NEW YORK — Last year, it took 275,000 bright pink roses to adorn the Metropolitan Museum of Art for the Met Gala, the biggest night in fashion and one of the biggest concentrations of star power anywhere.
It remains to be seen how the museum’s Great Hall will be decorated on Monday, but one thing is not in question: those entering it will look spectacular. The theme centers on the late designer Karl Lagerfeld, who made an indelible mark on luxury fashion in his long career at Chanel, Fendi and elsewhere. It is a theme not without controversy — Lagerfeld was known for contentious remarks about everything from #MeToo to curvy bodies.
Want to know what to expect now that the big day is here? Not to worry. We’ve dusted off our annual guide for you here, with some key updates.
WHAT IS THE MET GALA ANYWAY?
It started in 1948 as a society midnight supper, and wasn’t even at the Met.
Fast forward 70-plus years, and the Met Gala is something totally different, one of the most photographed events in the world for its head-spinning red carpet — though the carpet isn't always red.
We’re talking Rihanna as a bejeweled pope. Zendaya as Cinderella with a light-up gown. Katy Perry as a chandelier morphing into a hamburger. Also: Beyoncé in her “naked dress.”Billy Porter as an Egyptian sun god, carried on a litter by six shirtless men.Lady Gaga’s 16-minute striptease. And, last year, host Blake Lively's Versace dress — a tribute to iconic New York architecture — that changed colors in front of our eyes.
Then there’s Kim Kardashian, bringing commitment to a whole other level. One year, she wore a dress so tight, she admitted she had to take breathing lessons beforehand. Two years ago, she wore a dark bodysuit that covered even her face. And last year she truly stole the carpet, showing up in Marilyn Monroe’s actual, rhinestone-studded “Happy Birthday, Mr. President” dress (borrowed from Ripley’s Believe It or Not! museum), changing the minute she got inside to protect it. There was controversy later over suspicions, denied by Ripley’s, that she'd caused some damage. But still — that was an entrance. (And, folks, she's coming back — she posted a photo from Paris with Lagerfeld's famous cat, Choupette, noting she was in the French capital scoping out possibilities for this year's attire.)
It's important to note that the party has a purpose — last year, the evening earned $17.4 million for the Met’s Costume Institute, a self-funding department. Yes, that's a heckuva lot for a gala. It also launches the annual spring exhibit that brings hundreds of thousands of visitors to the museum.
But it’s the carpet itself that draws the world’s eyes, with the guest list — strategically withheld until the last minute — featuring a collection of notables from movies, music, fashion, sports, politics and social media that arguably makes for the highest celebrity wattage-per-square-foot of any party in the world.
WHO’S HOSTING THIS YEAR?
This year’s five hosts are drawn from television (Emmy-winning writer, actor and producer Michaela Coel ); the movies (Oscar-winning actor Penélope Cruz, who has worked with Chanel for more than 20 years); sports ( recently retired tennis superstar Roger Federer ); and music (Grammy-winning songstress Dua Lipa ). Finally there is Vogue’s Anna Wintour (do we need to tell you she's in fashion?) running the whole thing as usual.
IS THERE ALWAYS A THEME?
Yes. As mentioned above, the theme is Karl Lagerfeld, and the exhibit, “Karl Lagerfeld: A Line of Beauty,” looks at “the designer’s stylistic vocabulary as expressed in aesthetic themes that appear time and again in his fashions from the 1950s to his final collection in 2019.” Once again, it has been created by the Met’s star curator, Andrew Bolton.
DOES EVERYONE FOLLOW THE THEME?
Not really. Some eschew it and just go for big and crazy. But expect some guests to carefully research the theme and come in perfect sync. It was hard to beat the carpet, for example, when the theme was “Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination” and Rihanna came as the pope, Zendaya channeled Joan of Arc, and Perry navigated the crowd with a set of enormous angel wings. For Lagerfeld, the clothes may be a bit more, er, down to earth.
HOW MUCH DO I HAVE TO PAY FOR A MET GALA TICKET?
Wrong question. You cannot just buy a ticket. The right question is: If I were famous or powerful and got invited, how much would it cost?
OK, IF I WERE FAMOUS OR POWERFUL AND GOT INVITED, HOW MUCH WOULD IT COST?
Well, you might not pay yourself. Generally companies buy tables. A fashion label would then host its desired celebrities. This year, the cost has gone up, as it does every few years due to rising expenses: It's now $50,000 for an individual ticket, and tables start at $300,000.
SO WHO GETS INVITED?
This year, there will be roughly 400 guests — similar to recent years but still lower than pre-pandemic highs of 500-600. Wintour and her team still get to approve every guest.
Trying to predict? Take out your pen and jot down some of your favorite names, the buzzier the better. Newly minted Oscar winners, for example, are a good bet. Broadway is a special favorite of Wintour’s. She also loves tennis — this is not fashionable Federer’s first Met Gala. Now, cross everyone off your list except the very top. At this gala, everybody’s A-list.
THAT MUST BE AN EXAGGERATION.
Not really. Ask Tina Fey. She went in 2010 and later described walking around trying to find somebody “normal” to sit and talk with. That ended up being Barbara Walters.
HOW CAN I WATCH?
You can watch the whole carpet unfold on a Vogue livestream. If you’re in New York, you can also join fans across the street, behind barricades, on Fifth Avenue or even further east on Madison. Timothée Chalamet has been known to greet fans. And the AP will have a livestream of departures from the Mark Hotel, where many gala guests get ready.
DO WE KNOW WHO’S COMING? AND WHO ISN’T?
It's secret. But reports slip out. You can count on various celebrity Chanel ambassadors showing up. Lively left some fashion fans disappointed when she revealed she's not attending this year.
WHAT HAPPENS INSIDE?
Entering the museum, guests walk past what is usually an impossibly enormous flower arrangement in the lobby, with perhaps an orchestra playing nearby, and over to cocktails. Or, they head to view the exhibit. Cocktails are 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., but the most famous — or those who plan to make the biggest entrance — sometimes come (fashionably) later.
Around 8 p.m., guests are summoned to dinner — perhaps by a team of buglers (“Are they going to do that between every course?” actor Gary Oldman asked aloud one year).
IS IT FUN FOR EVERYONE?
Occasionally, someone says no. Fey, in a comic rant to David Letterman in 2015, described the gala as a “jerk parade” and said it included everyone you’d ever want to punch, if you had millions of arms. Amy Schumer left early in 2016 and said later she felt awkward and like it was “a punishment.”
SO THEY NEVER CAME BACK, RIGHT?
Wrong. Schumer was back in 2017. And then last year again.
Hey, this is the Met Gala.