All images courtesy of Getty

The most iconic outfit from every Met Gala ever

From 1973 to 2022, the annual event has delivered some of the most stunning moments in fashion history.

by Tom George
|
03 May 2022, 9:15am

All images courtesy of Getty

The Met Gala is inarguably the most exciting night in the fashion calendar. The benefit began back in 1948 to raise money for the new Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, with New York’s art and fashion elite in attendance. Over the years, though, the Gala has evolved. After themes were added in the 70s, the event became the ultimate place to spot up-and-coming models, actresses and artists: the muses of the designers of the moment in the 80s and 90s. On evolving further into the Super Bowl of celebrity faces as we entered the 2000s, the 2010s and 2020s have seen people take the themes very seriously indeed, with designers often crafting custom pieces to be worn for one night only.

As a result, there have been a lot of iconic looks in the Met Gala’s history. From Cher in a Bob Mackie ‘naked dress’ and Naomi Campbell in glittering silver Fendi by a then new to the scene Kim Jones; to Zendaya as a Versace-fied Joan of Arc and the many, many stunning outfits worn by Rihanna. From 1973 through to the present day, here are the best looks from every Met Gala ever.

Diana Vreeland for ‘The World of Balenciaga’, 1973

When fashion editor Diana Vreeland left Vogue in 1971, she joined the Metropolitan Museum of Art and took over its annual gala. Under her leadership, the gala became a much more exciting affair, with a unique theme for each event. History was made.

Halston and Jane Hozier for ‘The 10s, the 20s, the 30s: Inventive Clothes 1909-1939’, 1973

There were two Met Galas in 1973! Here, model and famed Warhol-actress Jane Hozier arrives at the esteemed event with one of American fashion’s most pioneering designers, Halston.

Cher at the met gala 1974
Photo by Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images.

Cher for ‘Romantic and Glamorous Hollywood Design’, 1974

Not only is this Bob Mackie creation adorning Cher one of the most iconic Met Gala looks of all time, it’s also one of the earliest examples of the ‘naked dress’. The outfit was literally a cultural reset.

Larry LeGaspi and his wife Valerie Arnoff for ‘American Women of Style’, 1975

Larry LeGaspi was an American fashion designer who has often been overlooked for his impact on the club styles of the 70s and 80s, when he dressed Grace Jones, Kiss, Labelle and drag queen Divine in his futuristic Art Deco attire. Though he died in 2001, his legacy lives on in the work of Rick Owens, who describes the designer as one of his greatest influences and dedicated a collection and a book to Larry in 2019. Honestly, Larry and his wife Valerie are serving more camp here then most of the attendees of the 2019 Met Gala.

Jackie Kennedy for ‘The Glory of Russian Costume’, 1976

Jacqueline Kennedy-Onassis’s look was very on theme for the 1976 Gala. The exhibition that year was unprecedented in its scope, with a collection of over 100 Russian clothing ensembles that had never been shown outside of the Soviet Union until then.

Barbra Walters and Estée Lauder at the met gala 1977
Photo by Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images

Barbra Walters and Estée Lauder for ‘Vanity Fair: A Treasure Trove’, 1977

Serving grecian goddess couture is Founder of The View Barbra Walters in a shimmering Halston dress and cosmetics guru Estée Lauder in classic Dior.

Diana Ross for ‘Diaghilev: Costumes and Designs of the Ballets Russes’, 1978

We stan this disco look from The Supremes singer Diana Ross, looking as if the Met Gala is her pre-drinks before she heads on to a bigger and better party over at Studio 54.

Jacqueline Kennedy for ‘Fashions of the Habsburg Era: Austria-Hungary’, 1979

Great gowns!

Paloma Picasso and Caroline Herrera for ‘The Manchu Dragon: Costumes of China, the Chi’ng Dynasty’, 1980

Beautiful gowns!

Diana Ross at the met gala 1981
Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images.

Diana Ross for ‘The Eighteenth-Century Woman’, 1981

Even back before the Met Gala was known for its OTT looks, Diana Ross still had jaws on the floor with this feathery off-the-shoulder gown. The ‘fit was so good, she brought it back in 2014 on the American Music Awards red carpet.

Raquel Welch for ‘La Belle Époque’, 1982

The renowned 70s actress and sex symbol stunned in this snakeskin print dress by Thierry Mugler. We stan.

Paloma Picasso at the met gala 1983
Photo by Patrick McMullan/Getty Images

Paloma Picasso with friend for ‘Yves Saint Laurent: 25 Years of Design’, 1983

Daughter of the famed cubist painter, Paloma Picasso was one of the most prominent faces on the scene in the 70s and 80s. She made a name for herself as a designer, creating jewellery for Tiffany & Co. and her own line of fragrances. Naturally then, at every Met Gala she was serving.

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Diana Vreeland with Ralph Lauren for ‘Man and the Horse’, 1984

After spending $350,000 on the event, Ralph Lauren was probably a little miffed that none of his clothes were featured in the equestrian-themed exhibition. “There isn't a blazer of mine in it,” The New York Times quoted him as saying, adding that he would support the event anyway due to his love of the horse-riding world and his desire to spotlight its fashion.

Cher for ‘Costumes of Royal India’, 1985

Name a more powerful duo than Cher and a Bob Mackie design. We’ll wait.

Paloma Picasso at the met gala 1986
Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images

Paloma Picasso for ‘Dance’, 1986

"Big skirts are fun but not for the person sitting next to you in a car," Paloma said as she walked up the steps of the Met in this stunning Christian LaCroix gown. She was the main character.

Kim Alexis at the met gala 1987
Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images

Kim Alexis for ‘A Tribute to Diana Vreeland’, 1987

80s supermodel Kim Alexis sports a very Balenciaga silhouette with his broad-shouldered embellished blazer dress at the 16th Met Gala. That year was dedicated to the woman who had turned the annual benefit into the fashion night of the year.

Zandra Rhodes at the met gala 1988
Photo by Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images

Zandra Rhodes for ‘From Queen to Empress: Victorian Dress 1837-1877’, 1988

We’re into it!

Anna Wintour at the met gala 1989
Photo by Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images

Anna Wintour for ‘The Age of Napoleon: Costume from Revolution to Empire, 1789-1815’, 1989

The 1989 Met Gala marked one year since Anna Wintour had become editor-in-chief of Vogue. 10 years later, she would take over as chairperson of the event and turn it into what we know it as today.

Naomi Campbell for ‘Théȃtre de la Mode - Fashion Dolls: The Survival of Haute Couture’, 1990

A baby-faced Naomi Campbell at her first ever Met Gala as a guest of Gianni Versace and wearing a sequin-embued, bold print mini-dress from his 1991 Spring collection.

Zandra Rhodes at the met gala 1991
Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images

Zandra Rhodes for the Met Gala (no theme), 1991

Though this year might have been themeless, British fashion and textiles designer Dame Zandra Rhodes served astrological couture as she partied in a rhinestoned midnight-blue gown with a star map print and cute dangly moon earrings.

Christy Turlington at the met gala 1992
Photo by Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images.

Christy Turlington for ‘Fashion and History: A Dialogue’, 1992

Audrey Hepburn could never.

Gianni Versace and Donatella Versace at the met gala 1993
Gianni Versace and Donatella Versace. Photography Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images.

Donatella and Gianni Versace for ‘Diana Vreeland: Immoderate Style’, 1993

One of the iconic Italian designer’s most famed creations, the bondage belt dress called “Miss S&M” adorns the body of Gianni’s sister, and future head of Versace, Donatella. Most recently, Dua Lipa wore a gorgeous adapted version of the dress at the 2022 Grammy awards.

Veronica Webb for ‘Orientalism: Visions of the East in Western dress’, 1994

Seriously, where can we get this black latex mini halter dress with ab cutouts worn by 90s model and actress Veronica Webb?

Christy Turlington, Naomi Campbell and Kate Moss at the met gala 1995
Photo by Kevin Mazur Archive/WireImage.

Christy Turlington, Naomi Campbell and Kate Moss for ‘Haute Couture’, 1995

Hang this picture of Christy Turlington, Naomi Campbell and Kate Moss in the Louvre.

Princess Diana for ‘Christian Dior’, 1996

The queen of biker shorts and sweatshirts wore a sexy sleek navy dress with lace detailing by Dior.

Salma Hayek for ‘Gianni Versace’, 1997

Screaming, crying, throwing up at Ugly Betty and House of Gucci actress Salma Hayek in Versace.

Claudia Schiffer for ‘Cubism and Fashion’, 1998

J’adore this y2k moment on model Claudia Schiffer. It’s giving Blumarine. It’s giving 13 Going On 30.

Lil Kim for ‘Rock Style’, 1999

This custom Versace look on Lil Kim is considered a pioneering moment in Met Gala fashion and the first time someone dared wear a hyper-sexy look to the illustrious event.

3lw at the met gala 2001
Photo by George De Sota/Newsmakers via Hulton Archive

3LW for ‘Jacqueline Kennedy: The White House Years’. 2001

Two out of four Cheetah Girls at the most elite fashion party of the year? We think the fuck so. This is what Jackie Kennedy wished she wore during the White House years.

Nicole Kidman for ‘Goddess: The Classical Mode’, 2003

Tom Ford understood the assignment when he made this stunningly celestial Gucci gown for Nicole Kidman to wear as she walked into the Met.

Beyoncé for ‘Dangerous Liaisons: Fashion and Furniture in the 18th Century’, 2004

After the success of her debut solo album, the Dangerously in Love singer was glowing as she stepped in this silk, low-back halter dress.

Marc Jacobs and Lil Kim for ‘The House of Chanel’, 2005

In 2005, Marc Jacobs was a mainstay of Lil Kim’s wardrobe, with the designer even dressing the rapper for all her court appearances.

Alexander McQueen and Sarah Jessica Parker at the Met Gala 2006
Photo by Evan Agostini/Getty Images.

Alexander McQueen and Sarah Jessica Parker for ‘AngloMania: Tradition and Transgression in British Fashion’, 2006

Sex and the City star Sarah Jessica Parker has attended the Met Gala 11 times but this tartan moment, twinning with the late designer Alexander McQueen, is definitely the most iconic of them all.

Iman with David Bowie at the Met Gala 2007
Photo by Peter Kramer/Getty Images via Getty Images North America

Iman with David Bowie for ‘Poiret: King of Fashion’, 2007

Everything about this androgynous three-piece white suit on supermodel Iman is stunning down to the classic cane.

Victoria Beckham with David Beckham for ‘Superheroes: Fashion and Fantasy’, 2008

It’s Victoria (wearing Giorgio Armani), Malcolm!!

Kate Moss with Marc Jacobs at the Met Gala 2009
Photo by BILLY FARRELL/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

Kate Moss with Marc Jacobs for ‘The Model As Muse: Embodying Fashion’, 2009

At a Met Gala themed on the power of models, of course Kate Moss would turn up in a stunning celestial look. She is the moment. Come on now.

Jennifer Lopez for ‘American Woman: Fashioning a National Identity’, 2010

Jenny from the Block ate this Zuhair Murad Couture gown up!

Dakota Fanning for ‘Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty’, 2011

One year after Alexander McQueen’s death, the Savage Beauty exhibition at the Met became one of the most popular in the museum’s history. In its final weekend, the exhibit saw four-hour long queues waiting to get inside to see the stunning pieces, and the opening hours were extended to midnight.

Karolina Kurkova for ‘Schiaparelli and Prada: Impossible Conversations’, 2012

Can you tell this look was designed by Rachel Zoe, stylist of Nicole Richie, Lindsay Lohan and Mischa Barton?

Kim Kardashian at the Met Gala 2013
Photo by Larry Busacca/Getty Images

Kim Kardashian for ‘Punk: Chaos to Couture’, 2013

Before Rihanna engrossed the world with her array of iconic maternity wear, Kim Kardashian cradled a baby bump wrapped in a beautiful high-slit, gloved Givenchy dress in a botanical print. The way North West was already better dressed than we will ever be.

Rihanna at the Met Gala 2014
Photo by George Pimentel/WireImage

Rihanna for ‘Charles James: Beyond Fashion’, 2014

It’s Rihanna’s world and we’re all just living in it. The star rocked up to the event in a Stella McCartney two-piece that was elegantly simple and yet still caught everyone’s attention.

Rihanna at the Met Gala 2015
Photo by Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic.

Rihanna for ‘China: Through the Looking Glass’, 2015

The look that launched a thousand memes. After the minimalism of Riri’s outfit the year prior, the singer and Fenty founder went for grand opulence in a fur-trimmed, off-the-shoulder cape by Guo Pei that was also featured in the exhibit. Get you a girl who can do both!

Claire Danes for ‘Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology’, 2016

When Claire Danes turned up to the 2016 Met Gala — in a hired out public bus no less — at first, it looked like her stylist didn't get the tech memo. The elegant Zac Posen gown looked like it was wizzed-up by Cinderella’s fairy godmother (not the one from the deranged 2021 adaptation though) but it wasn’t giving robo-couture like Zayn Malik’s armoured sleeves or Beyoncé’s skin-tight latex. That was, at least, until the lights went out and the hand-sewn dress, made from organza and fibre optics, beautifully shone in the darkness.

Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen at the Met Gala 2017
Photo by John Shearer/Getty Images.

Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen for ‘Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between’, 2017

Fashion designers MK and Ashley stunned in their boho-chic lace gowns with gothic necklaces to match their broody makeup, a fur-trimmed regal jacket and beachy hair that seemed to nod to Rei Kawakubo’s Fall 2005 collection.

Zendaya at the Met Gala 2018
Photo by Sean Zanni/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images.

Zendaya for ‘Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination’, 2018

2018 could well become known as the year with the most iconic looks in Met Gala history. Ariana in the Vera Wang Michelangelo dress; Blake Lively in an ethereal Versace look. All history-defining. We almost gave the best look crown to Rihanna again for the sheer audacity of that breathtaking sexy Papal look by John Galliano; but a pre-Euphoria Zendaya has us all gooped when she brought Catholic saint Joan of Arc to the Met Gala carpet in Versace chainmail. Never was a bigger lie told than when the star sung “fashion is my kryptonite”. This was the moment we knew we were in the presence of greatness.

Lady Gaga at the Met Gala 2019
Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for The Met Museum/Vogue.

Lady Gaga for ‘Camp: Notes on Fashion’, 2019

Karlie Kloss looked camp right in the eye and Lady Gaga stared back at her. Our queen pulled focus for a full 17 minutes on the camp carpet with not one, not two, not three, but four iconic looks all created by her bestie Brandon Maxwell.

kim kardashian at the Met Gala 2021.
Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for The Met Museum/Vogue

Kim Kardashian for ‘In America: A Lexicon of Fashion’, 2021

After we missed out on the event in 2020, there were high hopes for the Met Gala 2021. But we were let down tbh with a lot of ‘meh’ moments and political fashions that fell flat. Enter a charcoal silhouette that was unmistakably the body of Kim Kardashian, clad head-to-toe in Balenciaga. The look was undoubtedly the most iconic look of the night and gave us the hit of fashion excitement we had been craving for the past two years.

Blake Lively for ‘Gilded Glamour’, 2022

Serena Van Der Woodsen has had many iconic fashion moments at the annual event (remember her 2018 Heavenly bodies look? People died). But as co-chair of the 2022 Gilded Glamour-themed night, Blake’s jewelled, gloved Versace gown with an oversized blush bow on the side untied to reveal icy blue detailing across the entire gown. It was a direct reference to the oxidation of the once-bronze, now-blue Statue of Liberty, embroidered with details that spoke of the changing face of America. In that moment, us mere mortals were all her husband Ryan Reynolds: mouths agape as we beheld this distinctly on-theme, and yet inspired vision of glamour.

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Met Gala