Raising up to $22M: How the Met Gala became “The Party of the Year”

Raising up to $22M: How the Met Gala became “The Party of the Year”

by Robyn Pullen
6 min

Next Monday, some of the world’s most-watched celebrities and designers will hit up New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art to eat, drink, and take bathroom selfies in their “The Garden of Time” themed fits. Why? Because, of course, it’s the Met Gala. But do you know how the Met Gala came to be the fashion event of the year?

The Met Gala’s low-key era

Founded by fashion publicist Eleanor Lambert, the Met Gala was actually started as a fundraiser for the Costume Institute at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, and quickly grew into the can’t-be-missed fashion event we know it as today. The first ever Met Gala happened back in December 1948, and offered New York’s celebrities, socialites, and philanthropists the chance to attend the self-described “Party of the Year,” which was written on the front of their invites.

@metmuseum ©

Back in 1948, Lambert charged its guests $50 for a ticket to her midnight party – a price we’d happily pay. Unfortunately, today the event’s a little more exclusive than that, mainly down to Anna Wintour… but we’ll get to that later. Throughout the following decades, the Met Gala became notorious, catching the eyes of the likes of Jackie Kennedy and Princess Diana who both attended the event. Up until the ‘70s it was hosted at a different Manhattan-based venue every year, moving around the city of New York. So, why did this change? Because Diana Vreeland came onto the scene.

The Met Gala becomes The Met Gala

Diana Vreeland, Editor-in-Chief at Vogue, became consultant to the Met’s Costume Institute in 1973 and basically made the event what we know it as today. She was the one to suggest that the Gala be held at the Met Museum only from then on, and that themes be introduced to the event. If you know anything about the Met Gala, you’ll be aware that it eventually became known for its avante-garde themes, with annual theme announcements being highly anticipated every year by the fashion industry.

Vreeland advised the Met Gala for a number of years, before she was exceeded by the woman you’ll recognise at the event for her razor sharp bob: Anna Wintour. As Vogue’s reigning Editor-in-Chief, Wintour stepped into the role of lead chairperson to the Met Gala in 1995, and took the opportunity to bring the event into the 21st century. Anna Wintour doesn’t work alone, though. Every year she collaborates with a selection of co-chairs, this year inviting Bad Bunny, Chris Hemsworth, J-Lo, and Zendaya to shape and promote the event.

In her time, Anna Wintour’s moved the Met Gala to the first Monday in May, organised celebrity performances by the likes of Rihanna and Madonna, and banned selfies at the event (which is why everyone takes them in the bathroom). She even went through a phase in the late 2010s when she opened the Met’s doors to influencers, but that was short lived…

What we come for: the fashion
@metmuseum ©

Whilst the fundraising, historic art, and rich culture are all perks of the Met Gala, you have to admit, we all come to see the celebrities, and more specifically, what they’re wearing. From its start, clothing at the Met Gala – largely because its entire purpose is to raise money for the Costume Institute – has stolen the show, with icons like Rihanna’s golden omelette gown by Guo Pei or Lady Gaga’s three-part performance in the form of a Brandon Maxwell design.

Whilst every year the same group of celebrities run the Met Gala – we’re looking at you, Zendaya – a lot of whether guests dress “on-theme” depends on what the theme actually is. For example, we can all appreciate that 2021’s “America: A Lexicon of Fashion” had its attendees kinda confused, with Frank Ocean screwing the theme entirely and showing up with a green, robot baby in his arms. In contrast, 2019’s “Camp: Notes on Fashion” was much easier to dress for, with almost every celebrity showing up in the campest looks, from Zendaya’s Cinderella-gown by Tommy Hilfiger to Janelle Monáe going avant-garde in Christian Siriano.

What’s going down at the 2024 Met Gala?

The Met Gala 2024 will be hosted on Monday May 6th at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (but you already knew that), and will see Anna Wintour joined by her trusty group of co-chairs who have each supported her in promoting this year’s event. In the past, the Met Gala’s given us some iconic moments, both good and bad, from Rihanna’s couture gown by Chinese designer Guo Pei in 2015 for the theme “China: Through the Looking Glass,” to Jared Leto’s ode to Karl Lagerdeld’s cat Choupette in 2023 for the Met Gala in memory of the designer’s work.

This year, with an exhibition around “Sleeping Beauties: Reawakening Fashion” and a theme entitled “The Garden of Time,” we’re no doubt set to see some creativity in this year’s Met Gala fits. But whether celebs step out in full florals or archival looks, only time will tell. Whether you come for the fashion, the drama, or the bathroom selfies, we all stay for the sense of superiority gained by judging celebrities outfits, so tune into our channels next Monday May 6th at 6pm ET to have your say.

Featured image via @maisonvalentino©

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