The Costume Institute Benefit—also known as The Met Gala—began in 1948 as a midnight supper that invited guests could attend for fifty dollars a ticket. The brainchild of publicity doyenne Eleanor Lambert, who dubbed it the "Party of the Year," the event raised funds to support The Costume Institute and celebrated the opening of its major annual exhibition. Since then, the benefit has grown in size, scope, and profile, and remains the vitally important main source of funding for the department's exhibitions, acquisitions, and capital improvements.
During Diana Vreeland's years as special consultant to The Costume Institute (1972–1989), the annual event became a grand fête for both the social and art worlds, with luminaries such as Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and Pat Buckley serving as co-chairs.
In 1995 Anna Wintour—artistic director of Condé Nast and editor-in-chief of Vogue, and a Met Trustee—took over as co-chair and has overseen the party ever since (excluding the 1996 and 1998 events). Wintour has built the event into one of the most visible and successful fundraisers in the world, drawing guests from the worlds of fashion, film, society, sports, business, and music.
Held on the first Monday in May (the name of the documentary about the making of the 2015 gala and the exhibition China: Through the Looking Glass), the party is sometimes referred to as the "Oscars of the East Coast" or the "Super Bowl of Fashion."
On Monday, May 4, we were meant to celebrate the opening About Time: Fashion and Duration, and witness the red carpet's high fashion and the unfolding of another Party of the Year. As this year's event is on hold due to the global health crisis, here is a look back at some of my favorite Met Gala moments—from towering superheroes atop the Great Hall information desk, to Rihanna in her much-memed golden Guo Pei cape on the red carpet and Billy Porter arriving like no one else.
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About Time: Fashion and Duration will be on view at The Met Fifth Avenue from October 29, 2020 through February 7, 2021.
View images of selected objects featured in the exhibition.
Read a "Now at The Met" interview with Pulitzer Prize winner Michael Cunningham and excerpt from his short story, "Out of Time."
Watch a video of Met Gala red carpet moments from 2015-2019: