.entry-tags {display: none;}

Behind the Met Gala's Curtain: What it’s like setting up the ‘biggest fashion event of the year’

This past Monday, in case you missed it, was the Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute Gala, an event that most people call fashion’s biggest night. Students from various fashion design schools in the city were asked to join the Met Gala prep team as paid interns for the day under the supervision of head curator Andrew Bolton and his team. Many of my friends and I were fortunate enough to join the preparation team from Parsons School of Design.

8:00 am: All the interns arrive at 8 am sharp. There are about 50 of us. We prep to put down the carpet and the paparazzi stands, but it is raining so arrangements are falling behind, putting the organizers on edge.

8:00-10:00 am: Certain interns are assigned different small tasks such as helping to organize floral arrangements, helping with catering, structuring the venue for the dinner, and working on the carpet. I’m first assigned to carpet duty, which consists of lint rolling every step while I wear trash bags on my shoes. No uncovered shoes are allowed on the carpet.

12:00 pm: Next I am sent into the Met building to help with lifting, carrying, and transporting certain objects within the exhibit. I don’t touch any of the actual garments, but the interns and I are given total access to the whole exhibit while the press preview is going on. Even though there are only 6 hours before the arrivals start, curators and Met managers are still making changes and adjustments to the exhibit. In my opinion the exhibit is simply stunning. I believe that Andrew Bolton did a fabulous job creating the magic of fashion and technology fused together. Even though it isn’t fully set up yet, walking through the secluded exhibit is still an experience that is impossible to find anywhere else. In my opinion, it is even better than last year’s exhibit, China: Through The Looking Glass.

1:00 pm: The amazing curator of the Manus x Machina exhibit, Andrew Bolton, buys everyone lunch and issues a small break. Meeting this man only just briefly is an experience in its own. Not only is he the man behind the curtain orchestrating everything, but he also put together the entire exhibit, so going through it is like taking a walk through his exceptional imagination. I have seen him around the Thom Browne office previously, but seeing him in his element is magical and brings a smile to my face.

1:30-3:30 pm: Finalizations are made and Anna Wintour, who had arrived a few hours earlier, discusses the exhibit with Andrew Bolton and double checks and approves everything. Nothing at this point will go up if it is not approved by Anna at least twice. She has also had about five espressos by now. At this point we are all stressed out, but we can see the light at the end of the tunnel and are ready for the final stretch!

3:30-5:30 pm: All interns are thanked again by Anna and Andrew. Though most of us have been relieved at this point, a few interns are allowed to stay behind and help with the first arrivals of the night, which include Anna and her daughter, Bee Shaffer. We are guided from there to help set up each press marker by putting tape down to label where each camera and interviewer, from outlets like E! And Vanity Fair, will stand. The arrival area is soon filled with shouting. Both the stress and the excitement are palpable and contagious, and everyone around us--including the security is buzzing and ready for the event to begin.

7:00 pm: With the red carpet arrivals in full swing, it is time to go. I hand in my pass and navigate my tired body to the line of taxi cabs. All of my energy has been sucked dry, so this small action is one of the most tiring things I have done all day. Despite how crazy and exhausting my day has been, it feels amazing to have been a part of bringing Manus x Machina to life. Will I be attending the Met Gala next year, too? I hope so - but next time, as not just an intern.  

New Yorkers can see the exhibit in the Robert Lehman Wing from May 5 - August 14, 2016

Text by Anna Witt. Thumbnail image by Taylor Jewell.