The 2022 Met Gala Theme, Explained—and 6 Trends to Expect on the Red Carpet


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The Met Gala is returning on the first Monday of May, and we couldn't be more excited to delight in all the sure-to-be spectacular red carpet looks. This year's theme is In America: An Anthology of Fashion, and the dress code specifies "gilded glamour" and "white tie." What does that mean, exactly? 

Vogue offered some more context to the theme and dress code: "The 2022 Met Gala will ask its attendees to embody the grandeur—and perhaps the dichotomy—of Gilded Age New York," the magazine explained. "The period, which stretched from 1870 to 1890 (Mark Twain is credited with coining the term in 1873), was one of unprecedented prosperity, cultural change, and industrialization when both skyscrapers and fortunes seemingly arose overnight." 

To better understand the fashion from that time period, I went straight to the source and unearthed some amazing historical photos. At this year's Met Gala, we can expect to see over-the-top looks with tons of different trends piled on: lace, velvet, ruffles, tassels, pleats, ribbon, gloves, parasols, embroidery, corsets, full skirts, headpieces, puffed sleeves, bows, and more. Phew! That's a lot of trends to keep track of.

As for the white-tie element of the dress code, this calls for floor-length formal evening gowns or three-piece suits with tailcoats, vests, and bow ties. Something tells me there will be plenty of rule-breakers when it comes to this directive, however. 

Scroll down to look back at some authentic looks from the 1870s to 1890s, and see my predictions for modern-day interpretations. 

1. Headpieces


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American actress Lillian Russell donning an elaborate feathered headpiece in the 1880s. 


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Fanny Davenport wore a feathery hat for this portrait in 1870s New York. 

2. Statement Puffy Sleeves


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Did you know that Winston Churchill's mother was American? Born in New York, Jennie Jerome married Lord Randolph Churchill and later gave birth to the future prime minister of England in 1874. 


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This 1890s dress comes complete with a smattering of different details, including beads, lace, tassels and ribbon. 

3 High Necklines


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This 1875 photo shows a woman wearing some of the biggest trends of the period: a nipped-in waist, bustle dress, headpiece and gloves. 


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I expect to see plenty of high-neck styles at this year's Met Gala, just like this American dress from the 1880s. 

4. Corsets


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How cute is actress Lillian Russell, pictured here in 1890? 


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This corseted dress was made by an unknown American designer in 1885. 

5. Intricate Details and Embroidery


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Actress Marie Prescott poses for a portrait in the 1880s. I love the frilly sleeves and floral embroidery. 


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This stunning American-made dress from the 1870s features beautiful lace insets with ribbon trim. 

6. Parasols


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This glamorous photo was taken in 1885 in Detroit, Michigan. 


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Two American women pose with golded parasols circa 1885. 

My Modern-Day Predictions


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Headpiece? Statement sleeves? Frills galore? Check, check and check. This Rodarte F/W 19 look ticks all the right boxes. 


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I hope someone pays homage to the late American designer Virgil Abloh on the red carpet. Might I suggest this look from F/W 22?


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I absolutely need someone to wear this look from Alexander McQueen S/S 07. 


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This is certainly a striking take on the corset trend, courtesy of Schiaparelli Haute Couture S/S 22


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Brandon Maxwell's F/W 22 collection included this beautiful corseted dress that could very well make an appearance at this year's Met Gala. Bonus points for the full skirt. 


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The full skirt on this Vivienne Westwood dress from the '90s would fit in perfectly at the Met Gala. 


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I'm obsessed with this frilly Alexander McQueen S/S 20 number. 


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The ladies of the Gilded Age loved ruffles, so this Giambattista Valli S/S 22 dress may make an appearance at the Met Gala. All this outfit needs is a parasol to complete the look. 

Next, the best new-in dresses.

This story was originally published on Who What Wear U.S. and has since been updated.

Associate Director, Fashion News

Erin got her start as a Who What Wear intern over 13 years ago—back when the site only published a single story per day. (Who What Wear has since increased that number twentyfold.) She graduated magna cum laude from USC, which is how she ended up moving to Los Angeles from her hometown of San Diego. In college, she also interned at Refinery29, where she was promoted to editorial assistant and then assistant editor. After nearly three years at R29, she came back to WWW in 2016, where she currently holds the title of Associate Director of Fashion News (as well as the unofficial title of resident royal expert—in case you haven't noticed her numerous Meghan Markle and Kate Middleton stories). She spends her days trying to incorporate her idols, Anna Wintour and Roger Federer, into as many stories as possible. Outside of work, she loves tennis, classic rock, traveling, and smothering her dog with affection.