As the old mantra goes, beauty is pain. When it comes to the Met Gala, we’d argue it’s also money, time, patience and inspiration.
Every year, stars arrive to the iconic red-carpeted stairs of the Metropolitan Museum of Art aiming to shake up the style scene and make a statement on the first Monday of May. In the gala’s 46-year history, countless, decade-defining looks have helped shape its reputation as one of the premiere fashion events of the year.
However, as that reputation grows bigger and bolder, so do the requirements to fulfill such expectation. Fortunately, thanks to the relatively new powers of social media, fans have more insight than ever into the elaborate routines celebrities follow for an event of such scale and vision.
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Everything starts with the outfit. For an event of such magnitude, there’s no limit to the planning that’s involved to come up with an ensemble that will knock everyone off of their feet (or their Instagram feeds). So, designers spare very little in time, material and imagination to make the sartorial splash they’re aiming for themselves and the celebrity. Remember Rihanna‘s magnificent 2015 imperial, canary-colored, fur-trimmed cape by Guo Pei? It took two years to make.
“[What] I want is to make them remember,” Pei told The Cut of the Magnificent Gold gown she exhibited at the Met.
As is the case with most of the designers dressing the stars for the Met Gala, memory is everything. In order to come up with the winning look—the one that’s splattered on the covers of newspapers the next morning—the theme can also provide some guidelines. Each year, the gala is ruled by a new subject like 2017’s “Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons” or 1997’s “Gianni Versace.” With every new theme comes a new challenge, like in the case of 2016’s “Manus x Machina: Fashion In An Age Of Technology.”
To merge fashion with the digital world, Marchesa’s Georgina Chapman and Keren Craig collaborated with IBM’s cognitive computer, “Watson,” and spent hundreds of hours developing what they called wearable technology. The result? A dress covered in flowers that would light up in different colors depending on people’s social media reactions. “The dress is emotionally talking to us,” they told E! News.
Next, it’s time for designers to get to work with fittings up until days—if not the day of—the gala. For Karlie Kloss‘ white 2016 geometric gown, designer Brandon Maxwell made an identical copy of the dress and matching coat in case there was a spill.
However, the outfit is only one of the many elements at work for the big night. A star is also groomed from head to toe, beginning with skin. There are a range of regimens and products celebrities turn to, from SK-II Facial Treatment Masks ($17) and head-to-toe microdermabrasion to time under LED lights and Tracie Martyn’s Red Carpet Facial ($450). Last year, Natura Bissé invited an elite list of celebrities to try their facial in a tent filled with 99.99 percent pure air. Like we said, there’s no limit.
As for the hair, it is in the hands of Hollywood’s most trusted stylists, and seemingly nothing is out of the question—even a last-minute chop. Hours before taking the red carpet, Kate Upton‘s hair guru, Peter Butler, took out some scissors.
“Every time I was trying on the dress, it has this really cool one-shoulder moment, and I liked my hair stopping at this certain point on the dress,” Upton explained to E! News. “Peter suggested that we just cut it, and we did. We just chopped it off…it grows back.”
The makeup is equally an “anything goes” game, as long as it contributes to the tone of the overall look. When Katy Perry dyed her brows less than an hour before getting into the car, it was all in the spirit of the evening. “She really did just want to be bold, take risks and embrace the night,” stylist Leslie Fremar told People.
The final touches include accessories and nails—and both can involve something sparkly. When Gigi Hadid arrived arm in arm with her beau Zayn Malik in coordinating bionic-inspired attire, little did onlookers know she was sporting nails that cost $2,000 to create with crystals expertly applied underneath the nail by celebrity manicurist Mar y Sol Inzerillo for the ultimate attention to detail.
Beyoncéalso rocked a handful of jewels in the form of $8 million worth of Lorraine Schwartz diamond rings. Whether the bling is on the fingers, the nails, the arms, ears or on the clothes themselves, you can always find it at the Met Gala.
Of course, stars need somewhere to do all of this primping—especially if they live on the West Coast. That’s where Big Apple A-list spots like The Mark and The Carlyle come in handy—for a price, of course. At The Carlyle, a recurring celebrity spot, the cheapest suite (the square footage is necessary to accommodate the entourage) runs upwards of $800 a night.
Still, there’s no putting a price on beauty sleep when the night is over, the makeup is washed off, the jewels are returned and the dress is back in its garment bag.