40 Celebrity Met Gala Looks That Went Down in Fashion History

203 Shares
Met Gala Dresses
40 Start slideshow
Photo: Allison Kahler/STYLECASTER/Getty Images

For serious fans of fashion, there’s no bigger red-carpet affair than the annual Costume Institute Benefit—a.k.a. the Metropolitan Museum of Art Gala, or Met Gala for short—where celebrities and high fashion collide in a bonanza of couture gowns that more than rivals the Oscars in unabashed glamour.

Part of the evening’s fun—even for us spectators—is seeing what attendees choose to wear on the red carpet at the Gala, which will be held Monday night. Considering attendees’ high-design attire is typically loosely inspired by the exhibition’s theme, we have a feeling this particular red carpet will be one for the record books.

However, before we can look ahead to this year’s extravaganza, we decided to look back at some past memorable Met Gala gowns that we’re still talking about.

From supermodels (Karolina Kurkova in a head-to-toe custom Rachel Zoe creation that resembled liquid gold, Gisele Bündchen’s red-hot Valentino, Anja Rubik’s skin-baring Anthony Vaccarello) and starlets (Beyoncé in showstopping Givenchy, Diane Kruger in Jason Wu) to the fash pack (Alexa Chung in Marc Jacobs, Ashley Olsen in vintage Dior, Zoe Kravitz in Alexander Wang), there’s no denying that everyone who shows up to the year’s most major red carpet does so with a serious fashion moment in mind.

A version of this story originally appeared in May 2016.

0 Thoughts?
1 of 40
Rihanna
Rihanna—2017

As an annual Met Gala favorite, Rihanna didn't disappoint when she wore a Comme des Garçons structured flower-like dress by Rei Kawakubo, a Japanese designer who was honored with that year's theme. The look, which was straight from Comme des Garçons's Fall 2016 runway, used floral fabrics, which were layered and pulled apart to look like petals.

Photo: Getty Images
Zendaya
Zendaya—2017

Though Zendaya strayed from 2017's avant-garde theme, she still shut down the red carpet when she showed up in a colorful Dolce & Gabbana Alta Moda ball gown decorated with vibrant orange and blue parrots. Z complemented her look, which boasted a floor-length train, with a voluminous Afro.

Photo: Getty Images
Taylor Swift
Taylor Swift—2016

As 2016's Met Gala chair, Taylor Swift created chatter on the internet for the metallic minidress she wore in honor of that year's theme, Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology. The look consisted of a robot-like Louis Vuitton dress with cutouts and a ruffled skirt with knee-high lace-up heels and black lipstick complementing Swift's electric-blonde hair.

Photo: Getty Images
Solange
Solange—2016

Solange didn't exactly fit 2016's technology-inspired theme, but many fans considered her lemonade-yellow David Laport dress, which featured accordion-like pleats, to be a nod to her sister Beyoncé's album Lemonade, which came out a month earlier. Solange completed her look with matching latex leg warmers and clear sandals. 

Photo: Getty Images
Lupita Nyong'o
Lupita Nyong'o—2016

Lupita Nyong'o stunned on the red carpet in 2016 when she wore a jade sequined Calvin Klein shift dress with a near-translucent train. But it was her hair that caught the attention of the internet. Shortly after Nyong'o walked the red carpet, Vogue published an article comparing her sky-high bun to Audrey Hepburn's in a 1963 Vogue photo shoot. The actress later called out the magazine on Instagram, explaining that her hair wasn't inspired by Hepburn, but by traditional African hairstyles and Nina Simone.

Photo: Getty Images
Kendall Jenner
Kendall Jenner—2017

Kendall Jenner definitely turned heads in 2017 when she showed up at the Met Gala in a near-naked La Perla dress. The sheer look, which featured a large diagonal cutout on Jenner's torso, was flecked with glitter and featured a low-scooped open back, revealing Jenner's derriere.

Photo: Getty Images
Katy Perry
Katy Perry—2017

As one of 2017's Met Gala chairs, Katy Perry raised the bar when she wore an avant-garde red-tulle dress by John Galliano. The look, which featured a floor-length veil and sleeves embellished with large jewels, also included a crown-like headpiece with the word "Witness," which would later become the title of Perry's 2017 album.

Photo: Getty Images
Claire Danes
Claire Danes—2016

From a first look, Claire Danes’s 2016 sky-blue Cinderella-like Zac Posen ball gown looked like another pretty dress and far from that year's technology-inspired theme. But in the dark, fans learned that the one-of-a-kind dress was sewn with dozens of fiber optics, allowing it to twinkle with lights when it was pitch-black. Posen revealed the high-tech effect on his Instagram.

Photo: Getty Images
Cara Delevingne
Cara Delevingne—2017

Cara Delevingne took advantage of her freshly shaven head at the 2017 Met Gala by glazing it with slick silver paint. She paired her metallic buzzcut with a sci-fi-inspired pantsuit by Chanel with bold shoulders and a futuristic, star-like pattern.

Photo: Getty Images
Madonna
Madonna—2016

Madonna earned mixed reviews when she wore a sheer and skin-baring Givenchy dress to the 2016 Met Gala. The look, which exposed Madonna's butt and breasts, was criticized by some for being too revealing. Of course, Madonna had the last word. After the controversy, the singer took to her Instagram to explain that her dress was a "political statement" against "an ageist and sexist society."

Photo: Getty Images
Kim Kardashian—2013
Kim Kardashian—2013

A pregnant Kim Kardashian didn't exactly stick to the PUNK: Chaos to Couture theme of 2013's gala, but her Givenchy dress spawned 10,000 memes—and was of particular significance, given it was the first time Anna Wintour allowed her to attend.

Photo: WENN
Diana Ross—1981
Diana Ross—1981

Diana Ross’s 1981 Met Gala gown would look right at home on the 2018 red carpet, given fashion's recent obsession with ruffles and off-the-shoulder cuts.

Photo: Getty Images
Solange—2015
Solange—2015

When every other star was tripping over themselves to prove their dresses were the most naked, Solange rolled up to the 2015 Met Gala in this round Giles dress—and killed it.

Photo: WENN
Amber Valletta—1999
Amber Valletta—1999

Amber Valletta looked every inch the supermodel in shiny gold at 1999's "Rock Style" gala.

Photo: Getty Images
Sarah Jessica Parker—2013
Sarah Jessica Parker—2013

Sarah Jessica Parker, patron saint of the Met Gala, can always be counted on to show up in something fabulously OTT, like this Giles Deacon gown and Philip Treacy Mohawk headpiece in 2013, proving that she truly gets the spirit of the event every year.

Photo: WENN
Diana Vreeland—1981
Diana Vreeland—1981

Legendary fashion editor Diana Vreeland and Bill Blass at the 1981 gala, whose theme was "'Eighteenth Century Woman."

Photo: Getty Images
Lauren Santo Domingo—2008
Lauren Santo Domingo—2008

In 2008, socialite and fashion It-girl Lauren Santo Domingo wore a silver glittering Nina Ricci gown—created by then-designer Olivier Theyskens—end of story. But it wasn't, because the dress caused a bit of a scandal when the house dressed SJP in the same exact dress months later for the premiere of the "Sex and the City" movie. The brand responded to the controversy by saying LSD isn't technically a celebrity, so they didn't recycle.

Photo: WENN
Lupita Nyong'o—2014
Lupita Nyong'o—2014

Fresh off her fame-making red-caped-dress moment, Lupita Nyong'o made a dramatic grand entrance at the 2014 gala in flapper-inspired Prada.

Photo: WENN
Zoë Kravitz and MIA—2010
Zoë Kravitz and MIA—2010

The cool crowd—also known as MIA and Zoë Kravitz—arrived on the arm of Alexander Wang at 2010's "American Women"–themed gala.

Photo: Getty Images
Florence Welch—2012
Florence Welch—2012

Florence Welch brought it to the 2012 gala honoring Miuccia Prada and Elsa Schiaparelli, although she opted to wear a stunning multitiered McQueen dress. She showed up on several "worst-dressed" lists, proving again that the masses just don't get it.

Photo: WENN
Anja Rubik—2013
Anja Rubik—2013

Supermodel Anja Rubik rolled up to the 2013 punk-themed gala in a mini red leather Anthony Vaccarello number—and it promptly went down in the annals as one of the coolest, most memorable looks ever.

Photo: WENN
Karen Elson—2015
Karen Elson—2015

In 2015, supermodel-turned-rocker Karen Elson debuted a jaw-dropping Dolce & Gabbana look on the red carpet. Whether it played into the night's theme—"China: Through the Looking Glass"—is debatable, but the glamour is not.

Photo: WENN
Anne Hathaway—2013
Anne Hathaway—2013

Anne Hathaway shed her goody-goody image at the 2013 punk-themed gala, replacing her long brown hair with a cropped platinum cut and debuting an on-theme Valentino gown.

Photo: WENN
Miley Cyrus—2013
Miley Cyrus—2013

A logical step in Miley Cyrus’s 2013 emancipation from Hannah Montana? Attending the punk-themed Met Gala on Marc Jacobs's arm in a  totally sheer dress and with blonde spiky hair.

Photo: WENN
Diane Kruger—2004
Diane Kruger—2004

A lot of the looks at 2004's "Dangerous Liaisons: Fashion and Furniture in the 18th Century" gala look wildly outdated now, but Diane Kruger—in Nicolas Ghesquiere—still looks chic and sexy.

Photo: Getty Images
Nicole Richie—2013
Nicole Richie—2013

Nicole Richie stunned due to the simple fact that she made both a Topshop gown and silver hair look ridiculously chic in 2013.

Photo: Getty Images
Kim Kardashian—2015
Kim Kardashian—2015

In 2015, Kim Kardashian caught major flak for wearing a dress nearly identical to the one Beyoncé wore in 2012. Granted, they’re by different designers and were different colors—Beyoncé’s black and purple gown was Givenchy, while Kim’s white dress was part of Peter Dundas’s first collection since returning to Roberto Cavalli, but the similarities were shocking, down to the sheer nakedness, the curve-hugging fit, and—of course—the feathered train that Bey worked like a pro on the Met’s red stairs when she made her dramatic entrance three years ago.

(And let it be known, Kim—who was on the event’s host committee that year—also showed up toward the end of the carpet, just like Ms. Knowles did.)

Photo: Getty Images
Rihanna—2015
Rihanna—2015

Perhaps the most memorable gala gown—and the most memorable example of a star sticking to the theme—was at 2015's "China: Through the Looking Glass": Rihanna showed up in an imperial-yellow fur-trimmed caped number with a multifoot-long train created by Chinese couturier Guo Pei.

“I was researching Chinese couture on the Internet, and I found it,” she told Vanity Fair.

Photo: WENN
Ashley Olsen—2011
Ashley Olsen—2011

Ashley Olsen didn't wear McQueen to the 2011 gala, whose theme was in his honor, but looked absolutely perfect in a vintage Dior with puffy sleeves.

Photo: Getty Images
Beyoncé—2015
Beyoncé—2015

Beyoncé turned heads in revealing Givenchy Couture at 2015's gala, though some critics slammed the look for being too shameless in its approach to grab headlines. In the year of the "naked dress" on the gala's carpet—J.Lo and—predictably—Kim K. also showed up in similar styles—we kind of hoped Beyoncé would have risen above the fray and had fun with her look, much like Rihanna did that year.

Photo: WENN
Gisele Bündchen—2011
Gisele Bündchen—2011

Part of one of the best-dressed couples of all time, supermodel Gisele Bündchen made jaws drop in 2011 with her dramatic red Alexander McQueen.

Photo: Getty Images
Bianca Brandolini D'Adda—2012
Bianca Brandolini D'Adda—2012

Italian It-girl Bianca Brandolini D'Adda stunned in a serious gold Dolce & Gabbana ensemble in 2012.

Photo: Getty Images
Elizabeth Hurley—1995
Elizabeth Hurley—1995

Quintessential '90s couple Elizabeth Hurley—in her signature curve-hugging gown style—and Hugh Grant at 1995's gala.

Photo: Getty Images
Amber Valletta—2004
Amber Valletta—2004

It's hard not to applaud Amber Valletta for fully embracing the 2004 "Dangerous Liaisons: Fashion and Furniture in the 18th Century" gala theme.

Photo: Getty Images
Diane Kruger—2011
Diane Kruger—2011

In 2011, Diane Kruger was the picture of modernity—instead of an OTT gown, she opted for a sleek black slit-skirt and embellished top by Jason Wu.

Photo: WENN
Rihanna—2011
Rihanna—2011

Been there, done that: Rihanna was doing the naked-dress thing long before Kim, Bey, and J.Lo. Here she is in Stella McCartney in 2011.

Photo: Getty Images
Karolina Kurkova—2012
Karolina Kurkova—2012

Karolina Kurkova brought some serious Studio 54 vibes in 2012 with her gold beaded Rachel Zoe number.

Photo: Getty Images
Kirsten Dunst—2012
Kirsten Dunst—2012

Kirsten Dunst might have worn prim Rodarte to 2012's gala, but the look did its part to play into the Prada and Schiappareli theme.

 

Photo: Getty Images
Alexa Chung—2013
Alexa Chung—2013

It-girl and style-setter Alexa Chung took the "real fashion" route in a buttoned-up Marc Jacobs look in 2013.

 

Photo: Getty Images
Nina Dobrev—2012
Nina Dobrev—2012

Actress Nina Dobrev looked glamorous in a serious Donna Karan Atelier gown in 2012.

 

Photo: Getty Images

Next slideshow starts in 10s

30 Rainbow-Hued Shopping Finds to Brighten up Your Closet

30 Rainbow-Hued Shopping Finds
to Brighten up Your Closet
  • Rihanna
  • Zendaya
  • Taylor Swift
  • Solange
  • Lupita Nyong'o
  • Kendall Jenner
  • Katy Perry
  • Claire Danes
  • Cara Delevingne
  • Madonna
  • Kim Kardashian—2013
  • Diana Ross—1981
  • Solange—2015
  • Amber Valletta—1999
  • Sarah Jessica Parker—2013
  • Diana Vreeland—1981
  • Lauren Santo Domingo—2008
  • Lupita Nyong'o—2014
  • Zoë Kravitz and MIA—2010
  • Florence Welch—2012
  • Anja Rubik—2013
  • Karen Elson—2015
  • Anne Hathaway—2013
  • Miley Cyrus—2013
  • Diane Kruger—2004
  • Nicole Richie—2013
  • Kim Kardashian—2015
  • Rihanna—2015
  • Ashley Olsen—2011
  • Beyoncé—2015
  • Gisele Bündchen—2011
  • Bianca Brandolini D'Adda—2012
  • Elizabeth Hurley—1995
  • Amber Valletta—2004
  • Diane Kruger—2011
  • Rihanna—2011
  • Karolina Kurkova—2012
  • Kirsten Dunst—2012
  • Alexa Chung—2013
  • Nina Dobrev—2012

Promoted Stories

share