Met Gala Golden Age theme: What did fashion look like back then?

Tonight the MET Gala returns and the theme for the evening is “In America: A Fashion Anthology” with an emphasis on “golden glamour”.

“Dust off Edith Wharton’s ‘Age of Innocence’ and ‘The House of Mirth’,” says vogue. “The 2022 Met Gala will ask its attendees to embody the greatness – and perhaps the dichotomy – of Gilded Age New York.” What was fashion in the golden age? It’s a good question.

The Golden Age, as Mark Twain named it, was roughly between 1870 and 1900. It was a period of rapid economic growth, but also major corruption and the beginning of a major economic imbalance among Americans the richest and the poorest. Women in the Golden Age played an important role in social movements and as a result their clothing changed to reflect this. While the corset was still a part of women’s clothing, with a small waist still being a sign of beauty, there was more mobility in clothing as the era progressed.

When it came to haute couture, “hustle” was seen as the trend. Essentially the dressy version of a mullet, the style was looser in the back than the front. They would also contain several colors. If you watch HBO Golden age and wonders why these women wear such garish color combinations, it’s historically accurate.

Yes, women back then thought it was cute to walk around in orange, sky blue and stripes as a fit. (HBO)

Also, the more necklaces and the higher they are around the neck, the better. If you don’t look strangled, do you even do fashion?

For the men, it was all about the tuxedo. I wish I could say it was a lot more interesting back then than it is now, but unfortunately it was pretty much what you’d expect, with short hair, a pointy beard and a “mustache generous”. Later in the era, the style that became popular was less stuffy Victorian and simpler in design, lighter corset and beautiful material. It was known as the “artistic dress movement”. Oscar Wilde, the Lil Nas X of his time, was a huge fan of the style and made it popular in Europe.

Oscar Wilde in his aesthetic lecturer costume, 1882. (Photo by Napoleon Sarony. Public domain.)

As the world entered the 1900s, fashion would change again, impacted by the fact that upper-class women were more outdoors, and two-piece dresses would become more common. But more than anything, the period was about money, and given that the MET Gala is a place to raise money with expensive and intricate outfits, a gold theme is almost too good.

Especially as we face our own huge wealth gap, technological advancements leading to corruption and political strife. But you know, make it fashionable.

(picture: HBO)

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