What Happens at the Met Gala? Here’s a Full Breakdown

From cocktail hours to live shows

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It’s only a matter of time before our social feed is flooded with fan commentary on the best Met Gala red-carpet looks. Over the past few years, we’ve spotted some of the most unconventional outfits, from Taylor Swift's metallic Louis Vuitton dress to Rihanna’s gorgeous yellow Guo Pei gown. Although we’re familiar with the red carpet, we don’t know what happens when the stars head inside. This begs the question: What happens at the Met Gala? 

Keep scrolling for details on the most iconic fashion event of the year.

A Brief History of the Met Gala

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The Met Gala, also known as the Met Ball and Costume Institute Gala, is an annual fundraising event that takes place at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and it’s organized by Vogue magazine. 

The tradition dates back to 1948, when fashion publicist Eleanor Lambert spearheaded the first fundraising event for the Costume Institute's annual fashion exhibit. For the first two decades, the gala included a special dinner that was held at venues like the Waldorf Astoria and the Rainbow Room. But in the early ’70s, Vogue’s former editor-in-chief, Diana Vreeland, joined the Costume Institute as a consultant and gave the event a major upgrade.

Thanks to Vreeland, it has become an elite and glamorous affair, complete with creative themes like Cubism and Fashion, the Costumes of Royal India and The Age of Napoleon. By 1995, when Vogue’s former editor-in-chief Anna Wintour became chairperson of the event, the official date moved to the first Monday in May.

What Is the Met Gala Theme for 2024?

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This year’s theme is Sleeping Beauties: Reawakening Fashion—and it has nothing to do with Princess Aurora from the classic fairytale. According to the official website, the Costume Institute’s spring exhibition will feature 250 garments and accessories spanning four centuries, and it promises to "breathe new life into these storied objects through creative and immersive activations designed to convey the smells, sounds, textures and motions of garments that can no longer directly interact with the body."

Curator in Charge Andrew Bolton told Fashionista,  "The last time we did an exhibition, that was exclusively based on our collection 'About Time.' Throughout the years, [we've had] exhibitions where we try to reawaken costumes in our collection—usually conceptually, by interpretation and by juxtaposing historical and contemporary garments side by side to mutually inform and enliven each other. But for this one, we wanted to literally reawaken the costumes."

We can’t wait to see how this year’s attendees will interpret the theme. You can tune in to the 2024 Met Gala red carpet broadcast on Monday, May 6.

Who is co-chairing the Met Gala?

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Per usual, Wintour will co-chair the event. She will be joined by Zendaya, Jennifer Lopez, Bad Bunny and Chris Hemsworth. Talk about an impressive line-up.

They follow last year's equally dazzling line-up, including Michaela Coel, Penélope Cruz, Roger Federer and Dua Lipa.

What Was the Theme of Last Year's Met Gala?

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Last year’s theme was Karl Lagerfeld: A Line of Beauty. The Costume Institute’s spring exhibition honored the work of the late German fashion designer, who served as the creative director of Chanel. 

Bolton said in a statement, “The exhibition will explore Lagerfeld’s complex working methodology, tracing the evolution of his fashions from the two-dimensional to the three-dimensional. The fluid lines of his sketches found expression in recurring themes in his fashions, uniting his designs for Chanel, Chloé, Fendi, his eponymous label, Karl Lagerfeld and Patou, creating a diverse and prolific body of work unparalleled in the history of fashion.”

What Happens at the Met Gala?

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1. The Red Carpet

Of course, the Met Gala wouldn’t be the Met Gala without dozens of celebrities modeling their most creative looks. First, guests walk the red carpet, and it’s always fascinating to see their unique take on certain themes. The live reactions from the fans on social media are just icing on the cake.

2. Tour of the Exhibition

After walking the red carpet, attendees usually go inside for a first look at the new exhibition. And this year, visitors will get a full tour of Sleeping Beauties: Reawakening Fashion.

According to Mike Hartman, who worked as a server at the 2018 event, there’s usually a guide to walk them through the exhibit. He told Insider, "There are escorts guiding them along, but they're allowed to take their time." Another fun fact? The celebs also have access to "personal rooms," where they can change out of their elaborate ensembles or "do fix-ups" in the middle of the event.

3. Cocktail Hour

Wine makes everything better, right? While working the 2018 event (theme: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination), Hartman recalled the guests enjoying happy hour when they got inside. He said, “That year, they went to the Temple of Dendur first to have their cocktail party. I was not part of that team—it was probably about an hour or so."

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4. Formal Black-Tie Dinner

After touring the exhibit and sipping a few drinks, the celebrities are seated for a formal dinner at the Petrie Court—and there’s a lot of preparation that goes into it, according to party planner Eaddy Kiernan.

She told Vogue, “We really try to think very carefully about who’s sitting next to each other. Our ideal pairing would maybe be two people who we think will just get on like a house on fire but who may not even realize that they have a lot in common. So, with each person, we really do take time to think, ‘What will they talk about?’ We try and think a lot about sight lines and where people have sat in the past. And we try to make sure someone isn’t staring into the eyes of a former flame.” Makes total sense.

5. Entertainment

Guests can expect to see at least one performance when they attend the Met Gala. (This tradition has been around since 2010.) Although we don’t know who is performing this year, past artists include Bruno Mars, Rihanna, Katy Perry and Justin Bieber. 

Who Usually Gets Invited to The Met Gala?

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As you’ve probably noticed from previous events, the guest list usually includes a variety of famous faces, from athletes and social media stars to actors and politicians. 

Something tells us this year’s red carpet will be a night to remember.

nakeisha campbell bio

Associate Editor, News and Entertainment

Nakeisha has been interviewing celebrities and covering all things entertainment for over 8 years, but she has also written on a wide range of topics, like career...