Deconstructing the Met Gala

The theme for this year's event, which is on Monday, May 6, is Camp: Notes on Fashion

NEW YORK, NY - MAY 04:  Actress Sarah Jessica Parker attends the 'China: Through The Looking Glass' Costume Institute Benefit Gala at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 4, 2015 in New York City.  (Photo by Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic)
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On the first Monday in May, the fashion world waits with bated breath to see who takes to the steps of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, and, more importantly, they want to know what they are wearing.

The Met Gala is the Oscars of fashion; the event everyone wants to attend, but only a select few get the honour. But how did the annual Costume Institute Gala, its original name, become the biggest event in fashion?

The first gala took place in 1948. Organised by fashion publicist Eleanor Lambert, it was held to raise money for the new Costume Institute and to mark the opening of its annual exhibit. The inaugural event was a midnight dinner, with tickets costing $50 (Dh184).

It claimed a more prestigious position in the social calendar in 1972, when former Vogue editor-in-chief Diana Vreeland became a consultant at the Institute. With Vreeland's profile and network of industry contacts, the gala began to evolve into a more star-studded event, pulling in celebrities suchg as Cher, Diana Ross and Andy Warhol.

NEW YORK CITY - DECEMBER 9:   Fashion designer Bob Mackie and singer/actress Cher attend The Metropolitan Museum's Costume Institute Gala Exhibition of "Costumes of Royal India" on December 9, 1985 at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. (Photo by Ron Galella/WireImage)
Fashion designer Bob Mackie and singer Cher at the Met Gala in 1985. WireImage

Vreeland also introduced the Met Gala's now highly anticipated, often controversial, themes – and by the time she died, in 1989, the Gala was the jewel in New York's social crown.

Some of the industry's most memorable moments have taken place at the Met Gala. From Jackie Kennedy Onassis's strapless black satin gown in 1979 to Princess Diana's surprise appearance in 1996, dressed by John Galliano for Dior, the steps of the Met have been the location of some famous style moments.

Who can forget Sarah Jessica Parker's Philip Treacy headpiece for 2015's China: Through the Looking Glass theme? Rihanna's yellow Guo Pei dress and its five-metre train are also still being talked about four years later, as is her papal attire from last year.

NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 13:  Editor-in-chief of American Vogue, Anna Wintour attends the Carolina Herrera Spring 2011 fashion show during the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Spring 2011 Official Coverage at Lincoln Center on September 13, 2010 in New York City.  (Photo by Michael Buckner/Getty Images for Mercedes-Benz) *** Local Caption *** Anna Wintour
Vogue editor Anna Wintour is the current chairperson of the Met Gala. Getty Images

Since 1995, Vogue's editor-in-chief Anna Wintour has been chairwoman of the Met Gala and apparently has the final say on the guest list. She has been known to stop people from attending – and it's not only people who are banned. There are strict rules once you do make it inside the museum, including no selfies (although many celebrities have broken this rule) and no social media. The evening itself consists of a cocktail reception, a dinner and an after-party, which has featured performances from artists such as Kanye West, Rihanna and Madonna.

This year's event will take place this coming Monday, with Wintour chairing the gala alongside Lady Gaga, Alessandro Michele, Harry Styles and Serena Williams.

The theme is Camp: Notes on Fashion, centred on Susan Sontag's seminal 1964 essay Notes on Camp. Andrew Bolton, curator of the Costume Institute, settled on the subject as he said he found Sontag's writing to be timely, feeling it would have "cultural resonance" in our society.

Camp is defined as an aesthetic style and sensibility that regards something as appealing because of its bad taste and ironic value. We can’t wait to see what people wear.