The 25 Most Memorable Met Gala Looks of All Time

From Princess Diana to Blake Lively.

<p>Getty Images/InStyle</p>

Getty Images/InStyle

If you stepped back in time to the 1940s, you’d barely recognize the Met Gala. What started in 1948 as a small benefit for the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art has transformed into one of the world’s most important red carpet events, becoming a highly photographed event in the 1990s. And while the lavish event still raises money for the Costume Institute and marks the opening of its annual exhibition, the Met Gala has taken on a life of its own, allowing celebrities and designers alike to flex their sartorial muscles to the max.

There are some established guidelines, though, which come in the form of a theme set for the night. Based on each year’s exhibition, past themes have ranged from “in honor of Karl”—referring to the late German designer, Karl Lagerfeld—and “gilded glamour” to “Manus x Machina” and punk. That yearly mash-up has made for some truly remarkable moments: Clare Danes wore a princess gown that lit up in the dark for 2016’s “Manus x Machina” celebration; Lady Gaga changed into three different looks during a red carpet performance to honor the 2019 Met Gala’s camp theme; and Blake Lively surprised onlookers as her 2022 Versace gown changed colors to reference the patina effect on the Statue of Liberty.

With over 400 attendees each year, it's hard to keep track of the outfits that truly dazzled on the Met Museum steps. But we did the work. Ahead, 25 of the Met Gala looks from 1996 to 2023.

Doja Cat in Oscar de la Renta (2023)

<p>John Shearer/Getty Images</p>

John Shearer/Getty Images

Doja Cat paid homage to both her stage name and Karl Lagerfeld’s pet, Choupette, by transforming into a feline for the night— with cat ears included. The glamorous, yet campy gown was designed by Oscar de la Renta co-creative directors Laura Kim and Fernando Garcia and included over 350,000 silver and white beads.

Bad Bunny in Jacquemus (2023)

<p>Angela Weiss/Getty Images</p>

Angela Weiss/Getty Images

A sensual take on the otherwise traditional men’s tuxedo, Puerto Rican rapper Bad Bunny referenced the camellia flower, one of Chanel’s most distinctive house symbols, with a 26-foot-long cape. The back cut-out served as a backdrop for a dangling “J” initial pendant, nodding to designer Simon Porte Jacquemus.

Anne Hathway in Versace (2023)

<p>Jeff Kravitz/Getty Images</p>

Jeff Kravitz/Getty Images

It’s a hard task to marry two designers’ visual identities into one garment. But Donatella Versace proved it could be done when she dressed Anne Hathway in a hybrid of Versace and Chanel for 2023’s celebration of designer Karl Lagerfeld. Inspired by the ‘90s, the strapless cut-out gown was held together with oversized pins—a Versace signature—and was made from tweed—a trademark material for Chanel.

Blake Lively in Atelier Versace (2022)

<p>Theo Wargo/Getty Images</p>

Theo Wargo/Getty Images

Blake Lively flexed her historian muscle with this Versace gown, which she paired with a tiara and opera gloves. When the actress appeared on the red carpet, her copper gown paid homage to New York City’s architecture and the Gilded Age with a geometrical corset and bustle skirt. But once at the stairs, Lively unfurled the bustle to reveal a blue train, a nod to the patina effect the Statue of Liberty underwent over the past century.

Kim Kardashian in Jean-Louis (2022)

<p>Getty Images</p>

Getty Images

Perhaps one of the most controversial Met Gala looks in history, Kim Kardashian channeled Marilyn Monroe in a Jean-Louis crystal-encrusted gown worn by the late actress in 1962. While she borrowed the decades-old dress from Ripley’s Orlando location, she only wore it to walk the Met steps, and later, changed into a replica for night’s festivities.

Billie Eilish in Oscar de la Renta (2021)

<p>Theo Wargo/Getty Images</p>

Theo Wargo/Getty Images

The Met Gala is often a night when celebrities try on new fashion personas. This was the case of Billie Eilish’s 2021 Oscar de la Renta gown, which saw the often logo-clad, androgynous dresser into a full-on old Hollywood starlet. The beige princess gown—which Eilish paired with a Marilyn Monroe-like blonde bob— featured a 15-foot train and off-the-shoulder neckline.

Lady Gaga in Brandon Maxwell (2019)

<p>Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images</p>

Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images

When it comes to red carpet performances, few celebrities can pull off a complete stunner than Lady Gaga. Designed by Brandon Maxwell, the singer and actress wore four looks: First, she stepped on the Met Museum’s steps in a hot pink ball gown with a bow headpiece; a second look revealed a strapless black dress with a ball gown skirt; for the third dress, Gaga wore a bright pink body-con number with an oversized telephone prop; and finally, a sequined black lingerie set with sheer tights and sky-high platform boots.

Zendaya in Versace (2018)

Inspired by the night’s Catholic imagination theme, Zendaya’s 2018 tribute to Saint Joan of Arc walked the line between costume and fashion. The armor-like gown—designed by Versace— featured chainmail and a spiked belt cascading into a sleek silver train that made the actress look ready for battle.

Cardi B in Moschino (2018)

<p>John Shearer/Getty Images</p>

John Shearer/Getty Images

For her Met Gala debut, rapper Cardi B made a show-stopping entrance in a Moschino gold and cream pearl-encrusted gown, complete with a halo headpiece and matching opera gloves. The sultry bodycon dress weighed 30 pounds and was made grander by a voluminous bustle skirt that opened into a train.

Solange Knowles in Iris van Herpen (2018)

<p>John Shearer/Getty Images</p>

John Shearer/Getty Images

What celebrities wear to the Met Gala is often top-secret stuff. But, in 2018, Solange Knowles took to X (formerly Twitter) to ask her followers what she should wear to the affair. The final result was a black bulbous Iris van Harpen dress, paired with a durag and halo crown that transformed Solange into a Saint.

Tracee Ellis Ross in Comme des Garcons (2017)

<p>Neilson Barnard/Getty Images</p>

Neilson Barnard/Getty Images

In celebration of Rei Kawakubo, actress Tracee Ellis Ross opted to wear a regal blue dress by the Japanese designer. The actress, who paired the number with chain sandals and a black clutch, was one of the few attendees who wore Kawakubo’s work that night.

Clare Danes in Zac Posen (2016)

<p>Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images</p>

Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images

Designer Zac Posen flexed his technological muscles for this flow-in-the-dark gown. The blue princess dress, worn by actress Clare Danes, was made from organza and fiber optics. The latter caused the gown to light up in a shimmery halo, a nod to the night’s theme, “Manus x Machina.”

Rihanna in Guo Pei (2015)

<p>Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/Getty Images</p>

Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/Getty Images

One of the most famous and memorable outfits in Met Gala history, Rihanna made a triumphant walk up the Met Museum stairs in 2015, wearing a couture dress by Chinese designer Guo Pei. A nod to the exhibition “China: Through the Looking Glass,” the gold cape gown took over 20 hours to make and weighed over 50 pounds.

Beyoncé in Givenchy (2014)

<p>Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images</p>

Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images

Beyoncé’s appearances at the Met Gala have been few but mighty. This Givenchy couture gown—designed by the house’s former creative director Riccardo Tisci— is arguably one of her best. The sheer gown, which was right in line with the night’s celebration of designer Charles James, was topped off with a birdcage headpiece and chandelier earrings.

Miley Cyrus in Marc Jacobs (2013)

<p>Larry Busacca/Getty Images</p>

Larry Busacca/Getty Images

Miley Cyrus celebrated punk—the Met Gala’s theme for 2015—in a nod to the ‘90s “naked dress.” The Marc Jacobs nude form-fitting slip was topped with a fishnet long-sleeve black dress. To top off the look, the actress and singer opted for stud earrings by designer Eddie Borgo.

Sienna Miller in Burberry (2013)

<p>Rabbani and Solimene Photography/Getty Images</p>

Rabbani and Solimene Photography/Getty Images

In the rebellious spirit of the night, Sienna Miller wore a studded leather jacket with a white gown by Burberry. Adding to the night’s theme, the actress accessorized the look with a studded hair comb that crowned her the evening’s punk princess.

Carey Mulligan in Prada (2012)

<p>Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images</p>

Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images

Carey Mulligan’s shiny Prada lit up the red carpet when she walked up the Met Museum steps in 2012 to celebrate the opening of “Schiaparelli and Prada: Impossible Conversations.” Given the night’s theme, it wasn’t surprising that the actress sported a look by the brand. The halter backless mini dress was covered in gold mirror discs on top that eroded in an ombré effect toward the bottom.

Daphne Guinness in Alexander McQueen (2011)

<p>Getty Images</p>

Getty Images

An emotional tribute to the late Alexander McQueen, socialite Daphne Guinness wore a feathered architectural gown by the designer, who died by suicide a few years before, during a night celebrating his work. Before walking the carpet, Guinness teased the whimsical look for fans by stepping into a shopping window at the now-closed Barneys.

Alexa Chung in Phillip Lim (2010)

<p>Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images</p>

Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images

Gowns are usually the Met Gala’s protagonist. But Alexa Chung changed that in 2010 when she wore a Phillip Lim black tuxedo. Given the night’s theme was “American Women: Fashioning An Identity,” it wasn’t surprising that Chung—known for her androgynous take on fashion— would upend sartorial gender roles at the Met Gala.

Madonna in Louis Vuitton (2009)

<p>Kevin Mazur/Getty Images</p>

Kevin Mazur/Getty Images

Madonna’s Met Gala look in 2009 raised some eyebrows. But more than 10 years later, it’s quite the statement. The singer wore a Louis Vuitton navy corseted mini dress with thigh-high patent leather boots. It was all made more eccentric via a pair of long bunny ears, first shown in the brand’s Fall/Winter 2009 collection.

Amber Valletta in Versace (2008)

<p>Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images</p>

Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images

For a night dedicated to superheroes, model Amber Valletta chose to dress the part in a rose gold Versace gown. The glamorous bodycon dress took an avant-garde twist with a balloon-like capelet protruding from Valletta's back, making the model look ready for take-off.

Lucy Liu in Zac Posen (2007)

<p>Evan Agostini/Getty Images</p>

Evan Agostini/Getty Images

Actress Lucy Liu tapped American designer Zac Posen for a look celebrating the late French designer Paul Poiret. The duo went with a purple bodycon gown that featured a gargantuan train made of oversized roses, which Liu paired with a gold tiara.

Sarah Jessica Parker in Alexander McQueen (2006)

<p>Evan Agostini/Getty Images</p>

Evan Agostini/Getty Images

Sarah Jessica Parker’s take on British fashion was right on theme with the 2006 Costume Institute exhibition, “Tradition and Transgression in British Fashion.” The actress wore a deconstructed Scottish tartan with tulle skirt by the late designer Alexander McQueen, who walked the red carpet alongside Parker.

Karolina Kurkova in Viktor & Rolf (2005)

<p>Evan Agostini/Getty Images</p>

Evan Agostini/Getty Images

Nowadays, it's commonplace to see Met Gala attendees let you know what they’re thinking via their clothes (think: Alexandra Ocasio Cortez’s “Eat the rich!” gown from 2021). But back in 2005, model Karolina Kurkova was considered a pioneer in this arena. Kurkova opted for a Viktor & Rolf white one-shoulder gown with a peeking tulle skirt and a red “I love you” slogan.

Princess Diana in Dior (1996)

<p>Patrick McMullan/Getty Images</p>

Patrick McMullan/Getty Images

Princess Diana only made one Met Gala appearance, which came in 1996. But it was a memorable one. In one of her most controversial looks, the princess wore a navy blue slip dress by John Galliano for Dior, paired with a matching Lady Dior bag, which was named after the late royal.

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