In austere times, the Met Gala returns to its ‘Gilded’ roots

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NEW YORK — Gas prices are sky-high and the world’s richest man just spent $44 billion to buy Twitter, but even in these most wealth-disparate of times, no one was going to stop Kim Kardashian from gingerly walking up the steps of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute Gala in Marilyn Monroe’s actual “Happy Birthday, Mr. President” dress, which she lost 16 pounds in three weeks to wear, since it’s vintage and can’t be altered.

Last September, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) showed up with a message on her dress, “Tax the Rich,” which some had said was a little, well, rich for a liberal Democrat enjoying fashion’s glitziest and most exclusive night. This year, as the Met Gala returned to its regular date, the first Monday in May, and had a theme to match the opulence: “Gilded Glamour, a celebration of New York’s Gilded Age,” a time that, at least on film, evokes images of rich people being depressed in horse-drawn carriages.

Said world’s richest man, Elon Musk, was actually there, in a white-tie tux “like I’m from ‘Downton Abbey’ or something,” and joking about using the night to find investors. “I’m going to ask people in there, ‘Please! Please! Please help me buy Twitter!’ ” He also claims to have selective amnesia about Ocasio-Cortez’s dress. “Is that what it said? I had trouble actually reading it.” He laughed.

He didn’t have trouble with the message. “I definitely paid the most amount of taxes that any human has ever paid last year. So it’s not like I’m not paying taxes. I’m gonna go to the IRS and say, ‘Can you please give me, like, a little plastic cup?’ ” he said. “Give me a cookie or something.”

This gala actually has a noble cause, to fund the Met’s Costume Institute, which is currently putting on an exhibition called “In America: An Anthology of Fashion,” in which filmmakers such as Martin Scorsese and Sofia Coppola have paired with curators to reinterpret moments of that era. First lady Jill Biden was the special speaker at the opening, praising the institute’s educational role and touting the power of fashion, which she used to her advantage when she wore sunflower appliqués on her cuff at the State of the Union address to show solidarity with Ukraine. “I knew the only thing anyone would write about me was what I was wearing,” she said.

The Met Gala red carpet looks you don’t want to miss

Some took the “gilded” theme literally. Cardi B wore a skintight Donatella Versace gown made of more than a kilometer’s worth of seven different types of gold chains. Lizzo showed up in a black cape embroidered with gold thread that she said took 35 hours to make and swanned up the Met’s famous steps (this time decorated with a carpet that looked like a faded American flag) playing a golden flute she said cost $35,000.

Others went with period dress. “We’re capitalists!” said David Harbour of “Stranger Things,” who’d gone full robber baron with tails, a top hat and a cane. He also declared, in booming voice, to Variety’s Marc Malkin, that he owned several railroads (“we don’t have antitrust laws yet”). Wife Lily Allen laughed and rolled her eyes — it seems like Harbour must be this over-the-top a lot.

Alicia Keys came to represent her home city with a gown by Ralph Lauren that had the entire New York skyline in sparkling stones on the train. Her husband, Swizz Beatz, wore a Yankees jacket by Lauren. “We really just wanted to represent the Empire State of Mind and the City of God tonight,” she said. Her hair was full of sparkly discs. Asked if they were meant to represent bagels, and Keys didn’t answer, but she did shout, “I love bagels!”

This year felt quieter than most. Even the crowd of hundreds gathered across the street on Fifth Avenue seemed to be screaming less than usual. Rihanna, Beyoncé and Jennifer Lopez, who usually fight it out to be the last one to the carpet, in the most lavish gown, stayed home.

That left room for a new crew, which included first-time attendee Glenn Close. She may not yet have that Oscar, but she can cross this one off the bucket list.

“Oh my god, this is very surreal. That’s Kris Jenner. What’s going on? What is my life? I used to work in retail. I was a waitress five years ago,” said Nicola Coughlan, who plays Penelope on “Bridgerton” and kept naming off other terrible jobs she had. “I worked in a soap shop. I worked at an optician. … I was a very unsuccessful actor for a long time!”

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