So, What Happens After the Met Gala Red Carpet?

Kylie Jenner breaking the rules with a Met Gala bathroom selfie.
Instagram user: @kyliejenner

The “First Monday of May” is a critical date in the fashion calendar (if not the date). Hosted and curated by Anna Wintour, it’s the only themed red carpet in the celebrity calendar and one of the only events that bring the film, fashion, music and now influencer and tech industries together. 

The only requirement for attendees? They make Anna Wintour’s guestlist.

With so many celebrities, so much fashion, and so much gleeful red-carpet critique, the Met Gala can seem like an event for the sake of spectacle. It’s hard to envision what goes on after the red carpet wraps. Do the celebrities hop off the red carpet and go straight to the after-party? For the most part, no.

Below, we’ll break down what happens once the carefully choreographed celebrity photoshoots are over (because that’s basically what the red carpet has become) and the gala kicks off?

Why Is It So Hard to Figure Out What Happens at the Met?

Emily Ratajkowski and Lily James leaving the Met Gala red carpet
Rolling off the red carpet: Emily Ratajkowski and Lily James exiting the Met Gala. Image Credit: Cindy Ord/Getty

What happens inside is shrouded in mystery. Partly because of the blanket ban on social media posting introduced in 2015. While we occasionally get like glimpses, like that time we saw celebrities smoking in the bathroom, we don’t get to see what you’d usually expect from a bunch of well-dressed folk primed for a night out. Instead, celebrities are put through their paces with strict arrival times and carefully choreographed red-carpet photoshoots. Vogue introduced an Instagram portrait studio in 2016, and celebrities routinely post their “getting ready” shots beforehand. That’s the limit.

Wintour introduced the social media ban after deciding celebrities were spending too much time on their phones. That’s right, Anna Wintour is your mum at family dinner. But, Wintour’s motivations are a little more complicated.

The Met has always been about networking and connecting powerful and influential people. Lisa Love, West Coast director of Vogue and Teen Vogue, said Wintour intentionally breaks up seating arrangements to encourage mixing. “She likes conversation,” said Love, and will consciously separate couples, colleagues and friend groups to promote mixing. This opportunity to network sets celebrities, directors and designers up for partnerships, and it’s a desirable event to attend. 

Kylie Jenner posted a celebrity packed selfie from the Met Gala bathrooms.
Shenanigans. Image Credit: @kyliejenner

Drinks, Drinks, Drinks [and Fashion]:

Most of the information we have about the Met Gala comes from Amy Odell’s “Anna: The Biography” and dinner server Mike Hartman who broke Met Gala cardinal rule “Met Gala attendees and employees don’t talk about the Met Gala” in 2020, opening up in an interview with Insider after posting a TikTok post-Met.

Hartman confirmed that the Met was still an exhibit, kind of. Celebrities are moved throughout maze-like rooms following the red carpet to take in the exhibit (which opens to the public at a later date). They relax and presumably decompress with a stiff drink at the Temple of Dendur. Wintour allegedly found the Roman religious structure, thought to have been built in 23 B.C in celebration of the Egyptian goddess Isis, troublingly ugly. After failing to have it boarded up, she placed Katy Perry’s stage in front of it so her guests could mingle untroubled.

Stars like Katie Perry and Rihanna are paid around $1 million USD to perform at the event, making it a lucrative gig.

Met Gala attendees are always the first to see the Costume Institute’s annual fashion exhibit. According to Hartman, they pause networking out of genuine curiosity or politeness to check it out as they move between rooms and they’re provided with escorts to ensure they don’t linger too long. Like your mum, Wintour expects dinner guests to arrive on time.

The Dinner:

Billie Eilish, Amanda Gorman, Timothée Chalamet, and Naomi Osaka attend the The 2021 Met Gala Celebrating In America: A Lexicon Of Fashion at Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2021
Billie Eilish, Amanda Gorman, Timothée Chalamet, and Naomi Osaka attend the The 2021 Met Gala Celebrating In America: A Lexicon Of Fashion at Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2021. Image Credit: Getty/Jamie McCarthy

This part of the evening can be a nightmare for those working in service. The Economic Times reported that celebrities invited to the Met Gala are dressed in loaned suits and gowns that cost between $4,495 and $35,610. They can cost more. Rihanna’s 2015 “omelette” gown cost created by Guo Pei was valued at $680,000. Kim Kardashian’s loaned Marilyn Monroe gown, arguably priceless, was valued at $5 million.

For designers, it’s organic advertising money can’t buy — unless the celebrity ruins the clothes. Hartman said the 2018 service was particularly nerve-wracking. The directive was “French style,” which meant plating up food in front of the celebrities wearing gowns and the designers who created them. One slip of the taurine can spell a $680,000 disaster. This may be why attendees often wave away meals and opt for cocktails and snacks.

What Do Co-Chairs… Do?

Last year, 23-year-old National Youth poet Laureate Amanda Gorman co-chaired the event with Billie Eilish, Timothée Chalamet and Naomi Osaka. The hosts co-curate the aesthetic of the dinners, give speeches and even performances and, of course, “host”. Each co-chair is seated with a prime sponsor to ensure the world’s biggest brands feel important.


Bella Hadid headed to a Met Gala after party.

Once the official event is over, celebrities then change out of their gowns and split for the far less rigorously monitored after-parties where they can (mostly) whip out their phones.

While the overall event sounds sleek and chic, some people still take issue with it. In 2013 Gwyneth Paltrow told USA Today she wouldn’t attend the Met Gala again because, with all the rules and whip-cracking, it was “so unfun,” but surprisingly she’s attended several times since.

Whatever the truth, fun or “unfun”, the Met Gala is generating plenty of cash under Wintour’s rigorous reign. Last year it generated $17.4 million alone, and celebrities are still lining up to attend the most coveted event of the year.

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