The Met Gala, one of the most prestigious acknowledgments of the fashion industry, has humble origins. Before high-end designers flocked to dress up the who’s who, it was an annual fundraising dinner; tickets went for as little as $50 each. Current prices for a ticket, however, is around $35,000, with tables costing $200,000 to $300,000. More importantly, one can’t get in without the approval of Anna Wintour, the editor of Vogue. The Met Gala was founded in 1948 to fundraise for the Costume Institute and mark the introduction of its annual exhibit. The Costume Institute initially called the Museum of Costume Art, merged with the Museum of Metropolitan Art in 1946. Until 1971, the Gala was not even held at the Met Museum.
Today, the Met Gala is a big deal. Every attendee has half of the world’s attention, especially with the amount of promotion, making it unmissable.
According to Forbes, the Met Gala has raised more than $175 million for the Costume Institute. This year’s theme, ‘In America: An Anthology of Fashion’, or “Gilded Glamour,” is a reference to the late 19th-century Gilded Age — the period between 1870 and 1900 when there were great economic inequalities, with a majority of wealth concentrated with the richest.
Befitting the theme, there were some great hits…and some terrible misses. Serum Institute of India (SII) Executive Director Natasha Poonawalla’s avant-garde outfit completed by a Sabyasachi gold saree seemed to adhere to the theme. The gold saree, topped with a Schiaparelli golden metal bustier was supposedly an embodiment of the ‘Indian gaze that revels in its multi-culturalism and authenticity’.
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However, as always, there were some inadequate interpretations of the theme, making it to Cosmopolitan’s worst-dressed list. However, the modern Met Gala as we know it has never been about embracing the theme but making a statement — particularly online. Celebrities will benefit greater from the approval (or acknowledgment) of the general public over Vogue magazine’s, hence justifying some of the most outrageous faux pas every year.
Another notable moment was when Vogue magazine posted a digital rendering of Rihanna’s Vogue cover pose alongside other marble statues at the Museum.
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This year, however, the Met Gala faced backlash over the ‘out-of-touch’ theme that paid tribute to the late 19th century — a period in American history when slavery had just been abolished and prejudice was at an all-time high. The theme pays homage to the period of rapid prosperity, industrialization, and growth in America from 1870 to 1890. But ironically, the real-life economic situation today is far from ideal or “prosperous”. Most Americans are experiencing the worst of inflation and a shrinking economy. Last quarter, the American economy shrank for the first time since the pandemic-driven recession two years ago. US GDP fell by about 0.35% from January to March, prompting experts to discuss rising inflation. Not only that but celebrating the Met Gala during the Russia-Ukraine seems conceited to say the least.
Then again, that’s what separates Hollywood from reality — the idealism and glamour. Celebrities are seldom aware of real-world situations and only comment on them to hop onto the bandwagon. Seeking political validation on Twitter from people whose lives the happenings of the real world barely affects seems off-centre. They are here to entertain and the Met Gala is entertainment at best. If anything, the Met Gala is a momentary distraction from everyday hardships.