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But before the celebs assemble their glam squads and the adoring fans line the streets of Fifth Avenue for a glimpse of the pomp and circumstance, the team at Vogue has to spend an entire year planning behind closed doors. This leads to a cloak-and-dagger situation when it comes to fashion's biggest event. Who gets the coveted invites? Who gets the best seat in the house? And who's actually shelling out the $25,000 ticket price?
It's time to life the (couture) veil.
But before all the A-listers make the cut, they have to invite the big spenders. That would be the non-celebrities, the regular millionaires, if you will. Fashion houses and big companies like Amazon, as well as the museum's highest regular donors are all graciously given the opportunity to purchase tables, for a cool price of, like hundreds of thousands of dollars. How nice, right? Then the real fun can start.
The Met Gala has an age-old tradition of keeping the fashion designer-celebrity partnerships alive. All the biggest designers choose one actress to wear a dress that they create just for the party. All sorts of politics go into these pairings—the A-listers have to have a relationship with the designer, of course, but they also need to perfectly represent their aesthetic, and be okayed by Miss Wintour.
They also have to be into the idea of spending the entire night together; the twosomes walk the red carpet, sit together during dinner and walk through the exhibit together. That's a lot of one-on-one time. If, say, Michael Kors is going to spend all spring making a couture gown from scratch, he wants to make sure that Kate Hudsonis the perfect person to wear it.
The Seating Chart
From there, Vogue will always place designers and the actresses wearing their dresses together, and they leave the non A-listers and the troublemakers to sit on the outskirts of the floor. Womp, womp. (A moment of humor in First Monday in May came when Wintour and her fellow party planners had to make the hard decision to seat Chloe Sevigny and Solange in a table hidden by a planter. Because we can't all be Emma Stone)
And if you're Rihanna or Kanye West, you (and your entourage) will get paid to attend. That's because every year the party hires a big name to perform for the adoring crowd, and that time comes with a big paycheck. 2015's soirée hired the aforementioned RiRi, and while the documentary took great pains to bleep any mentions of actual figures, we do know that her fee was twice as high as any other past performer's). Someone must have forgotten to mention that it was a charity.
It should be mentioned that Vogue does have a very good reason for financing the evenings of all these celebrities. They justify it by deeming the Met Gala as a meeting of art and commerce—the Costume Institute exhibit being the art, the actors and actresses being the commerce. Whatever conflict of interest arises by overrunning New York City's most storied museum gets overshadowed by the publicity and awareness that comes with it. After all, how many people have learned about the Costume Institute as a result of this glitzy red carpet? To quote the magazine's editorial team, if it takes Rihanna dancing on a table to get people to pay attention to the Met, so be it.
For some, their attendance year-after-year is a way to stay relevant to an audience despite an otherwise not incredibly active acting resumé (cough…Sienna Miller, Katie Holmesand Sarah Jessica Parker). For others, their very first invite is a sign that they've made it. Just think about the fact that while Taraji P. Henson was wowing audiences for years and years on the screen, it took her not-breakout-breakout-performance on Empire before she scored a spot. But perhaps no first invite made as much as an impact as Kim Kardashian‘s.
As fashion lore goes, Anna Wintour resisted her attendance for years, refusing to accept reality shows into the exclusive realm of the A-list. The Keeping Up star made it in on a technicality when Kanye West performed in 2013 (you can't very well deny the headliner his plus-one) and her sheer presence there elevated her past her reality beginnings. In April 2014 she scored her now-infamous cover, and this year her sister and fellow reality star is arguably one of the most prestigious Met Gala attendees.