Last year, it took 275,000 bright pink roses to adorn the Metropolitan Museum of Art for the Met Gala, the biggest night in fashion and one of the biggest concentrations of star power anywhere.
It remains to be seen how the museum's Great Hall will be decorated on the first Monday of May, but one thing is not in question — those entering it will look spectacular. The theme centres on the late designer Karl Lagerfeld, who made an indelible mark on luxury fashion in his long career at Chanel, Fendi and elsewhere. It is a theme not without controversy — the designer was known for contentious remarks about everything from #MeToo to curvy bodies.
For those not familiar with the fashion event, here's everything you need to know.
What is the Met Gala?
It started in 1948 as a society midnight supper, and wasn’t hosted at the Met.
Fast forward 70-plus years, and the Met Gala is something totally different — one of the most photographed events in the world for its head-spinning red carpet looks.
For example, when Rihanna dressed up as a bejeweled pope one year; or when Zendaya came as Cinderella with a light-up gown; and Katy Perry arrived wearing an outfit that looked like a chandelier that morphed into a hamburger. Billy Porter came to the event as an Egyptian sun god, carried on a litter by six men. And, last year, there was host Blake Lively's Versace dress — a tribute to famous New York architecture — that changed colours in front of our eyes.
Then there's Kim Kardashian, bringing commitment to a whole other level — one year, she wore a dress so tight, she admitted she had to take breathing lessons beforehand.
Two years ago, she wore a dark bodysuit that covered even her face. But then last year, she truly stole the carpet, showing up in Marilyn Monroe's actual, rhinestone-studded "Happy Birthday, Mr President" dress (borrowed from Ripley's Believe It or Not! museum), changing the minute she got inside to protect it. There was controversy later over suspicions, denied by Ripley's, that she'd caused some damage. But still — that was an entrance.
It's important to note the party has a purpose — last year, the evening earned $17.4 million for the Met's Costume Institute, a self-funding department. It also launches the annual spring exhibit that brings hundreds of thousands of visitors to the museum.
But it’s the carpet itself that draws the world’s eyes, with the guest list — strategically withheld until the last minute — featuring notables from movies, music, fashion, sports, politics and social media.
Who is hosting this year?
This year's five hosts are drawn from television (Emmy-winning writer, actor and producer Michaela Coel); the movies (Oscar-winning actor Penelope Cruz, who has worked with Chanel for more than 20 years); sports (recently retired tennis superstar Roger Federer); and music (Grammy-winning songstress Dua Lipa). Finally, there is Vogue's Anna Wintour running the whole thing as usual.
Is there always a theme?
Yes. This year's theme is inspired by the exhibit, Karl Lagerfeld: A Line of Beauty, which looks at "the designer's stylistic vocabulary as expressed in aesthetic themes that appear time and again in his fashions from the 1950s to his final collection in 2019". The show has been created by the Met's star curator, Andrew Bolton.
Does everyone follow the theme?
Not really. Some eschew it and just go for big and crazy. But expect some guests to carefully research the theme and come in perfect sync. It was hard to beat the carpet, for example, when the theme was tied to "Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination" and Rihanna came as the pope, Zendaya channeled Joan of Arc, while Perry navigated the crowd with a set of enormous angel wings. For Lagerfeld, the clothes may be a bit more down to earth.
How much do Met Gala tickets cost?
The tickets are not open to the public. Only those considered famous and powerful are afforded the opportunity. But generally, companies buy tables. A fashion label would then host its desired celebrities. This year, the cost has gone up, as it does every few years due to rising expenses — it now costs $50,000 for an individual ticket and tables start at $300,000.
Who gets invited?
This year, there will be about 400 guests — similar to recent years, but still lower than pre-pandemic highs of 500-600. Wintour and her team still get to approve every guest.
Trying to predict? Take out your pen and jot down some of your favourite names, the buzzier the better. Newly minted Oscar winners, for example, are a good bet. Broadway is a special favorite of Wintour's. She also loves tennis — this is not fashionable Federer's first Met Gala.
How can I watch it live?
You can watch the whole carpet unfold on a Vogue livestream. If you're in New York, you can also join fans across the street, behind barricades, on Fifth Avenue or even further east on Madison. Timothee Chalamet has been known to greet fans.
Do we know who's coming and who isn't?
It's secret. But reports slip out, often about who is not coming and why. You can count on various celebrity Chanel ambassadors showing up.
What happens inside?
Entering the museum, guests walk past what is usually an impossibly enormous flower arrangement in the lobby, with perhaps an orchestra playing nearby, and over to drinks. Or, they head to view the exhibit. Drinks are 6pm to 8pm, but the most famous — or those who plan to make the biggest entrance — sometimes come (fashionably) later. At about 8pm, guests are summoned to dinner.
Is it fun for everyone?
Occasionally, someone says no. Fey, in a comic rant to David Letterman in 2015, described the gala as a "jerk parade" and said it included everyone you'd ever want to punch, if you had millions of arms. Amy Schumer left early in 2016 and said later she felt awkward and like it was "a punishment".