Mark your calendars because the Met Gala is set to return this May. Going beyond big names and acclaimed labels the event acts as a celebration; it's a time to honor and recognize the intersections between art, fashion, and shared culture.
Following last year's Gala we continue on with the second installment of In America: An Anthology of Fashion. With the theme dubbed Gilded Glamor (i.e. period attire from America's Gilded Age) we can only hope to see period fashion in all its glory. It's fashion's biggest night out and an event of such epic proportions deserves our utmost attention as well as an analysis. Yet, until the Met Gala arrives let's binge watch HBO's The Gilded Age, and place bets on which celebrities will arrive in the appropriate attire.
A Crash Course
For those unfamiliar with the annual outing, here's a synopsis of what's to come. The Met Gala is an annual fundraising event for the Costume Institute within the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The occasion is centered around the Institute's newest fashion exhibition which will be on display for the general public in the following months.
Originally conceptualized in 1948 by fashion publicist Eleanor lambert, the Met Gala has forged on and proved to be a momentous night due to its exclusivity and elaborate fashion moments from those in attendance. Highly encouraged to come dressed within the exhibit's theme, you can expect (and only hope) to see celebrities utilizing the resources and creativity to make a statement.
Additionally every year the Met is equipped with a list of high ranking co-chairs assigned with the task of setting the standards for the night. In anticipation for the event they're expected to conjuring up the guest list, food, and decor of the venue. For this year's event we can expect to see Regina King, Blake Lively, Ryan Reynolds, and Lin-Manuel Miranda to give us the full experience. If these names aren't enough, have no fear, head of Instagram Adam Mosseri, designer Tom Ford, and Miss Anna Wintour herself will be returning as honorary co-chairs.
What to Expect
When the Met Gala theme is announced it's only fitting to explore the history, culture, and fashion presented in front of us.
New York standing as the backdrop of the Met couldn't be more fitting. Centuries ago during the Gilded Age the city served as a setting for industrial growth and economic expansion. For a certain segment of society the country was thriving. A thin gold gilding was placed over all of society and material excess was the way to move forward.
Spanning from 1870 to the 20th century the Gilded Age represented the height of avant-garde fashion that evolved decade to decade and year to year. While the timeline shifts and evolves many memorable elements remain: extravagant fabrics, plenty of detail and ornamentation, and of course the classic bustle.
The bustle is possibly one of the most defining features in fashion. We remember it for to its dramatic shape; the oddly designed garment added flare and a gravity defying effect to womenswear in the Western world. For individuals in the 1870s the bustle's creation added fullness to the skirt, supported the many layers of fabric within the skirt itself, and established a smaller waist in comparison.
Accompanying the bustle was a matching bodice and skirt set. Maintaining a fairly modest look the sleeves of bodice remained at a quarter length while the skirt covered the body and reached floor length. Despite half the population adorning multiples of the attire, clothing was reaching new heights with the introduction of colorful, synthetic dyes. Women were free to explore multiple colors and incorporate dark and bright palettes that were previously unavailable. As pictured within a 1870s fashion plate above, outfits were fully enhanced on garment and the trim with fine details such as ribbons, bows, stripes, and pleats.
Mid 1870s and 1880s
The late 1870s and 1880s brought us variations of dress with the bustle frequenting in and out of trend. The newly adopted 'princess line' named after Alexandra, Princess of Wales, popularized a look which incorporated vertical seams on the skirt. In comparison to previous styles, this version hugged the body and presented a tighter fit. The cuirass bodice would go on to further this shape. It's name echoing tight fitting armor used its vertical seams to extend below the waist and over the hips replacing the former bustle. With a slender figure, emphasis was now placed at the end of the skirt with trains and added embellishments.
Additionally, women took to accessories to upgrade their accessorized trains. Atop simplified hairstyles were elaborate, decorated hats featuring lace, flowers, feathers and unique shapes.
1890s and Onward
The most evident change for women's fashion towards the end of the era included puffed sleeves. Collared bodices with a cinched waist were accompanied by bell shaped skirts creating a hourglass shape and an overall lighter, relaxed style. Straight-front corsets worn within the decade relocated the chest forward and hips back in attempt for a new silhouette. Designed as a healthier alternative the corset presented the figure into an "S" shape, supposedly allowing for more range and movement.
As women slowly made their way into society their clothing reflected this newfound freedom. Over time women could be seen sporting blouses, shortened skirts, and the new but rare "bicycling costume". While they may not have experienced the same equality as their male counterparts women could now dress and be a part of the hustle and bustle of everyday life.
Preparing for the Met
According to the Met Gala guests are encouraged but not obliged to dress in theme. Time after time, after hours of watching and scrolling on my phone I come out of it disappointed that those in attendance fail to dress up for such an occasion. I'll reiterate. It's fashion's biggest night.
The masses, hopefully in the process of researching and planning for the Met, are given a golden opportunity to showcase the wide scope of fashion our world has to offer.The Gilded Age represent the ways in which societal changes hold the power to influence our style of dress. While we move forward we can still look back and see how important and impactful fashion was and is today. With the event being a few months away all we can do is manifest the most dazzling ensembles. Here's to a red carpet full of dramatic silhouettes, ruffles, and exaggerated sleeves.
Illustration by Inci Sahin