Monday evening is the Metropolitan Museum of Art Anna Wintour Costume Institute Gala. Under the direction of Vogue’s editor-in chief and the artistic director of Condé Nast Anna Wintour, who has been honored with a relatively recently renamed Costume Institute, the annual gala has become the undisputed event of the year on the New York social schedule and has raised more than $145 million for the Costume Institute (the party funds its operating budget in its entirety).
Vogue's André Leon Talley described the event, which got its start in 1946 and has thrived under the watch of Wintour since 1999, as "the Super Bowl of fashion." On the first Monday in May, he says, "everyone comes to the Metropolitan Museum of Art for the annual fundraising gala celebrating the Costume Institute’s magnificent new exhibition on a changing theme." Vogue contributing editor and celebrity stylist Elizabeth Salesman says that it is "a wonderful, glorious opportunity to create business and buzz about the industry.”
Speaking more specifically, what does the affair entail in terms of cost, guest list, dress code and invited guests? Read on ...
The Met Gala 600-700 attendees – which, over the years, have included everyone from Princess Diana, Diana Ross, and Cher to Beyonce, Rihanna, Kim and Kanye, Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, and every major designer you can think of – are invited and/or pre-approved by Wintour herself. Once they get the "ok" to attend, they must pay $25,000 for an individual ticket (unless the attendee is a guest of another attendee, who bought their ticket, of course) or commit to $275,000 for a table of 10.
The guest list, itself, it is notoriously strict. While Kim Kardashian and Kanye West, for instance, have attended recent year’s gala, Kardashian was reportedly banned in years prior. Moreover, according to a recent article by the New York Times' Vanessa Friedman, “Rumors have gone around for years that Ms. Wintour turns away guests she does not know or who she feels do not fit the image she wants her event to project. Radar Online reported in 2013 that she had “banned” cast members from the “The Real Housewives of New York City” from buying a table.”
Also on the blacklist: The U.S. President. In an appearance on The Late Late Show with James Corden last year, Wintour was asked which celebrity she would not invite back to the Met Gala and, without pausing for a beat, she replied: “Donald Trump.”
Each Met Gala, which is complete with a red carpet spectacle, a cocktail hour, formal dinner, and musical performances, has a theme that is in-tune with an exhibit at the Costume Institute. The corresponding exhibit opens the following day. One of the most notable in recent years: Savage Beauty, a collection of garments and accessories in honor of the late Alexander McQueen.
Since then, themes have included PUNK: Chaos to Couture and Charles James: Beyond Fashion, China: Through the Looking Glass, Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology, and last year's Comme des Garcons-themed affair.
The Gala, itself, coincides with a Costume Institute exhibit of the same name. This year, that will be a collection of 50 or so ecclesiastical garments and accessories on loan from the Vatican, multiple works from the Met’s own collection of religious art and 150 designer garments that have been inspired by Catholic iconography or style." The theme is, after all, Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination.
As for the co-hosts, these change every year, with the exception of Wintour, of course. Christine and Stephen A. Schwarzman (Mr. Schwarzman is chairman of Blackstone, the private equity group that acquired a 20 percent stake in Versace in 2014) will be honorary chairs of the 2018 gala, along with Wintour and a museum trustee; Donatella Versace; Amal Clooney; and Rihanna.
And finally ... the dress code. Leon Tally told Vogue in an interview last month that the "dress codes vary," meaning that guests are encouraged to dress according to the event's theme. For men, that is most traditionally black tie.