When Was the First-Ever Met Gala and What Was The Theme?

The Met Gala comes around every year, usually in May, to raise money for the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute. Originally known as the Museum of Costume Art, this regular fashion exhibition merged and became part of The Met in 1946.

Its merger sparked the idea for a regular fundraiser, bringing together the biggest names in fashion to help keep the museum going.

Fast forward to 2021 and we have The Met Gala, a fundraising event with more celebrities than you can shake a stick at.

One aspect of The Met Gala which has become synonymous with the fundraiser is the astonishing outfits, determined by a theme set by the event's co-chairs, who rotate each year.

The one co-chair who remains in place is Vogue editor Anna Wintour, a Met trustee and namesake of the Costume Institute, now known as the Anna Wintour Costume Center.

Ahead of this year's grand event, themed In America: A Lexicon of Fashion, we look back to the first Met Gala and those which followed.

The First Met Gala

Anna Wintour attends the 2019 Met Gala
Cardi B attends the 2019 Met Gala
Lady Gaga
Kim Kardashian, JLo, Kylie and Kendall Jenner
Marc Jacobs and Rita Ora
Images from The Met Gala 2019

The benefit for the Met's Costume Institute first took place in 1948, with the idea coming from PR guru Eleanor Lambert.

The first event was a midnight supper, which was called The Party of the Year, where invited guests could buy a ticket for $50 each, around $900 in today's money.

Since then, some major names have served on the board of the party, acting as co-chairs who plan the event and make sure the hottest names in Hollywood are in attendance.

Some of the previous co-chairs include Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and Diana Vreeland, who helped it steadily grew into a far bigger event.

Vreeland, like currently co-chair Anna Wintour, was the editor-in-chief of Vogue magazine for many years, and brought fashion's biggest names to the party.

However, the gala as we know it now has been led by Wintour since 1995, excluding 1996 and 1998, celebrating the spring exhibition at The Costume Institute.

How Are Themes Chosen For The Met Gala?

The spring exhibition determines the theme of the event, as these two things are synched up.

In the early years, the themes were not so particular, and the modern theme is something brought about since Vreeland's time in charge.

The first themed event came in 1973 with The World of Balenciaga, which was an exhibition taking place in the gallery.

This then became tradition: that the exhibition would inform the theme of the event, and there have been some pretty outlandish themes since.

Some of Vreeland's triumphs included The Glory of Russian Costume (1976) and Vanity Fair (1977), but in 1989 her involvement with the gala came to an end on her death.

Richard Martin took over and worked with The Met until his death in 1999, helping create some incredible exhibitions, all of which linked to the gala.

In 1995, however, Wintour took over on hosting duties for the fundraiser, and helmed parties with themes including Superheroes: Fashion and Fantasy (2008), Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty (2011) and Punk: Chaos to Couture (2013).

Tickets for current events reportedly sell for closer to $40,000 each, with approximately 700 attendees from the worlds of fashion, film, music and celebrity.

There are also famous performances in the Met Gala in Wintour's era, with big names like Bruno Mars, The Weeknd and Katy Perry among previous performers.

This year's theme is In America: A Lexicon of Fashion, hosted by Billie Eilish, Timothee Chalamet, Amanda Gorman and Naomi Osaka, with Wintour acting as an honorary chair alongside designer Tom Ford and Adam Mosseri, the head of Instagram.