Cara Delevigne/ Image: VOGUE Taiwan/ Wikimedia Commons
Image: VOGUE Taiwan / Wikimedia Commons

Red carpet royalty: unveiling Met Gala looks that have shaped fashion

Arguably fashion’s biggest night of the year, the Met Gala is held annually on the first Monday of May at the historic Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and is always a spectacle of glamour and artistry. This year’s theme, ‘The Garden of Time’, draws from the Costume Institute’s own permanent collection, ‘Sleeping Beauties: Reawakening Fashion’, celebrating the multi-sensory and intimate experience of fashion. With the 2024 Met Gala now over, it seems only fitting to reflect on the most iconic looks in the past which have shaped the very idea of the Met Gala, leaving an everlasting impact on what we know fashion to be.

Diana once again defied the restrictions of royalty and embraced her femininity and freedom as a mother and as a woman

1985: Cher and Bob Mackie
In true Cher style, she and Bob Mackie fully embraced the 1985 theme, ‘Costumes of Royal India’, producing a truly spectacular piece of art. Her diamond encrusted mesh bodysuit and daring matching ear cuff were the talk of the town as she dominated the red carpet and left audiences stunned with her grace and elegance. This was not the first time Cher made a lasting impact at the Met Gala. Her debut sheer dress in 1974 continues to inspire contemporary designers, including Kim Kardashian’s feathered gown from 2015.

1996: Princess Diana and John Galliano
When it comes to iconic women who hold power in their clothes, Princess Diana certainly holds the crown. Two years after her momentous ‘revenge dress’, worn after her husband’s televised admission of adultery, Diana celebrated divorce and freedom from Kensington Palace, as she graced the Met Gala carpet in a royal blue silk slip dress and a seven-strand pearl choker. In what Vogue described as her “most un-royal look to date”, Diana once again defied the restrictions of royalty and embraced her femininity and freedom as a mother and as a woman.

Frankly, I find there are too many iconic looks from 2018 to crown one our winner

2015: Rihanna and Guo Pei
It feels nearly impossible to choose only one of Rihanna’s Met Gala looks as the most iconic, as she certainly knows exactly how to make a lasting impression. For the 2015 theme, ‘China: Through the Looking Glass’, Rihanna and her designer, Guo Pei, stunned audiences with a golden gown and a long dramatic train which sparked grand entrances to the Met Gala.

2018: Heavenly Bodies – Fashion and the Catholic imagination
Frankly, I find there are too many iconic looks from 2018 to crown one our winner. Gigi Hadid rocked her breathtaking fairy- like shimmery gown, SZA stunned us in her celestial Versace crowned get-up, and Chadwick Boseman astonished audiences with a white suit and cape covered in religiously inspired embellishments. My personal favourites from 2018 have to be awarded to the queens of the Met Gala: Blake Lively and Zendaya. Zendaya’s looks are always one of the most highly anticipated each year, and she did not hold back: her Joan of Arc inspired look was beyond astounding, embracing both elegance and fierceness.

2019: Billy Porter and The Blonds
Billy Porter’s half-fashion moment, half-performance art consisted of him being carried on the shoulders of six shirtless men before dismounting to reveal a bejewelled catsuit with 10-foot wings and a 24-karat gold headpiece. Porter’s custom ‘Sun God’ outfit acted as his own take on the theme, ‘Camp: Notes on Fashion,’ which he describes as having brought “honour to a word and genre that can be discounted very often or thought of as cheesy.”

2022: Blake Lively and Atelier Versace
Making a draw-dropping entrance in 2022 with a transforming look inspired by New York City landmarks, Blake Lively began with a metallic bodice and bow inspired by the Empire State Building and the Manhattan skyline which transformed into a long turquoise train based on Grand Central’s constellation ceiling.

2023: Doja Cat and Oscar de la Renta
Doja Cat’s debut at the 2023 Met Gala is both loved and hated by audiences, but it is difficult to dispute its iconic nature which is sure to go down in fashion history. Fully embracing the theme, ‘Karl Lagerfeld’, she chose to dress as his beloved cat, a Burmese named Choupette. Her floor-length silver and feather lined gown was matched with cat ears on her hood, claw-like nails and makeup and prosthetics, completing her cat transformation.

Countless other looks have astounded audiences at the Met Gala, as each year celebrities and designers defy what we know fashion to be, making leaps and bounds into the future of fashion and culture. If there is one thing the Met Gala has most definitely achieved, is that it has redefined fashion as not just the clothes we wear, but a form of expression, passion and art.


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