The Best Met Gala Outfits In History

These looks will never be forgotten.
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Since the first Met Gala held in 1948, the esteemed event has cemented itself as fashion’s biggest night of the year.

When the ‘first Monday of May’ rolls around each year, the world tunes in religiously to watch as over-the-top gowns parade through the Metropolitan Museum of Art steps. 

Held by Vogue, the event celebrates the Costume Institute and one exhibition in particular each year which acts as a theme (and dress code) for the evening. This year’s exhibition pays homage to the late designer Karl Lagerfeld, titled “Karl Lagerfeld: A Line of Beauty”. 

Attending designers, celebrities and high society spend months, if not the year, meticulously planning each element of their looks down to the shade of their nail polish.

Whether you like to dabble in fashion or are a certified aficionado, the Met Gala has mass appeal and often sparks a debate in the group chat (hello, Kim Kardashian wearing Marilyn’s dress last year!). With so many fabulous and timeless looks it’s difficult to go down in the history books amongst a succession of outfits designed with that simple goal, to stand out. The marie claire Australia team reveal the looks we’re still loving (and talking about) years on. 

Editor’s Picks

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Naomi Smith, Fashion DirectorMarc Jacobs and Kate Moss in Marc Jacobs

Year and theme: 2009, The Model as Muse: Embodying Fashion

The theme for this year was “Model as Muse” and Kate Moss had only just been allowed to return to New York after her so-called ‘visa complications’, so this moment was extra special.

I love everything that designer Marc Jacobs touches—he is one of the top designers of our generation; and naturally, also besties with Kate Moss.

Her look was less traditional but ultimately fabulous, I think for me, it was the head piece that made the look. Overall, I loved how the both of them looked, like they were the naughty kids at the party table. It was also the same year that she served as Co-Chair.

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Jordan Boorman, Fashion EditorGwyneth Paltrow in Prada

Year and theme: 2012, Schiaparelli and Prada: Impossible Conversations

I cannot get over Gwyneth Paltrow’s Prada dress that was actually a top. The fact that she decided to risk it and not wear the skirt that came with the original look when it came down the runway is one of the things I love the most about her choice for the 2012 Met Gala.

It is such an iconic, timeless look, which is understated but so elegant and classic.

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Bree Player, Features EditorLana Del Rey in Gucci

Year and theme: 2018, Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination 

Celebrities are critiqued for forgetting it’s a costume ball and not following the theme; then there’s Lana Del Rey.  

Looking like she’d stepped out from the gilded frame of a renaissance painting, the singer was truly a vision arriving as part of a Holy Trinity on the arms of Gucci’s then creative director Alessandro Michele and fellow brand ambassador Jared Leto.

The ecclesiastic-inspired gown in cream with intricate gold filigree embroidery was both beautiful and theatrical. Crowning her impossibly long hair, sat a bejewelled halo taking flight with twin feathered wingspans in hues of Virgin Mary blue, while a sacred heart breast plate adorned with her initials was pierced with seven ornate daggers. For this Met Gala look, not to mention her repertoire of music that soundtracks my life, I bow down to the goddess that is Lana Del Rey.

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Harriet Sim, Features WriterAnna Wintour in Chanel

Year and theme: 2019, Camp: Notes on Fashion

Many invitees were fearful of how to decode the ‘Camp’ dress code, but in Susan Sontag’s 1964 essay ‘Notes On Camp’, she wrote, “The hallmark of camp is the spirit of extravagance. Camp is a woman walking around in a dress made of three million feathers.”

While the red carpet might have been awash with more feathers than a Harry Styles concert, I think Anna Wintour’s floral beaded gown and cascading feathered cape designed by Chanel, a tribute to the late Karl Lagerfeld, was a standout. It also echoed Wintour’s previous gala looks, including the Christian Dior Haute Couture cape worn in 2003 for the Gala’s “Goddess: The Classical Mode.”

At the start of the night Wintour was asked “What is camp to you?” To which she replied, standing in a pink, flamingo-inspired look, “Having fun.” Which I think is the perfect ‘note’ to commence a night of camp celebrations.

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Cassandra Green, Senior WriterKaia Gerber in Oscar De La Renta

Year and theme: 2021, In America: A Lexicon of Fashion

What better way to celebrate the ‘best-of-the-best’ in American fashion than to celebrate an archival Halston look worn by Bianca Jagger to the very same event, back in 1981.

Gerber’s look is nothing short of breathtaking, created by Dominican-American fashion designer Oscar De La Renta for the occasion, as a further nod to the country’s strong fashion history.

It was a great way to make a debut on the Met Gala steps, referencing the early days of the Costume Institute Gala, which was less about the garishness of an outfit but instead its subtle beauty and grace.

I also like that Gerber and Oscar De La Renta opted for a slightly more modern, see-through bodice, which reflects a more ‘2021’ reflection of the gown, while still keeping its quintessential silhouette and neckline.

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Teneal Zuvela, Digital WriterDiana, Princess of Wales in Dior

Year and theme: 1996, Christian Dior

Princess Diana made her Met Gala debut (and her only appearance at the Costume Institute’s big night) in 1996, shortly after her divorce from Prince Charles.

Her presence on the carpet was naturally iconic but seeing her at the Met Gala in a lingerie inspired Christian Dior dress was doubly so.

The silky slip number may never have been dubbed the ‘revenge dress’, but it will certainly cement itself as one of the more statement-making outfits she wore throughout her time in the public eye.

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Rebecca Mitchell, Senior WriterRihanna in Guo Pei

Year and theme: 2015, China: Through the Looking Glass

Rihanna’s Guo Pei yellow gown is perhaps one of the most iconic looks in Met Gala history. The designer herself told Vanity Fair, “Only [she] could wear it. Not everyone can handle that dress.”

“Only women who have the confidence of a queen could wear it.”

The dress itself took over 20 months to construct and weighs around 24 kilograms. Rihanna was also one of only a handful of people to actually wear a Chinese designer to the ‘China: Through the Looking Glass’-themed event. So, props for that.

Honourable Mentions

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Blake Lively in Versace Atelier

Year and theme: 2022, In America: An Anthology of Fashion

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Ariana Grande in Vera Wang

Year and theme: 2018, Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination

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Zendaya in Dolce & Gabanna

Year and theme: 2017, Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between

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Cara Delevingne in Chanel

Year and theme: 2017, Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between

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Kim Kardashian in Thierry Mugler

Year and theme: 2019, Camp: Notes on Fashion

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Jackie Onassis in Valentino

Year and theme: 1979, Fashions of the Habsburg Era: Austria-Hungary

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Yara Shahidi in Dior

Year and theme: 2021, In America: A Lexicon of Fashion

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