The COVID-19 pandemic successfully stole most of the fun from 2020: bars were closed, and theme parks, restaurants, international travel and even cinemas were largely off limits.
The pandemic also robbed the world of a less popular, but still deeply entertaining pastime: gawking at the rich and famous, and the often jaw-dropping things they choose to wear to red carpet events.
However, there’s some good news for sartorialists, satirists and all other celebrity-watchers: fashion’s night of nights – the Met Gala – is back.
The Met Gala, usually held on the first Monday in May, was cancelled entirely in 2020 and pushed to Monday 13 September in 2021.
That means that for celebrities, it’s time to stump up for the staggering ticket prices and book in the almond facials.
And for lockdowners living vicariously, it’s time to sit back and enjoy the show.
Here’s the Met Gala by numbers.
How much does a ticket cost?
The first Met Gala occurred in 1948 and came about when publicist Eleanor Lambert decided a party would be a great way to raise money for the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute.
Tickets to the inaugural soiree cost US$50 (AU$68).
Things have changed since then.
In 2019, tickets reportedly went for around US$35,000 (AU$47,500) per person, but companies could also buy tables for between US$200,000 and US$300,000 and invite guests.
Many of the celebrities who attend don’t pay for their own ticket, with their tickets and costumes bankrolled by major fashion houses. In exchange, the fashion house receives the exposure, and the goodwill of having contributed to the fundraising.
Around 500 – 700 guests usually attend, and each one of them is handpicked by Vogue editor-in-chief and host since 1995, Anna Wintour.
How much does it cost to look the part?
Every year the theme of the Met Gala changes. This year, it’s ‘American Independence’, but other years have seen themes like ‘Camp’, ‘Punk’ and ‘Heavenly Bodies’.
This year’s theme is tied to the In America: A Lexicon of Fashion two-part series featuring work by Donna Karan, Ralph Lauren, Halston and Prabal Gurung.
The second part of the exhibition, In America: An Anthology of Fashion, will be preceded by another Met Gala on 5 May 2022.
For the guests, it means they need to tie in with the theme, and at the Met Gala, the bolder the better.
For the more famous celebrities, gowns and jewels are often on loan from companies and sponsors.
But it’s still far from a free lunch.
Beyonce’s 2016 lurex Met Gala dress was reportedly studded with hundreds of pearls costing between US$6,000 and US$8,000.
And at the 2019 Gala, actor Jared Leto carried a replica of his head as an accessory. The Gucci head was designed by special effects company Makinarium. These heads normally go for US$11,000.
Then if guests want to live it up before and after the event, a bed in the Carlyle hotel will seat them back US$1,170 – US$8,700.
The Mark is even more expensive, with rooms going for US$1,225 – US$10,000.
What’s the goal of the whole thing?
The Met Gala is essentially a huge fundraiser for the Met’s fashion department, the Costume Institute. The Costume Institute is the onl curatorial department that has to fund itself at the Met.
All proceeds from the event go directly to the Institute, where it is used to fund acquisitions, capital improvements and exhibits.
The event also traditionally marks the opening of the spring exhibit. In 2016, it reportedly cost US$3.5 million to put on the event.
The 2019 gala reportedly raised US$15 million.
So what’s the big deal?
“I think the success is due to the mix of people involved,” Wintour told the New York Times when she hosted her first Met Gala in 1995.
“It’s the whole cast of characters, and there is a certain glamour and sex appeal associated with the haute couture.”