Combine the year-long anticipation of the Super Bowl with the pageantry of the Oscars, and you’ve got The Met Gala. Also known as the Met Ball, the gala is the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s annual Costume Institute Benefit and it’s hands-down the most important night of the year for the fashion industry. It’s one week away on May 5th—consider it Cinco de Met Ball—and we’ve got your primer right here.
This year is a really, really, really big deal. The Met is renaming The Costume Institute as the Anna Wintour Costume Center (a small thanks for the $125 million the Vogue editor has raised for the Institute over the course of 15 years), and the one-and-only First Lady Michelle Obama will cut the ribbon at the event (we have a hunch she’ll wear Carolina Herrera or Oscar de la Renta).
The year will also be a complete fashion flip from last year’s “PUNK: Chaos to Couture” exhibit—which brought out a spikey-haired Miley Cyrus, bleached-blonde Anne Hathaway and Byzantine Katy Perry...plus a Kim Kardashian look that can only be described as Grandma’s couch (OK, that was mean, but it was a lotta look).
The exhibit is a retrospective of Charles James, a mid-century designer known as America’s first couturier. Even the most famous designers of that time, like Crisbal Balenciaga and Christian Dior, considered James to be the best dressmaker of their generation. James was eccentric, kooky and known for being a bit of an arrogant jerk, which sort of fit with his elitist aesthetic. Among his most famous pieces were iconic ball gowns inspired by nature—like the Butterfly, the Tree, the Swan and the Four Leaf Clover dresses.
Still, he also had a practical side. You can thank him for inventing the puffer coat and for putting the zipper in the back of your evening gown. He also created a dress called the Taxi, which was so easily removed, women could de-robe in a cab if they wanted to. So ahead of his time!
To honor James’ structural, couture gowns and overall hoity-toityness, The Met (or maybe it was Anna Wintour herself) implemented a White Tie dress code for this year’s gala. Attendees, including Lupita Nyong’o, Michelle Dockery, Zoe Saldana, Amanda Seyfriend and Taylor Swift are getting all gussied up. We’re talking dressed to the nines and tens! Epic gowns with evening gloves are expected for ladies, while men (like Kanye and Justin) will be expected to wear a black tailcoat, waistcoat and a white bow tie. Bonus points for top hats, though Pharrell probably has dibs on that look.
We can’t wait to see what everyone will be wearing. Check back next Monday for obsessive coverage of our favorite looks and side-eye stares...and some we hated (Kim, will you be there?)
Image: The Metropolitan Museum of Art