NEW YORK — Blake Lively smiled for the cameras in a grand Versace gown, with her husband, Ryan Reynolds, in brown velvet, as the Met Gala returned to the first Monday in May after years of pandemic upheaval with a celebration of American design and a theme of gilded glamour.
The actress, one of the evening’s co-hosts, wore a bronze and rose gold look that transformed into a shimmery layer of baby blue as a large bow was pulled. Lively’s look drew inspiration from both the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building and the blue ceiling of Grand Central Station.
“Instead of looking to fashion to influence the dress, I looked to New York City architecture,” Lively said.
Some among early walkers interpreted the period theme in looks of black or white. Others went with royal purples and glittery golds and silvers.
“Black and white are THE colors for the evening,” said Holly Katz, a stylist and host of the Fashion Crimes podcast.
Camila Cabello worked a huge white gown with a midriff top, from Prabal Gurung, while Jordan Roth, the theater producer, provided a reveal of his own, removing a black, egg-like shell to a matching bulbous pants suit. Janelle Monáe offered a royal wave in a black and white bedazzled helmet piece and slinky gown with head piece.
“Amazing. I’m proud to be American. I’m proud to be wearing Ralph Lauren. This is gilded glamour from the future,” Monáe told The Associated Press.
New York Mayor Eric Adams put politics front and center in a tux emblazoned with “End Gun Violence” on the back. Former presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton was in a Bordeaux-colored gown designed by Joseph Altuzarra with the names of historic women sewn into the hem and neckline. They include Abigail Adams, Shirley Chisolm and Madeleine Albright.
Clinton’s last Met Gala was a while ago.
“I told Anna I would come every 20 years,” she said.
The cast of Baz Luhrmann’s “Elvis” joined forces in sparkling suits, capes and gowns from Prada. The film’s star, Austin Butler, wore a cropped suit and silk scarf with a jeweled brooch. Luhrmann said his film is, ultimately, about America.
Maude Apatow, in a black off-shoulder look, accessorized with Cartier, including a wide diamond choker.
Vogue livestream co-host Vanessa Hudgens made her way up the steps of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in a vaguely Victorian black sheer lace gown with a long train. She was joined by La La Anthony, her fellow Vogue host who wore a deep red look with cut out shoulders from LaQuan Smith.
“I’m practically naked,” Hudgens joked.
Anthony said: “Those stairs are intimidating.”
And if the Met Gala’s return feels like one of those what, already moments, it is.
It’s been just under eight months since the last gala, an annual fundraiser that raises eight-figure sums for the Met’s Costume Institute. Pre-pandemic, about 600 A-listers from fashion, sports, music, film, TV, technology and beyond were invited. This year and last, the numbers were closer to 400. The 2020 gala was canceled.
More than $16.4 million was raised last year. The starry event is the institute’s primary budget feeder.
This year’s gala coincides with the opening of the second part of a two-part exhibit at the Costume Institute focused on American fashion and style. The evening’s dress code is gilded glamour and white tie, a la the Gilded Age, that tumultuous period between the Civil War and the turn of the 20th century known for its robber barons, drama and grandeur.
This year’s walk up the Grand Staircase, lined by red roses, returns the gala to its legendary berth on the first Monday in May, with the official livestream appearing on Vogue’s website.
Vogue’s Anna Wintour, who has run the gala since 1995, wore feathery Chanel and a jeweled tiara that has been in her family since 1910. She continues as one of the night’s honorary co-chairs, along with designer Tom Ford and Instagram’s Adam Mosseri. The other official co-chairs for 2022 are Regina King and Lin-Manuel Miranda.
While many on Wintour’s carefully tended guest list follow the dress code, others go their own way. Interpretation is everything. Think Rihanna in a papal hat, Billy Porter as a sun god carried on a litter by shirtless men and Lady Gaga peeling off layers as the fashion world came to a standstill to watch.