The Met Gala — more formally known as the Costume Institute Gala at the Metropolitan Museum of Art — was scheduled for tonight but, like other events this year, it has been cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic. The event would have been the grand opening of the Metropolitan Museum’s “About Time” exhibition, which “shows how fashion has changed in the last 150 years, how it’s stayed the same — and where it’s headed next.”
One thing that’s changed over the past 25 years is the Met Gala itself. I’ve blogged about this before, but a lot of people still don’t know that the Met Gala used to be in December, not May. More importantly, while there was a $1,000-a-plate dinner for the darlings of the fashion world, regular people could still buy a $150 ticket to see the exhibit, followed by dessert and dancing. It wasn’t the ultra-elite, A+ list, Oscar-rivaling, $30,000-a-ticket, for-celebrities-only, red-carpet event that it is now. I went in 1993, 1994, and 1995. Believe it or not, in 1993, I didn’t have a satisfactory formal dress to wear, and borrowed one from my sister. I balanced a pre-digital film-using camera with a self-timer on it on top of the television set to take this photo.
In 1994, I wore an ostrich-feather-trimmed dress I got from a vintage/costume warehouse sale. My friend Phil took this photo at the museum.
I still have the dress and some newspaper clippings that I stuck in a scrapbook.
I only saved the invitation from 1995. Look as the honorary co-chairmen: Karl Lagerfeld and Gianni Versace.
I probably saved this invitation because my favorite supermodel, Linda Evangelista, was on it.
I balanced the camera on the TV again to take this 1995 photo.
I can’t remember the label on that crushed velvet dress — it might have been by Acrobat — but I was proud of it and wore it a lot. From my photo albums, it seems that I got it shortly after the 1993 Met Gala, perhaps inspired by having to borrow the gala dress.
All these years later, I wondered why 1995 was the last time I went to the Met Gala, so I did a little Poodling. It turns out that the 1995 gala was the first time that Vogue editor Anna Wintour was a co-chair of the event. From 1978 through 1994, the event had been chaired by couture-loving socialite Pat Buckley. Liz Tilberis, the late editor of Harper’s Bazaar, snagged the role in 1996, perhaps because she was able to wrangle her friend Princess Diana as a guest.
Eight months after that gala, Diana died in a Paris traffic accident, aged 36. Tilberis — whose Bazaar covers, in my opinion, outdid Vogue’s every month — died in 1999 at age 51, of the ovarian cancer she was first diagnosed with in 1993. From 1997 on, the Met Gala list of event chairs always included — and usually started with — Anna Wintour.
Condé Nast — which owns Vogue — has been in a long financial decline, battered by the internet like the rest of the print media world. (Going back ten years, jewelry editors at Vogue and other Condé Nast publications would ask to borrow my jewelry for shoots and say they didn’t have the budget to send messengers to pick up the pieces and drop them off.) The financial toll of the COVID-19 outbreak might mean the end of the Anna era at Vogue. Vultures are circling, criticizing Wintour’s attempt to carry on as usual during February’s Milan and Paris fashion weeks as alarm about the pandemic grew. Her longtime sidekick André Leon Talley is set to capitalize on Wintour’s weakened position by spilling the tea in his second memoir, The Chiffon Trenches. (My sources tell me not to cry for ALT. “Birds of a feather,” they say.) Wintour is fighting back by sharing stories about her doctor son and her work-from-home outfits. I confess, I’m tempted to cheer for the Prada-wearing devil now that she’s down. She’s got some underdog appeal now. I mean, is she even managing to get her hair done twice a day? Or do I just feel fond of her because I had that …
Don’t worry, Anna! Even if you find out you’re fired from the television news like your predecessor Grace Mirabella did in 1988, I will gladly talk to the back of your head in an elevator again — post-quarantine, of course.
Liz Tilberis really was all that. Bazaar beat Vogue most months, as I remember back in the time that I read every fashion mag obsessively… At that time, if you told me I’d stop reading ALL print magazines I would have looked at you like you were insane. I was veritably addicted to fashion mags.
Me too. Especially Bazaar and W — the ones that treated fashion as art.