Academy Awards red carpet aside, the Met Gala is arguably the biggest night in fashion. Period. And although most of us understand the short of it i.e. celebrities arriving on a red carpet in outrageous get-ups, there’s actually much more to the event than just an opportunity for some of the biggest names in pop culture to have their picture taken.
So, to guide you through the upcoming Met Gala before the Instagram madness begins, we present a crash course in all things Costume Institute related.
What is the Met Gala actually?
It’s an annual charity event formally known as the Costume Institute Gala – the Met Ball or Met Gala, for short – established in 1948 by fashion publicist Eleanor Lambert as a means to raise funds for the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute in New York. The event takes place annually on the first Monday in May. Last year, the event raised around $13 million.
Fun fact: the Costume Institute was officially renamed in 2014 after Anna Wintour, editor-in-chief of American Vogue and artistic director of Condé Nast, who's served as the Met Gala’s chair since 1995 (excluding 1996 and 1998).
Every year, Wintour selects co-chairs and honorary chairs to assist her on the evening.
Though most of the details surrounding the actual event remain a secret – in large part due to Wintour's banning of all social media, including and especially selfies – it generally includes the OTT red carpet arrivals and posing on the Met stairs, a cocktail reception, tour of the exhibit, followed by a dinner with entertainment.
This year's Met Gala is sponsored by Gucci and – as always – Condé Nast.
Why do attendees dress up?
Hailed as "the Oscars of the East Coast", the Met Ball is the big bash that marks the opening of the dedicated fashion exhibit at the Anna Wintour Costume Center, which is only on view for a few months, so attendees dress up in celebration of that year’s chosen theme.
Who gets to go?
It's invitation only. Wintour oversees every last detail, from the guest list right down to the seating chart. This year, about 550 people are expected to attend, with tickets around $35,000 per person and tables ranging from $200,000 to $300,000.
Celebrities often attend with designers as dates, especially if a brand has bought a table, with the celebrities dressed by the designer or brand.
As of last year, no under 18s are allowed at the event.
Credit: Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty Images for The Metropolitan Museum of Art
The 2019 Met Gala
“Camp: Notes on Fashion”
...but what does it actually mean?
As with previous years, there's always some discussion around what exactly the theme encompasses and it's often left open to interpretation (though to an extent. Still confused? So is everyone else, really).
However, this year's theme is a play on an actual manifesto, a 1964 essay by American writer Susan Sontag titled "Notes on Camp".
Sontag herself has approximately 58 different interpretations of the word's meaning, some of which include:
“The essence of Camp is its love of the unnatural: of artifice and exaggeration" and
"A sensibility that, among other things, converts the serious into the frivolous" and
“The essential element is a seriousness that fails”.
This year's Co-Chairs and Honorary Chairs
Alessandro Michele, Harry Styles, Lady Gaga and Serena Williams.
Andrew Bolton, the Curator in Chief of the Costume Institute since 2017, has selected around 175 looks (men's and women's) from about 37 designers to be exhibited this year, officially opening to the public on May, 9.