Cocktail Hour at the Met Gala: What Comes After the Carpet

Up the carpeted stairs, past the tuxedoed photographers, Anna Wintour stood at the top of the steps at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute benefit.

“Your royal highnesses,” Baz Luhrmann, the Australian film director, said as he approached Bad Bunny, Jennifer Lopez and Chris Hemsworth, who were standing in a receiving line with Ms. Wintour. The space had been transformed by greenery, filled with string musicians and dancers, creating a “Midsummer Night’s” dreamscape just off Fifth Avenue.

“How is it out there?” Ms. Wintour said, adding, “You look incredible.”

One by one, the stratospherically famous faces that captivate imaginations worldwide walked carefully up the stairs and stopped to talk to the row of co-chairs. (Zendaya, the fifth co-chair, did not make it to the perch.)

Ms. Wintour, the global editorial director of Condé Nast and the editor in chief of Vogue, had once again convened her starry annual bash, turning a soaring temple of the arts into a looking glass on our times — one reflecting a heady swirl of celebrity, commerce, fashion, beauty, aspiration, power, intrigue and bankable influence.

This year’s event drew around 400 people and raised about $26 million for the Costume Institute, which houses the museum’s costume collection — millions more than other major New York City galas. This year’s event was co-sponsored by Loewe and TikTok, which is currently facing a potential ban in the United States.

Welcoming a deep-pocketed tech company as a sponsor is not new for the Met Gala: Both Amazon and Instagram have bankrolled the Costume Institute exhibitions in years past. But the pairing of Vogue and TikTok, united in the race to capture our attention, suggests the video platform reshaping much of what we do and wear, also has a place in high fashion.

As Max Hollein, the director and chief executive of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, put it, “It was a kind of a natural progression to this year, from Instagram to TikTok.”

Guests were dressed in their best interpretation of the exhibition theme, “Sleeping Beauties: Reawakening Fashion,” and the dress code, “Garden of Time.”

Seth Meyers, accompanied by his wife, Alexi Ashe, said walking up the stairs this year actually felt very calming.

“We try to come in with not a lot of ego,” he said, adding that he often feels the photographers aren’t interested in him. “Even in the age of digital photos, you feel like they’re saving their film.”

Sarah Jessica Parker arrived with Andy Cohen, the Bravo host. Ms. Parker said she tried to pay close attention to the theme this year, and even read the 1962 short story that inspired it.

“I love the challenge of the theme,” she said. “I think sometimes it really eludes me, and sometimes it’s much more recognizable or I can make sense of it more quickly, but I liked the idea of paying attention.”

“Going with her is just a dream,” Mr. Cohen said. “It’s like being on a little puff of cotton candy all night. And she takes such care to do it right.”

As Ms. Parker and Mr. Cohen were making their way to the exhibition, Jeff Bezos stopped to compliment her dress, and the string of long pearls she was wearing. Standing with his fiancée, Lauren Sánchez, they recalled having met once, on a boat in Spain.

Ms. Sánchez and Mr. Bezos perused the “Sleeping Beauties” exhibition, hand in hand, stopping to look at the different displays. As she walked, her Oscar de la Renta dress made a sound on the floor that sounded a bit like squeaking ducks.

“You’re so loud,” Mr. Bezos said with a laugh.

Attendees packed into elevators and headed to the Charles Engelhard Court, where servers in white jackets with little green bows offered trays of champagne, sparkling water and cucumber margaritas.

Around the room, Matt Damon talked to Barry Diller. Ayo Edebiri chatted with Donald Glover. Kris Jenner arrived with her partner, Corey Gamble. She took a seat in a corner near a bronze sculpture. Ms. Sánchez, with a glass in hand, walked up to Ms. Jenner and gave her two kisses.

“Jeff,” Mr. Bezos said, introducing himself. “Nice to see you.”

Waiters with silver trays offered little bites of little things like tuna tartare on a rice crisp and hearts of palm with avocado purée.

Nearby, dressed in a tuxedo and sensible shoes, Stephen A. Schwarzman, the chief executive of the Blackstone investment group, sat alone on a bench, his phone’s speaker held up to his mouth.

On the other side of the room, members of the K-pop group Stray Kids picked off the appetizers as they stood together in a corner behind Lea Michele. Ms. Michele, who is pregnant, was seated at a table with Jonathan Groff.

“When I was pregnant with my son, it was 2020, and I was home wearing sweatpants and a T-shirt,” she said, “and now I’m in Rodarte at the Met. So it’s a very different pregnancy.”

Ms. Michele was particularly excited to see who was going to perform. “It’s my favorite part, obviously, as a singer,” she said. “It’s just so wonderful to get to have an incredible performer to do a private concert.”

Around 8 p.m., a door in the middle of the room opened and performers walked out to the sound of drumming, and danced throughout the space — a signal it was time for dinner.

“Let’s get going,” Mr. Luhrmann said to the crowd. “When Anna says get in, it’s time to get in.”

“I’m having the best night ever!” Ms. Sánchez said loudly. “I am having so much fun!”

Attendees were ushered off to a meal that included a medley of spring vegetables followed by a filet of beef.

Slowly, late arrivals made their way into dinner. Rachel Sennott walked in with Kylie Jenner. Kim Kardashian waved off more photos. Cardi B, surrounded by ushers carrying her dress, squeezed through two columns.

Inside, under candelabra entwined with floral arrangements, guests were seated around the Temple of Dendur, the Egyptian temple, where walls depict scenes of a king making offerings to the gods.

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