They Rocked the Ball

Vogue follows two top models to the Met Ball 2010 and reveals the backstage of the party; the biggest night of the fashion industry. By Gabriel Ruas


In the two weeks before the Costume Institute Gala – also known as Met Ball, for the intimates – New York sizzles. The ball which takes place annually at The Metropolitan Museum of Art is co-produced by American Vogue, and is to the fashion world what the Oscar is for Hollywood – when it comes to red carpet, of course. The difference is that, instead of actors and directors, the target here are models and designers. Before anything, being invited is no easy feat. You’re either very influential and was invited by someone who bought a table, or you have deep pockets. The coveted tickets sell at an average of $7500 for a personal, single invitation or $250k for a table, all in order to preserve the museum’s collection. A bargain if you consider that multi-million dollar deals can be sealed in this party and that the “who is who” of fashion will be there. They all want to walk down the most fashionable red carpet on the planet.

I am an agent in the division of top models at Elite Model Management in New York, and among our clients are Alessandra Ambrosio and Charlotte Kemp Muhl, engaged to the musician Sean Lennon. Therefore, I follow all of this fashion meltdown from very close. The models who are invited by designers to sit with them at their tables are the luckiest: they are dressed by the designers themselves and don’t have to put out a single penny. The phone at the agency won’t stop ringing with calls from couturiers, hair stylists and makeup artists offering their services. Once the partnership between model and designer is defined, the team gets together for briefing. Everything is decided based on the theme of each years event. This year, the theme was “American Woman – Fashioning an Identity”, name of the exhibition that stays open until August 15th. Looks are compiled, shown and analyzed according with the body type of the girl to wear them, with the colors of the season, as well as influences of the current or upcoming season. This is not an evening to exercise creativity, but to exude elegance.

A week prior to the ball, photos of dresses, shoes, jewelry and make up colors are exchanged via hundreds of emails between the team. Many replies later the amount of wardrobe pieces is reduced to about ten dresses and twenty pairs of shoes. The weekend before the party arrives and with it also arrive the models, back from their endless work trips, tired, with only a few ours of sleep and with no time to lose. Saturday morning (the event takes place on Monday evenings), there are three looks left – most likely the guest will pick the one that’s too big or too long, as it happened with Michelle Alves last year (the model was pregnant and we had to make adjustments all over), and it’s an enormous challenge to deal with the issue on a sunday, even in New York! Dramas aside, it’s time to coordinate jewelry and shoes.

The Best-Dressed List fixture couple Gisele Bundchen & Tom Brady and a very pregnant Michelle Alves with her friend, Jesus Luz.

The Best-Dressed List fixture couple Gisele Bundchen & Tom Brady and a very pregnant Michelle Alves with her friend, Jesus Luz.

On the D day, the pressure is immense, the publicists of the models know it better than anyone: they are the ones who define times for hair and makeup, schedule car pick ups and coordinate the exact arrival time of the models at the red carpet, where they will work their magic to attract the attention of the media to their clients. The amount of flashes however will depend on endless variables. To arrive at the same time as that hot Hollywood couple is not a good choice. However, to pose with other colleagues of the industry is a guarantee of success: those are the pictures that will be bought by newspapers and magazines around the globe. As for the rest, it’s important to stay connected to every smile, every hug, and every glance. Everything there is captured and turns into news. The perfect look with the right attitude automatically elevates the hype of a model. A spot in the best dressed list is incomparable. At the very least it will guarantee an invitation to next year’s party.

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Article originally featured in Vogue Brazil, June 2010