Here we go again, it’s the first week of May. And anyone who follows fashion even a lil bit knows this is when the Met Gala comes back with all of its ridiculousness. From straight up cheeseburger costumes to overtly political messaging splashed across single use dresses, the popular fundraising event has evolved immensely over its 70 plus years of existence. Throughout that time, it’s gone from a high class must-see to the cringeworthy social spectacle Hollywood’s stars have unapologetically morphed it into.
Yet outside of current faux pas, the Gala has long held its place as one of fashion’s most prestigious events. It was held for the first time way back in 1948 and established by fashion publicist Eleanor Lambert to raise funds for the Costume Institute. She’s most famous for her roles in founding New York’s Fashion Week and increasing America’s international prominence in the industry. Back then, it was one of many fundraising events that took place in New York offering up lavish experiences specifically aimed at the state’s financial elite.
What began as a simple nighttime attire affair for the rich and privileged took a turn in the early 1970s when themed nights were introduced, however. That’s when experts say it transformed into a more glamorous event that brought about friendly competition in fashion. This is also the time Diana Vreeland took over, who decided to give it a permanent home and fundraising purpose at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Vreeland worked for iconic magazines then, like Harper’s Bazaar and also as editor-in-chief of Vogue. It’s no coincidence the latter still organizes the star studded event to this day.
Fast-forward a bit to the present era and you’ll find most of the headlines taking up space are highlighting just how silly the costumery has gotten. Looking back through vintage photos of the evening, however, reminds us it wasn’t always this way.
[Cher and Bob Mackie 1974, photo Ron Galella]
[Jackie Onassis 1979, photo Ron Galella]
[Iman w/ Calvin Klein 1981, photo Rose Hartman]
[Raquel Welch 1982, photo Ron Galella]
[David Bowie w/ Iman 1990, Getty Images]
[Naomi Campbell 1990, photo Time & Life Pictures]
[Christy Turlington 1992 photo PL Gould]
[Princess Diana 1996, Richard Corkery]
[Salma Hayek 1997, photo Mitchell Gerber]
[Lil Kim 2005, photo Erik Pendzich]
[André 3000 in 2008, photo Dimitrios Kambouris / GQ]
[cover photo Diana Vreeland and Yves Saint Laurent 1983 / Women's Wear Daily]