace, ribbons and flounces extravaganzas. Basically, the more things happened on a dress, the better. This Met ideally paid homage to the tailors, dressmakers, and designers of the time — including names who've flourished and those who were forgotten but deserve to be remembered. 
But let’s take a step back: what exactly is the Met Gala? Venessa Friedman form the New York Times said it best: “Officially, it’s the Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute benefit, a black-tie extravaganza held the first Monday in May to raise money for the Costume Institute. Unofficially, it’s ‘the party of the year,’ ‘the Oscars of the East Coast’ and ‘an A.T.M. for the Met’ (the last by the publicist Paul Wilmot).” Anna Wintour, editor of American Vogue and artistic director of Condé Nast, became chairwoman in 1995 and took over the party’s permanent leadership in 1999. Since then, she has been instrumental in transforming a local philanthropic event into the ultimate celebrity-power cocktail, where tickets are $35,000 apiece and that tables range from $200,000 to $300,000. The party signals the opening of the Costume Institute’s annual blockbuster show, and the party dress code is usually themed to the exhibition; This year’s show is “In America: An Anthology of Fashion,” part two of a yearlong saga about the relevancy and power of American Fashion. (Part One was “In America: A Lexicon of Fashion.”)
Given the Gala’s theme, vintage currently being The Dominant street trend, and sustainability finally taking center stage – also – in the fashion world, it really didn’t take a fashion forecaster to predict several archive and archive-inspired pieces appearing on the Red Carpet. For instance, all of Nicolas Ghesquière’s Louis Vuitton muses—Hoyeon Jung, Emma Stone, and Cynthia Erivo among them—arrived on the carpet wearing a piece from the brand’s archives styled to mesh with their tastes. In particular, Emma Stone’s had a distinguished Flapper girl vibe. Adut Akech went back even further by selecting an emerald green Christian Lacroix gown from Shrimpton Couture and wearing it with supermodel swagger. Emily Ratajkowski, model and author of “My Body”, made an entrance with a stunning spring/summer 1992 Atelier Versace beaded couture creation, originally worn on the catwalk by top model Yasmeen Ghauri. Italian influencer and entrepreneur Chiara Ferragni also went for vintage Atelier Versace, opting for a total black 1997 couture creation complete with side slit and black leather opera gloves. But, while not entirely in tune with the theme, the coup de theatre was given by Kim Kardashian who literally shut down the Red Carpet wearing the 1962 Jean Louis “Happy Birthday Mr. President” Marilyn Monroe gown.
Billie Eilish nailed her outfit in a different manner, by appearing in an upcycled Gucci dress which turned out to be not only entirely made of recycled material, but also very much inspired by a John Singer Sargent portrait of Madame Paul Poirson, a Gilded Age socialite. Similarly, The Crown’s Emma Corrin in Miu Miu, paid her tribute to New York socialite Evander Berry Wall, aka the King of Dudes, who in the 1880s outshone all the other well-dressed men in New York with his signature pointed collars, stockings, and silk hats. This year the Met Gala happened on May 2nd; The day before, May 1st, Italy celebrates Labor Day, commemorating those who battled for basic worker’s rights and those who, also in recent history, lost their lives in factories, fields and worksites. For this reason, this year’s political award goes not to the glitz and old-school panache but to British-Pakistani actor and musician Riz Ahmed, who arrived at the event in a silk shirt and undershirt topped off with an understated Cartier necklace, saying, “This is an homage to the immigrant workers who kept the Gilded Age going.”