Behind the Scenes at the Met Gala and Its Inspirational Exhibitions

Vogue and The Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute explores the history of New York's most-buzzed-about benefit.

By Michele Laufik November 25, 2014, 7:45 AM EST

Photo: Michael Lisnet

The odds of scoring an invite to the Met Gala might be tougher than winning the lottery. But thanks to a new book anyone can sneak into the so-called “party of the year.” Vogue and The Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute: Parties, Exhibitions, People ($50, Abrams) presents an insider's look into the glamorous history of the Costume Institute's recent exhibits and the evolution of one of New York's biggest fund-raisers.

With commentary by Vogue's international editor at large, Hamish Bowles, the tome covers the exhibitions and galas of the 21st century, starting in 2001 with “Jacqueline Kennedy: The White House Years” and ending with 2014's “Charles James: Beyond Fashion.” Archival photos of the fashion displays, along with the magazine's editorial shoots and party shots from the gala, help illustrate the story of the grand societal affair.

As impressive as the annual May event is, it's not without its headaches. In the introduction, Vogue editor in chief Anna Wintour notes: “I've always thought that planning each year's gala is a lot like producing a Hollywood blockbuster, from the initial idea, through strategizing, scripting, and casting, to scrutinizing every last detail. We think about who should be the marquee names—or hosts—given the theme of a particular year. Who better to lead a celebration of American womanhood than Oprah Winfrey? Or Burberry's Christopher Bailey to champion the relationship between tradition and subversion in British fashion? As with all major productions, we have our fair share of on-set dramas, such as when a pride of peacocks intended to add a suitably decorous note to the Paul Poiret tribute instead made a bid to head to the wilderness—well, Central Park.”

Next year's spring benefit will celebrate the exhibition opening of “China: Through the Looking Glass,” which will be on view from May 7 to August 16, 2015, with the gala taking place on May 4. The joint effort between the Costume Institute and the Department of Asian Art will feature more than 100 examples of haute couture and avant-garde ready-to-wear pieces mixed with masterpieces of Chinese art, including costumes, paintings, porcelains, and films. Internationally renowned filmmaker Wong Kar Wai, working with his longtime collaborator William Chang, will be the exhibition’s artistic director. Wai and Chang will also create the gala design with 59 Productions and Raúl Àvila, who has produced the decor since 2007.

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