Tonight, like every first Monday in May since 1948 (except in 2020 and 2021, due to the virus), all eyes will be on New York. The Met Gala is back and it’s going to provide another opportunity to gossip about the guests’ costumes or rave about their audacity and imagination.

A charity evening launched by the journalist Eleanor Lambert to raise funds for the brand new Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum, this event was, in the beginning, a little stuffy. You have to imagine hushed dinners bringing together all of New York high society and the great couturiers of the moment: A somewhat absurd meeting between millionaires and deceived wives, trophy women and creators present at precisely the right time to console them by offering them the sumptuous revenge of a power-dress. Seen from a distance, this midnight dinner which brought together, at USD 50 a ticket, people who saw each other all year round, who were sometimes neighbors and who found themselves on vacation in the same resorts, must not have been wildly amusing. But at least more than enough money was collected to finance the Costume Institute’s annual fashion exhibition.

A different turn

In the 1970s, under the direction of the editor Diana Vreeland, The Met Gala took a different turn. First, it opened up the event to artists, who were much more outgoing than the usual clientele. Then she established themes that the guests had to abide by. The Met Gala rises in rank and becomes a spectacle almost as prestigious as the Oscars ceremony and its satellite gatherings. The guests are handpicked and the list is disclosed only at the last minute. We can already count on personalities like Andy Warhol, Cher or Diana Ross to electrify the atmosphere.

A principal watching her students arrive

Anna Wintour took over the management of the Met in 1995 five years after the death of Diana Vreeland. The editor-in-chief of Vogue, whose willful and authoritarian character is no secret to anyone, raises the stakes, makes the event even more exclusive, increases the number of guests to almost 700 people, and creates desire to the point of setting the price of a ticket at $35,000 for those not invited, and a table at more than $200,000. Moreover, she establishes the theme of the evening, which will also be that of the Met exhibition. The participants compete in extravagance with the complicity of the greatest creators. From now on, more is more. It is no longer just about elegance, but about style, audacity, wit, humor and concept. The eye of Ms. Wintour on the red carpet, where the flashes crackle, is that of a school principal watching the arrival of her students on the steps of a boarding school. It is also she, with her committee, who appoints the annual presidents of the ceremony.

Gilded glamour

The theme of the 2022 gala is the second part of that from 2021 which was “In America: A Lexicon of Fashion”. This sequel is called “In America: An Anthology of Fashion”. But in addition to reviewing American fashion from the 18th century to the present day, the dress code was “Gilded Glamour”, that is to say clothes inspired by the Gilded Age, those years 1870 to 1890 when the United States United industrialized and saw growth explode. In those days, the richer one was, the more it was displayed through excessive, colorful clothing, embellished with feathers and crazy accessories. It will hurt the eyes but warm the heart: after two years of health restrictions, the time has finally come to let go.

After Timothée Chalamet, Billie Eilish and Naomi Osaka in 2021, the presidents of the 2022 edition are Regina King, Blake Lively, Ryan Reynolds and Lin-Manuel Miranda.

Those unforgettable outfits

While we wait for tonight’s “Oh” moment, here are the most memorable Met Gala outfits from the past few years.

In 2021, Virgil Abloh wore a white ensemble created by himself for Louis Vuitton, jacket and shirt crossed by the word “Modernism” in blue, a pleated skirt above the pants, sneakers with red soles, a fur hat with rabbit ears. A combination of the Statue of Liberty, the architecture of skyscrapers and the March Hare with a dodgily-colored underfoot.

Also in 2021, the spirits remain marked by Kim Kardashian’s black hooded dress created by Demna Gvasalia for Balenciaga. Onlookers saw a double message there: the claim of anonymity in a world overexposed by social media, and the mourning of her marriage with Kanye West, which was floundering.

The 2019 Camp theme has arguably inspired the craziest looks.  The unforgettable Thierry Mugler dress of the same Kim Kardashian – still in a relationship with her Kanye – in skin-colored latex sticking to the skin, and crystal tears as if she had just come out of the water. Had she?

Even more unforgettable was Lady Gaga at the same ceremony, emerging with endless doll’s eyelashes and a blond Barbie wig in a shocking pink silk flow with a huge train, by Brandon Maxwell. The “Camp” style, a word borrowed from an essay by Susan Sontag, is a celebration of kitsch at its peak, ironic and quirky.

Oh, and who will ever forget the chandelier dress created for the occasion by Moschino and masterfully worn by Katy Perry, who would end the evening in a couture hamburger?

For the 2018 theme, “Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination”, it was the singer Rihanna who won the prize, literally dressed as a sexy Popess, in a Maison Margiela mini dress, tons of pearls in baroque embroidery and of course, a pontifical tiara.

“Manus x Machina”, a 2016 theme that opposed or associated craftsmanship and technologies, gave rise to somewhat confused interpretations, of which we will remember Solange Knowles’ yellow outfit, which brought rubber stockings into conflict with clouds of pleated chiffon.

Finally, in the moving exhibition “Savage Beauty” dedicated to Alexander McQueen in 2011, some had understood the political meaning of the Scottish genius’s approach and his use of lace to denounce the devouring of Scottish culture by England. Madonna had replaced the lace with shining stars that tore the twilight sky from a long blue satin dress.