NEW YORK ( Associated Press) – Met Galas, he’s been a few. But James Corden, schmoozing at this year’s cocktail reception, looked around and said it might be his favorite yet.
“Classy,” he explained. “It feels really classy.”
The TV host waved his hand around the room, taking in hundreds of guests who followed sartorial instructions — “gilded glamour” — and came across the best Gilded Age finery they could muster. Elegant gown, shimmering with gold. Classic black and white. Tails and even some hats. Headpiece and bustle and maybe the accessory of the night: the tiara, wearing a family heirloom by none other than Vogue’s Anna Wintour, who runs the gala. Even for creativity, this was not the night for artificial ripped jeans.
Of course, remove one letter from “classy” and you have “class,” with all the difficult effects of channeling an era that saw the creation of extreme wealth and income inequality in the United States. Some guests wrestled with that idea while contemplating the meaning of the evening. As others have accurately pointed out, the gala funds the Met’s Costume Institute, which allows for exhibits like “In America: An Anthology of Fashion,” which opens this week and focuses on American fashion history, specifically women and women. Explores the unsung heroes and untold stories in women. of colour.
Others said the night was an important way to show that New York was back in full force, even with the pandemic still upon us. “We’re celebrating craftsmanship and we’re celebrating America,” said celebrity chef Marcus Samuelsson, who curated the nightly menu again this year, selecting a slate of female chefs and the main course himself. — a barbecue-style beef, he said, with corn and succotash. “We’re showing that New York is back.”
Certainly New York florists were back, if they weren’t already. The question is whether there were any pink roses left in the city after Monday’s feast. The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s exterior stages were lined with 50,000, with another 75,000 surrounding the lobby centerpiece. Another 150,000 roses bathed every inch of the Great Hall stairway—a striking backdrop to the receiving line of hosts.
Also striking: the colossal centerpiece, this year it’s tallest so far—a 50-foot, golden creation representing the torch in Lady Liberty’s hand. (Museum officials said that for the first time this year, the centerpiece for public viewing will remain for another day).
As guests entered the red carpet, the crowd outside screaming, passed a 12-piece chamber orchestra that played American classics like “At Last” until dinner. After greeting Wintour and his celebrity hosts (Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds, Lin-Manuel Miranda and Regina King), guests walked through the Arms and Armor galleries to the American Wing and the spacious Charles Engelhard Court, where cocktails were served And where the curators made one. Bridge to access the exhibition in the period room.
Normally, guests would avoid the exhibition for cocktails, but there was a decent influx of people in and out of the show, for which nine film directors were tapped to create the cinematic vignettes. Some directors said, it was an opportunity to tell a different kind of story.
“It was really fun,” said Tom Ford, not only a top fashion designer but one of those nine directors. Ford assigned a room to a grand, circular painting of Versailles and its gardens, Chosen to dramatize the story of the Battle of Versailles – A famous night for American fashion in 1973, when American sportswear designers showed off their French couture counterparts. Ford decided to stage a real conflict, involving weapons like fencing foil. “My 9-year-old was watching ‘Mulan’ a lot,” he quipped when asked about his inspiration. Actor and producer-director Mindy Kaling, who was in talks with Ford, said, “I’m going to watch it now.” “Yes!” He encouraged her, and she left.
Meanwhile, inside the exhibition, director Autumn de Wilde (“Emma”) was showing some friends his work in the period room. “That woman may have lost the house from her gambling,” he said, pointing to a clearly distressed female mannequin next to an inverted card table. “I wanted to show how messy people’s lives are,” she said. “A beautiful home does not mean a beautiful life.”
At that time, a real “Gilded Age” character appeared – actress Danny Benton, who starred in the HBO series of the same name. She congratulated Dee Wilde on her work, and Dee Wilde told her she was “obsessed” with his show.
Benton may not have chosen to wear a Gilded Age bust, but Franklin Leonard did — two of them, in fact. Leonard, a film executive who helped curator Andrew Bolton choose a diverse slate of film directors for the exhibition, said he was channeling Frederick Douglass in a coat that contained not one but two – more of the two – sides. One of the clever looks was Night.
“I think it’s a double bust,” he said, crediting designer Ken Nicholson. Leonard, attending his first gala, said it was a surreal experience. “I, the captain of the high school math team in Columbus, Georgia, never thought I’d wear a Frederick Douglass-inspired double bustle jacket to the Met Ball,” he said. “It was not part of the plan.”
“Listen,” said Leonard, pointing to the uneasy balance between art and excess. “For all the extras, this is a fundraiser for the Costume Institute.” (And how: The Institute said Tuesday that this year’s gala raised a record $17.4 million.) He also said he’s very proud of helping put together a slate of filmmakers for the show, which includes neither Not only are gala hosts Ford and King included but also Radha Blanc, Janicza Bravo, Sofia Coppola, Julie Dash, Dee Wilde, Martin Scorsese and Chloe Zhao, last year’s Oscar winners. “They were the best group of filmmakers out there,” he said.
Although many were veterans of the gala to sip cocktails and nibble on coconut ceviche hors d’oeuvres, many were first-timers. Many commented that the most surreal part was seeing such a concentration of stars from all walks of life, where there is always someone more famous just around the corner. Or when, as happened on Monday, a fun band starts swirling through cocktails with drums and a tuba and a guy leads it with a melodica, you look more closely and melodica guy John Batiste. Which has just won five Grammys.
New York City Mayor Eric Adams said he was thrilled to attend his first gala. He wasn’t even the only mayor of New York in attendance – Michael Bloomberg was also there.
Adams, who wore a tuxedo with the words “End Gun Violence” on the back And featuring the city’s symbols he has been running for several months, he said he was thinking about the “very real” income inequality that stemmed from the Gilded Age, as the city now recovers from the pandemic.
Noting that the city’s wealthiest 2% were represented in the room, he said his role was to “come up among these New Yorkers and talk about the issues that the other 98% of New Yorkers need.” Not in this room…. Not to divide us, but to unite us.”
Adams even scoffed at a tabloid report that he had been dying to appear at the gala for years.
“They’ve been trying to come to me for years,” he quipped.
For more information on Associated Press’s Met Gala coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/met-gala