Every year at the beginning of May, The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute holds their annual fundraiser, called The Met Ball aka The Met Gala aka The Costume Institute Gala aka the most uber-fashionable and exclusive affair on the social calendar of rich and famous people. Tickets this year are $25,000 (up from $15,000 last year) and the guest list is a closely guarded affair curated by Anne Wintour, Vogue‘s Editor-In-Chief.
Kanye West On The Red Carpet Before His Performance at Last Year’s Met Ball… Notice How Relatively Informally Dressed He Is
The Met Ball also has a different theme/dress code each year. 2013’s was Punk: Chaos to Couture and resulted in an eclectic romp of colorful chaos that was much less formal than years past. Perhaps as a result, this year’s theme is Charles James: Beyond Fashion and the dress code is “White Tie and Decorations”.
You might be wondering who Charles James is, but that doesn’t matter much (he was a British-born fashion designer known as “America’s First Couturier” i.e. a guy who makes OD expensive and bespoke outfits for rich-ass people). What’s far more interesting is the “White Tie and Decorations” part of this whole thing. “White Tie” is essentially the most formal outfit in Western Dress. It’s also known as “Top hats and coat tails”. Think The Penguin from Tim Burton’s Batman Returns film.
Essentially “White Tie” requires a man to wear the following items:
- Black or midnight blue jacket with long tails and silk or satin labels.
- This coat is supposed to be cut so slim around the waist that it doesn’t button, but reveals the obligatory low-cut waistcoat.
- Pants made of the same fabric as the coat and sporting one wide or two narrow strips of silk or satin running down the side seams.
- A plain white, stiff-fronted cotton shirt.
- A white stiff wing collar (this is supposed to be detachable).
- Black silk stockings and black “court pumps”.
- And, obviously, a white bow tie.
- White gloves are also sometimes a requirement…
You’ve probably never worn “white tie” (your prom was almost certainly only a loosely enforced “black tie”) and you probably never will. In fact, basically no one besides British royals or actors playing British royals in TV shoes like Downton Abbey wear white tie anymore. And this, presents a problem for the designers and fashion houses who’ll be outfitting the celebrities for this year’s gala. Do you think Saint Laurent or Dior Homme have any long-tail tuxedo jackets in their Spring/Summer 2014 lines? Nope, if they want to have their ‘ish worn by the men attending the gala tonight, they’ve had to create completely custom pieces for them.
Why is Ms. Wintour and the people of the Met Gala making everyone jump through these hoops this year? Probably because they can, which is very #fashion and actually pretty badass.