How to Dress Properly for the Met Gala

When it comes to proper Met Gala attire, there's really no such thing as "too much." But when your avant-garde look must adhere to tradition, the pièce de résistance is formal white tie dress. 

How to Dress Properly for the Met Gala

The annual Met Gala is the Olympic Games of red carpet fashion — a dazzling, theatrical spectacle where celebrities and the sartorially elite go all out in hopes of nabbing a permanent spot in pop culture history. As NYC's most glamorous event inches closer (mark your calendars for May 6th), those lucky enough to score an invitation are undoubtedly stressing, scheming, and dreaming up what mind-bending, meme-worthy look will earn them a coveted place on the Best Dressed list.

This year's vague yet intriguing dress code of The Garden of Time takes inspiration from J.G. Ballard's 1962 sci-fi short story about how quickly beauty withers and decays. Interpreted loosely, it gives attendees license to channel anything from lush floral fantasies to stark, botanical dystopias. We're talking ethereal garments dripping in jewel-toned petals and blooms one moment, and sleek, Blade Runner-esque futurism the next.

The first Met Gala, 1948.
Diana Vreeland and Yve Saint Laurent, 1983.

The exhibitions at the heart of the gala, Sleeping Beauties: Reawakening Fashion, will showcase around 250 rare, resurrected treasures from the Costume Institute's archives spanning over 400 years of fashion history. Expect exquisitely preserved masterworks like an 1877 ivory silk faille ball gown by British couturier Charles Frederick Worth alongside avant-garde modern marvels from design darlings like Phillip Lim and Connor Ives.

To properly compliment the fragile relics, curators plan to utilize cutting-edge technology like projection mapping, artificial intelligence, CGI, and other multimedia stimuli. These immersive displays will virtually reanimate some garments too delicate to ever be worn again, allowing visitors to experience their craftsmanship without compromising preservation efforts.

In the spirit of renaissance and rebirth, the Met's Costume Institute galleries are divided into three metaphorical realms — Land, Sea, and Sky — that celebrate the natural world's prominence as a "constant inspiration for fashion," according to curator Andrew Bolton. Designers will likely draw from this earthy color palette of mossy greens, frothy ocean blues, and sunbaked terracotta. But rich fabrics, organic textures, and ethereal silhouettes inspired by flora and fauna are fair game too. 

When it comes to proper Met Gala attire, there's really no such thing as "too much." Your avant-garde look should ooze maximal opulence fit for Gilded Age royalty… Or at the very least, make a few spectators clutch their pearls and fans. Case in point: the Costume Institute's controversial 2022 exhibit focused on American style included an actual trash bag dress by the boundary-pushing collective Machine Dazzle. Gloriously gauche.

But, when you simply must adhere to tradition, the pièce de résistance is always formal white tie attire. This ostentatious dress code was the gold standard for men's evening wear in the 19th century but remains a rarefied choice for only the most illustrious fêtes and high society weddings today, yet still perfect for the Met Gala’s grand haute couture reverence. Just picture dashing icons epitomising old-world sophistication - Fred Astaire gliding across a ballroom in his trademark top hat, tails and wing-collared shirt. Cary Grant exuding continental charm in an impeccably tied white bow tie… 

Federico Fellini and Gregory Peck at the 36th Academy Awards, 1964.
Robert Redford in The Great Gatsby, 1974.
Cary Grant wearing white tie during a show, 1937.
Fred Astaire in A Damsel in Distress, 1937.

For dapper gents, we're talking a black wool tailcoat with swallowtail flares in the back, accessorised with a crisp white piqué vest, a stiffly-starched white dress shirt featuring a winged collar, and — you guessed it — a white silk bow tie. Trousers should feature satin stripes down the legs, and don't forget those snowy white gloves. The final flourishes? Perhaps a vintage gold hunter case tourbillon timepiece, subtly peeked from the shirtsleeve.

Taking ultra-conservative white tie traditions to surreal, avant-garde extremes? Groundbreaking. While some may be tempted to put an avant-garde spin on the traditional elements, the understated sophistication of proper white tie attire is what makes it so perfectly suited for an event like the Met Gala. The immaculate aesthetic harkens back to an era when impeccable tailoring and uncompromising craftsmanship ruled supreme — the very values the Met's Costume Institute strives to preserve. By donning a white tie, a gentleman pays respect to fashion's most enduring icons while securing his own place among the evening's best dressed in an effortlessly refined style, second to none. 

Now that's an entrance to stop the show.