The Met Gala 2018

Veronica Rocha, CNN

Updated 8:48 AM ET, Tue May 8, 2018
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1:25 p.m. ET, May 7, 2018

A brief history of the Met Gala

Photo by Gucci via Getty Images
Photo by Gucci via Getty Images

New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute is the only curatorial department at the Met that has to finance its own activities — so the gala is its biggest fundraiser.

From 1948 to 1971, the benefit wasn't pegged to an exhibition, and was held off-site at the Waldorf Astoria or the Rainbow Room. Guests (mostly New York society types) indulged in fine dining and were entertained by "skits, raffles, and pageants of models in historic costume," according to the museum's records.

Former Vogue editor Diana Vreeland brought new glamor to the Costume Institute when she joined as a consultant in 1972. Vreeland curated some of the most ambitious and heavily publicized exhibitions in its history, and used the gala as an opportunity to inaugurate them. Her themes included "The Glory of Russian Costume" and "The World of Balenciaga."

Anna Wintour, Vogue's current editor, shifted the focus to celebrities when she took over as chairwoman in 1999, recruiting A-list honorary and co-chairs (including Beyoncé, Taylor Swift, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Tom Brady) and inviting everyone from Lil' Kim to Kim Kardashian to attract more attention to the event.