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Celebrities Dressed In The Most Historically Accurate Gilded Costumes. The Met Gala 2022 Domestic Violence Awareness Outfits.

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The dress code for the 2022 Met Gala, which is set to take place on Monday, is “Gilded Glamour,” which opens the doors to sartorial imagination. For one of the largest and most elite fundraisers in the United States, the reference is pretty self-reflective. The Gilded Age, which lasted about thirty years in the United States, was marked by the rise of immense industrial and financial prosperity for some with rising poverty for others. The elite’s everyday attire was characterized by excess. New textile variations were made possible by electric and steam-powered looms, synthetic dyes broadened popular color palettes, and hats reached absurd heights.

Although I believe the stars of 2022 will understand the dress code merely as an invitation to get very, very fancy, their historical counterparts—the wealthy who attended balls and soirées in the late 1800s—dressed not only richly, but also bizarrely, with plenty of personality and comedy. Dead animals, exact historical references, and the occasional flash of techno-wizardry come to mind. If anyone who has purchased a ticket to Monday’s gala is still looking for ideas, here are a few costume recommendations from previous balls, as well as one counterexample: a costume to avoid.

Miss Kate Feering Strong wore this lavishly taxidermied gown to Willie and Alva Vanderbilt’s 5th Avenue fancy-dress gala, which doubled as a housewarming, at the top New York City social event of the 1880s. (The railroad-baron Russells’ party in HBO’s The Gilded Age’s season finale is modeled on the Vanderbilt Ball, except there are no cat heads.)

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In 1883, the preeminent photographer of the elite, Jose Maria Mora, a dapper Cuban immigrant hired to record the visual elements of the celebration, captured Strong’s likeness. Strong’s headgear was made of “stiffened white cat’s hide,” with a tail pendant trailing behind, according to a New York Times article on the celebration. “PUSS”—Strong’s nickname and the basis for her ball attire—is printed on the blue ribbon looped around her neck like a collar, possibly in diamonds.

The full-length shot of Strong’s costume was probably certainly captured by Mora, but I am unaware of any surviving photographs documenting the skirt’s invention. “The overskirt was fashioned entirely of white cats’ tails stitched on a dark background,” the Times reports. In the mid-1990s, did you ever see a skirt stitched together from discarded neckties, a trend among thrift-shop aficionados and Sassy Magazine subscribers? It’s similar to that, but with cattails.

If current Gala designers such as Moschino or Theophilio are hesitant to use cat parts in their designs, accessorizing with any part of a bird would be appropriate for the “Gilded Glamour” theme. During this time, milliners in the United Kingdom and the United States used entire bodies of birds on towering ecosystems of hats, while other designers made earrings out of hummingbird heads and beaks. The 1918 U.S. Migratory Bird Treaty Act, created in reaction to the turn-of-the-century hat bird massacres, currently protects many of the species whose feathers were prized by Gilded Age women, such as the snowy egret and great heron.

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