OnlyOnAOL: Why the Met Ball is always in fashion

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By: Donna Freydkin

Once upon a time, not so very long ago, the annual fashion fete known as the Met Ball was a charity event that raised funds for the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

"You feel like you're part of a tableau," says fashion writer Robin Givhan of the "Washington Post" and author of "The Battle of Versailles: The Night American Fashion Stumbled into the Spotlight and Made History."

It takes place the first Monday in May and each year, there's a host committee and a theme. This year, the focus is on technology and the lady partnering with chair Anna Wintour is none other than Taylor Swift. So great is the influence of Wintour that the facility has been renamed in her honor: The Anna Wintour Costume Center.

(See our interview above with Isaac Mizrahi, the design legend who attended in 2009).

Model Coco Rocha and designer Issac Mizrahi. GettyWintour took charge of the event in 1995, and that's when it hit full throttle. The guest list is heavily curated and edited. Even press covering the event (no inside access, thank you very much) must apply. The red carpet is endless -- it occupies both sides of the massive Museum staircase -- and is intense, to say the least. It's the only place you'll see Kate Moss rub elegant elbows with Rihanna and Madonna and Anne Hathaway and Beyonce and Kris Jenner and Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David and the list goes on and on and on.

See more: OnlyOnAOL: The top five crazy-cool headpieces at the Met Ball

Wait, you say, but what about the "Vanity Fair" Oscar party on the West Coast? Sure, it's chockablock with bold-faced names. But reporters are allowed -- you get a time slot and can circulate during your allocated period, observing only (this reporter was once in line at the bar behind Tom Hanks, natch). And it's generally limited to Hollywood glitterati. The vibe is relaxed and burgers are served.

"China: Through The Looking Glass" Costume Institute Benefit Gala

The Met Ball, on the other hand, is purely formal. Sure, the fashion can get wacky, but there's a receiving line with the host committee that you can't bypass before entering the venue. Designers invite celebrities as their guests. In 2009, Stella McCartney brought her buds Kate Hudson, Kate Bosworth and Liv Tyler. Dakota Johnson went with Jason Wu in 2014.

"The difference with the Met Ball is that it is a much more eclectic mix of celebrity. It's film and politics and music. It's this convergence. It's still fundamentally a fashion evening. For all this other kind of celebrity involved, it's very much a fashion evening because you have this feeling of having walked into a 'Vogue' fashion shoot," says Givhan.

The gala has been held at the Met since 1946. But since Wintour became the chair in 1995, the guest list has become tighter than a pair of Spanx. Each year, there are rumors of intrigue and snubs, of wannabe A-listers who, for whatever reason, did not make the cut.

"Charles James: Beyond Fashion" Costume Institute Gala - CandidsWhen you do get inside, says Givhan, you just look around and soak it all in.

"It's not that big of a space. Pretty much, you see celebrities going in, going up the staircase, there they all are at the cocktail party. One year I was so frustrated – you get there on time because the bigger celebrities come later. The next morning, invariably, I'd pick up someone's coverage and go, 'Brad Pitt was there? I didn't know that,'" she says.

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OnlyOnAOL: Why the Met Ball is always in fashion

THEME: 1974 "Romantic and Glamorous Hollywood Design"

WHO: Actor Anthony Perkins, wife Berry Berenson and actress Marisa Berenson

WEARING: Lots of glitter.

Photo: Ron Galella/WireImage

THEME: 1975 "American Women of Style"

WHO: Barbara Walters 

WEARING: A sleek and sophisticated dress.

Photo: Ron Galella/WireImage

THEME: 1977 "Vanity Fair: A Treasure Trove of the Costume Institute"

WHO: President and Nancy Regan

WEARING: A black off-the-shoulder dress.

Photo: Ron Galella/WireImage

THEME: 1979 "Fashions of the Hapsburg Era"

WHO: Diane von Furstenberg

WEARING: A dark embellished strapless gown.

Photo: Ron Galella/WireImage

THEME: 1979 "Fashions of the Hapsburg Era"

WHO: Jackie Kennedy Onassis

WEARING: A black strapless gown with full skirt.

Photo: Ron Galella/WireImage

THEME: 1982 "La Belle Epoque"

WHO: Raquel Welch

WEARING: A snakeskin dress with pointed shoulders.

Photo: Ron Galella/WireImage

THEME: 1985 "Costumes of Royal India"

WHO: Cher

WEARING: Eek! Too much makeup and a sheer top.

Photo: Ron Galella/WireImage

THEME: 1987 "Diana Vreeland"

WHO: Kim Alexis

WEARING: Holy shoulders! A navy classic '80s style dress.

Photo: Ron Galella/WireImage

THEME: 1989 "18th Century Woman"

WHO: Carolina Herrera and Nan Kempner

WEARING: Embellished jackets.

Photo: Ron Galella/WireImage

THEME: 1989 "18th Century Woman"

WHO: Calvin Klein

WEARING: A dashing black suit.

Photo: Ron Galella/WireImage

THEME: 1989 "18th Century Woman"

WHO: Pat Buckley

WEARING: All black and some attitude.

Photo: Ron Galella/WireImage

THEME: 1991 "Théâtre de la Mode – Fashion Dolls: The Survival of Haute Couture"

WHO: Blaine Trump and Lynda Carter

WEARING: Interesting necklines with plaid and green!

Photo: Ron Galella/WireImage

THEME: 1992 "Fashion and History: A Dialogue"

WHO: Christy Turlington

WEARING: A neck full of pearls.

Photo: Ron Galella/WireImage

THEME: 1992 "Fashion and History: A Dialogue"

WHO: Mary McFadden

WEARING: Embellished sequins over wispy white.

Photo: Ron Galella/WireImage

THEME: 1994 "Orientalism: Visions of the East in western dress"

WHO: Oscar de la Renta

WEARING: A sleek suit.

Photo: Ron Galella/WireImage

THEME: 1995 "Haute Couture"

WHO: Gwyneth Paltrow

WEARING: Slim-fitting baby blue.

Photo: Kevin Mazur/WireImage

THEME: 1997 "Gianni Versace"

WHO: Hugh Grant and Elizabeth Hurley

WEARING: Sleek lavender with high slit and fur stole.

Photo: Ron Galella/WireImage

THEME: 1997 "Gianni Versace"

WHO: Salma Hayek

WEARING: perfectly-fitting black, with a black silk shawl wrapped around her.

Photo: Ron Galella/WireImage

THEME: 1999 "Rock Style"

WHO: Charlize Theron

WEARING: A simple, sleek dress.

Photo: Robin Platzer/Getty Images

THEME: 1999 "Rock Style"

WHO: Amber Valetta and Desmond Harrington

WEARING: An in-your-face gold jumpsuit.

Photo: Ron Galella/WireImage

THEME: 1999 "Rock Style"

WHO: Jennifer Love-Hewitt

WEARING: Midriff-baring crop top and skirt.

Photo: Ron Galella/WireImage

THEME: 1999 "Rock Style"

WHO: Jennifer Lopez and Sean "Puffy" Combs

WEARING: Lots of Layers.

Photo: Evan Agostini/Getty Images

THEME: 1999 "Rock Style"

WHO: Liv Tyler and Stella McCartney

WEARING: Homemade "rock royalty" t-shirts.

THEME: 2001 "Jacqueline Kennedy: The White House Years"

WHO: Hillary Clinton

WEARING: metallic on metallic.

Photo: NY Daily News via Getty Images

THEME: 2001 "Jacqueline Kennedy: The White House Years"

WHO: Diane von Furstenberg

WEARING: magenta perfection.

Photo: RJ Capak/WireImage

THEME: 2001 "Jacqueline Kennedy: The White House Years"

WHO: Renee Zellwegger

WEARING: A classic Jackie-inspired dress.

Photo: RJ Capak/WireImage

THEME: 2003 "Goddess"

WHO: Anna Wintour, Tom Ford, Nicole Kidman, Adrian Brody

WEARING: All looking sharp in black-tie attire.

Photo: Sylvain Gaboury/FilmMagic

THEME: 2003 "Goddess"

WHO: Kate Hudson

WEARING: Stella McCartney

Photo: Evan Agostini/Getty Images

THEME: 2003 "Goddess"

WHO: Victoria Beckham

WEARING: Dolce & Gabbana

Photo: Evan Agostini/Getty Images

THEME: 2004 "Dangerous Liaisons"

WHO: Claire Danes

WEARING: Alexander McQueen

Photo: Lawrence Lucier/FilmMagic

THEME: 2004 "Dangerous Liaisons"

WHO: Hilary Swank

WEARING: Sky blue and strapless.

Photo: Gregory Pace/FilmMagic

THEME: 2004 "Dangerous Liaisons"

WHO: Mandy Moore

WEARING: Stunning plum.

Photo: Evan Agostini/Getty Images

THEME: 2006 "Anglomania: Traditions & Transgressions in British Fashion"

WHO: Emmy Rossum

WEARING: Ralph Lauren

Photo: 

THEME: 2006 "Anglomania: Traditions & Transgressions in British Fashion"

WHO: Jessica Alba

WEARING: Calvin Klein

Photo: Jemal Countess/WireImage

THEME: 2006 "Anglomania: Traditions & Transgressions in British Fashion"

WHO: Lindsay Lohan

WEARING: Marchesa

Photo: Getty Images

THEME: "Anglomania: Traditions & Transgressions in British Fashion"

WHO: Sarah Jessica Parker

WEARING: Alexander McQueen

Photo: Dimitrios Kambouris/WireImage

THEME: 2006 "Anglomania: Traditions & Transgressions in British Fashion"

WHO: Victoria Beckham

WEARING: Roland Mouret

Photo: Getty Images

THEME: 2007 "Poiret: King of Fashion"

WHO: Camilla Belle

WEARING: Jean Paul Gaultier

Photo: Dimitrios Kambouris/WireImage

THEME: 2007 "Poiret: King of Fashion"

WHO: Cameron Diaz

WEARING: Dior

Photo: Michael Loccisano/FilmMagic

THEME: 2007 "Poiret: King of Fashion"

WHO: Ivanka Trump

WEARING: Black and white done right.

Photo: Lawrence Lucier/FilmMagic

THEME: 2007 "Poiret: King of Fashion"

WHO: Kate Bosworth

WEARING: Prada

Photo: Michael Loccisano/FilmMagic

THEME: 2007 "Poiret: King of Fashion"

WHO: Sandra Bullock

WEARING: Alberta Ferretti 

Photo: Peter Kramer/Getty Images

THEME: 2008 "Superheroes: Fashion and Fantasy"

WHO: Anna Wintour

WEARING: Karl Lagerfeld

Photo: Dimitrios Kambouris/WireImage

THEME: 2008 "Superheroes: Fashion and Fantasy"

WHO: Bee Schaffer

WEARING: A stunning purple gown.

Photo: Rabbani and Solimene/WireImage

THEME: 2008 "Superheroes: Fashion and Fantasy"

WHO: Christina Ricci

WEARING:  Givenchy

Photo: NY Daily News via Getty Images

THEME: 2008 "Superheroes: Fashion and Fantasy"

WHO: David and Victoria Beckham

WEARING: Victoria in Vintage Giorgio Armani

Photo: Michael Loccisano/FilmMagic

THEME: 2008 "Superheroes: Fashion and Fantasy"

WHO: Katie Holmes and Tom Cruise

WEARING: Giorgio Armani

Photo: Rabbani and Solimene/WireImage

THEME: 2008 "Superheroes: Fashion and Fantasy"

WHO: Naomi Watts

WEARING: Thierry Mugler

Photo: James Devaney/WireImage

THEME: 2009 "The Model as Muse: Embodying Fashion"

WHO: Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel

WEARING: Jessica in Versace

Photo: Kevin Mazur/WireImage

THEME: 2009 "The Model as Muse: Embodying Fashion"

WHO: Leighton Meester

WEARING: Louis Vuitton

Photo: Dimitrios Kambouris/FilmMagic

THEME: 2009 "The Model as Muse: Embodying Fashion"

WHO: Rachel Bilson

WEARING: Bally

Photo: Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images

THEME: 2009 "The Model as Muse: Embodying Fashion"

WHO: Rihanna

WEARING: Dolce and Gabbana

Photo: Kevin Mazur/WireImage

THEME: 2009 "The Model as Muse: Embodying Fashion"

WHO: Victoria Beckham

WEARING: Marc Jacobs

Photo: Dimitrios Kambouris/WireImage

THEME: 2010 "American Women: Fashioning a National Identity"

WHO: Alexa Chung

WEARING: Phillip Lim

Photo: Dimitrios Kambouris/WireImage

THEME: 2010 "American Women: Fashioning a National Identity"

WHO: Emma Watson

WEARING: Burberry

Photo: Rabbani and Solimene/WireImage

THEME: 2010 "American Women: Fashioning a National Identity"

WHO: Gisele Bundchen

WEARING: Alexander Wang

Photo: Rabbani and Solimene/WireImage

THEME: "American Women: Fashioning a National Identity"

WHO: Jennifer Lopez

WEARING: Zuhair Murad Couture

Photo: Kevin Mazur/WireImage

THEME: 2010 "American Women: Fashioning a National Identity"

WHO: Katy Perry

WEARING: Cute Circuit (and yes, it lit up!)

Photo: Dimitrios Kambouris/FilmMagic

THEME: 2010 "American Women: Fashioning a National Identity"

WHO: Kristen Stewart

WEARING: Chanel

Photo: Larry Busacca/Getty Images

THEME: 2010 "American Women: Fashioning a National Identity"

WHO: Marion Cotillard

WEARING: Christian Dior

Photo: Dimitrios Kambouris/FilmMagic

THEME: 2011 "Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty"

WHO: Ashley Olsen

WEARING: Vintage Christian Dior Haute Couture

Photo: Kevin Mazur/WireImage

THEME: 2011 "Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty"

WHO: Brooklyn Decker

WEARING: Michael Kors

Photo: Dimitrios Kambouris/FilmMagic

THEME: 2011 "Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty"

WHO: Fergie

WEARING: Marchesa

Photo: Kevin Mazur/WireImage

THEME: 2011 "Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty"

WHO: Jennifer Lopez

WEARING: Gucci

Photo: Kevin Mazur/WireImage

THEME: 2011 "Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty"

WHO: Kate Hudson

WEARING: Stella McCartney

Photo: Larry Busacca/Getty Images

THEME: 2011 "Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty"

WHO: Kristen Stewart

WEARING: Proenza Schouler

Photo: Kevin Mazur/WireImage

THEME: 2011 "Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty"

WHO: Miranda Kerr

WEARING: Marchesa

Photo: Larry Busacca/Getty Images

THEME: 2011 "Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty"

WHO: Naomi Campbell

WEARING: Alexander McQueen

Photo: Ray Tamarra/Getty Images

THEME: 2012 "Schiaparelli and Prada: Impossible Conversations"

WHO: Beyonce

WEARING: Givenchy Haute Couture

Photo: Larry Busacca/Getty Images

THEME: 2012 "Schiaparelli and Prada: Impossible Conversations"

WHO: Carey Mulligan

WEARING: Prada

Photo: Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images

THEME: 2012 "Schiaparelli and Prada: Impossible Conversations"

WHO: Diane Kruger

WEARING: Prada

Photo: Kevin Mazur/WireImage

THEME: 2012 "Schiaparelli and Prada: Impossible Conversations"

WHO: Elizabeth Banks

WEARING: Mary Katrantzou

Photo: Larry Busacca/Getty Images

THEME: 2012 "Schiaparelli and Prada: Impossible Conversations"

WHO: Lena Dunham

WEARING: Wes Gordon

Photo: Larry Busacca/Getty Images

THEME: 2012 "Schiaparelli and Prada: Impossible Conversations"

WHO: Solange Knowles

WEARING: Rachel Roy

Photo: Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images

THEME: 2012 "Schiaparelli and Prada: Impossible Conversations"

WHO: Tory Burch, Rashida Jones, Brooklyn Decker

WEARING: Tory Burch

Photo: Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images

THEME: 2013 "Punk: Chaos to Couture"

WHO: Madonna

WEARING: Givenchy Haute Couture

Photo: Getty Images

THEME: 2013 "Punk: Chaos to Couture"

WHO: Katy Perry    

WEARING: Dolce and Gabbana

Photo: Getty Images

THEME: 2013 "Punk: Chaos to Couture"

WHO: Kate Beckinsale

WEARING: Alberta Ferretti

Photo: Getty Images

THEME: 2013 "Punk: Chaos to Couture"

WHO: Anna Wintour

WEARING: Chanel Couture 

Photo: Getty Images

THEME: 2013 "Punk: Chaos to Couture"

WHO: Miley Cyrus    

WEARING: Marc Jacobs    

Photo: Getty Images

THEME: 2013 "Punk: Chaos to Couture"

WHO: Kim Kardashian & Kanye West    

WEARING: Givenchy    

Photo: Getty Images

THEME: 2014 "Charles James: Beyond Fashion" 

WHO: Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds

WEARING: Blake in Gucci  

Photo: Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images

THEME: 2014 "Charles James: Beyond Fashion" 

WHO: Suki Waterhouse  

WEARING: Burberry  

Photo: Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images

THEME: 2014 "Charles James: Beyond Fashion" 

WHO: Lupita Nyong'o

WEARING: Prada  

Photo: Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images

THEME: 2014 "Charles James: Beyond Fashion" 

WHO: Taylor Swift  

WEARING: Oscar de la Renta  

Photo: Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images

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