Fashion’s biggest night out—the Met Gala—arrived on time this year, drawing A-list celebrities from across the globe to the steps of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art on its traditional date, the first Monday in May, for the first time since 2019.
Canceled in 2020 and postponed until September last year due to the pandemic, the gala’s true purpose is to raise funds for the museum’s Costume Institute, including more than $16.4 million in 2021 through its $30,000 tickets and $200,000-plus tables, which are often paid for by the companies and brands hosting celebrity guests. (The deep pockets at the event were put in the spotlight last year by attendee—and U.S. Representative—Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, with her controversial “Tax the Rich” dress by Aurora James.)
With previous themes ranging from “The Catholic Imagination” to “Camp,” tonight’s red carpet was one for the history books with a dress code that called for “Gilded Glamour.” Honoring Gilded Age America, a time of post-Civil-War economic growth that lasted from 1870 to 1900, the event is part two of the gala’s overarching theme In America: An Anthology of Fashion.
Part one, last year’s “A Lexicon of Fashion,” drew mixed reactions—and approaches—from attendees, with some finding inspiration in the Wild West (J.Lo), old Hollywood (Billie Eilish) or the idea of patriotism itself (Amanda Gorman). But many opted to ignore the theme entirely—notably Kim Kardashian, who shrouded herself in all-black Balenciaga.
But this year’s red carpet promised a more tailored approach, with celebrities from Janelle Monaé to Sarah Jessica Parker stepping back in time with fitting corset-dresses, sharp suits, and plenty of white ties.
Putting the “gilded” in Gilded Age, Khloé Kardashian made her red carpet debut in a Moschino dress bedazzled with 540,00 beads, alongside sisters Kylie Jenner (in Off-White) and Kendall Jenner (in Prada).
Megan Thee Stallion and Cardi B—who arrived with Donatella Versace in a muscle car—were both dripping in gold, with Cardi in a Versace gown that took 20 people more than a month to make, while Emily Ratajkowski was the most bedazzled of the night, in a two-piece vintage Versace set.
Other stars bringing Gilded Age glamour into the spotlight: Billie Eilish embraced the century’s style in her pastel gown, and Sarah Jessica Parker also stepped back in time, in a black-and-white Christopher John Rogers ballgown.
Euphoria star Sydney Sweeney glistened in Tory Burch for her Met Gala debut, dropping its hems—and onlookers’ jaws—to reveal a minidress underneath, both bolstered by historically-accurate horsehair padding.
She wasn’t the only one making a big reveal tonight: Blake Lively arrived in a transformable Atelier Versace ballgown and crown inspired by Lady Liberty, featuring a replication of the celestial map atop Grand Central Station, and Reynolds in a white-tie appropriate suit by Ralph Lauren.
Plenty of stars kept it simple in elegant black or white ensembles. Kendall Jenner stole the red carpet—literally—with a massive two-piece Prada ballgown. Alicia Keys channeled an Empire State of mind with a cape embellished with 30,000 crystals, while Kacey Musgraves had the evening in the palm of her hand with a black Prada dress and feathered fan.
While Cynthia Erivo, wearing Louis Vuitton (and custom Gilded Age-inspired nails) and Emma Stone, in her Louis Vuitton Wedding dress, were angelic in white.
But not everyone shied away from color: Stars including Gigi Hadid, Jessica Chastain and—if only barely—Cara Delevingne chose to match the carpet itself. Hadid added a blanket of comfort to her latex-and-corseted set with a massive puffer coat, while Delevingne wasn’t afraid to show some golden skin.
Michelle Yeoh was everything, everywhere, all at once in a green Prabal Gurung gown and Tasaki jewels.
Janelle Monáe kept a cool head in a beaded, hooded gown by Ralph Lauren, which honored the duality of the era—the “Gilded Age” nickname was born out of irony, denoting a time that was glittering on the surface but corrupted underneath—and her own story: Monáe’s working class background is often brought to light in her outfits through black-and-white motifs.
She wasn’t the only star looking pitch-perfect. Grammy darlings Jon Batiste, Anderson .Paak and Shawn Mendes (in deadstock Tommy Hilfiger) looked sharp in their red carpet looks.
Despite the strict white tie dress code, some stars weren’t afraid to push the envelope…
YouTube star Emma Chamberlain and singer Camila Cabello were among those not shying away from a modern interpretation of the Gilded Age, in cropped Louis Vuitton and Prabal Gurung sets, respectively.
Model Kaia Gerber also embraced cutouts in her shimmering gown. Actress Tommy Dorfman opted for a black latex Christopher Kane dress, paired with a custom Edie Parker clutch and a 200-year-old Fred Leighton crown.
The men on the carpet weren’t afraid to push the envelope either. Joe Jonas reinvented the classic tails in his white suit, alongside wife Sophie Turner in Louis Vuitton, and Travis Barker and Kourtney Kardashian swapped elements of their Thom Browne looks, with Kardashian wearing a men’s cummerbund as a corset.
Some celebrities, though, were just there to have a ball.