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Watch: Anna Wintour dishes on what to expect from the 2021 Met Gala
Tonight sees the return of the most eagerly-anticipated event in the entire fashion calendar, the Met Gala, AKA The Met Ball, to New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Postponed due to COVID concerns, it's set to come back with a bang, and shower New York city with glittering particles of style.
Run with meticulous attention to detail by Vogue Editor in Chief Anna Wintour, invitations are more Wonka's golden ticket than commonplace gold-dust, and the guest list is always a closely guarded secret until the stars of stage, screen and catwalk appear on the red carpet, exquisitely coutured and buffed to a sheen.
Here's everything you need to know about this year's extravaganza - except how to get past the door staff.
When does it take place?
The Met Gala traditionally takes place on the first Monday in May, but last year's was cancelled and this year it has been postponed until tonight (September 13).
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The dazzling event began as a dinner back in 1948, launched by fashion PR Eleanor Lambert. However, once Diana Vreeland, legendary US Vogue editor got involved, the drama and delight ramped up accordingly.
Anna Wintour took the reins back in 1995, and it now always close the spectacle of New York Fashion Week.
Did we mention Anna Wintour? She's now been at the fundraising and planning helm for over a quarter century - every year, millions are raised to support the Met's Costume Institute, and 2019 saw a final total of over $15 million.
The 'honorary chairs' are Tom Ford, Adam Mosseri, and Anna Wintour, but each year, new hosts are appointed to help present and represent the Gala, and this year, it's actor Timothée Chalamet, musician Billie Eilish, poet Amanda Gorman, and tennis star Naomi Osaka. They represent the youngest cohort of hosts in the ball's history.
"Each of the Met's four co-hosts embodies the defining factor of American style: individualism," US Vogue explained back in May when the choices were announced.
"They may approach the concept differently, but their shared passion for expressing themselves through clothing connects with the exhibition's theme. Chalamet, Eilish, Osaka, and Gorman have all developed a distinct visual language...one that is informed by the legacy of iconic fashion made in the USA."
Chalamet was praised for his edgy streetwear and 'lack of a stylist', while Eilish was noted for 'pushing emerging brands into the limelight and challenging old rules about how a pop star should dress."
What's the theme?
American Independence is the official theme this year, to reflect the Met's new costume exhibition, America: A Lexicon of Fashion.
Guests generally interpret the ball's themes as dramatically and stylishly as possible. 2019 saw Lady Gaga celebrating the theme of 'camp' in black underwear, sparkling platform boots and Tiffany jewellery, while singer Harry Styles sported Gucci's sheer, pussy-bow lace blouse.
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"I really do believe that American fashion is undergoing a renaissance," said Andrew Bolton, the Wendy Yu Curator in Charge of the Costume Institute this year. "I think young designers in particular are at the vanguard of discussions about diversity and inclusion, as well as sustainability."
A Lexicon of Fashion will open on September 18 at the Anna Wintour Costume Center at the Met, to celebrate the Costume Institute’s 75th anniversary. The two-part exhibition concludes in May 2022, with In America: An Anthology of Fashion.
Of all red carpet fashion, The Met Gala makes the Oscars look a bit tame and the Grammys somewhat tired. Stand-out costumes over the years include show-stoppers from singer Rihanna, who rocked up in 2018 dressed in a hand-beaded Maison Margiela gown,with a Papal headdress to celebrate the theme Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination, while Lady Gaga also showcased a staggering parachute-sized hot pink dress and giant hair-bow in 2019.
Actor and performer Billy Porter was carried in dressed as a glittering golden sun-god, and tennis star Serena Williams arrived in a gold Versace frock covered in whirling butterflies, before revealing that she was wearing Nike trainers underneath.
Rihanna's attendance is almost guaranteed this year, as she hinted on Instagram at her plans for a Met ball after-party tonight.
Nobody knows till they show, but based on previous attendance, a guest list which includes models Gigi and Bella Hadid, Blake Lively, Sarah Jessica Parker and Katy Perry is highly likely.
What will they do?
Mingle hard. Wintour never seats couples together, on the basis that the idea is to sit next to other creatives and make connections. There's a high-end cocktail hour, where guests can show off their outfits, pose for photos - phone cameras are not permitted - and meet the great and good.
They'll then sit down to dinner - if their costumes allow it, though Wintour ensures that food is easy to manouevre, and bans parsley and spinach (in case it gets stuck in teeth), onion and garlic (for breath reasons) and finger food that might collapse, due to the danger of ruining priceless costumes.
In 2016, supermodel Karlie Kloss had her dress cut down for the late evening, as red wine had been spilled on the hem.
How do you get a ticket?
All attendees how have to offer proof of vaccination, a negative PCR test and wear a mask indoors. They also need to be very well off. The event is invitation-only and tickets cost $30,000 (£23,000), while entire tables cost £275,000 (£211,000). Companies can buy tables, but Wintour has final veto over the guest list.
It's probably a bit late to get in her good books - but you can watch the livestream here, which starts at 5pm EST.
Watch: met Gala returns Monday