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The Met Gala: From Midnight Suppers to Superheroes and Rihanna

Katy Perry performs against a bright red backdrop at the 2017 Met Gala celebrating Rei Kawakubo

Katy Perry performs at the 2017 Met Gala celebrating the exhibition Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between. All photos by BFA.com unless otherwise noted.

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). This year marks Wintour's twentieth gala, and she 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 7, we look forward to celebrating the opening of Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination, and witnessing the red carpet's high fashion and the unfolding of another Party of the Year. In anticipation of Monday's event, here's 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.


2008

A view of The Met's Great Hall during the 2008 Met Gala, featuring large superhero sculptures atop an information desk and many elegantly lit trees

The Met's Great Hall decked out for the 2008 Met Gala celebrating the exhibition Superheroes: Fashion and Fantasy. Photo by Billy Farrell for PatrickMcMullan.com

2009

Marc Jacobs and Kate Moss pose on The Met Gala red carpet in 2009

Marc Jacobs and Kate Moss pose on the red carpet of the 2009 Met Gala celebrating the exhibition The Model as Muse: Embodying Fashion. Photo by Billy Farrell for PatrickMcMullan.com

2010

Lady Gaga performs while seated at a blue-lit piano

Lady Gaga performs at the 2010 Met Gala celebrating the exhibition American Woman: Fashioning a National Identity

2011

Florence and the Machine perform in front of the Temple of Dendur at the 2011 Met Gala

Florence + the Machine performs in front of the Temple of Dendur during the 2011 Met Gala celebrating the exhibition Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty

2012

Bruno Mars performs in front of the Temple of Dendur, lit in red hues, at the 2012 Met Gala

Bruno Mars performs in front of the Temple of Dendur at the 2012 Met Gala celebrating the exhibition Schiaparelli and Prada: Impossible Conversations

2013

Debbie Harry in profile as she performs at the 2013 Met Gala

Debbie Harry performs at the 2013 Met Gala celebrating the exhibition Punk: Chaos to Couture

2014

Sarah Jessica Parker walks up the main stairs of the red carpet at the 2014 Met Gala celebrating Charles James

Sarah Jessica Parker ascends the steps of the red carpet wearing an Oscar de la Renta gown at the 2014 Met Gala celebrating the exhibition Charles James: Beyond Fashion

2015

Rihanna walks up the main stairs of the red carpet at the 2015 Met Gala wearing an elegant, yellow couture gown by Guo Pei

Rihanna poses for the photographers wearing a couture gown by Guo Pei on the red carpet of the 2015 Met Gala celebrating the exhibition China: Through the Looking Glass

2016

The Weeknd performs while bathed in blue light at the 2016 Met Gala

The Weeknd performs in front of the Temple of Dendur at the 2016 Met Gala celebrating the exhibition Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology

2017

Pharrell Williams and Helen Lasichanh pose on the red carpet in Commes des Garcons at the 2017 Met Gala celebrating Rei Kawakubo

Pharrell Williams and Helen Lasichanh pose on the red carpet wearing Comme des Garçons at the 2017 Met Gala celebrating the exhibition Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between


Follow @metmuseum on Instagram and Twitter for complete coverage of the red carpet arrivals at the 2018 Costume Institute Benefit, and join in the conversation using the hashtags #MetHeavenlyBodies and #MetGala.

Related Content

Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination is on view at The Met Fifth Avenue and The Met Cloisters from May 10 through October 8, 2018.

View images of select art and fashion objects and select objects from The Vatican Collection featured in the exhibition.

Read a blog article by Andrew Bolton, Wendy Yu Curator in Charge of the Costume Institute, in which he provides an overview of the themes and works to be explored in Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination.

Purchase a copy of the Heavenly Bodies exhibition catalogue in The Met Store.

Watch a video of red carpet arrivals at the 2017 Costume Institute Benefit:


 

Department: The Costume Institute

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