From iconic looks to fashion faux-pas, here’s a look at the history of The Met Gala

Clara McComb, Editor

The first Monday of May has been a very important and influential date in fashion since 1948. This extravagant and lavish fundraiser that is always the talk of the town is none other than the Met Gala. 

In the 1940s The Met Gala was originally created to be a charity event for the then-newly founded Costume Institute. Publicist Eleanor Lambert spearheaded the event and became the organizer of the first ever Met Gala. 

Eleanor Lambert was famous for creating New York Fashion Week, the CFDA (Council of Fashion Designers of America) and for coming up with the concept of a “best dressed list” so it was only natural that she would be the leader behind what would become one of the biggest fashion events of all time. 

The early days of this event are very different from what people know and love now. Originally the event was a way to unveil the new collections from the Costume Institute each year by holding a midnight dinner with tickets available for anyone willing to pay $50. The early Met Gala dates were also held at various venues across New York City before finally finding a forever home at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1972. 

 Along with the new venue of The Met Gala, the event also fell under new leadership and was now a passion project for Vogue Magazine’s editor in chief at the time, Diana Vreeland. 

Vreeland took this event and brought it to new heights by introducing yearly themes and a star studded guest list. America’s fashion event of the year was about to turn into something even more exclusive and extravagant than before. 

The first ever gala theme in 1972 was “Untailored garments” where guests were encouraged to wear free flowing and unstructured items of clothing. Not only did Vreeland change the Met by introducing themes but she also changed the landscape with her star studded guest lists. Vreeland’s early guest lists were flooded with A-list names such as Cher, Elton John and even the first lady of the United States, Jacqueline Kennedy.

Since 1972 the themes and guest lists have only gotten more and more extravagant and creative as the years have gone on. Since 1999 the event of the year has been under the leadership of Vogue’s current editor in chief, Anna Wintour. Under the direction of Wintour the world has seen some of the most extraordinary themes, guest lists and looks to ever walk the carpet of the famous museum. 

So that leads to the question, what even is The Met Gala? The public has only ever had access to what goes on outside of the museum on the infamous staircase that leads up to the event however no one really knows what goes on once the starlets get inside.

Rumor has it that once inside the gala, celebrities are given a complimentary dinner as well as performances before getting let into the museum to explore the fashion exhibit of the year. Each exhibit inside the museum directly corresponds to the theme of the gala and the dresscode stars were encouraged to follow, however it is rumored that many stars change into more tone-downed looks once they’re inside the actual museum. 

Even though the public doesn’t have the ability to appreciate what goes on inside of the exhibit, they can still appreciate the incredible displays of fashion and artistry that walk the carpet of this famed event. Here’s a look at some of the worst, best, and most problematic themes and looks from Met Gala’s past and present. 

One of the most critically acclaimed themes of the gala was “Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination.” This theme was one of the most successful years for the gala in terms of everyone’s looks being on theme and executed well. Some even say this was the best theme that has come out of over 50 years of Met Gala fashion. 

The 2018 gala provided a “best dressed list” that was a mile long due to all of the incredible looks from the night. A few favorites were Zendaya wearing a custom Joan of Arc inspired look by Versace and Ariana Grande in a Vera Wang dress that featured images from the Sistine Chapel.

After the roaring success of the 2018 Met Gala, the 2019 theme was one that fell short for many and resulted in a lot of fashion faux-pas. The 2019 theme was “Camp: Notes on fashion” which was seen as a very confusing theme for the regular attendees of this famed event. 

Camp is a genre of fashion that is generally defined as outrageous clothing that’s almost so out of the box that it is borderline ugly. Many celebrities and designers missed the mark this year so here’s a few looks that made headlines but not for the best reasons. 

Ezra Miller was a great example of staying on theme and presenting a show stopping look. Katy Perry on the other hand made numerous “worst dressed” lists for her garish chandelier look. 

Even though the 2019 gala brought some incredible looks, it also brought many outrageous displays of fashion that many people will wish to forget. 

This leads to one of the most controversial Met Gala themes of all time, 2023’s “Karl Lagerfeld: A Line of Beauty.”

This theme brought many stunning looks inspired by Chanel, Fendi and even the late Karl Lagerfeld’s cat however this has been one of the most controversial themes to date.

 Karl Lagerfeld was a designer that led some of the most famous brands for years. He produced many iconic looks and trends throughout his time as a designer yet he also made lots of insensitive comments that led to many celebrities not wanting to support a theme in honor of such a controversial man. 

While there were many beautiful looks that showed on the carpet it just goes to show that in most scenarios it’s okay to separate the art from the artist. Many can admire the work of Karl Lagerfeld without supporting the things he did or said as a celebrity.

Even though the gala is over for this year, there are still so many looks for people to obsess over for the next months while wondering what the next extravagant Met Gala theme will be.