Every year, on the first Monday of May, the world’s most glamorous celebrities get together at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (or the Met) on Fifth Avenue in New York for a gala organised by prestigious fashion magazine Vogue. First introduced in 1948 as a midnight supper, the red-carpet event raises money for the Met’s Costume Institute.
the lewisohn sisters
The Costume Institute was founded as an independent museum in 1937. It was led by the Neighborhood Playhouse a drama company founded by two sisters, Irene and Alice Lewisohn. They wished to foment creative engagement around acting, theatre production, costume and stage design. In 1946, with the financial support of the fashion industry, the Costume Institute merged with the Met. Today, the Institute holds a collection of more than 33,000 pieces of clothing, jewellery and accessories that document fashion from the 15th century to today.
Queen of Style
Also known as the Costume Institute Benefit, the Met Gala is the museum's main source of annual funding. It also acts as a celebration of the opening of the Costume Institute’s spring exhibition and a theme is chosen based on the subject of the exhibition. Since 1995, Vogue’s British-American editor-in-chief Anna Wintour has organised and presided over the Met Gala.
The gala is renowned for its famous guests, their flamboyant costumes and their magnificent entrance. Celebrities from multiple entertainment spheres walk up a red carpet rolled out on the museum’s iconic steps. The monumental staircase, surrounded by trees and fountains, is a tourist hub in its own right. On Met Gala night, scores of photographers gather around it to take pictures. From Lady Diana to top model Naomi Campbell, from singers Cher and Rihanna to Kim Kardashian and congress woman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the world’s most recognisable faces are photographed as they interact at this event.
THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA
Wintour has the last word on the fashion sense of the celebrities that appear at the gala, much like magazine mogul Miranda Priestly, Meryl Streep’s fictional character in the film The Devil Wears Prada (2006). The film character is, in fact, commonly understood to be based on Wintour. The 2003 novel the film is based on was written by Lauren Weisberger, who had worked as Wintour’s personal assistant. Wintour is so important in the fashion world that since 2014 the Costume Institute has been called the Anna Wintour Costume Center.
karl the icon
This year, the 2023 Met Gala takes place on 1 May. The theme and that of the spring exhibition is ‘Karl Lagerfeld: a Line of Beauty’ in honour of the German designer who died in 2019. Dua Lipa, Penélope Cruz, retired tennis player Roger Federer and screenwriter and actress Michaela Coel will be co-chairing the event this year. Guests pay around $35,000 for tickets, with some tables costing from $200,000 to $300,000. In 2022, a record $17.4 million was raised for the Costume Institute.
LADY GAGA’S SHOW
In 2019, under the ‘Camp: Notes on Fashion’ theme, singer and actress Lady Gaga’s Brandon Maxwell look was not simply a look, but a whole show. In what was truly performance art, Lady Gaga appeared on the Gala’s red carpet in a platinum blonde wig and wearing a wide, bright fucsia dress with a lengthy tail that covered her like a coat. She proceeded to take it off, to reveal a wide, black dress under it. Then, the singer had this dress taken off too, and revealed a tight, tube, bright fucsia dress which she matched with disproportionately big black glasses. But her show did not stop there: she went on undressing and was only left with her black, sparkly lingerie and her equally sparkly, sheer black tights which matched her stilettos. It was Lady Gaga’s show, and the rest of the guests were just living in it.
Top Five: Met Gala Looks
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Tiare Gatti Mora asks London fashion school Central Saint Martins' graduate Laura Magro about the so-called 'Oscars of fashion': the iconic Met Gala, held on every first Monday of May. On this occasion, the world's most famous celebrities flood New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art. Find out all about this magical evening and, if you enjoy this interview, do not miss our articles on this topic: