Everything you need to know about the Met Gala

Catholic imagination has been influencing fashion for decades and will serve as the theme for Monday's annual Met Gala

The annual celebrity-packed Met Gala is the equivalent of the Oscars for the fashion world. Almost anyone – even fashion-skeptics – are excited to see how the attendees and the designers that dress them will interpret the theme on the famous stairs of The Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC’s Upper East Side for the spectacular parade.

For the upcoming 2018 ball, which will take place next Monday, the worlds of religion and fashion are coming together with the theme “Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination,” an introspective look at the garments, colours and symbols that define the aesthetic of Catholicism.

The fundraising event was first founded in 1948 by publicist Eleanor Lambert to boost donations from the city’s socialites to the Met’s Costume Institute. For the past seven decades, the most prominent faces of the fashion, music, art and film industries have come together to celebrate the opening of the much-anticipated exhibition that traditionally debuts after the event and to raise money for the institute.

Anna Wintour and her daughter Bee Shaffer at the 2016 gala

Fashion’s undisputed – and most feared – highness and US Vogue’s editor-in-chief Anna Wintour has been directing the event since 1995 with the help of public figures that she personally recruits for each ceremony. For the 2018 event, which marks the 70th anniversary of the iconic gala, she has been working with Donatella Versace, Amal Clooney and Rihanna.

Wintour and Versace visited the Vatican earlier this year for research purposes and to offer journalists a glimpse at the ecclesiastical accessories and vestments that will be featured in the upcoming Met exhibition.

Arguably, finding the point of interaction between fashion and the imaginary based upon an institutionalised belief system can be a controversial theme for a gala, but the idea behind it is a celebration and retrospective look at the long history of the Catholic visual appeal throughout the centuries, as well as its recurrent representation in various forms of pop-culture, from music to movies – Madonna’s “Like a Virgin” is one of our favourite examples.

An outfit from Dolce & Gabbana's 2013 Catholic-inspired collection

“Every show we do at the Costume Institute has that potential [to be provocative],” Andrew Bolton, the curator in charge of the Met Costume Institute, said in an interview with the New York Times when this year’s theme was announced. “This one perhaps more than any other. But the focus is on a shared hypothesis about what we call the Catholic imagination and the way it has engaged artists and designers and shaped their approach to creativity, as opposed to any kind of theology or sociology. Beauty has often been a bridge between believers and unbelievers.”

In general, the ball is renowned for pushing boundaries and sparking bigger cultural discussions. Previous themes centred on many topical and historical issues such as the idea and aesthetic of womanhood in different cultures and periods as well as concepts of innovation and preservation. Throughout the years, it’s also celebrated the most acclaimed and defining designers of our time like Christian Dior, Yves Saint Laurent and Gianni Versace.

Rihanna wearing the now-iconic Gui Pei gown at the 2015 gala

Extravaganza is the first word that comes to mind when thinking about the dresses that have defined each year’s ceremony. You might have seen Rihanna’s grand entrance in 2015 with her 16-foot long (it took four men to carry it through the red carpet) yellow fur-lined Gui Pei gown or Cher’s memorable – probably the most iconic so far – 1974 Bob Mackie “naked dress,” to cite a couple.  But what’s even more fascinating about the event is the aura of mystery and exclusivity that surrounds it and the months that precede it.  Last year, director Andrew Rossi followed Wintour and Bolton as they carefully planned the event in his documentary The First Monday in May (titled after the event’s traditional date).

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The film chronicles the daily activities of the year-long preparation for the 2017 “China: Through the Looking Glass” exhibition and the gala based on the same theme.  One scene famously shows the elaborate dynamics behind the seating arrangements to keep everyone attending the ceremony happy – exposing the celebrity-related aspect of the party juxtaposed with the meticulously-planned artistic direction of the unique exhibits.

Singer Cher at the 1974 ceremony

Next Monday, only a minuscule fraction of New Yorkers will attend one of the most exclusive parties of the year and yet almost the entire world will be watching on their phones, through social media and the news for what seems to be one of the most controversial Met Galas in years to unfold. 

Check out our site and social media for the outfits from the night

In this Story: #culture / #fashion