The ‘A Gilded Age – A Reflection on the Met Gala 2022’ article is one of our online ISSUE segments, head to THE EMERSION ISSUE for the complete article experience
After two years of Covid restrictions, the Met Gala was hosted on the 2nd of May 2022, just 8 months after last year’s event. Its theme, “Gilded Glamour and White Tie” is considered a second part to Andrew Bolton’s two-part exhibition “In America: An Anthology of Fashion”, paying homage to the Gilded Age, a period of economic growth in 1870s America.
Met Gala Introduction
The Met Gala is a yearly charity event run by Anna Wintour since 1995. Its purpose is to raise money for the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute and it marks the opening of its annual fashion exhibition. Every year around 600 of the most famous people around the world are invited to explore the exhibition and have dinner. The event has a different theme each year which the guests have to follow, making it a celebration of fashion that everyone looks forward to.
Met Gala 2022 Theme
The theme drew inspiration from the Gilded Age spotlighting fashion that consists of extravagant and structured looks for women with corsets, undergarments and long dresses that shaped their body. The looks were complemented with feathers, tiaras and many other accessories. As for men, the 19th century was a time where tuxedos and formal outfits were a must for every wealthy man. The guests impressed at the red carpet, with vintage outfits and accessories, but also dazzling custom outfits that modernised the fashion of that time.
However, there has been some controversy regarding this year’s theme choice. Many believe that it was ‘out of touch’ for a number of reasons. In the 1870s the majority of people in the working class were working long hours in sweatshops and were living below the poverty line, whereas the elite was going through a period of prosperity and luxury. Apart from that, during that time, because of the industrial revolution and the rise of capitalism, the focus was on materialism and looks instead of each person as a whole, meaning you were what you wore.
Unfortunately, that is also the case today, where high-flying celebrities seem to be thriving economically due to the ongoing digital revolution of our time, while everyday citizens are struggling financially, in a world faced with a pandemic alongside global inflation. In today’s capitalist society, social media promotes overconsumption and a perfect, yet false, image of everyone online despite what their actual mental, social or economic state is. Adding to that, the raging war in Ukraine further highlights the theme’s insensitivity to the global state of the world.
Gilded Age VS Today
In spite of the corruption and financial inequality, the Gilded Age was truly an era of wealth and growth due to the industrial revolution. This revolution is also happening today, but instead of industrial it is digital. A lot of new jobs and ways to earn money have emerged through the rise of technology and the Internet, just like in the 19th century with industrialisation. The futurism and societal development we face today is a perfect parallel to the Gilded Age, making the Met Gala’s theme more contemporary than ever.
Web developers, YouTubers, TikTokers, influencers and so many others are jobs that no one would have imagined a few years back; today they are a reality. Surprisingly, there are also new types of currency, with bitcoins and NFTs making their way into the global economy. We could say that just like fashion runs in circles, so does history.
Such events as the Met Gala give influential people that have a platform a chance to comment on global issues, to make a statement and raise awareness, while also being fashionable and on theme. This year no one seemed to address any of the issues mentioned. This could be seen as a waste of potential, especially with a theme that applies almost directly to the world’s current situation. On the other hand, maybe it is okay sometimes to not treat an event as a means to get political, but enjoy it for what it is.
On the whole, the Met Gala is a high fashion event and should be considered as such, but we can not ignore its cultural and societal influence, especially in times where it has become really important to be politically correct and sensitive about global issues. As for the Gilded Age, we could say that we are currently going through an almost identical era, the Digital Age, with similar benefits and problems for society. We are witnessing history being made, to say the least.
Written by Despina Zacharopoulou
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