The Met Gala Is Like a Fancy Prom -- Except In a Museum

PHOTO: Editor-In-Chief of Vogue Anna Wintour arrives to the Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute Gala, Superheroes: Fashion and Fantasy, held at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 5, 2008 in New York City.

Getty/Andrew H. Walker

If you don't know what the Metropolitan Museum Costume Institute Benefit Gala is, aka The Met Gala, it's OK. I'm here to help.

The Gala is sort of a lot like a high-school prom -- except every actor, musician, model, designer, and every 15-minutes-of-fame celebrity of the year attends, and it takes place at the amazing and humongous Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.

But besides those details, it's basically prom. Here's how:

-Everybody picks out crazy gowns that look better on camera than in person -- because who really cares what your peers think? It's about what the photos on the Internet will look like the morning after.

See Also: The 17 Best Dresses Ever From the Met Gala

-It doesn't matter if your date is gay or straight, so long as they're the most talked about person of the year.

-Sometimes 16-year-old girls get invited -- but only the pretty ones.

-The stairs at the entrance are more important than the food and band once you're inside.

If you're still lost and wondering what exactly is the Met Gala and why does it exist? Here is a quick explainer.

What is the Met Gala in a nutshell?

It is an annual event at the Met Museum in New York City that kicks off the Costume Institute spring exhibition. The Met Gala, or Met Ball as it is also called, has a theme that goes with the exhibition, and antendees usually incorporate the theme with their outfits. The event raises money for the Met's Costume Institute and in 2006 made over $4.5 million.

When did the Met Gala begin?

It began in 1948, the year the Costume Institute opened. It wasn't the spectacle that is it today though -- it was mostly fashion industry people.

What is the Costume Institute?

It used to be a permanent exhibit in the museum where thousands (like over 35,000) historical costumes and accessories were displayed. It opened in 1948 but didn't last long because of how delicate the items are. So the pieces are stored and exhibited about two times a year.

Each exhibit follows a designer or an era of fashion. There have been exhibitions on Chanel, Yves Saint Laurent, Balenciaga, Alexander McQueen, and Prada to name a few. You probably heard about the McQueen exhibit "Savage Beauty" in 2011 following the designer's death, because it was really spectacular and worth the long lines that rivaled an Apple Store when a new iPhone is released.

When you walked out of the exhibition, which included a 3D hologram of Kate Moss in a beautiful gown evolving from a tiny moving light source, you felt like you had just traveled through the mind of a mad man, or like you stepped through a horror movie. Last year's Schiaparelli and Prada "Impossible Conversations" exhibition contrasted the two Italian women powerhouses and how one was heavily inspired by the other (ehem Prada).

What exhibition is the Met Gala unveiling this year?

"Punk: Chaos to Couture." So you can be excited/nervous about how celebrities will show up. How do you make punk glamorous? We'll find out.

Who hosts the event?

Vogue Magazine, and thus its Editor-in-Chief Anna Wintour, hosts the Gala.

In the early 1970s legendary Vogue editor Diana Vreeland was fired from the magazine and took a position as Special Consultant for the Costume Institute. She revived it and started producing the Met Gala on a much higher scale (rooms were sprayed with perfumes that matched the year's theme). The event became more extravagant, but it still wasn't the "Oscars of the East" as it is known as today.

Anna Wintour made that happen when she started hosting the event in 1995. She drew in the celebrities, giving the event some heavy "star power."

Who curates the exhibition and the event? Are they the same person?

Sort of.

The exhibition is curated by the Costume Institute's in-house curator, Andrew Bolton. There is a creative consultant (Nick Knight), an exhibition design consultant (Sam Gainsbury), and a production designer (Gideon Ponte) who work on the exhibition. The Benefit Gala is designed by Knight, Gainsbury, Ponte, and Raul Avila -- the producer for the décor since 2007. Since Riccardo Tisci (creative director of French fashion house Givenchy) is co-hosting this year's event, Givenchy is producing additional funding.

What happens at the event?

So everyone makes their big entrance on the famous Met staircase, which is completely covered with a red carpet. The area is closed off and tented, and the sides of the stairs are flooded with photographers yelling hilarious things nonstop from the first celebrity to show up (bad choice to show up first) to the Beyonce arrival.

The red carpet is hosted by two people and livestreamed on Vogue.com and some other sites. This year's red carpet will be hosted by model Hilary Rhoda and Vogue's ex-contributing editor William Norwich.

You can submit red carpet questions via the Twitter hashtag #MetQuestions during the livestream and hope that Rhoda or Norwich will ask them.

The event itself is always hosted by honorary co-chairs. This year it is hosted by Rooney Mara and Givenchy's Riccardo Tisci (both appropriate hosts for the dark punk-themed event). Beyonce has also been added to the co-chair list. Not sure how she represents punk.

After the carpet, celebrities are escorted through the museum to an area for cocktails. Who guides them? Vogue interns of course. Then they get to walk through the exhibition before the commoners are exposed to it, and end up in a dining room for some food and music.

Who's performing this year?

Kanye West!

Why is this a big deal?

Besides the fact that Kanye is probably wetting his pants in excitement that all his high fashion butt kissing has paid off, Kanye's baby mama (Kim Kardashian) has previously been blacklisted from the event by Wintour. We didn't doubt for a second that Kanye would veto his chance to perform in front of hundreds of super models and designers, but luckily he didn't have to. Kim has been invited and we're interested in seeing how the very pregnant celebrity will dress for the punk extravaganza.

Who pays for all of this?

The hosts. Sponsors. Celebrities. Designers. Whoever can fork out $150,000 for a table, or at least $25,000 for a seat (like Kate Upton did last year).

So now you know what the Met Gala is. The event takes place tonight at 7pm. Vogue.com will release a recap video of the event (including the perfomance) on May 10th. Now go watch all the pretty gowns you wish you could try on.

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