Why the first Monday in May is fashion's biggest night out

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Since 1999, the chair for the Met Gala has been Anna Wintour, the woman who many consider to be fashion’s last word.
Since 1999, the chair for the Met Gala has been Anna Wintour, the woman who many consider to be fashion's last word.

It's the night of the Met Gala. And - heads up! - you're a nobody if you aren't invited. We pick out five signature moments of divas on the red carpet down the years. Remember Rihanna's omelette dress?

By Sujata Assomull

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Published: Thu 27 Apr 2017, 10:00 PM

Last updated: Fri 28 Apr 2017, 12:47 AM

If cinema has the Oscars and Sport has the Royal Derby, then Fashion has the Met Gala, or as the industry likes to call it, 'The First Monday in May'. It is the red carpet event of the year for the industry that drives the whole concept of red carpet - fashion. The official name for this event is the Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Benefit.
New York's Metropolitan Museum is considered to be one of the leading museums of the world - and its costume institute has a collection of over 80,000 historical pieces of clothes and accessories. Fashion yearns to be celebrated as an art form and this Costume Institute validates this belief. Every year, the Costume Institute puts out one special exhibition - last year it was 'Manus X Machina: Fashion in the Age of Technology'. Opening night is celebrated with a fund raising Gala and it takes place on the first Monday in May.
Since 1999, the chair for the Met Gala has been Anna Wintour, the woman who many consider to be fashion's last word. The editor of American Vogue and artistic director of Conde Nast, she plans out every detail of the night. This was more than apparent in a film that was released this time last year titled, The First Monday in May. A behind-the-scenes look of the Met Gala 2015 -that year, the theme for the show was, 'China: Through the Looking Glass'. (The exhibitions are curated by British-born Andrew Bolton, the Head Curator of the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute in New York City.) This documentary is now considered one of fashion's greatest films; if you haven't seen it and happen to be travelling soon on Emirates Airlines, watch it inflight.
This year's subject for the show is, Japan's Rei Kawakubo, creative director of the label Comme des Garcon. She is also the co-founder of retail destination Dover Street Market and is unknown for her belief in putting creativity before commerce. It is considered a very important show as it's the first time a living designer has been honoured since the Yves Saint Laurent exhibition in 1983. But the reason the Met Gala will make headlines is because of the red carpet. There are over 600 attendees and invitees include Kim Kardashian, Chelsea Clinton, Diane Von Furstenberg, Donatella Versace and Cindy Crawford. While you can buy tickets to be a part of this evening (at US$30,000 a pop) you still need to receive a nod of approval from Ms Wintour. And you cannot make any social media posts once you enter the Met. All we know is that guests first tour the exhibition and are then invited to cocktails followed by a sit-down dinner where Ms Wintour has decided every seat. During dinner there is a live concert (performers have included Madonna and Rihanna in the past). It is a party like no other because everything is kept so secret and exclusive.

PRINCESS DIANA, 1996, CHRISTIAN DIOR- Just a year before her death, Princess Diana attended the Met Gala. It gave fashion's biggest night a royal seal of approval. Ever since her separation from Charles, Diana had begun to wear more daring styles. This slinky slip dress affirmed that she was a woman who lived life on her own terms. Her designer of choice was Christian Dior as that year the French design house was the subject of the show - and in her hand was the quilted bag that Dior named after her.

SARAH JESSICA PARKER, 2008, ANGLOMANIA- This actor has been the belle of the ball on many an occasion. Every time she steps onto the Met Gala red carpet, Sarah likes to think out of the box. In 2008, with AngloMania as the theme, she turned to one of England's most talented fashion designers, Alexander McQueen. This half-tulle and half-tartan dress gave traditional plaid a whole new meaning.

MADONNA, 2013, PUNK: CHAOS TO COUTURE-The theme lent itself to some innovative dressing and Madonna has always been known to be a "lady with an attitude". She mixed chaos with couture in this grey plaid Givenchy jacked teamed with fishnet and bright pink Casadei heels.

RIHANNA, 2015, CHINA: THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS-Rihanna was the only celebrity to aptly choose a Chinese couturier to wear to the opening of Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute exhibit China: Through the Looking Glass. The yellow gown complete with a fur-lined cape that weighed almost 25 kg made its designer Guo Pei an overnight international star. Dubbed the omelette dress, thanks to colour, shape and styling, it made a statement few will forget.

BEYONCE, 2016, MANUS X MACHINA, FASHION IN THE AGE OF TECHNOLOGY- Always one to watch, Beyonce has been a regular at the Met Gala since 2008. Last year, there were murmurs about the state of her marriage after the release of her new single, Lemonade. Arriving solo, she wore a Givenchy latex gown. Sticking to the futuristic theme of the night, Beyonce proved she is Queen B, as she knows how to make an entrance like no other celebrity.

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