How it went from fundraiser to ‘fashion’s biggest night’

The Met Gala as we know it today is one of the biggest events for fashion, celebrities and pop culture.

However, it wasn’t always the starry, dramatic costume-filled night that it is now. It began as a charity event created by publicist Eleanor Lambert to raise funds for the then newly founded Costume Institute.

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The event took a cultural turn when Diana Vreeland was hired as a consultant for the Costume Institute, changing the location of the Met Gala to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and adding gala themes.

Now Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour oversees the benefits, guest list and theme, working closely with the Met each year for the event. She is also said to even approve what designers wear high profile guests and reject guests chosen by a table sponsor in favor of others.

Here, WWD breaks down everything you need to know about the history of the Met Gala. Scroll to find out more.

How did the Met Gala start?

The Met Gala was founded in 1948 by Lambert, a renowned fashion publicist, to raise money for the Costume Institute and to mark the opening of its annual exhibition. Lambert is also known for being the founder of the Council of Fashion Designers of America, which she established in 1962.

The Costume Institute, created by Irene Lewisohn and Aline Bernstein and originally called the Museum of Costume Art, merged with the Museum of Metropolitan Art in 1946.

The first Met Gala was a dinner held in December, with tickets at $50 each. From its inception until 1971, the event was not held at the Met as it is today, but at venues such as Central Park, the Rainbow Room and the Waldorf Astoria.

What was the original goal of the Met Gala?

The event began as a fundraiser for the Costume Institute, serving as the opening celebration for its annual exhibition. After the Met Gala, the exhibit is at the museum for several months.

Today, the Met Gala is still known as one of New York’s biggest fundraising benefits. According to Forbes, the Met Gala raised more than $175 million for the Costume Institute. Each year, the event manages to raise an abundance of funds, with the 2019 edition bringing in a record $15 million.

When did the Met Gala become a more social event?

Diana Vreeland and Yves Saint Laurent, 1983. - Credit: WWD/Archives

Diana Vreeland and Yves Saint Laurent, 1983. – Credit: WWD/Archives

WWD/Archives

After Vreeland’s tenure as editor-in-chief of Vogue, the famed French-American fashion editor and columnist joined the Costume Institute as a consultant, changing the cultural gears of the event.

It was under Vreeland’s time with the institute that the event became more elaborate and celebrity-focused as the guest list grew to include the biggest stars of the day, like Elizabeth Taylor, Diana Ross, Elton John, Cher, Andy Warhol, Liza Minelli. , Halston, Jackie Kennedy Onassis and Bianca Jagger, among others.

It was during Vreeland’s tenure that the event began to be held at the Met and gala themes were introduced. Instead of making it a typical charity event, Vreeland made it a party.

With the addition of socialite Pat Buckley, who was married to conservative author William F. Buckley, in 1978, the Met Gala established itself as one of the largest and most exclusive charity events on the social calendar. .

How have Met Gala costumes gotten more extravagant over the years?

Raquel Welch, Diane von Furstenberg and Diana Ross at the 1981 Met Gala. - Credit: WWD Archives

Raquel Welch, Diane von Furstenberg and Diana Ross at the 1981 Met Gala. – Credit: WWD Archives

WWD Archives

Under Vreeland, the Met Gala became more associated with popular culture, becoming an event with immense publicity and media coverage.

She introduced gala themes, the first being “The World of Balenciaga” in 1973. Other exhibitions she worked on with the Met included “Romantic and Glamorous Hollywood Design”, “Vanity Fair: A Treasure Trove” and “La Belle Époque,” ​​among others.

It wasn’t until 2004, when the theme was “Dangerous Liaisons: Fashion and Furniture in the 18th Century,” that the Met Gala became an event with more elaborate costume moments. Notably, actress Amber Valletta wore a Marie Antoinette-meets-punk rock look that year, with a nude corset by Maggie Norris Couture and a skirt by John Galliano, complete with an 18th-century hairstyle.

Over the years, exhibitions have also been dedicated to certain designers, such as Yves Saint Laurent, Gianni Versace, Christian Dior, Chanel, Alexander McQueen, Schiaparelli and Prada, among others.

Vreeland worked with the Met until his death in 1989.

Wintour took over as president in 1995, overseeing the benefit and the guest list, which is limited to approximately 650 to 700 people each year. She also changed the Met Gala date from December to the first Monday in May. In the past, the event was a cocktail followed by dinner; in recent years, dinner has become more appetizers.

How have ticket prices changed for the Met Gala?

Over time, ticket prices have increased significantly, with the current price of a ticket being around $30,000.

From the 1970s to the 1980s, the price of admission would always be under $1,000. In 1998, the price of a single ticket increased to $2,000. Three years later, it rose to $3,500.

In the 2010s, the Met Gala became a more celebrity-heavy event, with the addition of current pop culture icons such as Lady Gaga, Ariana Grande, Beyoncé, Rihanna, the Hadid sisters, the Kardashian-Jenner clan and more. In 2016, solo ticket prices were $25,000 and a table for 10 people could be purchased for $250,000, according to a report by WWD.

Typically, designers buy the tables and fill them with celebrities whom they dress for the event. However, each person on the guest list must be approved by the event chair: Wintour. And she’s picky – there are many stories of Wintour telling a company that bought a table that their intended guests weren’t up to her standards and instead she put other guests there (and that the company still had to pay).

What does the Met Gala look like now?

Lady Gaga - Credit: Lexie Moreland/WWD

Lady Gaga – Credit: Lexie Moreland/WWD

Lexie Moreland/WWD

Today, the Met Gala is still one of fashion’s biggest events today, known in popular culture as “Fashion’s Biggest Night”. But where once the soiree was considered the pinnacle of chic fashion, in recent years it has become a platform for many celebrities to flaunt their more outrageous sides.

Celebrities such as Kim Kardashian, Rihanna, Kendall Jenner, Gigi Hadid, Madonna and more attend the exclusive event dressed to the nines, wearing custom-designed suits from some of the top fashion houses. Last year, Balenciaga dressed Kardashian and Rihanna while Jenner and Hadid wore Givenchy and Prada respectively.

In 2019, with the theme ‘Camp: Notes on Fashion’, stars like Lady Gaga and Billy Porter made history their grand entrances, the former strutting four different outfits on the red carpet , all designed by Brandon Maxwell, while Porter arrived dressed as an Egyptian pharaoh with an outfit by The Blonds, even worn by six men on the carpet.

At the event, there’s a strict no-social-media policy, although some celebrities still manage to sneak in a few photos or two. A favorite spot for selfies in years past was the Women’s Room, where many designers (including men) and models would sneak in and grab a cigarette – until the Met put a firm foothold and banned the practice .

When is the 2022 Met Gala?

This year’s Met Gala will take place at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 2. Last year, the annual event was postponed to September due to the pandemic.

The 2022 Met Gala and ensuing museum exhibition focuses on the theme “In America: A Fashion Anthology.” The dress code this year will be “Gilded Glamour”, which is inspired by The Gilded Age in New York between 1870 and 1890.

Each year, the co-chairs of the event change. This year, Blake Lively, Ryan Reynolds, Lin-Manuel Miranda and Regina King were named co-chairs.

LEARN MORE HERE:

Everything you need to know about the 2022 Met Gala

Blake Lively, Ryan Reynolds, Regina King and Lin-Manuel Miranda to co-host the 2022 Met Gala

How American was this year’s Met Gala red carpet?

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