The Most Unforgettable MET Gala Looks of All Time

The Most Unforgettable MET Gala Looks of All Time featured image
Karwai Tang / Dimitrios Kambouris / Getty Images

With the first Monday in May right around the corner, the stars are about to enter the Garden of Time. And while we can’t wait to see what blooms on the red carpet this year, it’s also the perfect opportunity to take a look back at the MET Gala looks we’re still thinking about. A show that never disappoints, this is a carpet known for the extreme, the extravagant and the expensive. Additionally, the past decade especially has seen the event shift into a kind of walking fine-art show.

If you’re a casual fan, the MET Gala is actually called the Costume Institute Gala. It’s a fundraising gala held for the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute in Manhattan. The Gala itself is a huge social event, organized by Vogue. The hand-picked attendees come from the highest tiers of fashion, film, music, sports, and even social media. And they are expected to go all out with their outfits.

This Year’s MET

2024’s exhibition is entitled “Sleeping Beauties: Reawakening Fashion.” It explores the delicate nature of fashion, centered around 17 pieces that cannot ever be worn again. The Costume Institute’s chief curator, Andrew Bolton explained to Vogue that this collection includes some incredibly fragile pieces. “These are the ‘Sleeping Beauties’ of the title,” Bolton says.

This year’s dress code is based on a short story by English novelist and essayist J.G. Ballard, “The Garden of Time.”

Co-chaired as always by Vogue‘s Editor in Chief, Anna Wintour, the event will also welcome Jennifer Lopez, Zendaya, Bad Bunny and Chris Hemsworth as celebrity co-chairs.

The Best MET Gala Looks of All Time

The rumor mill is already turning, with Kim K going pink and Rhianna hinting that her look this year will be her most different yet. All eyes are looking towards the first Monday in May. Unsurprisingly, the MET Gala has been making headlines for decades. From Cher’s naked dress to Jared Leto showing up as Karl Lagerfeld’s cat, there’s never a dull moment on the MET’s red carpet.

And with decades of fashion and beauty history to comb through, these are just some of the best looks of all time. These are the beauty moments we couldn’t stop thinking about and the fashion choices we’re still obsessing over.

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Cher at the 1974 MET Gala

Fashion designer Bob Mackie created one of the first nude illusion gowns for the 1974 MET Gala. The theme, Romantic and Glamorous Hollywood Design, explored the history of Hollywood’s influence on design. But Cher’s look would go on to create Hollywood history, with the feather and crystal ensemble going on to inspire dozens of naked dresses.

If Cher is one thing, always, it’s interesting. Mackie would go on to create dozens of show-stopping designs for the icon in one of the most successful and enduring friendships in the industry.

cher met gala 1974
Ron Galella / Getty Images
2 / 15

Princess Diana at the 1996 MET Gala

Arriving in a silk John Galliano for Dior slip dress, accented with lingerie-like silk and looking every bit like a negligee, Princess Diana of Wales rocked the 1996 MET Gala. The dark blue slip was the statement of statements for the recent divorcee. Out of the palace and still in the frying pan of the public eye, this moment saw Princess Diana step firmly out of her made-up and matronly royal-approved wear.

A moment all about defining herself and being her own woman, it’s also a moment that almost never happened. According to royal biographer, Katie Nicholl, Princess Diana almost didn’t choose the dress for fear of embarrassing her then 14-year-old son, William.

princess diana met gala 1996
New York Daily News / Getty Images
3 / 15

Salma Hayek at the 1997 MET Gala

Stunning in Versace for her first MET Gala, longtime attendee Salma Hayek always proves to have a strong handle on her sense of fashion. She previously told Vogue that it isn’t her intention to stand out. “I don’t try to compete, I try to enjoy the show,” she explains.

But her leg-baring leather-trim look was certainly eye-catching. That year’s Gala honored fashion icon Gianni Versace, and the high-slit gown that Hayek wore was to die for.

salma hayek met gala 1997
Mitchell Gerber / Getty Images
4 / 15

Selma Blair at the 2005 Met Gala

Attending only briefly before jetting away to film The Fog, Selma Blair stunned in vintage Chanel. “I have to catch a plane,” she told People at the time. “I feel like a Cinderella jetting off.”

Her gown, a stunning black and cream number with gold celestial accents, celebrated the year’s them: Chanel. One of America’s most famous design houses, Chanel was run at the time by powerhouse Karl Lengerfeld. He had chosen Blair to appear in a Chanel campaign the same year, elevating her to a global fashion icon.

selma blair met gala 2005
Evan Agostini / Getty Images
5 / 15

Kate Moss at the 2009 MET Gala

Serving at a co-chair of the event that year, supermodel Kate Moss stunned in a Marc Jacob’s liquid silver look. That year’s theme, Model as Muse, was a cinch for Moss, who owned the red carpet in her matching silver headwrap.

kate moss met gala 2009
Patrick McMullan / Getty Images
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Jennifer Lopez at the 2011 MET Gala

Celebrating “Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty,” Lopez embraced the drama with this deep red runway piece from Gucci. The 3D floral embellishment brought the drama, something McQueen would have been proud to see on a red carpet honoring his sense of fashion.

Her iconic and complimentary makeup look also makes Lopez a clear contender for the hottest outfit of the night.

Lopez is also serving as a co-chair of the MET Gala this year, and we can’t wait to see where she takes the Garden of Time theme.

jennifer lopez met gala 2011
Kevin Mazur / Getty Images
7 / 15

Rihanna at the 2015 MET Gala

Astonishing viewers in imperial yellow, Rihanna’s 2015 MET Gala look would define her as a true star of the first Monday in May. But it turns out, she wasn’t so confident the look would land.

“I remember being so scared to get out of that car because I felt like, ‘I’m doing too much.’ I was driving past the red carpet and I was just seeing gowns,” Rihanna told Access.

In comparison, her makeup is so subdued and natural that we just can’t get enough. Matte and glowing with just the softest of cat eyes, this look lets the gown talk.

rihanna met gala 2015
Karwai Tang / Getty Images
8 / 15

Bella Hadid at the 2017 MET Gala

Can anyone say Catwoman?

In a shimmering Alexander Wang bodysuit, supermodel Bella Hadid was one of the most talked-about looks of the year. The backless, nearly nude number came with a few caveats.

“It was nerve-wracking,” she told Harper’s Bazaar. “I couldn’t pee because I was sewn in from the top. I put my foot in the wrong part of the leotard at one point, so I had to take it off and put it back on again. It was hassle, but worth it.”

bella hadid met gala 2017
Dimitrios Kambouris / Getty Images
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Rihanna at the 2018 MET Gala

The MET Gala’s 2018 theme was perhaps its most controversial to date. Celebrating the link between religion and fashion, the “Heavenly Bodies” theme saw the stars taking bold and symbolic outfits to the extreme. Co-chair that year and MET Gala aficionado, Rihanna was certainly not one to disappoint.

Declared as the undeniable “winner” of the MET Gala that year by Vogue, the crystal-embellished gown took us right to church and made us thankful to be there. Amen.

rihanna met gala 2018
Kevin Mazur/MG18 / Getty Images
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Cardi B at the 2018 MET Gala

2018 was absolutely filled with “Heavenly Bodies” all draped in the finest of fashions, so it’s no surprise to see more than one look on this list. Arriving in custom Moschino, Cardi B was also celebrating her pregnancy at the time, making her look all the more symbolic.

Designer Jeremy Scott says he wanted to celebrate Cardi’s pregnancy, and that “nothing is more divine than a pregnant woman.”

cardi b met gala 2018
Kevin Tachman/ Getty Images
11 / 15

Zendaya at the 2018 MET Gala

I mean she’s Joan of Arc.

What more is there to say? Zendaya looks like my knight in shining armor in this custom Versace metal and chain mail gown.

Complete with shoulder and neck plates, this knightly outfit isn’t just gorgeous, but is definitely also in conversation with the theme of the event. Burned at the stake despite saving France, Joan of Arc was named a martyr in 1465.

zendaya met gala 2018
Noam Galai / Stringer / Getty Images
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Céline Dion at the 2019 MET Gala

If anyone knows camp, it’s Céline Dion, and she made that clear on the MET Gala red carpet. The year’s theme, Camp: Notes on Fashion, pushed artists to consider the out-there and the undeniably different. Channeling show-stopper costumes and big headpieces, Dion was all fringe in an Oscar De La Renta piece.

“I’m never going to take it off,” she said of the outfit and its 3,000 strands of fringe made from glass bugle beads. “It’s mine! All mine!”

celine dion met gala 2019
Kevin Mazur/MG19 / Getty Images
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Kim Kardashian at the 2021 MET Gala

Arriving in an all-black Balenciaga morph suit, this look rewrote the rules for the red carpet. Of course, it helped that she wore a few similar looks leading up to the event, but it still took most viewers a few moments to realize who was actually walking the carpet.

Sleek, subtle and devastatingly effective, this look ruled the internet, only to be outdone by the next time Kim K wanted to make news.

kim kardashian met gala 2021
Gilbert Carrasquillo / Contributor / Getty Images
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Kim Kardashian at the 2022 MET Gala

Which would be…the very next year.

Arriving in a piece of history, Kim K wore an iconic Marilyn Monroe dress to the 2022 MET Gala. Recently purchased by Ripley’s for $4.8 million, the dress was originally too small for Kim, who reported going to unhealthy lengths to fit into the piece.

The skin-tight, sparkling nude dress became part of American history after Monroe wore it while singing “Happy Birthday” to President John F. Kennedy in 1962.

Getty Images
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Anne Hathaway at the 2023 MET Gala

Honoring Karl Lagerfeld’s contributions to fashion, 2023 was a year awash with vintage Chanel, white and black, and a few cute cats. And Anne Hathaway was among the stars who hit the theme directly, wearing a tweed number that Lagerfeld would have no doubt adored.

She explained that her stylist, Erin Walsh, helped her find the right risk for the event.

“Erin sees my idiosyncrasies as a strength. Maybe there was initial confusion with me because I was introduced to the world as a teenaged princess, but I never actually connected to things that are ‘sweet’ and ‘pretty’—no shade at all for those wonderful options,” she said. “I love the right risk, as does she. I’ve never had this much fun—and it’s supposed to be fun, right?”

anne hathaway met gala 2023
John Shearer / Contributor / Getty Images

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