This evening some of the biggest names in Hollywood will walk the red carpet at this year's annual Met Gala. The event, which was fittingly dubbed the "Super Bowl of Fashion" by Andre Leon Talley, is orchestrated by Anna Wintour and sees designers and their muses pair off. So how do the stars prepare for a night that is arguably even trickier to dress for than the Oscars?
"The Met Gala is the biggest fashion event bar none, but it's the most controlled event in terms of dressing," explains stylist Manny Ezugwu, who has worked with Jourdan Dunn on her previous Met Gala looks. "There is no wild card option. I guess there's not even room for that because it's so heavily managed by Anna Wintour and the Vogue crew in terms of who gets invited and what designers attend. So clients know what designers they are wearing, probably by fashion week in February. They don't know the look, but they know who they are going with then or even earlier."
It is also a given that a celebrity face of a design house will wear the label to the Met Gala. This is the one red carpet where you really can't predict what celebrities will wear as most of the pieces will be one-off creations. "The Met Gala is one of the few events that the majority of items are custom," explains Manny from the Muse Talent Group. "So the designers always have a theme in mind, so dependant on the relationship you have with brand you can really direct how you want it to look or the style you're going with. With Jourdan Dunn's Burberry gownin 2015 it was a really collaborative process about what we thought would make best dressed, and with Topshop the year before they listened to us in terms of colour and material."
Cristina Ehrlich, who has styled Brie Larson, stresses that unlike other red carpets, the Met Gala is really a collaborative effort. "It is different in the sense that it is truly a collaboration, between myself and my client and also the designer who the actress is a guest of and Vogue. It is not more difficult - it's just a more collaborative process," she explains. "It's not more political, but it is based around the idea of costuming verses a traditional red carpet, which is meant to promote a project or a movie an actress is working on."
Each year designers create a look to tie in with the theme of the exhibition at the Costume Institute. Ehrlich sees it as her job, however, to ensure her clients look in keeping with their signature style, rather than dressing to fit the theme. "My role in the process is to keep my client's own aesthetic there, while the designer who is creating the gown works to incorporate the theme for that year into the look," she explains.
The Met Gala is one of the trickiest red carpets to dress for, because unlike the Oscars or the Golden Globes where the stars walk across a flat surface, here they have to hike up the seemingly endless steps. Manny learned the hard way on his first Met Gala that you need to think carefully about the fit of the skirt. "The first Met Gala I styled was the one in 2014, and a tribute to Charles James, and Jourdan went with Topshop with Kendall Jenner, Chanel Iman and Toni Garnn," he recalls. "And we all had a say in what we wanted the colour of dresses to be, and they came back with mermaid-y satin ball gowns, but we hadn't thought about how they would move and walk."
"There was this funny scene where we trying to load Toni and Jourdan in the car to get to the Met Gala and we had to put the seats totally flat so they could get there without the dresses getting creased. And then when they were walking, it was impossible because it was one foot in front of the other. After that, from 2014 onwards, I was like "there needs to always be a slit."
And so the next year, Jourdan and Manny ensured that there was a slit in her custom Burberry gown.
Securing the perfect diamond necklace, or booking the hairstylist you love, can be difficult. "When it comes to accessories, it's so busy," Manny says of the rush to get diamonds. "Last year I went to Lorraine Schwartz with Lily Donaldson to pick up diamonds and there's even a hierarchy with that. Lorraine personally went out with a whole tray of jewels for Beyonce, so it's already a rush with the jewellery brands. But Lorraine is the queen of jewellery!" As for hair and makeup, celebrities can have their full look finished seven or so hours ahead of the event because artists are in very high demand and you have to book appointments weeks, if not months, in advance.
When stars finally make it onto the red carpet, they have to stay focused when it comes to making sure their dress gets seen. "That red carpet is daunting, it goes on and on," Manny explains. "It's the one event you when you really need to peacock and try and get as much camera time as possible. You are better off at the beginning because you get early exposure, whereas towards the end the Rihannas and Beyoncés can be the last, last person there. There's the shot you need to have by the stairs and by the entrance, but are about 20 handlers (you go from one person to the other to the other) who motions you through. You can't just come when you want - you have your slot when to arrive."
Red carpet photographer, Andrew Walker, who has captured the last five years of Met Galas says in reality it is tricky to photograph every single look. "You get zero time with each celebrity," he explains. "They have to keep going. There are people right behind them, and it's impossible to linger. I have shot the Oscars and the Met Gala - and the Met Gala makes the Oscars look like kids play. The sheer number of A Listers with great fashion there is nothing like it - people literally get heat exhaustion because they are working so hard trying to take pictures of them all."
Beyoncé will always have her own handler (if not handlers) walk the red carpet with her, so that they can make sure her dress looks camera-ready at all times. But even having a handler carry your dress is something that needs approval beforehand. "Handlers are allowed to help navigate depending on how the dress is," explains Manny. "It's up to a certain point and then you're left on your own. It needs to have approval beforehand to have someone walk on the red carpet with you. " But often designers walk the red carpet arm-in-arm with their celebrity and so they will do this 'dress fluffing' themselves.
Although most dresses are organised months and months in advance, if you are on the reserve list to attend you can be left with just one day to pull a look together. "There is also a reserve list so if anyone pulls out you'll get confirmation on Sunday, and then you have to get ready on Monday and scramble to find something to wear," reveals Manny. Talk about stressful!