2024 Met Gala: Everything to know about fashion’s annual soiree

Jacqui Palumbo, CNN | 5/6/2024, 1:24 p.m.
Fashion’s biggest night out — hosted at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York each year on the first …
Bad Bunny, Jennifer Lopez, Chris Hemsworth and Zendaya will co-chair this year's Met Gala for the exhibition "Sleeping Beauties: Reawakening Fashion." Mandatory Credit: James Devaney/GC Images/Getty Images; Victor Aubry/Sipa USA; Christina House/Los Angeles Times/Getty Images; Neil Mockford/Filmmagic/Getty Images via CNN Newsource

 Fashion’s biggest night out — hosted at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York each year on the first Monday of May — is both a forever-evolving spectacle and a carefully crafted event. A parade of A-Listers dress according to the theme inspired by the Costume Institute’s latest exhibition (some more than others) and walk the steps up to the museum before disappearing inside to enjoy the galleries, dinner and drinks.

The Met Gala is taking place on Monday night and it’s time to place your bets: Which showstopping archival piece will Zendaya wear? Who will pull off the most uncanny stunt, topping Jared Leto’s “twin” or Doja Cat’s feline prosthetics? Inside, which celebs will flout the no-photos rule to sneak bathroom selfies? How late will Rihanna show up

What is this year’s theme and who are the co-chairs?

This year, the theme for the red carpet is “The Garden of Time,” referencing a 1962 short story of the same name by British author J.G. Ballard. Like the New Wave sci-fi story, which takes place in a garden of time-bending florals, the museum’s exhibition, “Sleeping Beauties: Reawakening Fashion,” highlights connections between nature and technology, using AI, CGI and other tools to breathe new life into hundreds of fragile archival pieces spanning hundreds of years. The theme is chosen each year by Andrew Bolton, curator-in-charge at the Costume Institute.

Expect fantastical fashion with floral and sci-fi motifs on the red carpet, and stylists working with luxury houses to resurface famous older looks. The first celebrities to appear will be Gala co-chairs Zendaya, Jennifer Lopez, Bad Bunny and Chris Hemsworth, the last of whom is making his Met Gala debut.

What happens at the Met Gala?

A frenzy of A-List arrivals and photographs, the red carpet portion of the evening’s proceedings last for a few hours, but that’s the only part the public sees. Inside, guests tour the exhibition, which opens to the public in the days following the gala, and have a seated dinner. Phones at the table are discouraged, and the seating chart is carefully crafted by American Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour, who has organized the gala since 1995. (Wintour has “final say” over every guest in attendance, the New York Times has previously reported.)

Though the red-carpet and afterparties get the most attention of the night, the gala is above all, a fundraiser, whose five-figure tickets raise millions of dollars for the museum each year — setting a record at nearly $22 million in 2023, according to the recently-released book “Fashion’s Big Night Out.”

What was last year’s theme?

The conceptual theme is expected to be a change of pace from last year, when the dress code was set to honor the late fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld, who died in 2019. Over the decades, tributes to the legacies of individual designers have included Rei Kawakubo, Charles James, Christian Dior, Alexander McQueen and Gianni Versace, with the last two scheduled shortly after the designers’ untimely deaths.

To celebrate Lagerfeld, celebrities including Anne Hathaway, Nicole Kidman and Jenna Ortega flocked to the event in designs by Chanel, Fendi and Chloé, where he left his indelible mark, but some paid a cheeky tribute to Lagerfeld’s cat Choupette as well (hence Doja Cat’s whiskered beauty look). Not all were pleased with the theme to honor the controversial designer, however, given his history of disparaging remarks about women’s bodies and his refusal to champion more inclusive beauty standards.

When did the Met Gala start?

The Met Gala debuted in 1948 as a fundraiser for the nascent Costume Institute, organized by fashion publicist Eleanor Lambert. Tickets for the banquet reportedly cost $50 each.

Over the decades, the gala has transformed from an industry fete at off-site locations like Manhattan’s Rainbow Room into an A-List phenomenon. In the 1970s, Vogue editor Diana Vreeland positioned the gala as the opening soiree of the Institute’s major exhibitions and invited the crème de la crème of the fashion world and New York society. Wintour, her successor, has favored high-profile musicians, actors and entertainment figures, turning the gala into one of the most-watched events of the fashion calendar — and the year. In 2023, the software company LaunchMetrics found that the Met Gala generated nearly double the “media impact value” for brands than the Super Bowl, at $995 million.

What was the first Met Gala theme?

The first theme was “The World of Balenciaga” in 1973, tied to a retrospective of the couturier Cristóbal Balenciaga; the event was attended by guests including Halston and Calvin Klein, according to “Fashion’s Big Night Out.”

Early themes included “Romantic and Glamorous Hollywood Design,” “The Glory of Russian Costume,” and “The 18th-Century Woman.” But gala-goers mostly kept to conventional eveningwear until the 2000s, when some guests began to have more fun with the themes — and the internet allowed more eyes on the arrivals. The most memorable themes from the past decade have included “China: Through the Looking Glass,” “Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination” and the divisive “Camp: Notes on Fashion” thanks to celebrities including Beyoncé, Lady Gaga, Rihanna, Zendaya and the Kardashian-Jenners, who use the red carpet to put on a show.

Who is banned from the Met Gala?

Each year rumors fly about who may be persona non grata at the gala, whether due to any offense towards the event or Wintour herself. But the Vogue editor has only explicitly spoken about one guest she would “never invite back” in public — Donald Trump, whom she mentioned on James Corden’s late night talk show in 2017 when asked to name names.

Other previous guests have sworn it off, however, including Demi Lovato, Zayn Malik and Tina Fey. In 2015, five years after she made an appearance at the event, Fey said on “Late Show with David Letterman” that the gala is a “jerk parade.”

“If you had a million arms, all the people you would want to punch in the whole world — they’re all there,” she said. “I mean I was there, clearly I was one of them.”

Some celebrities backtrack, however. Gwyneth Paltrow famously called the Met Gala “un-fun” in 2013 and said she’d “never” go again, but returned in 2017 (and 2019).

What shouldn’t you do at the Met Gala?

Met Gala guests have often broken the no-social-media rule to give a more candid glimpse of who is hanging with who and what goes on behind closed doors. In 2017, that included smoking, as attendees including Bella Hadid and Dakota Johnson lit up cigarettes in the museum bathroom (to the ire of the museum’s donors, reportedly).

Despite what the Jason Derulo meme would have you believe, he — nor anyone else — has taken a tumble down the stairs. But some guests have famously rumbled — this year marks ten years since the infamous after-party elevator fight between Jay-Z and Solange.

A final faux pas? Wearing the same outfit, of course. While it’s been reported that Wintour not only arranges the guest list but also has a hand in their fashion choices, last year, Olivia Wilde and departing “Vogue China” editor Margaret Zhang showed up in the same throwback Chloé violin dress in different color schemes. The pair took it in stride, sharing memes on social media about the accident. “Great minds,” Wilde wrote on Instagram. “If you’re gonna twin with anyone, make it @margaretzhang.”