The first Monday of May this year marks an absence in the fashion world. With the cancellation of the Met Gala and the indefinite closure of the Metropolitan Museum of Art due to the coronavirus pandemic, the museum’s front steps will remain quiet, empty of the usual crowds of celebrities and fashion insiders who flock to the annual fundraiser for the Costume Institute.

Absent too will be the photographs that circulate after the event. In recent years, photographers have largely been limited to snapping attendees’ highly posed entrances; the images that come from the tightly controlled press area are polished and repetitive. To see celebrities letting loose (the likes of Bella Hadid and Marc Jacobs gathering in the bathroom for smoke breaks, for example) you’d have to turn to after-party photos or their Instagram feeds.

Images from the galas of yesteryear are enticing because of their nostalgia factor and retro styling, but they also reveal a more relaxed atmosphere not limited to red carpet arrivals.

Photographer Rose Hartman, who photographed the gala for decades until the early 2000s, recalled over the phone a time when there was more freedom to move around and engage with attendees. In 1986, she photographed actress Lynda Carter and socialite Blaine Trump mid-laugh.

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