Susie Lau on the Met gala and life’s truly gilded moments

·3-min read
James Anastasi  (Evening Standard)
James Anastasi (Evening Standard)

It is decreed that on the first Monday of May I shall always stay up past 2am, scroll furiously through Getty Images and Instagram for a first glimpse of guests arriving at the Met Gala in New York, the annual fundraising extravaganza orchestrated by Anna Wintour, the grand dame of Vogue.

I don’t generally make it my business to study red carpet moments but the one exception is the Met, where fashion with a capital F is centre stage and the trains exceed the width of the grand staircase going into the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It’s also the only time when friends who do serious work in the foreign office or in hospitals will actively analyse fashion, sending me messages asking, ‘What on earth is going on here?’ and I have to explain the context of why exactly Katy Perry is wearing a hamburger.

Much has already been said about the inappropriate timing of this year’s theme, ‘gilded glamour’, which was supposed to hark back to the industrialisation of 1870s Americagiving way to prosperity; in contrast to thesituation right now as a shrinkingeconomy, growing inflation and ever-widening wealth inequality grips the US and beyond. That’s alongside the backdropof an ongoing war in Ukraine. And then to further exacerbate proceedings, as the gala was unfolding so too was the news that the Supreme Court might be overturning Roe vs Wade and thus rewinding women’s rights over their bodies by 50 years. Reality truly bit. The world quite rightly read the room and so my feed swelled with abortion rights infographics instead of the meme-worthy outfits that normally emerge from the Met. As a result, social media mentions of the Met Gala were down by more than 900,000 in comparison with 2019.

The very use of the word ‘gilded’ already struck a strange note with me as we throttle back to normality, as if the past few years have been a hazy fever dream. Post pandemic, the media pedalled this idea that we would be roaring into a redux of the 1920s. Champagne would flow. Sequins would burst from our seams. We’d indulge in bacchanalian excess. That moment hasn’t come to pass. The initial lustre of that sudden rebound has worn off. We haven’t plunged head-first into a wormhole of decadence and debauchery — our heads are addled with inflation and bombs.

Scrolling through the parade of belle époque-corsetted silhouettes at the Met and questioning Kim Kardashian’s tortured slash unhealthy crash diet to fit into Marilyn Monroe’s dress, who in reality was subjected to gross misogyny throughout her life, immediately made me want to dive into distinctly un-gilded pleasures.

Sitting in the park with the sun on my face for an hour (bring on the mid-May heatwave) is suddenly divine. Looking at the blooms changing from cherry blossoms to bluebells to wisteria has become mesmerising. Dancing anywhere, where the music rings in your ears afterwards feelslike bliss. Going out-out (as in beyond midnight) and dressing up-up (as in beyond a stained slubby T-shirt) is a tremendous accomplishment.

Of course, I’m typing this while looking out at the Côte d’Azur from a fancy hotel, as I’m on the road for the return of cruise collections in fashion in sun-drenched locations. The industry I work in and everything to do with the Met Gala axis is gilded by definition. But back on planet reality, to gild the lily unnecessarily really does seem like the furthest thing from what gives us real and tangible joy.


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