The Met Gala is one of the most anticipated events in any celebrity's calendar and one of the biggest nights out for fashion. While we've got a soft spot for the gorgeous, floaty pieces amongst the best Oscar dresses ever, the Met Gala is a time for stars—and their stylists—to really flex their sartorial muscles and take a plunge.
Overseen by fashion powerhouse Anna Wintour and with a notoriously difficult to get onto guest list, it's the most glamorous fundraiser of the year with proceeds going towards the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute. (Hence the name: Met Gala.) Every year, there's a different theme and it's always fascinating to see who really hit the nail on the head and who flopped miserably. We've put together an edit of our favourites of all time below.
Theme: Gilded Glamour
The Met Gala was back in May with its 2022 theme Gilded Glamour. Stars embraced the dress code with sparkles, sequins and shimmer a plenty. Blake Lively had the most dramatic red carpet moment of the night, with a look that changed colour on the red carpet. Inspired by the Statue of Liberty, Lively's dress went from bronze to turquoise before the crowd's eyes.
Theme: American Independence
Due to Covid, the 2020 Met Gala was put on hold, but the event was back in 2021 taking place in September, instead of its usual first Monday in May calendar spot. The theme was American Independence, to reflect the Metropolitan Museum of Art exhibition: In America: A Lexicon of Fashion.
Starred donned souped-up denim looks, alongside outfits inspired by famous historical moments. Though Kim Kardashian's look was undoubtedly the most talked about of the night. The star arrived at the event dressed in a black bodysuit which covered her entire face.
Theme: Camp: Notes on Fashion
Like previous years, the theme was an extension of the Met’s exhibition, curated by Andrew Bolton and Wendy Yu, around Susan Sontag’s 1964 essay Notes on “Camp” which amongst other things describes it as a love of exaggeration. With a theme like that, celebrities went all out, and Lady Gaga stole the show with her many outfit changes.
Theme: Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination
2018's Met Gala theme was a minefield. It was dubbed Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination and unsurprisingly, it was viewed as super controversial. Although religious iconography has previously featured in designer collections by the likes of Dolce & Gabbana, celebrities and their stylists were under pressure to figure out the perfect way to push style boundaries - without pushing too hard.
Theme: Rei Kawakubo
2017's theme honoured one of the most exciting designers of the decade: Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garçons. Renowned for her sculptural and avant-garde approach to fashion, things got delightfully weird and we were here for it. Standouts included Katy Perry's swooping red tulle gown, Blake Lively's feathered Versace and Priyanka Chopra's beefed up trench coat (all featured below in our gallery, don't worry). However there was one undisputed style queen that night...
Theme: Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology
Things got technical in 2016, as the theme for the Met Gala was Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology. A lot of celebrities took things to a futuristic level, with Emma Watson wearing a dress made entirely out of plastic bottles and Kate Hudson's sculptural gown setting her up as a kind of robotic angel. Katy Perry again drew attention with her sweeping Prada gown, while Taylor Swift's newly debuted platinum locks had tongues wagging. As for our favourite...
Theme: China: Through the Looking Glass
This year's theme centred around China and - uh - it got controversial. It's no secret that fashion's been prone to orientalism and toeing the line between appropriation and honouring a culture's tradition is a very slim one. Many stars went straight to the source and commissioned Chinese designers for their looks, while others opted for thoughtful details like Mandarin collars and embroidered silk. Others stayed completely away and did their own thing...and then there was Sarah Jessica Parker's headpiece. Still torn on that one.
Read on for more of our favourite looks below.
The Best Met Gala looks of all time
The theme for the 2003 Met Ball was Goddess: the Classical Mode in celebration of the exhibition of the same name at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art. Model Carmen Kass dazzled the crowds as she made her way to the glitzy party in a stunning long-sleeved red gown with a flowing train and cut-out panels at the back.
Kate Hudson, meanwhile, opted for a light and ethereal look in a gorgeous white halter neck dress, which she teamed with a mini silver clutch and her hair worn in corkscrew curls.
Charlize Theron shunned the typical statement gowns for a bolder fashion choice at the Goddess-themed party. The Oscar-winning actress stepped out in an unusual black printed coat dress, which she teamed with criss-cross strap heels and a black envelope clutch.
Nicole Kidman dazzled onlookers looking every inch the themed Goddess, wearing a sheer asymmetric Gucci gown with lashings of shimmer and sparkle. Gorgeous.
No Met Ball line-up would be complete without an appearance from Gisele. The supermodel wore an embroidered Dolce & Gabbana dress worn with a matching fringed shawl.
Not one to be outdone in the supermodel style stakes, Karoline Kurkova went for classic ladylike elegance in a simple black floor-length gown. A black clutch, silver drop earrings and a flash of red lipstick completed her look.
Scarlett Johansson made her Met Ball debut in 2004 and cemented her fashion darling status wearing this pearl yellow gown by Calvin Klein to the glitzy fashion bash.
Dita Von Teese also set the flashbulbs popping in a dramatically good look at the 2004 gala. From the flowing train and cheeky peek-a-boo panels to the retro hair and make-up, we love everything about this outfit.
Natalie Portman made a rare appearance on the Costume Institute Gala red carpet in 2004, wearing a tribal-inspired dark green halter neck gown with gold detailing and a sexy rising hem at the front.
Rock progeny Jade Jagger added a splash of colour to proceedings in a striking tomato red gown with spaghetti straps.
Renee Zellweger channelled the old school Hollywood look with her Met Ball styling in 2004. Her strapless gold dress created a stunning hourglass silhouette, while her chic clutch, jewellery and glossy hair compliment it perfectly.
Mandy Moore was ahead of the fashion pack by wearing a simple but glamorous gown by New York design hot-shots Proenza Schouler in 2004, way before they started creating a fashion buzz.
Vanessa Paradis made her first Met Ball appearance at the 2005 gala, but with a look like this, it only makes us wish she attended more. The Chanel muse chose a signature monochrome ensemble by the French fashion house, which she teamed with her trademark bohemian accessories.
Ice cool blonde Naomi Watts chose a suitably pale and interesting look for the Met Ball 2005 in this ruffled asymmetric dreamy design.
Back in 2005 actress Jennifer Connelly was the poster girl for high fashion brand Balenciaga. So, naturally, she chose a design from the luxe label (a short feathered cocktail dress) for her Met Ball look.
One of the hottest properties on TV in 2005, Jessica Simpson cut a stylish figure on the Met Ball red carpet in a floral print strapless gown with pops of gorgeous red.
Emmy Rossum donned her red carpet best in a sparkly silver column dress for her Costume Institute Gala debut.
The Costume Institute Gala 2006 celebrated the opening of the Anglomania: Tradition and Transgression in British Fashion exhibition at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art. Sarah Jessica Parker chose a UK designer, natch, for her red carpet look, wearing a strapless gown with layers of tulle and tartan by Alexander McQueen.
Kate Moss went for an edgy look at the gala in black leather skinny trousers, a black blazer and patent Christian Louboutin courts that only she could pull off at such a dress-heavy event.
Sienna Miller, co-host for the night alongside Burberry designer Christopher Bailey, wore a gold sequinned minidress by the label for the night's festivities. She accessorised with black tights, heels and a matching bag.
Scarlett Johansson, meanwhile, went for high-octane cocktail glamour in a midnight blue sequinned dress teamed with black accessories.
Drew Barrymore made a rare appearance at the Met Ball on the 2006 red carpet wearing a lace strapless dress by Oscar de la Renta, worn with black strappy heels, a metallic clutch and a beaming smile.
Jessica Alba created a stunning silhouette in a silver strapless gown by Calvin Klein Collection.
Never one to follow the fashion pack when it comes to style, Chloe Sevigny went for a girly ensemble at the gala, wearing a monochrome YSL cocktail dress, black T-bar heels and a matching clutch. (2006)
Jennifer Lopez was another sartorial hit on the 2006 Met Ball red carpet. J-Lo showed off those killer curves in an asymmetric Versace gown in the palest of pale lilac hues.
Ciara also opted for a pale shade in an ice cool pink dress with sparkling embroidered detailing.
Thandiwe Newton sauntered along the Met Ball red carpet in a dazzling gold Gucci dress with a cowl neck at the front. One word: stunning.
In a sea of pale shades and metallics, Gisele added a splash of colour to the 2006 proceedings in a fuchsia Christian Dior gown with embroidered detailing.
Lindsay Lohan went all demure on us at the fashion bash wearing a strapless Marchesa gown with sheer tulle layers and a black waistband cinching in that waist.
Cameron Diaz always looks fab in bright colours and her look at the 2007 Costume Institute Gala was no exception. The actress dazzled onlookers in this fuchsia pink number adding a welcome flash of colour to the evening's event.
Never one to put a style foot wrong, we love Kate Moss's black, slightly gothic gown from her own Kate Moss for Topshop collection that she wore to the 2007 gala. The drop earrings are the perfect jewellery accompaniment.