The Stylish History of The Met Gala
Most of us know the Met Gala to be one of the biggest nights in fashion. Models, entertainers, actors, and industry insiders bring their fashion A-game to the steps of the legendary Metropolitan Museum of Art.
It is the most-awaited red carpet of the year, and the Met Gala has become something of a holiday for fashion fanatics. At the event, celebrities raise money for the museum's Costume Institute. Since the first Met Gala in the 1940s, much has changed, as attendance has become more exclusive and the event has become more elaborate.
The Met Gala was initially known as the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute Benefit, and it is a fundraiser for the museum's fashion department.
The beginning of the event came when theater producer Irene Lewisohn and stage designer Alice Bernstein decided to create a collection of costumes that designers could consult for inspiration. Over the years, the collection has grown to more than eight thousand costumes.
The First Met Gala Took Place In December 1948
The first Met Gala was held in December 1948 and was created by fashion publicist and CFDA founder Eleanor Lambert. It was started to raise money for the Costume Institute and mark the opening of the annual exhibit. In fact, the Costume Institute became a part of the Met two years prior to the first Gala.
It is also the only department at the Met that has to fund itself. Since 2015, the Met Gala has raised roughly one hundred and forty-five million dollars for the Costume Institute.
The Event Started Off As A Fundraiser For The Costume Institute
The Gala is the Costume Institute's biggest fundraiser, and the event was originally called the Party of the Year. From 1948 until 1971, the event wasn't pegged to an exhibition and was held off-site at the Waldorf Astoria or the Rainbow Room.
Guests were mostly New York society types, and they would indulge in fine dining while being entertained by "skits, raffles, and pageants of models in historic costume," according to records.
In the 1970s, Diana Vreeland started working for the Costume Institute, and she took over the organizing of the Met Gala. She used her influence and big-name draw, from celebrities to designers and politicians, to give the Met Gala the element of exclusivity.
She also got the press to cover the event, noting it as a place to find the latest fashion. Vreeland arrived with her larger-than-life perspective and brought in its haute couture, even costume-like, elements.
Anna Wintour's Influence
Anna Wintour took the event and ran with it, moving the event to springtime. She wanted people to be able to choose more daring outfits without having to worry about the bitter cold. She also changed the event by hiring more culturally relevant entertainers, such as Rihanna and Kanye West.
Cathy Horyn wrote, "Ms. Wintour has used an intimate understanding of fashion, and of her own role in that universe, to transform a dowager social event into a frenzied red-carpet romp that now surpasses, at least in terms of frocks, the Oscars."
The Theme Announcement Is An Important One
The themes are determined by paying tribute to designers' pasts and the theme of the upcoming exhibition. The theme announcement is an important one because it dictates the dress code, the décor, and the larger purpose of the night itself.
It's a display of art as fashion and fashion as art, showing how both forms comprise and define our cultural fabric. The themes are chosen with the utmost consideration.
The First Monday In May Tradition Only Dates Back To 2005
From 2001 until 2004, the Met Gala was held in late April, and before that, it was held in late November or early December. However, in 2000, the Institute canceled its scheduled winter exhibition with Chanel, and that's when things changed.
The Met backed out of the exhibition after disagreements, and the event was moved to November or December. In 2005, the tradition of the event being held on the first Monday in May began.
The Gala's Biggest Names Are A-List Models, Musicians, And Actors
The people that are invited to attend the Met Gala are the biggest names in the world. The gala's biggest names include A-list models, actors, and musicians.
However, sometimes a megawatt outsider will be there, such as when Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis co-chaired the event in 1977 and 1978. Also making appearances were Princess Diana and Henry Kissinger.
The Cocktail Hour
The Met Gala, of course, starts with the highly anticipated red carpet. The attendees then enjoy the cocktail hour. Celebrities and guests mingle during cocktail hour and get to tour the actual exhibition.
They enjoy some drinks, get to visit with the other celebrities, and admire all of the amazing costumes and outfits. The exhibition opens to the public a few days after the event.
After cocktail hour, the celebs sit down for a formal dinner in their assigned seating. Party planner Eaddy Kiernan said, "We really try to think very carefully about who's sitting next to each other. Our ideal pairing would maybe be two people who we think will just get on like a house on fire but who may not even realize that they have a lot in common."
"So, with each person, we really do take time to think, 'What will they talk about?' We try and think a lot about sight lines and where people have sat in the past. And we try to make sure someone isn't staring into the eyes of a former flame."
Kim Kardashian Is American Fashion
Kim Kardashian's outfit at the 2021 Met Gala was definitely a memorable one. She shocked fans once again when she walked the steps in a tight head-to-toe black outfit. Her outfit was designed by Balenciaga's creative director Demna.
The only part of Kim that was exposed was her ponytail. The designer stated that the outfit was a tribute to how Kardashian "redefined our understanding of what beauty is." Kim wasn't a fan at first because she didn't want her face covered up.
Lady Gaga Puts On A Show
At the 2019 Met Gala, under the theme "Camp: Notes on Fashion," Lady Gaga put on a show. She came to the event wearing a Brandon Maxwell masterpiece, which consisted of her stripping off layer after layer. She eventually was stripped down to her sheer undergarments. She walked to the Metropolitan Museum of Art steps with five dancers, a makeup artist, and a personal photographer.
She started in a pink cape dress with a bow and a twenty-five-foot train. She then revealed a corsetted black dress beneath with opera gloves. Next was a bright pink and form-fitting column with sunglasses. Finally, she ended up in a crystal bra and panties.
Breaking The Selfie Ban
Anna Wintour established a 'no selfie' rule in 2015 in order to keep with the event's exclusivity. All guests receive a notice warning saying, "the use of phones for photography and social media will not be permitted inside the gala."
However, it has been a ritual for celebrities to break it. In 2017, Kylie Jenner, Kim Kardashian, and a group of celebrities broke the policy and delivered an epic photo.
Princess Diana Attends In 1996
In 1996, Princess Diana, the Princess of Wales, attended the Met Costume Institute Gala with her friend, the late Liz Tilberis. She was fresh off her divorce from Prince Charles and chose to wear a daring dress.
She wore a midnight blue dress from creative director John Galliano's first collection with the house. She paired it with blue drop sapphire earrings surrounded by diamonds and a matching choker. It caused some controversy, but it also became an iconic look.
Haute Couture Makes Its Entrance
Anna Wintour took over the operations of the Met Gala in 1995, and she focused the exhibit and event around Haute Couture. That also brought in supermodels, including Naomi Campbell, Christy Turlington, Kate Moss, designer Calvin Klein, and more.
The event that year was star-studded and served as an inspiration for many more galas to come. It started to be more of a costume event as the years went on.
Jackie O's Appearance In 1979
In 1979, Jacqueline Kennedy made a rare appearance at the Met Gala and caused quite a stir fit for a first lady. That was her first Met Gala appearance but she was involved as co-chair of the 1976 and 1977 exhibitions.
Decades later, her incomparable and iconic style became the focus of the Met's 2001 exhibit "Jacqueline Kennedy: The White House Years – Selections from the John F. Kennedy Library and Museum."
A big-name performer puts on a show at the Met Gala every year, but the evening usually ends pretty early. It allows the celebrities time to change outfits and hit the after-parties.
In 2015, Rihanna performed, but she reportedly requested one million dollars for her services. Some of the other people who have performed include Lady Gaga, Florence + the Machine, Bruno Mars, Kanye West, and Frank Ocean.
Ticket Prices Are Outrageously Expensive
The Met Gala is by invitation only, and there are usually five to six hundred guests. Guests still have to pay for their tickets even when invited, and the tickets cost about thirty-five thousand dollars.
When the Gala first started, tickets cost about fifty dollars, but now for a table of ten, it will cost about two hundred and fifty thousand dollars. However, after opening night, you can visit the exhibition while it's there.
Hostess Anna Wintour Greets Each And Every Guest As They Enter The Building
Hostess Anna Wintour greets every single guest as they enter the building, but her time is strictly monitored. The guests are not allowed to take more than twenty seconds to say hello to Wintour. Wintour has been described as "militant" during the party.
She makes sure that every guest has a prearranged arrival time, and Wintour's people even know what cars they will be arriving in. They also know if they've left the house, what they will be wearing, and if they have anything broken in their costume.
Cellphones And All Forms Of Social Media Are Officially Banned
In 2015, cell phones and all forms of social media were officially banned from the Met Gala event. The reason that they were banned was so that attendees would be able to live in and enjoy the moment.
However, fans loved when selfies were taken because it would give them a little peak inside the event, but that won't be the case anymore. Wintour enforces it because it is meant to help ensure the security and enjoyment of the high-profile guests in attendance.
Celebrities Often Arrive With Their Own Bodyguards, On Top Of The Security That Is Provided
Most of the celebrities usually arrive at the Gala with their own bodyguards, even though security is provided at the event. They do this because many of the celebrities come to the Gala wearing millions of dollars worth of diamonds and jewelry.
"Once a stylist makes initial selections, we will usually need to bring jewelry to a fitting with the celebrity a day or two before the event. On the big day, high-security measures are taken to protect the diamonds at all times. The borrowed pieces are usually bigger, bolder pieces; after all, this is the Met Gala, so they are definitely insured, and strict security measures are put in place to protect the star and the Tacori jewels they wear." ----- Kristen.
All Attendees Must Be Over The Age Of 18
Just four years ago, a rule was put in place that all attendees must be over the age of eighteen. The new age restriction had nothing to do with the theme or the church.
Instead, it was an executive decision that it was just not an appropriate event for people under eighteen. However, there are exceptions for those that are accompanied by their parents. Not to mention, there is alcohol at the event.
1971 Was The First Year That The Met Hosted The Met Gala
The Met first hosted the Met Gala in 1971, and the theme was "Fashion Plate." Merriam-Webster defines it as a person who dresses very fashionably.
Today, it's one of the biggest fashion events of the year, and everyone goes all out in their costumes. Designers share their illustrations for their garments. In the first year of the Met Gala, guests just wore their finest garments.
1974: "Romantic And Glamorous Hollywood Design"
The Met Gala's theme in 1974 was "Romantic and Glamorous Hollywood Design." It was supposed to be the glamor of Old Hollywood, and big feathers, sparkles, and elegant gowns were all the rage. Cher's outfit was the showstopper, as she brought themes of Hollywood to her taste. She came in wearing a sheer glitter and feather-tight dress designed by Bob Mackie.
Mackie stated, "Not everything I made for Cher was provocative. She never looked vulgar in anything because she had such an incredible body and she carried it well. She wore it like she was wearing a T-shirt and jeans."
1975: "American Women Of Style"
The Met Gala's theme in 1975 was "American Women of Style." It was a theme that gave women the spotlight. Prominent figures from the 1800s to the late 1900s were acknowledged for their impeccable taste.
Some of the women honored were Irene Castle, Isadora Duncan, and Josephine Baker. The attendees channeled these stylish and iconic women in their outfits for the evening.
1981: "The Eighteenth-Century Woman"
The Met Gala's theme in 1981 was "The Eighteenth-Century Woman." The designers looked back to the eighteenth century for design inspiration. The theme brought back squared necklines, bouffant skirts, and small waistlines.
Diana Ross had jaws on the floor with her feathery off-the-shoulder gown, which she wore again in 2014 at the American Music Awards. Bianca Jagger also looked amazing in her dress designed by Halston.
1982: "La Belle Epoque"
The Met Gala's theme in 1982 was "La Belle Epoque." The period started in the early 1800s and spanned to the beginning of World War I. It was a period characterized by optimism, economic prosperity, and technological and scientific progress.
The period took control of France and other parts of Europe. At the time, women wore tight-fitting corsetted dresses, and men wore dashing suits. The period was reimagined in the modern era for the Met Gala.
2008: "Superheroes: Fashion And Fantasy"
The Met Gala's theme in 2008 was "Superheroes: Fashion and Fantasy." Most of us would think of capes and masks, but the guests took the theme and turned it into fashion interpretations of superhero costumes.
Victoria Beckham showed up wearing a supervillain-inspired Giorgio Armani gown with a high neck and a plunging neckline. Kate Bosworth took the comic book theme to heart and wore a colorful Chanel gown.
2009: "The Model As Muse: Embodying Fashion"
The Met Gala's theme in 2009 was "The Model as Muse: Embodying Fashion." The theme was really up to interpretation and allowed designers to take their imagination in any direction they wanted. Some guests went all out with Avant Garde looks, but others decided to play it safe.
It was meant to be American fashion, but Anne Hathaway and Kristen Stewart wore beautiful dresses from European houses. However, Blake Lively commanded attention in a plunging blue Versace gown with asymmetric sleeves and flattering strappy sandals.
2011: "Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty"
The Met Gala's theme in 2011 was "Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty." This was a year after the passing of Alexander McQueen. The Gala honored the late designer's incredible legacy.
Guests that were still mourning the designer attended the Gala in his honor in different variations of McQueen's designs. Some guests wore his own label, but others chose to highlight his aesthetic with different brands.
2012: "Schiaparelli And Prada: Impossible Conversations"
The Met Gala's theme in 2012 was "Schiaparelli and Prada: Impossible Conversations." The theme focused on the ideals of Elsa Schiaparelli, who made a name for herself in the 1920s and 1930s.
The event also focused on Miuccia Prada, who made a name for herself in the 1980s and 1990s. Both women shared similar ideals and principles. Several of the guests wore Prada, but there were some that went with Miu Miu, a subsidiary of Prada's grandfather's design house.
2013: "Punk: Chaos To Couture"
One of the most fun themes was in 2013, with "Punk: Chaos to Couture." It was a chance to dress like a high-fashion Avril Lavigne, but it seemed like punk intimidated many of the attendees.
The theme was timidly embraced and, in some cases, not embraced at all. However, Miley Cyrus in Marc Jacobs and Christina Ricci in Vivienne Westwood understood the assignment.
2014: "Charles James: Beyond Fashion"
The Met Gala's theme for 2014 was "Charles James: Beyond Fashion." Charles James was an American fashion icon, and his work still impacts the modern red carpet.
He is known for his ball gowns and tailoring, and the stars who donned true ballgowns were Claire Danes, Jessica Parker, and Karolina Kurkova. This theme resulted in a very pretty red carpet, but also kind of boring.
2015: "China: Through The Looking Glass"
The Met Gala theme for 2015 was "China: Through the Looking Glass." This year was and will forever be known as the Met Gala of Rihanna's epic gold train. Many were inspired to wear black, red, or gold, with Justin Bieber showing up in an intricately embroidered Balmain jacket.
Rihanna showed up in a heavily embroidered, imperial yellow, fur-trimmed gown by Chinese designer Guo Pei. Her look set the standard for how to make fashion history at the Met Gala.
2016: "Manus x Machina: Fashion In An Age Of Technology"
The Met Gala theme for 2016 was "Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology." The notes described the theme as reconciling the handmade and the machine-made. It was the hope to mix the details of master artisans with the work of the newest technology.
However, we saw metallic, black, and more metallic, with mostly short dresses. In addition, most of the men's classic suits outfits were disappointing, but Claire Danes truly embraced the theme in a sculpted Zac Posen gown made with fiber optic-woven organza that literally glowed.
2017: "Rei Kawakubo/Comme Des Garcons: Art Of The In-Between"
The Met Gala's theme for 2017 was "Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garcons: Art of the In-Between." It was to challenge conventional notions of beauty, which meant risks had to be taken.
Rihanna understood the assignment and showed up in her Comme des Garcons dress. Others that went all out were Hailee Steinfeld in Vera Wang, Liu Wen in Off-White, and Kim Kardashian in Vivienne Westwood.
2018: "Heavenly Bodies: Fashion And The Catholic Imagination"
The Met Gala theme for 2018 was "Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination." It was a theme with hundreds of years of references to pull from. It was labeled the most well-executed Met Gala to date.
Kim Kardashian came in a Versace dress that looked poured on, Zendaya wore armor as fashion's Joan of Arc in Atelier Versace, and Rihanna came in Margiela dressed as the actual Pope. There were very few boring looks in 2018.
2019: "Camp: Notes On Fashion"
The Met Gala theme for 2019 was "Camp: Notes on Fashion." The purpose was to wear something that showed the influence of the camp's disruptive nature and subversion of modern aesthetic values. However, no one really knew what all of that meant, and how do you define camp?
Zendaya came in a Disney Cinderella gown illuminated when her stylist waved a wand. Cardi B wore a red Thom Browne creation with forty-four carats worth of rubies as nipple covers and a very heavy train. Until this Gala, men treated the event like any other event and wore the typical suit or tuxedo. Finally, men were delivering fashion.
2021: "In America: A Lexicon Of Fashion"
The Met Gala theme for 2021 was "In America: A Lexicon of Fashion." The challenge was for the celebrities to answer the question: Who gets to be an American?
Lupita Nyong'o wore a Versace gown made of denim, Kate Hudson gave off Barbie vibes in a baby pink Michael Kors Collection ensemble, and Rihanna was in Balenciaga Couture with diamonds dripping from underneath a beanie.
2022: "In America: An Anthology Of Fashion"
The Met Gala theme for 2022 was "In America: An Anthology of Fashion." The theme was supposed to look at the evolution of American fashion and the individuals who played a role. The dress code was gilded with glamor and white tie and channeling the time period between 1870 and 1890.
Kim Kardashian came in a vintage Jean Louis gown and Cartier jewelry, Bella Hadid was in a Burberry gown and Briony Raymond jewelry, and Ciara was in a Michael Kors Collection gown and Jimmy Choo platforms.
2019: Billy Porter Gets Carried In On A Litter
In 2019, Billy Porter was carried in on a litter at the Met Gala. He stole the show when he entered draped in gold and was carried on a velvet litter by six shirtless men wearing shiny gold pants and headpieces.
Porter wore a custom Sun God ensemble by The Blonds, including a bejeweled catsuit outfitted with ten-foot wings and a twenty-four-karat gold headpiece.
2018: Katy Perry's Outfit Needed An Open-Top Vehicle
At the Met Gala in 2018, Katy Perry wore such a huge outfit that she had to travel in a vintage convertible to the event. She was wearing massive white and gold wings, along with a gold minidress and knee-high boots.
The crowd was pretty stunned by her outfit, and she even paused at one point on the steps to kneel in prayer. She also took in the moments before her red carpet arrival by capturing screaming fans from the window of her car.
Kim Kardashian Finally Got Invited In 2013, But Then She Became A Meme
Kim Kardashian was not invited to the Met Gala until 2013, but it didn't go as she planned. Wintour didn't invite her for years because she didn't consider reality-TV stars to be on the same plane as Hollywood A-listers.
However, she went in 2013 as Kanye West's date. Kim was pregnant with North and wore a bold body-hugging Givenchy dress in a floral print. Unfortunately, the internet turned her into a meme, referring to her as a couch and Mrs. Doubtfire.
During An After Party For The 2014 Met Gala, Solange Knowles Appeared To Attack Jay-Z In An Elevator
In 2014, during an after-party for the Met Gala, Solange Knowles appeared to attack Jay-Z in an elevator. The footage showed Solange attacking her brother-in-law while Beyonce stood by. No one really knew what had happened or why.
The family released a statement saying, "The most important thing is that our family has worked through it. Both acknowledge their role in this private matter that has played out in public. They both have apologized to each other, and we have moved forward as a united family."
2015: Rihanna Stole The Show With Her Yellow Dress
In 2015, Rihanna stole the spotlight at the Met Gala with her stunning yellow Guo Pei dress. She stole the show with the dress but also because it was designed by a Chinese designer.
There were several celebrities that incorporated nods to Chinese culture for the event, but few actually wore something designed by Chinese designers. Reportedly, Rihanna researched Chinese couture and found the dress. The dress took Guo Pei two years to make.
2018: Nicki Minaj, Jeremy Scott, And Cardi B Accidentally Recreated A Famous Artwork
In 2018, there was a photo taken of Nicki Minaj greeting a pregnant Cardi B as designer Jeremy Scott stood close behind the pair.
Later, a Twitter user pointed out that the photo is very reminiscent of the painting Visitation by Renaissance artist Jacques Daret. It was made even better because the theme was "Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination."
2018: Amal Clooney Wearing Richard Quinn
In 2018, George Clooney was one of the night's hosts, which meant the pressure was on him and his wife, Amal, to wear something remarkable. Amal Clooney didn't collaborate with one of the industry's biggest names.
Instead, she turned to emerging London designer Richard Quinn. She ended up giving him a huge international platform in the process. Her look had tailored trousers and a corset with a flowing skirt.
2017: Cara Delevingne Wearing Chanel
Cara Delevingne has walked the red carpet every year since 2011, making her a Met Gala regular. In 2017, she pulled out all the stops, showing up in Chanel. She looked fierce in an embellished Chanel suit and matching accessories.
She even had a shaved head due to a film role, and she embraced her new look by spray painting her head silver to match her look. Tom Brady and Gisele Bundchen also turned heads as they hit the steps of the Metropolitan Museum of Art coordinated in silver.
2023: "Karl Lagerfeld: A Line Of Beauty"
This year's Met Gala, in 2023, the theme is "Karl Lagerfeld: A Line of Beauty." The hosts of the evening will be Micaela Coel, Dua Lipa, Penelope Cruz, and Roger Federer. The night is to remember the late Karl Lagerfeld. Fendi is the Creative Director of Chanel, his own eponymous brand, which means there is no shortage of ways for celebrities to pay tribute to the legendary designer's legacy.
Lagerfeld was one of the most influential figures in fashion. Andrew Bolton stated, "We always try to have a menu of shows that are dynamic, that go back and forth on subjects from the past and the present."