The Most Memorable Met Gala Looks of All Time

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The 2023 Met Gala is less than a month away, and we’re gearing up for fashion’s biggest red carpet birdwatch by reliving some of our favorite looks from the annual extravaganza.

While last year’s “Gilded Glamour”-themed affair witnessed some particularly show-stopping ensembles (Anderson .Paak, Cardi B, and Lizzo being frontrunners for best-dressed), this year’s theme — “Karl Lagerfeld: A Line of Beauty” — is an opportunity for attendees to mine the late designer’s vast body of work, which spanned careers at Chloé, Chanel, and Fendi.

As we gear up for this year’s red carpet, Highsnobiety editors remember the times celebrities stuck to the Met Gala theme, ignored it, or totally rewrote it — all while looking fabulous (or at least… unique). While you’re here, check out our guide to the 2023 Met Gala.

Cher in Bob Mackie, 1974

It’s Cher! And Bob Mackie! Two inimitable legends, one instantly iconic Met Gala moment. Nearly five decades after hitting the Old Hollywood-themed red carpet (the year’s exhibit was “Romantic and Glamorous Hollywood Design”), Mackie’s feathered “naked dress” — pulled off to perfection by the Goddess of Pop — is still revered by boomers and fashion-hungry Gen Z’ers alike. – Alexandra Pauly, Beauty Editor

Steven Seagal in ?, 1999

There are legendary Met Gala moments and then there’s this truly insane December 1999 appearance from lumpy action creep Steven Seagal, who will surely never again grace Anna Wintour’s red carpet for as long as he lives.

His outfit is visually upsetting, yes, but the fact that Seagal was within 100 miles of the red carpet, let alone at the same event as Charlize Theron, Matt Dillon, and Iman makes for an incredibly fascinating oddity in the Met Gala’s legacy. – Jake Silbert, News Director

Naomi Campbell in Dolce & Gabbana, 2001

From her glittery Versace look (1995) to her decision to skip the Met Gala for snubbing Azzedine Alaïa (2009), Naomi Campbell has always known how to make a statement using fashion.

Among Campbell’s most impactful moments is her ‘fit for the 2001 Gala, Jacqueline Kennedy: The White House Years. That night, the majority of attendees dressed elegantly for Jackie O’s decade, opting for high-neck silk dresses and white gloves — two of the former First Lady’s wardrobe staples. Campbell, on the other hand, decided to channel Jackie’s spirit instead.

Attending with a ripped-jean’ed Stefano Gabbana, Campbell wore a Madonna-inspired black shirt that read “Like A Virgin,” paired with a sheer skirt and an oversized rosary. While the look wasn’t exactly White House-appropriate, Campbell stayed true to her own legacy by bringing a much-needed dose of authenticity to fashion’s biggest night out. – Caroline Brown, Branded Content Editor

Sarah Jessica Parker in Alexander McQueen, 2006

There’s something about Sarah Jessica Parker attending the Met Gala with Lee Alexander McQueen that perfectly captures 2006 in fashion. At the time, McQueen was one of industry’s biggest designers — yet Parker recalls him being incredibly shy at the event, despite his enormous talent and countless accolades.

Still, the designer and SJP turned up in some of the night’s most attention-grabbing looks, tartan and tulle ensembles designed by McQueen (shining examples of the night’s theme, AngloMania).

Following the designer’s tragic passing, SJP wore an archival McQueen gown to the 2011 Gala honoring “Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty,” a retrospective of his career and body of work — an emotional, full-circle moment for the actor and onlookers. – Tora Northman, Head of TikTok

Rihanna in Stella McCartney, 2014

The year was 2014 and the theme was “Charles James: Beyond Fashion,” which called for a white-tie dress code – the formal-est of formal dress codes.

Rihanna’s Stella McCartney look might not be what late designer Charles James had in mind, but that’s the beauty of Rih’s Met Gala ‘fits — we all want to see the Bad Gal’s spin on the night’s theme, no matter how off-topic she goes.

She checked the box for white-tie’s full-length dress requirement, but she did it her way with a two-piece set complete with a sassy — or savage, I should say — open back top and draped, floor-gracing skirt. It’s no wonder she went on in June of that year to claim her CFDA Fashion Icon Award. – Morgan Smith, Style Writer

Rihanna in Guo Pei, 2015

Badgalriri is always the best dressed at the Met Gala (that’s not a hot take but a known fact). She’s never afraid to try new things, and she’ll do anything to push the creative envelope.

In 2015, she worked with Chinese couturier Guo Pei to conjure up this look, which took two years to make by hand. Fashion cynics say the dress resembled an omelet or a pizza, but I won’t allow that sort of slander. I have no choice but to stan Rihanna in yellow — the hue compliments her skin tone so well, especially when paired with red hair reminiscent of her “What’s My Name?” era. – Munashe Ashlyn, Instagram Editor

Zendaya in Versace, 2018

This choice is self-explanatory — every time I look at photos of Zendaya at the 2018 Met Gala, my breath is taken away. To transform into saint Joan of Arc in a suit of armor was clearly what “Heavenly Bodies” was all about. The chainmail, her armored shoulders, the cut, the shine — her custom Versace gown had everything. Who could pull this off, if not Zendaya? – Arianna Shooshani, Social Media Manager

Frank Ocean in Prada, 2019

Have you ever rocked up to a fancy dress party in your civilian clothes? I’ll hold my hands up and admit guilt — I might even take pride in it, too. As a now self-confessed antagonist of themed parties (I’m fun, promise), it’d be wrong of me not to pick Frank Ocean’s 2019 Met Gala look.

Although the theme was “Camp: Notes on Fashion,” Ocean decided to serve working the doors meets data analyst commuting to work in a Prada anorak, white shirt, and tie. Camping? Maybe. Camp? Probably not.

If you’ve ever flipped the bird to a theme, you know that being the only one not in “costume” comes with a lot side-eye, so I salute our Frank for keeping it casual. – Sam Cole, Style Writer 

Virgil Abloh in Louis Vuitton, 2021

Virgil Abloh’s last Met Gala attendance was in 2021, and he showed up dressed in full Louis Vuitton — plus an early pair of Nike x LV AF-1s to top things off. – Jeffrey Lockhart, Instagram Editor

A$AP Rocky in ERL, 2022

What’s comfier than being wrapped in a duvet? Nothing, which is why A$AP Rocky’s multi-colored quilt by Eli Russell Linnetz’s ERL will, for me, always reign supreme. – Tayler Wilson, Style Writer

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