Why we know everything – and nothing – about the Met Gala

Why we know everything – and nothing – about the Met Gala

Alexandra Kourakis

Alexandra Kourakis

The first Monday in May isn’t just any old Monday. If you’re like me, you live for the thrill of staying up all night, watching celebrities pose in avant-garde haute couture. You deliver scathing commentary on off-theme attendees like you’re the editor of Vogue. You search for the story in every outfit. What am I talking about? It can only be the Met Gala.

From a reputational standpoint, the Met Gala is fascinating. A large number of people don’t understand its purpose, because the dominant focus is on the red carpet. Yet, it’s often described as the event of the year. To answer the burning question, it’s just a fundraising dinner – but how is it that an event which is often misunderstood is so coveted and highly esteemed? The answer lies in crafting a reputation based on strategic exclusivity, whilst drawing attention to fashion that is often enhanced by technology.

Is the Met Gala high fashion? No, it's high tech

Admittedly, technology is not what springs to mind when I think of the Met Gala (Tyla’s dress crafted out of literal sand for the 2024 event, however, definitely is). But, in reality, technology has always played a role.

A few examples immediately spring to mind: the 2016 event – aptly titled “Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology” – saw Claire Danes dressed in a ballgown that lit up in the dark; in 2019, both Nina Dobrev and Jourdan Dunn wore 3D-printed mini dresses; and this year, tech tycoon Mona Patel accessorised her gown with sleeves of animatronic butterflies – as you do.

It seems that the Met Gala isn’t just an ode to fashion. It’s an ode to technology’s influence on fashion, and it goes further than just the event. For example, the Met’s latest exhibition is highlighting how technology has been used to preserve delicate historical fashion – not to mention the creation of a customised AI chatbot courtesy of OpenAI. But whilst technology is used to help draw welcome attention, there’s no denying that the Met Gala cultivates a sense of ultra-exclusivity, and this has a huge impact on its reputation.

No paps, please

The Met Gala is both one of the most photographed events in the world, and one of the most secretive. Guests are strictly forbidden to post anything that goes on behind the Met steps, and only a handful of highly curated glimpses are presented to us via Vogue’s social media.

However, it’s no surprise that the Met Gala wants to be perceived as an exclusive event. Firstly, it exudes an obvious sense of glamour and mystery, which only a handful of ultra-high-profile people can experience. Secondly, the regular person can only know so much about the event – information is a luxury. And this is purposeful, to allow the event to remain elusive.

If every minute of the Met Gala was posted and circulated online, it would likely alter the reputation – and illusion – it has carefully constructed over the years. The reality is that it’s no different to any other sit-down charity dinner; this one just has more famous faces. So, by welcoming media attention on the red carpet, and keeping everything else under lock and key, the event’s mysterious public image stays in-tact.

So, the Met Gala’s reputation is primarily shaped by its desire to remain exclusive, but there are evidently other forces at play. The resulting impact is an interesting dichotomy, and I do wonder if we’ll ever get to see a real look behind the curtain in the future. But in the meantime, I’m already counting down the days until the next first Monday in May.

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