NEW YORK (AP), He’s been to a few Met Galas. James Corden looked around at the cocktail reception and declared that this was his favorite.

He said, “Classy.” It just feels very classy.

The TV host waved his arms around the room, taking in hundreds of guests who had followed the sartorial instructions — “gilded glamour” — to dress in the finest Gilded Age attire. Glamouring gowns that sparkle with gold. Black and white. There are tails, and some tophats. There were headpieces, bustles, and the most important accessory of the evening: the tiara. Vogue’s Anna Wintour wore a family heirloom to run the gala. Even with all the creativity available, this wasn’t the night to wear ripped jeans.

You can take just one letter from “classy” to have “class,” along with all the tricky implications that comes with channeling an era of income inequality and excessive wealth in America. As they thought about the meaning of the evening, some guests struggled with this thought. Others pointed out that the gala funds Met’s Costume Institute. This allows for exhibits like “In America: An Anthology of Fashion” which opens this week. It seeks to uncover untold stories and heroes in American fashion history, particularly women and women of color.

Others felt the event was a way to show that New York is back, even though the pandemic is still raging. Marcus Samuelsson, celebrity chef, said that the evening was about celebrating craftsmanship and celebrating America. He also curated the menu and chose a list of female chefs to take on the main course. It was a barbecue-style beef dish with corn and succotash. “We are showing that New York has returned.”

New York florists were definitely back, if not already. It is not clear if there are any roses left in New York after Monday’s gala. Outside steps of the Metropolitan Museum of Art were lined in 50,000 roses, 75,000 of which were around the lobby center. The Great Hall staircase was adorned with 150,000 roses, providing a stunning backdrop for the host’s reception line.

It’s also striking: The gigantic centerpiece, which is this year at 50 feet tall, represents Lady Liberty’s torch in her hand. (Museum officials stated this year that the centerpiece would remain in place for public viewing another day.

With crowds roaring outside, guests arrived on the red carpet to see a 12-piece chamber orchestra play American classics until they were served dinner. After meeting Wintour and her celebrity hosts (Blake Lively, Ryan Reynolds, Lin Manuel Miranda, and Regina King), guests walked through the Arms and Armor galleries towards the American Wing and the massive Charles Engelhard Court. Here, they were served cocktails and had the opportunity to view the exhibits in the period rooms via a bridge.

Most guests avoided the exhibit because of the cocktails. However, there was a steady flow of people into the show. Nine film directors were selected to create cinematic scenes. Some directors said it was a chance for them to try a different type of storytelling.

Tom Ford, a top fashion designer and one of the nine directors said that “it was really fun.” Ford was given a room with a large, circular painting of Versailles. He chose to tell the story of the Battle of Versailles. This famous American night in 1973 when American sportswear designers compared themselves to French couture. Ford chose to create a real conflict using fencing foils and other weapons. When asked about his inspiration, Ford said, “My 9-year old kid was watching a lot ‘Mulan.'” Mindy Kaling, actor and producer-director, said “I’d rather go see that now.” She’d been talking with Ford. He encouraged her to go, and she did.

Autumn de Wilde (“Emma”), the director of the exhibit, was showing some of her work in the period rooms inside the exhibit to a few close friends. She pointed out a clearly distressed woman mannequin placed next to an upside-down cards table and said that “that woman probably just lost her house with her gambling.” She said, “I wanted to demonstrate how messy people’s lives can be.” “A beautiful home does not necessarily mean a beautiful lifestyle.”

The moment was when Denee Benton, an actress in HBO’s “Gilded Age”, walked in. De Wilde congratulated her for her work and she said that she was “obsessed with” her show.

Although Benton might not have worn a Gilded Age bustle on his occasion, Franklin Leonard did. Actually, two. Leonard, a film executive, helped Andrew Bolton choose the diverse slates of film directors for the exhibit. He said that he was channeling Frederick Douglass wearing a coat with not one but two bustles — on either side — one the most clever looks of the evening.

He said that he thought it was a double bustle, citing Ken Nicholson. Leonard said that it was surreal to be attending his first gala. He said, “I never imagined that I would be wearing a double-bustier jacket inspired by Frederick Douglass at the Met Ball as the captain of our high school math team in Columbus. Georgia.” It wasn’t in the plan.

Leonard said “Listen,” as he pondered the delicate balance between excess and art. “For all the excesses, this is a fundraiser to the Costume Institute.” Leonard said he was proud to have helped create the list of filmmakers for the show. They include Radha Blank and Janicza Bravo as well as Sofia Coppola, Julie Dash and de Wilde. Chloe Zhao was last year’s Oscar winner. He said, “They were among the most talented filmmakers.”

Many were enjoying cocktails and eating coconut ceviche hors-d’oeuvres while sipping cocktails. However, many of the gala veterans were there, from actress Sarah Jessica Parker, who is a gala veteran, to Thom Browne, a designer, and others like Thom Browne. There were also many first-timers. Kieran Culkin, star of “Succession”, a series about excess wealth, was one of them. He said he didn’t know what to think of the gala because he had only three things to do. He said, “I tied my shoelaces.” “I went to men’s room and ordered a Coke — straight coke. It had a lime in it. It’s not usually my thing.” He went to the exhibition.

Many gala attendees are first-timers and find it most amazing to see so many famous people from all walks. There’s always someone better around the corner. You can also see Jon Batiste with his melodica man leading a band that snuck through cocktails with drums, tubas, and a lead singer.

Eric Adams, New York City Mayor, was not the only first-timer in attendance. Michael Bloomberg was also there.

Adams wore a tuxedo that featured the words “End Gun Violence” and other symbols of the city. He said that he was thinking about how the Gilded Age created income inequalities as the city recovers from the pandemic.

He noted that only the richest two percent of New York City was present in the room. He said that his role was to “come among these New Yorkers, and talk about issues that the 98% of New Yorkers that aren’t in this room …..” We are not to be divided, we are to be united.”

Adams joked about a tabloid article that said Adams had wanted to attend the gala for many years.

He chuckled, “They’ve been trying for me to come for years.” They wanted a mayor with swagger.