Met Gala 2022: A Celebration Of The Gilded Age On The Night Women’s Rights Return To The Dark Age

Met Gala 2022: A Celebration Of The Gilded Age On The Night Women’s Rights Return To The Dark Age

The ‘first Monday of May’ is virtually an unspoken holiday for fashionista lovers. The illustrious Met Gala fundraiser takes place on that date every year at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Abandoning the traditional timeline due to COVID-19, this year’s event was the first Met Gala honoring the May tradition since 2019.

Of all the red carpets, the Met is my favorite on the fashion calendar. The drama of the designer looks, the mix of living legends and rising stars, and displays of emerging design talent are more breathtaking than any other fashion event. The Met Gala is the one red carpet occasion in which celebrities seem exceptionally inspired to step outside of the box.

This year’s “Gilded Glamour and White Tie” dress code announcement received a mixed reaction from the media. Fashion outlets rejoiced at the news with pieces like “10 ‘gilded glamour’ movies and shows to get you in the mood for the 2022 Met Gala.” On the other hand, the institution faced backlash from the public on social media suggesting that the theme was insensitive considering the current economic turmoil and war the world is facing.

But was this so wrong? Fashion has always provided a means for escape and imagination for many, admittedly myself included. I cozied up after my first day of finals week to watch the red carpet livestream with my social media apps in hand. My Met Gala evening included sending looks to my friends, collecting the best memes, and catching commentary from my favorite influencers live-tweeting their reactions to the looks. 

One tweet under the results for the trending topic sent me soaring back to the present century. The user shared, “People dressing as suffragettes to the Met Gala as news breaks that Roe v Wade is being overturned is as dystopian as…the last few years have been.”

A Politico exclusive had just announced the crushing news that a Supreme Court draft was in favor of overturning the abortion-centered decision. For 49 years, women in the United States have lived under the protection of Roe v. Wade, the landmark Supreme Court decision that protects women’s reproductive rights. The case eliminated many oppressive reproductive laws and protected “a pregnant woman’s liberty to choose to have an abortion without excessive government restriction.”

Roe v. Wade was a major step forward in women’s degree of autonomy in society. Over one hundred years ago, the women of the gilded age were working towards gaining their own freedoms and lives outside of the Victorian era role of the bound housewife. Some were suffragists, as stated in the tweet, and others were philanthropists or advocates for the temperance movement. It’s oddly fitting that, during an event honoring the past, the alarm breaks that our country is headed back in that direction.

I couldn’t even go back to thinking about the Met after reading a few articles. The whole occasion seemed like an eerie scene straight out of “The Hunger Games” with this new context. Comedian Tim Young picked up on this as well, tweeting, “The Met Gala serves to remind us who is in District 1 if society breaks down in a Hunger Games scenario.”

Scarily, we may soon be acquainted with more parallels of this historical period than we all realized. This is especially concerning news for minorities. Civil rights journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones tweeted, “You can’t understand the court overturning Roe without understanding the role racism has played in the rise of the religious right and no reporter should report on this without talking about what may come next: Rulings against civil rights.” 

The Supreme Court decision also poses the question of what will happen to other landmark laws and cases that appeared to be set in stone like Roe v. Wade. With women’s lives at risk, that puts the rights of the LGBTQ+ community, people of color, immigrants, and any other minority group in jeopardy to be subject to the discriminatory practices of the post-Civil war era.

At the Met Gala, the stories of the elites of the gilded age were reduced to references to corsets and lace, but connected to a much larger sentiment about the similar states of society. 

The gilded age birthed the excessive wealth of well-known “titans” whose families still hold weight today; Rockefeller, Carnegie, and Morgan. Society’s current admiration for this era with shows like “Bridgerton” and “The Gilded Age” mirror our current reality of another age of titans, hence a certain recent social media acquisition by a tech billionaire. The stars of today shared their personal alignment to the narrative regarding how closely they aligned themselves to the theme, or not. 

The popularity of the gilded age holds the potential to be a major point of reference when looking back on society in 2022 because of these connections. The Met Gala holds a heavy amount of influence on fashion as one of the most anticipated fashion events of the year. To cosign on a tone-deaf theme for a show and performative displays of “activism” is ignoring the pulse of the people that keep fashion thriving every day. 

The psyche of fashion still sits at an elitist position opposite to the cries of the consumer consciousness begging for sustainability, inclusion, and quality. This uncanny relationship between real-life events and the theme was a display of the industry’s synchronicity with the exclusionary mindset dominating the world today. Positive change starts with every single fashion lover continuing to hold the industry that we adore accountable, even the Met Gala.

Featured photo by Robert Bye on Unsplash.