The History of The Met Gala

The theme for the Met Gala 2018 was: “Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination”. And, it was the biggest exhibition curated for the Met so far. Even the Vatican lent some pieces.  Yes -there’s actually an exhibition. We get so caught up in the celebrity red carpet that it often overshadows the fact that there is an actual PHYSICAL exhibition.  Well, it is one of the most anticipated events of the year on the fashion calendar.  Anyway, back to the celebrity red carpet. Cole Sprouse and Lili Reinhart made their relationship “official”.  As did Shawn Mendes and Hailey Baldwin.

Sarah Jessica Parker wore a Nativity on her head, Zendaya was Joan of Arc, and Ariana Grande wore the Sistine Chapel on her dress. The Met Gala is fashion at its best. Basically, anyone who is anyone is invited, but what exactly is the Met Gala?

Met Gala
Beyoncé in Givenchy Haute Couture by Riccardo Tisci, 2012 Photo credit: Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty Images

What is the Met Gala?

The Metropolitan Museum of Art opened at the end of the 19th century and it is the largest museum of art in the world. According to it’s website, it was created by “businessmen and financiers as well as leading artists and thinkers of the day – who wanted to create a museum to bring art and art education to the American people”. All of that sounds very noble, don’t you think? So, now that we know where the gala is held let’s talk about why it was created.

For us muggles that look at the gala through our screens – it is a fabulous party full of A-listers dressed by fashion designers, where we’re not invited. But, why does the Met Gala exist apart to make us feel bad about ourselves? The Met Gala gets its name from his location at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Officially, it’s the Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute benefit, a black-tie extravaganza held the first Monday in May to raise money for the Costume Institute (a.k.a. the fashion department). Unofficially, it’s considered the Oscars of the East Coast.

Historically, the gala was created in 1948 when the Costume Institute was founded, and it was decided that American fashion industry would both help to curate the institute and supply its entire operating budget. Eleanor Lambert (she founded New York Fashion Week) ran the party. Matrons paid $50 to wear some of the Costume Institute’s gowns at a midnight supper in December. After her key associates such as like Diana Vreeland and Pat Buckley took turns co-chairing, Anna Wintour took over in 1995 and made it the event that we all know now.


Met Gala
Rihanna in Guo Peiguo, 2015

How does it work?

The gala is actually a major fundraising benefit that acts as an opening ceremony for the Institute’s annual fashion exhibit. After the gala, the exhibition runs for several weeks and you can go see it even if you weren’t invited to the ball. This year tickets for the ball were $30,000, and tables were about $275,000. The party and the exhibition are sponsored. Last year the gala raised $12 million. Yes, it’s all very, very expensive, but all of the money goes to the Costume Institute and makes up its budget for the year. It is necessary for the Costume Institute because it is the only Met curatorial department that has to fund itself.

Vogue and a sponsor typically finance the party, which is rumoured to cost about two million dollars to organise. Of course, not everyone pays for a ticket. A brand will often invite celebrities to sit at its table, and Ms. Wintour also often invites up-and-coming designers who may not be able to afford a ticket. If celebrities are invited to the gala by a brand, it is a rule that they have to wear clothes from that brand. This encourages the brands to get the best stars of the moment because then they act as an advertisement for a house. It is also why, whenever designers are photographed on the red carpet, their dates are almost always famous people. This year there was Alexander Wang with Kylie Jenner, Virgil Abloh with Kendall Jenner, Stuart Vevers with Selena Gomez and Cardi B with Jeremy Scott to name just a few.

Met Gla
Selena Gomez and Stuart Vevers in Coach, 2018

Can you go to the Gala?

Even if you’re fortunate enough to buy a ticket it doesn’t mean you can go. Anna Wintour has final say over every invitation. Which means that even if a company buys a table, it cannot choose everyone who sits at its table. It must submit the guest(s) to Wintour and Vogue — and then pray. Honestly, Anna Wintour is a genius for turning this fundraising opportunity into a marketing event.

What happens inside stays a secret. For the last three years, phones and pictures have been banned inside the gala; which contributes to it’s exclusivity. Dinner takes place in a different room each year and a surprise performance after dinner – this year it was Madonna.

So put on a ball gown, go visit the exhibition and it’s almost like you’re at the gala!

Met Gala
Sarah Jessica Parker in Dolce & Gabbana, 2018

So, who was your favourite outfit this year?

Post Author: Morgane Glain

Morgane Glain
Originally from France, I now live in England. I am an English Literature & Film graduate, and lifestyle and fashion blogger. If I am not writing, I love travelling and taking pictures. Catch me on Twitter @morganeglain

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