For the second May in a row, New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art’s annual Met Gala will skip the red carpet rollout and celebrities gracing the museum steps. But you can still expect to see some iconic looks at an “intimate gala” in September to kick off a two-part exhibit by the Met’s Costume Institute. This year, the exhibit will touch on sociopolitical topics including body inclusivity and gender fluidity, according to organizers.
Here’s everything to know about how “fashion’s biggest night out” is once again adapting to the COVID-19 pandemic.
What is the Met Gala?
The Met Gala is a fundraising event for the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute. It’s organized by Vogue Editor-in-Chief Anna Wintour, and typically is timed to coincide with the opening of the museum’s annual fashion exhibition. Many top Hollywood stars, fashion moguls and creatives flock to the event each year, which kicks off with a high-profile red carpet arrival. Past Met Galas have given us iconic looks like Princess Diana’s 1996 navy Dior slip dress and Rihanna’s 2015 Guo Pei yellow gown with a massive train.
Each year, attendees base their outfits on the exhibit’s theme. In 2019, for instance, the Met Gala theme was “Camp: Notes on Fashion,” which surrounded the idea of “love of the unnatural: of artifice and exaggeration,” Vogue reported. Guests dressed in everything from a chandelier to feathers and wings. In 2018, the theme was “Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination.” Invitees donned veils, capes and even nativity scene headpieces. Needless to say, the themes are very much open to interpretation.
When will this year’s event take place and who is chairing it?
With the coronavirus pandemic still disrupting everyday life and major events alike, the Met Gala will look different this year. (The event was called off last year.)
The Costume Institute’s two-part exhibit kicks off with “In America: A Lexicon of Fashion,” opening Sept. 18 at the Anna Wintour Costume Center at the Met. This exhibit will be laid out like a home, according to Vogue, with rooms named to reflect our connections with fashion, such as “Well-Being” for the kitchen galleries and “Aspiration” for the office. Themes like joy, rebellion and nostalgia will be incorporated into each room. The porch, for instance, will reflect warmth and feature coats from designers like André Walker. The garden will represent joy and feature the Oscar de la Renta floral dress Taylor Swift wore to this year’s Grammys.
A gala marking the exhibit’s opening will happen Sept. 13. It’ll be co-chaired by Billie Eilish, Amanda Gorman, Naomi Osaka and Timothée Chalamet. Though a smaller affair, you can still expect to catch some epic ensembles (Eilish, for one, is no stranger to making a fashion statement). But, Vogue says, “due to pandemic guidelines, the celebrity-studded red carpet will be a smaller affair than usual.”
Part two of the exhibit, called “In America: An Anthology of Fashion,” opens May 5, 2022. This’ll focus on fashion inclusivity, and will take place in the period rooms of the museum’s American Wing. Each room will include cinematic scenes by American film directors that portray a different history of American fashion.
“Key themes will include the emergence of an identifiable American style and the rise of the named designer with an individual aesthetic vision,” Andrew Bolton, the Wendy Yu Curator in Charge of the Costume Institute, told Vogue.
There’ll be a second Met Gala on May 2, 2022, to celebrate the opening of the second part of the exhibit.
What’ll be the theme of the gala?
In addition to celebrating American designers, the gala’s theme will honor the cultural, political and social events that have happened during the pandemic.
“I think that the emphasis on conscious creativity was really consolidated during the pandemic and the social justice movements,” Bolton told Vogue. “And I’ve been really impressed by American designers’ responses to the social and political climate, particularly around issues of body inclusivity and gender fluidity, and I’m just finding their work very, very self-reflective. I really do believe that American fashion is undergoing a Renaissance.”
Over the past several years, designers like Kerby Jean-Raymond, Angela Luna and Victoria Beckham have raised awareness for issues like Black Lives Matter, the refugee crisis and AIDS on their runways. Following the police killing of George Floyd last year in Minneapolis, Marc Jacobs shared a series of Instagram posts denouncing racism and supporting Black Lives Matter. Meanwhile, Black designers like Aurora James have promoted support for Black-owned brands.
This is all taking place as more people call for change in the fashion industry, which they say has long failed to address racism. Last year, Beverly Johnson, the first Black model to be on the cover of Vogue in 1974, wrote an op-ed in The Washington Post slamming both the fashion industry and the magazine, writing, “my race limited me to significantly lower compensation than my white peers,” and that “the industry was slow to include other black people in other aspects of the fashion and beauty industry.” This came shortly after Wintour reportedly wrote an email to Vogue staff acknowledging the magazine hasn’t adequately supported Black staffers and has featured images or stories that were “hurtful or intolerant.”
Who usually shows up to the Met Gala?
Some of the world’s top celebrities have graced the Met’s red carpet, including Beyonce, Taylor Swift, Priyanka Chopra Jonas, Pharrell Williams, Katy Perry, Rihanna, Jared Leto, Lady Gaga, and Harry Styles. Vogue says around 600 people attend the event each year.
The creative, extravagant and sometimes outrageous ensembles donned by these celebrities are widely dissected on social media and by various publications. Outfits like Ezra Miller’s 2019 Met Gala look, in which he carried a face mask on a stick and had his own face painted with five optical-illusion eyeballs next to his real eyes, tend to make headlines and become a point of conversation for fans and critics alike in the days — and sometimes years — to come.
How much does it cost to go?
If you’re an invited guest, you don’t have to pay anything to attend. If you score a chance to buy tickets, get ready to fork over around $30,000, plus another $275,000 for tables, according to Vogue. Pocket change, really.
What happened to the Met Gala last year?
With rising concerns over the coronavirus pandemic, the 2020 Met Gala was postponed indefinitely on March 16. This came a few days after the Metropolitan Museum of Art said it would temporarily close to help curb the spread of the virus. In May, the museum announced that year’s gala was officially cancelled.