he Met Gala is the one night each year when the fashion industry lives up to its potential, when Rihanna sweeps up the steps of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in a fox fur–trimmed robe the color of an egg yolk, its train pooling yards behind her, and all you can do is gasp, or laugh, or melt into a puddle because you just can’t believe this is real life.
A white tent goes up over the museum’s wide steps and a red (or blue, or pink) carpet is thrown down, creating a perfectly manicured universe that in the coming hours will be packed with all the ingredients for an Important Media Moment. Dozens of photographers and camera operators assemble near the entrance, and just as many reporters take their assigned spots on either side of the staircase, prepared to shout and tweet and Instagram until their throats go hoarse and their backup batteries die. The railings they stand behind are tastefully dressed in greenery. Everyone is in mandatory black-tie.
The first guests start to trickle in, and before long, the scene is a flash flood of musicians (Beyoncé!), actors (Blake!), athletes (Serena!), models (Kendall!), and fashion designers, who pose and preen and recline on the stairs if they’re Diddy. It’s like the Oscars, plus the Grammys, Emmys, and ESPYs, but frothier fun than any of them. As far as spectators are concerned, the red carpet is the entire point.
The annual fundraiser for the Met’s Costume Institute is an irresistible, often viral soup of celebrity and over-the-top style, and it’s all engineered by Met trustee and Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour, for whom the Costume Institute was renamed in 2014. She oversees who gets to come, where they sit, and, frequently, what they wear.