After last year's immersive punk-theme gala, the Metropolitan Museum of Art ushered in a look for its annual Costume Institute benefit that served as something of a palate cleanser—both in decor and in dress code. Celebrating the New York institution's spring exhibition, “Charles James: Beyond Fashion,” the Met Gala on May 5 took its cues from James, a 20th-century American couturier recognized for his sculptural ball gowns and innovative tailoring. The centerpiece? A 30-foot-tall rose-covered mannequin and gown towering in the Great Hall.
Vogue's director of special projects, Sylvana Ward Durrett, oversaw the planning of the benefit, working with the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s in-house staff, including vice president for development and membership Nina Diefenbach, deputy chief development officer for events Kristin MacDonald, and deputy chief special events officer Bronwyn Keenan. Decor for the event was produced by Raul Avila for the eighth consecutive year, with special input from Patrick Kinmonth, who designed the invitation and the decor for the Great Hall information desk.
About 580 guests, including co-chairs Bradley Cooper, Oscar de la Renta, Sarah Jessica Parker, Lizzie and Jonathan Tisch, and Metropolitan Museum trustee and Vogue editor Anna Wintour—not to mention chair and sponsor Aerin Lauder—arrived at the museum for an inaugural viewing of the exhibit. And while last year’s live-streamed red carpet was a first for the gala, its share of minor hiccups undoubtedly led to the retirement—at least temporarily—of that initiative.
For the Vogue editor, the event not only marked her 16th year as co-chair, but also the opening of the $40 million Anna Wintour Costume Center. The morning of the gala, First Lady Michelle Obama led the dedication of the newly refurbished space.
At the evening event, the entire palette was inspired by Cecil Beaton’s iconic 1948 photograph of eight models in James ball gowns. As guests, including Rihanna, Katie Holmes, Diane von Furstenberg, and Naomi Campbell, made their way to the Carroll and Milton Petrie European Sculpture Court for cocktails, they encountered the 30-foot-high oversize replica of a James sculpture covered in tens of thousands of roses. The dinner space in the American Wing's Charles Engelhard Court held crystal chandeliers, urns of blossoming branches, and linens that matched the color palette of Charles James ball gowns.
Following dinner, Cooper took to the stage to introduce Rosie Danvers and the “Charles James Orchestra.” After performing “Fly Me to the Moon,” out came Frank Ocean. The music impresario wished his date—his mother—a happy birthday, and started a two-song set with his track “Super Rich Kids.” Immediately afterward, Diplo started playing Beyoncé’s “Drunk in Love” as guests began to depart for several after-parties, including one at the Carlyle, another at Top of the Standard, and yet another—hosted by Rihanna—at Up & Down in the meatpacking district.
Approximately $12 million was raised by the gala—setting a new record for the Costume Institute and topping the $11.5 million raised at the 2012 benefit.