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Miss Kate Fearing Strong AKA Puss In at the 1941 Vanderbilt Ball

Gilded Met Gala inspo for celebs who won’t get the memo

Essential reading for everyone except Rihanna

Next Monday is the first Monday in May which, as we all know by now, means that it is time for the Met Gala. This year the theme is In America: An Anthology of Fashion, the second instalment of its two-part exhibition on American fashion. The dress code? “Gilded glamour”, darlings. 

Guests attending the ball will attempt to embody the opulence, glitz and grandeur of Gilded Age New York. Asking them to embody the dichotomy of the time is probably a little too much for a group of people who famously don’t understand the assignment and could barely muster up the effort to wear Rei Kawakubo designs when the theme was… Rei Kawakubo.

The Gilded Age refers to the period between the 1870s and the turn of the century when the United States saw major economic growth and prosperity. In New York, this growth created the rise of a new social hierarchy and the city’s first socialites (it also sparked the founding of Vogue in 1893). Those at the very top echelon of society flaunted their wealth and excess with ostentatious displays of vanity through their outfits and at parties like the high-profile Vanderbilt ball in 1883.

This prosperity, however, didn’t benefit everyone and the wealth inequality during this time deepened. The term gilded – meaning to coat a surface with gold – was first used to describe this period by Mark Twain, and perfectly encapsulates how the affluence among the rich obscured the hardships and poverty of the lower classes.

This, intentionally or not, makes Gilded Glamour the perfect theme for 2022. While the glitterati walks the red carpet next Monday in couture gowns and sit at tables bought for $300,000, much of the rest of the world is currently experiencing a cost of living crisis, an energy crisis, a rent crisis, massive wealth disparity, and war.

So what can we expect from the celebrities attending the ball? Gilded Age fashion was one of excess. Thanks to innovations making fabric faster and cheaper to produce, clothing at this time often featured many textiles, combining satin, silk, velvet and lace in deep jewel tones with lavish embellishments. Bustles were so elongated, there were jokes that they should be big enough to host an entire tea service. Hats were so adorned with feathers that in 1895 the Audubon Society was founded in an effort to protect birds from the millinery trade.

And the beauty? Have a look in the gallery below to see some of the hair and make-up looks guests might be inspired by.