Met Gala returns to first Monday in May with gilded extravagance: Inside the carpet, after party

Blake and Ryan Reynolds

NEW YORK — For the first time since 2019, the Met Gala returned to its traditional home on the first Monday in May. Celebrity attendees brought true glamour — and it was a gilded affair if ever there was one.

After a pandemic cancellation in 2020 and a postponement to September last year, the full scope of the red carpet returned as a seemingly endless stream of stars, from Kim Kardashian and Pete Davidson to Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds, posed for the cameras before trekking up the famed steps of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

In line with the theme "In America: An Anthology of Fashion," the invite-only event's white-tie dress code was "gilded glamour," a reference to the Gilded Age in the late 1800s. And while attendees based their fashionable interpretations on the era's gold and wealth, another definition of "gilded" — one that focuses on false brilliance and a fanciful exterior hiding a lackluster reality  — also informed the night.

After a weekend of sunshine, the gala was set against dreary and rainy weather, but that didn't stop the stars from stepping out in their finest on a Monday evening for fashion's biggest night. And from our vantage point on the Met steps, the fashion elite evoked feelings of grandeur that momentarily stopped time.

Under a large, tented red carpet, the star-studded event was briefly shielded from the realities of American life, as news of a leaked draft of an opinion from the U.S. Supreme Court on the verge of overturning Roe v. Wade coincided with the snaps of camera lenses and the cheers of fans lined up outside the entrance on Fifth Avenue.

The annual benefit, the backdrop for the latest fashionable and historical display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute, is always a glitzy spectacle, this year leaning more into the old American glamour.

What really happens on the Met Gala red carpet

On the jam-packed carpet, which went on for more than three hours, members of the press lined both sides of the grand steps leading up to the museum's entrance, which led to a lavish dinner party for invited guests. The limited list, one of the hottest tickets in town, is approved by Vogue editor-in-chief and honorary Met Gala co-chair Anna Wintour, and tickets for a table can cost upwards of $200,000.

The first stars to make their way up the carpet Monday were Vanessa Hudgens and LaLa Anthony, who (along with Vogue global editor at large Hamish Bowles) co-hosted Vogue's livestream. Wintour wasn't far behind, her arrival signaling the official start of the steady cascade of celebrities decked out in gilded glam.

As one of the evening's co-chairs, Lively aced the carpet with an expert understanding of the theme: Her quick-change gown served as a tribute to New York City, courtesy of Versace.

Other highlights included Billie Eilish, looking as though she just emerged from her sitting room in 1890 to throw a raucous party; Janelle Monáe, glittering in a headpiece and gown from Ralph Lauren; Kerry Washington in Tory Burch; Cardi B, golden in Versace; Bad Bunny, donning an updo and a Burberry ensemble; Lizzo, whose gilded flute was more than just an accessory (she played a tune for reporters); co-chair Lin-Manuel Miranda; Kid Cudi in a stunning royal blue cape; and Rosalia in a corseted Givenchy gown.

While many view fashion as simply frivolity – and there tends to be a true excess of the frivolous at the ball – it continues to serve as an important marker in history. The Costume Institute (and the film directors tapped to design parts of the exhibit) tried to highlight that historical context with stories of unsung heroes, particularly women and people of color, in American fashion. The Met Gala and its 2022 theme also provided a stage to recall historical fashion moments and bring them into the current day with new, history-making ensembles.