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A Brief History of The Met Gala

A Brief History of The Met Gala

Written by The Strategy

We could talk about what everyone was wearing, but we’d much prefer to share a brief history of the Met Gala, instead.

It’s the first Tuesday in May which can only mean one thing: yesterday was the first Monday in May. If you’re a die-hard fashion fanatic or were glued to social media yesterday, you know that the first Monday in May is not like any other Monday. The first Monday in May is the night of the Met Gala.

Fashion’s biggest night out filled our Instagram and Twitter feeds and dominated almost all conversations this morning at the water cooler. Despite having a covid-forced hiatus in 2020 and a postponement in 2021, The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s annual gala made it’s return last night. The theme of the current exhibition celebrated “In America: An Anthology of Fashion,” with last night’s dress code of “Glided Glamour.”

While we could share with you our best dressed lists (Laura Harrier, Carey Mulligan, Hamish Bowles – our complete list), we thought we would take a walk down memory lane and share with you a brief history of the Met Gala. It wasn’t always high-drama and celebrity-filled.

What Is The Met Gala

At its core, The Met Gala is a fundraiser for the Met Costume Institute that also serves as a grand opening for the institute’s annual exhibit. According to Forbes magazine, the gala has raised over $175 million dollars over the years.


The Met Gala was founded in 1948. It was created as a charity event by famed publicist Eleanor Lambert (founder of the CFDA) to raise funds for the Costume Institute. The first Me Gala dinner was held in December, after the Museum of Costume Art and the Museum of Metropolitan Art merged to create The Costume Institute. Tickets went for a whopping $50(!), and unlike today’s event, the Met Gala was not actually held in the Met, but instead venues like Central Park and the Waldorf Astoria.

The Vreeland Touch

In the early 1970s, after Diana Vreeland’s time as Vogue’s editor-in-chief came to an end, she joined the Costume Institute as a consultant and transitioned the Met Gala into what we know today. Under the fashion editor and columnist, the event became more elaborate and celebrity-filled. The guest lists often included names like Diana Ross, Cher, Elizabeth Taylor and Jackie Kennedy Onassis – the biggest names at the time. In addition, Vreeland also started to hold the event at the Met and introduced the themes we know and love today. The first themed Met Gala was “The World of Balenciaga” in 1973.

In 1978, socialite Pat Buckley joined the team, and the Met Gala soon became the most exclusive charity even on the calendar. Diana Vreeland saw over the event and worked with the Met until her death in 1989.

Anna’s Influence

In 1995, Anna Wintour, Vogue’s current editor-in-chief, took over as chairwoman. Under Anna’s influence, the date of the gala was switched from December to the first Monday in May. She not only approves the guest list and theme, but also approves what designers guests wear.

While the celebrity-filled guest list dressed their best for the event, it was not until 2004 that the gala became associated with elaborate costumes. The theme for the year was “Dangerous Liaisons: Fashion and Furniture in the 18th Century.” Amber Valletta wore a punk-rock Marie Antoinette look with a corset by Maggie Norris Couture and a skirt by Galliano paired with an 18th century updo.

Assigned Seating

The way seating works at this exclusive events is designers purchase ‘tables’ and fill them up with the celebrities and fashion royalty they will be dressing for the event. Each guest is approved, and often swapped-out by Anna. Solo tickets cost $25,000 while a table for 10 costs $250,000. The exclusive guest list is limited to 650 to 700 guests each year.

Interesting to Know:

  • After many stars, models and designers were caught smoking in the ladies’ room, a strict ban on smoking at the event is now in effect.
  • Each year, a new series of co-chairs are named for the event. For 2022, co-chairs were Blake Lively, Ryan Reynolds, Lin Manuel Miranda and Regina King.
  • Like the first themed gala, many Costume Institute exhibitions have been dedicated to designers, including Alexander McQueen, Yves Saint Laurent and Christian Dior.

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