Met Gala: Your Complete Guide To The Fashion Event Of The Year

Pushing the boundaries of fashion and showing off the pinnacle of celebrity mixed with high fashion, the Met Gala has become one of the most fascinating and sought-after events of the year. Throughout the 12 months between each annual Met Gala, the iconic looks from the carpet are raved about, dissected, idolized, and used as inspiration for other cultural corners that make up what's popular here and now. Though the profile of the Met Gala has continued to rise — even having behind-the-scenes moments documented on shows like "The Kardashians" and social media — many people aren't aware of the many ins and outs that make this fantastical event come to life.

Leading up to each Met Gala, there's endless speculation about who will be invited, who might be snubbed, which celebrities will step out as couples on the carpet — and which looks will become the most sought-after and live in the fashion books forever. Think of Blake Lively's endlessly flowing red gown with gold headpiece in 2018, Claire Danes appearing as a real-life Cinderella in a light blue ball gown in 2016, and Zendaya walking the carpet in an eye-catching dress adorned with images of colorful parrots in 2017. Other icons from fashion, modeling, music, television, film, and politics have walked the Met Gala carpet, leading the event to become known as fashion and celebrity at its finest. Here's what you should know about the origins of the Met Gala and how it became a cultural paramount.

The Met Gala has been around for 75 years

The Met Gala has built its way to the top of pop culture's "who's who" game, though the event stems from very humbling beginnings. Women's Wear Daily reports that in 1948, fashion publicist Eleanor Lambert was seeking a way to raise money to support the Costume Institute. The Met Gala was Lambert's solution for fundraising and the cause remains a pinnacle of the Met Gala today. 

Two years prior to the Met Gala's inaugural event, the Museum of Metropolitan Art had absorbed the Costume Institute and placed it under its umbrella of programming. Lambert — who in 1962 also created the Council of Fashion Designers of America — applied her entrepreneurial skills towards planning a formal dinner to support the Costume Institute at an initial cost of $50 per ticket. At the time, anyone who could afford to attend was able to purchase a ticket. That's definitely a huge difference from today's highly exclusive guest list!

Originally hosted in December in anticipation of a new exhibit within the Costume Institute, Lambert's Met Gala slowly began transitioning into a fundraising event for of New York's high society. Held across various venues, the Met Gala found its current home at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1971. Eventually, the event was passed on to the leadership of Anna Wintour, and the date moved to the now highly-anticipated first Monday in May each year. 

Anna Wintour runs the show today

Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour — undoubtedly the queen of the fashion industry – took the reins of the Met Gala in 1995. Wintour very much runs the fashion world, from magazine features to fashion shows to runway events. In the case of the Gala, she is literally running the fashion registry. Wintour has not only increased the attention on the Met Gala carpet, but she has also grown the fundraising efforts started by Lambert decades ago. The 2019 Met Gala raised $15 million. and that number increases with each passing year, per Women's Wear Daily. Proceeds from the Met Gala continue to go to the Costume Institute and to highlight fashion houses of note.

Each year, Wintour invites a celebrity to co-chair the Met Gala with her, though it very much remains her event. Insider shares that Wintour's first co-hosts in 1995 were Clarissa Bronfman and Annette de la Renta. Karl Lagerfeld (whose work is this year's theme), was an honorary chair of Wintour's initial Met Gala. Throughout her tenure, Wintour has had co-hosts from all realms, even including football player Tom Brady as a co-chair in 2017. 

There's a reason why Anna Wintour has been able to heighten the Met Gala, and it's directly correlated with her ambitious personality. Wintour's spearheading of the event is reported to be extremely strict. Every detail is adhered to with extreme precision, reveals Time.

Who gets invited and who gets snubbed

Like all things blessed with Anna Wintour's stamp of approval, the guest list lies within her domain. Many people within pop culture and other realms, now including social media influencers and politics, have sought invitations to the Met Gala. In anticipation of the 2023 Met Gala, there has been significant discussion about who might be snubbed, particularly the Kardashian-Jenner clan. The Guardian says that Wintour is rumored to be curating the guest list towards a shift in the fashion industry's culture, with the intent of refining the attendees to those who represent the highest of high fashion from decades past. Wintour, who has grown the Costume Institute's collection to tens of thousands of pieces, definitely applies her power in the industry to influence the public perception of who should be in the spotlight and who shouldn't. The speculation around why Wintour is making such a tight push this year has left many critics wondering if a new chapter of the Met Gala is about to begin.

Within this new chapter could be the promotion of healthier behavior in the fashion industry, in direct contrast to the tall, extremely thin models of the 90s. Kim Kardashian's choice to wear a dress once owned by Marilyn Monroe resulted in her admitting to plastic surgery procedures — as well as extreme weight loss measures – in order to fit into the dress. Wintour may be subtly discouraging this kind of beahavior and taking a stand for body inclusion. 

Fashion designers show their creativity

The theme of each annual Met Gala gives fashion designers and iconic fashion houses the chance to be as creative as possible, while challenging them to adhere to a theme set by Wintour. The 2023 Met Gala theme is "Karl Lagerfeld: A Line of Beauty," which is a direct tribute to the designer's life and career, says Net-A-Porter

Like previous years, the theme is an opportunity for selected fashion designers to explore Lagerfeld's career across its entire span — not just with a lens on his namesake fashion line. Instead, this year's designers will create looks for the celebrities with which they are paired. These works will span the exhaustive career of Lagerfeld, from his time as an assistant in the 1950s until his death in 2019.

The Met Gala hasn't been free from controversy, though. In recent years, the exclusivity of both the celebrity guest list and the designers selected to have their creations worn at the event have been called out for lacking inclusivity of diversity, small and up-and-coming designers, and highlighting fashion's cultural evolution rather than its modern pinnacle, reports USA Today. Some designs have even been heavily mocked and caused fallout, like one full-length floral ensemble worn by Kim Kardashian being compared to a sofa. Hopefully, the Met Gala evolves along with the values of viewers, with inclusivity increasing on all fronts.