Images courtesy of Schiaparelli and Jean Paul Gaultier. 

WTF is Gilded Glamour?

The Met Gala 2022 is set to be extra opulent. Here’s what it means and what designers and fashion moments we might expect to see on the night.

by Tom George
28 April 2022, 3:47pm

Images courtesy of Schiaparelli and Jean Paul Gaultier. 

Girlies, we’re coming up to the first weekend of May which means on Monday evening it’s the 2022 Met Gala, for which we will all be endlessly refreshing Twitter to watch as scores of stunning “Gilded Glamour” looks take over our feed. Yes, it’s time to partake in that annual tradition of judging the outfits sported by all the A-listers in attendance as if we were Anna Wintour herself and not, like, in our PJs sitting on a sofa in our flat… alone.

Anyway, after losing out on the annual event in 2020, and then 2021’s chaotic melee of on-the-nose political fashion and green baby dolls (Kim Kardashian in Balenciaga was there to save the day though), the 2022 theme — Gilded Glamour — is expected to be the Met Gala’s most opulent one yet! But what does the dress code actually mean and what designers or fashion moments might we expect to see on the night? Read on for our breakdown. 

Jean Paul Gaultier Haute Couture SS22
Image courtesy of Jean Paul Gaultier.

What does Gilded Glamour mean?

The Gilded Age refers specifically to the period of 1870 to 1900 (although the Gala’s theme is in reference to the 1880s to 1900) within the Northern and Western parts of the United States. Whilst the Southern States remained impoverished after the American Civil War, other parts of America saw massive economic growth in this period due to industrialisation and the building of railroads. The fashions of the time were luxurious and lavish, with silk and satin pastel gowns, lace embroideries and jewelled embellishments alongside boned corsets, sculptural hats and dramatic gloves. Think Bridgerton if it was set in America.

But the term for the era, coined by writers Mark Twain and Charles Dudley Warner in the title of their 1873 novel, is actually a satirisation of the way wealth and luxury were used to gloss over the significant inequalities and social issues present in society. For something to be gilded means it has a thin layer of gold plating to cover its less attractive reality, usually metal, wood or stone. During the era, an influx in poor immigrants from Europe highlighted the significant concentration of wealth within the Old Money elite, while the rise of unions gave voice to conversations around issues like women’s suffrage and child labour. 

Is Gilded Glamour the theme for the Met exhibition too?

Though it’s the term used to describe the dress code, unlike most years, it’s neither the name nor the topic of the exhibition being hosted at the Met itself. Rather, it refers to one specific era of the exhibition's timeline. 

This year’s exhibition at The Met’s Costume Institute is part two of “In America”, and exploration of fashion and dress through American history. While the garments on display in part one back in September, entitled “In America: A Lexicon of Fashion”, explored the patchwork of people and cultures that make up the USA today, when over half of the display pieces are swapped out this weekend, the new exhibit, titled “In America: An Anthology of Fashion”, will explore looks from the 18th century to present day as a time capsule of the evolving styles of the country. There will also be films directed by Martin Scorsese, Sofia Coppola and Chloé Zhao that work as freeze frames of fashion moments in US history. 

Image courtesy of Schiaparelli.

Why Gilded Glamour?

Why the event chose to dedicate its guests’ garment choices to this era is a mystery, and there is an irony that the most elite party of the year is themed around using wealth and opulence to glean over the pressing issues currently facing society.

Arguably though, after the vagueness of last year’s dress code led to a lot of ‘meh’ fashion and confusing takes, perhaps Anna Wintour wanted to make this year's theme more specific. Gilded Glamour is bound to create some fun looks that look camp right in the eye, and with opera gloves and pearls having a bit of a moment in fashion at the moment, there’s never been a better time to do it. 

LOEWE Women_s Spring Summer 2022 Look 11.jpg

Do we know what people will be wearing?

Though we don’t know the specifics of what people are wearing, we do know that this year’s dress code is a lot stricter than previous years. The event’s attendees must be wearing “white tie”, which means black coat tails, crisp white shirts, waistcoats and bow ties for those not getting glammed up in post-regency garms.  

Rumours online have swirled that Kim Kardashian, though, might be wearing a $5 million sleek dress worn by Marilyn Monroe after she was seen leaving the Ripley’s Believe It Or Not tourist attraction in Orlando, Florida that houses the look, alongside Pete Davidson who has also been invited to the prestigious event. Although it’s not of the time period, it could be on theme with its glamorous history and stunning crystal embellished body. Speaking to Access Hollywood, Kim also said that she was super nervous about the look she would be wearing: "I think it will be up to the last minute because it can't be tailored, so I have to fit into it like, exactly”.  To quote Miley Cyrus: what does it mean??? Could Kim be wearing something historical and archival that’s too important or delicate to alter?

Dior Haute Couture SS22

What designers might we expect to see at the Met Gala?

Using the very literal definition of the word “gilded” as gold-plated, we expect Schiaparelli will have a strong presence at this year’s event. The designer has had a host of iconic fashion moments recently from Lady Gaga’s oversized dove broach at the presidential inauguration to Bella Hadid’s tree lung dress and Cardi B’s blown away scarf headpiece. Creative director Daniel Roseberry’s SS22 couture collection saw a host of new bejewelled gold sculptural pieces such as gloves, spiralised bras, celestial tops and fiery gowns, and we’re sure there will be some custom pieces made specifically for the event coming from the designer. We wouldn’t be surprised too, If we saw some of Loewe’s stunning gold spacey body plates over sleek gowns from their SS22 collection amongst the attendees at this year’s event, or the divinely winged headpieces and bra tops that made up the Area couture runway in February. 

One designer capturing the essence and thematic qualities of Gilded Glamour is Maria Grazia Chiuri. Her Dior SS22 Couture collection was an ode to beautiful, crisp tailoring. Stunningly-crafted modest gowns in neutral tones with chainmail necklines and crystal embellishments over delicate mesh fabrics espouse an air of luxury and expensiveness that the era was famed for.

Jean Paul Gaultier Haute Couture SS22

Perhaps the more gothic of the attendees will arrive in Fendi’s ghostly mourning gowns from Kim Jones’ couture show, that looked like they stepped out of a Henry James novel. Alternatively, after dressing model Iman at the 2021 Met Gala, we wouldn’t be surprised if the work of CSM graduate and favourite of Harry Styles, Harris Reed, will make an appearance — his designs are known for their androgynous theatricality that are bound to make a statement on the night.

For a more timely interpretation of the theme and a nod to the era’s dressing, Elie Saab’s couture webbed corset tops, cinched waists and billowing skirts of botanical beauty would look stunning going up the stairs of the Met. It also seems fitting for a fashion period defined by corsetry and frills that Jean Paul Gaultier’s SS22 Couture collection, designed by Glenn Martens, with excesses of rippling satin in bold tones, making an appearance.

There’s also a ton of fashion shows from the past that were giving strong Gilded Age vibes. From Dior’s beautiful 2005 couture show filled with sheer tulle mini dresses, pearl necklaces and veiled hats, to Alexander McQueen’s jaw-dropping Fall 2013 collection that had beaded head-to-toe regalia, we could see some amazing archive pieces seeing the light of day once again. 

With the historical period also known for its social problems and great inequalities, we’re sure we’ll see designers use opulence and dramatic garments to make cutting statements on our current global climate and the issues of today. 

Fendi Haute Couture SS22

Who do we think will have the most iconic look on the night?

This year, with Rihanna currently back in Barbados as she prepares for the birth of her first child, and Zendaya unavailable, the most iconic look of the night could be anyone’s. After her head-to-toe bodysuit last year and the beached Cali girl look by Thierry Mugler the event prior, we have high hopes that Kim Kardashian will gag us all when she steps out on the Met Gala carpet.

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Met Gala