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.
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 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 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
Paloma Picasso and Caroline Herrera for ‘The Manchu Dragon: Costumes of China, the Chi’ng Dynasty’, 1980
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 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.
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 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 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 for ‘From Queen to Empress: Victorian Dress 1837-1877’, 1988
We’re into it!
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
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 for ‘Fashion and History: A Dialogue’, 1992
Audrey Hepburn could never.
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 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 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
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 for ‘AngloMania: Tradition and Transgression in British Fashion’, 2006
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 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
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 for ‘Charles James: Beyond Fashion’, 2014
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 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 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 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 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.
- Met Gala