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The Met Gala: Gold, Corsets and First Ladies

The Metropolitan Museum of Art was the hottest place to be in New York City Monday night as Bella Hadid, Megan Thee Stallion and Sarah Jessica Parker climbed the red, white and blue carpeted steps to The Met Gala for the Costume Institute’s spring exhibition, “In America: An Anthology of Fashion.”

With a dress code of “gilded glamor, white-tie,” attendees dressed to the nines in metallics, sparkle and satin. Amber Valletta, Cardi B, Camila Mendes and Khloe Kardashian were among the guests who took the “gilded” to heart in gold gowns, while Cara Delevingne arrived in gold body paint.

Co-chair Blake Lively donned a Versace gown inspired by iconic New York City architecture with beadwork referencing the Empire State Building. The train was decorated with the constellation on Grand Central Terminal’s ceiling, while the gown’s draping and crown nodded to the Statue of Liberty. “Empire State of Mind” singer Alicia Key also wore a Ralph Lauren cape decorated with the city’s skyline.

Plenty of celebrities added their own twists to regencycore for the occasion. Influencer Emma Chamberlain and Vogue’s Anna Wintour both wore tiaras. Shawn Mendes paired a “Hamilton”-esque Tommy Hilfiger coat with blue nail polish. “Bridgerton” star Nicola Coughlan wore a feather-embellished puffed sleeved gown by Richard Quinn. Olivia Rodrigo added a Y2K spin on the look, wearing purple butterflies in her hair.

Billie Eilish dressed in a corseted Gucci gown made from deadstock and scrap fabrics. Paloma Elsesser and Precious Lee both wore corseted gowns with sheer skirts. Lizzo topped her corseted Thom Browne dress with a gold embroidered coat and her signature gold flute. Ben Platt sported a corset over his tuxedo, while Lenny Kravitz wore a sheer corseted top.

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Other celebrities went off script.

In what was the worst-kept secret in fashion, a blonde Kim Kardashian arrived in the legendary naked dress that Marilyn Monroe wore when she sang “Happy Birthday” to former President John F. Kennedy in 1962, dropping 16 pounds in three weeks to squeeze into the close-fitting column dress. Meanwhile, Kris Jenner wore a one-shoulder yellow Oscar de la Renta gown and white gloves reminiscent of Jacqueline Kennedy’s style.

Kim Kardashian
Kim Kardashian Christopher Polk/ Penske Media

Prada dressed Austin Butler, the star of Baz Luhrmann’s upcoming film “Elvis,” in black and rhinestones, as well as guest Priscilla Presley. Sebastian Stan and Glenn Close wore full looks from Valentino’s Fall/Winter 22-23 pink collection. Kylie Jenner wore Virgil Abloh’s Off-White wedding look, complete with veiled cap. Sza and Gigi Hadid were among the guests wearing latex looks by Vivienne Westwood and Versace, respectively.

Denim made an appearance as well. Actor Kodi Smit-McPhee wore Bottega Veneta’s buzzed-about trompe-l’œil leather jeans with vintage Cartier diamonds and gloves in a look that celebrated casual Fridays. Ashton Sanders wore a denim set trimmed with gold by rising brand Casablanca. David Lauren wore tails with worn-in jeans and Donatella Versace wore a gold and blue jean body-skimming dress.

Taking a page out of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s book from last September’s gala, New York City mayor Eric Adams wore a tuxedo jacket that said “end gun violence” on the back.

“In America: An Anthology of Fashion”

The second installment of a two-part show celebrating American fashion, “In America: An Anthology of Fashion” also marks The Costume Institute’s 75th anniversary.

The exhibition explores American fashion during the 19th to mid-late 20th century through approximately 100 garments presented within the atmospheric setting of the museum’s American Wing period rooms. Isolated stories on the work of individual designers and dressmakers are grounded in complex and layered histories of the rooms and relate to them through cultural, political, and personal collections, said Andrew Bolton, the Wendy Yu curator in charge of The Costume Institute.

“Each story is presented in the form of a cinematic vignette that enhances the intimate and immersive aspects of the rooms and activates their histories in compelling and unexpected ways,” Bolton said, noting that the exhibition itself is “experienced as a feature film with interconnected stories.”

To create these vignettes, the museum tapped nine film directors to bring the fashion’s stories to life, including Radha Blank, Janicza Bravo, Sofia Coppola, Julie Dash, Tom Ford, Regina King, Martin Scorsese, Autumn de Wile and Chloe Zhao. “The directors were selected based on the themes of the stories, and each one has approached them through their own very distinct creative visions,” Bolton said. “They’ve used cinematic techniques to convey the dynamism and movement to otherwise rather static displays.”

A dress worn by Mary Todd Lincoln.
A dress worn by Mary Todd Lincoln. Charles Sykes/Invision/AP

Eva Chen, vice president of fashion partnerships at Instagram, which is sponsoring The Met Gala, noted that the vignettes and overall exhibit are “very Instagram-able.”

Notable garments include the coat George Washington wore to his first inauguration and two coats by Brooks Brothers—one Abraham Lincoln wore when he was assassinated and the other worn by an enslaved man—that “complicate this very American brand,” Bolton said.

Scorsese’s vignette showcases Charles James gowns, while Ford recreated “The Battle of Versailles.”

“In America: An Anthology of Fashion"
“In America: An Anthology of Fashion” Masato Onoda/WWD

“This anthology reflects ongoing research by curators in the Costume Institute to explore untold stories in our collection—stories that highlight the work of designers who have been forgotten, overlooked or relegated to a footnote in the annals of fashion history,” he said. “Ultimately, the aim of the exhibition is to spotlight the creativity of these individuals and in the process offer a more nuanced and less monolithic reading of fashion.”

First Lady Dr. Jill Biden delivered remarks Monday morning highlighting the museum’s ability to tell the untold stories of designers and artists and the role fashion plays in communication.

“As an English teacher, I’ve always believed in the power of language. And since I’ve become First Lady, I’ve been reminded that it’s only one way that we communicate,” Biden said.

First lady Dr. Jill Biden speaks at the unveiling of the Met Museum Costume Institute's exhibit "In America: A Lexicon of Fashion."
First Lady Dr. Jill Biden speaks at the unveiling of the Met Museum Costume Institute’s exhibit “In America: A Lexicon of Fashion.” Charles Sykes/Invision/AP

She recounted one instance when she used fashion to express solidarity with Ukraine. Ahead of the State of the Union earlier this year, Biden said she was “transfixed by the news of Ukraine, the bombings, the parents weeping over children’s broken bodies in the streets.”

“As the State of the Union approached, I knew that the only thing that would be reported about me was what I was wearing. So, I ordered sunflower applique, the flower of Ukraine and a symbol of hope and solidarity, and I had one sewn on the cuff of my dress,” she said.

Biden said she “was sending a message without saying a word that Ukraine was in our hearts and that we stood with them.”