the hidden history of the Gilded Glamor dress code

Fashion’s biggest night returns to New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art next month, and this year’s Met Gala theme has been announced as Gilded Glamour.

As with past themes, the dress code reflects the exhibit at the museum’s The Costume Institute, for which the Met Gala acts as a fundraiser. Previous themes have included 2018’s Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination, 2015’s China: Through the Looking Glass, and 2019’s Camp: Notes on Fashion.. And while each theme sparked a plethora of great looks, there’s more than just pretty clothes.

Met Gala Historical Themes

Since its inception in 1973, the Costume Institute Benefit, as it was officially known, has been an annual gala dinner and ball to raise funds for the museum – tickets cost over $30,000 per person and tables cost more of $200,000 – and an accompanying exhibit publicity generator.

The first Met Gala was organized to celebrate a retrospective of the work of Spanish fashion designer Cristobal Balenciaga, while in 1983 the museum held a major retrospective of Yves Saint Laurent. In 1987, it honored the career of fashion editor and dean, Diana Vreeland. In 1990, he stepped in to bolster the then struggling couture industry with a show called Théâtre de la Mode – Fashion Dolls: The Survival of Haute Couture, a theme he returned to in 1995.

When Italian designer Gianni Versace was murdered in 1997, the museum responded with an exhibit dedicated to his work. Completed in five months, this was a major achievement, as such shows normally take years in the planning.

After two stints hosting the gala, the United States vogue editor Anna Wintour was appointed chairman in 1999, bringing with her close relationships with industry. Big names such as Gucci, L’Oréal, LVMH, Chanel and Burberry have been recruited as sponsors, alongside Yahoo, Apple and Instagram.

However, it was perhaps the 2011 show, Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty, that really thrust the Met Gala into the public domain. A phenomenal success, the retrospective of the British designer, who committed suicide a year earlier, catapulted the gala and the museum into the mainstream, with more than 660,000 visitors, making it the most successful exhibition since The Costume Institute joined the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1946, drawing numbers are matched only by exhibits featuring the mona-lisa and the treasures of Tutankhamun.

With the presence of the always savvy Wintour, now global director of content for Conde Nastthe two exhibitions that have taken place since the pandemic, dictating the theme of the gala, have been redirected to the achievements of the American fashion industry, with 2021’s In America: A Lexicon of Fashion, and 2022’s In America: An Anthology of Fashion.

Met Gala 2022 theme

The 2022 dress code fits in perfectly. Glided Glamor evokes visions of New York’s Golden Age between 1870 and 1890, when it was teeming with new fortunes. Dubbed the Golden Age by Mark Twain in 1873, with the rise of families such as the Astors, Vanderbilts and Cooper Hewitts, while the New York Post building became the first to be lit by Thomas Edison’s new light bulb.

A portrait of New York socialite Elizabeth Wharton Drexel, by Giovanni Boldini.  Alamy Stock Photo

The city had the verve – and the money – to adopt Alexander Graham Bell’s 1876 invention, the telephone, helping to bring women into the workplace for the first time as telephone operators, while as skyscrapers rushed upwards, trying to beat the city’s first, Wilder Building. Built by banker and real estate magnate Samuel Wilder in 1888, it stretched a dizzying 11 stories into the sky.

New York socialite Caroline Schermerhorn Astor, who was so influential she was called

New mechanized textile factories meant that material was cheaper and more available, and New York socialites were quick to drape themselves in silks, satins and velvets, topped with ruffles, feathers and fringe, the all worn with ridiculously proportioned bustles to show off wealth and style. . There was a surge in demand for gemstones, as others copied the formidable Caroline Astor, known simply as “Mrs. Astor”, who liked to adorn herself in diamonds and emeralds, including a stomacher set with diamonds that would have belonged to the French. Queen Marie Antoinette. Unsurprisingly, jewelry houses such as Tiffany’s have benefited enormously during this period.

In response to this fashion explosion across the city, New York’s Gilded Age has spawned new publications to help women navigate this new world, with the magazine Harper’s Bazaar launched in 1867, followed by vogue in 1893.

Fast forward to 2022, and like cities around the world, New York faces many challenges as it tries to recover from the pandemic, hoping to attract tourists and reinvigorate its status on the world stage. The Met Gala’s nod to the Golden Age of the Big Apple is therefore no coincidence, helping the city reclaim its rightful place as the home of fashion on the first Monday in May, a sequin dazzling at the same time.

Updated: April 13, 2022, 2:53 p.m.

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