The Met Gala: A look back at the 12 most outrageous looks from the grand event


The biggest night in fashion is just around the corner! We’re talking about the Met Gala, of course, where celebrities strut down the red carpet, donning haute couture for us to judge from the comfort of our own couch.

Formerly known as the Costume Institute Gala, the Met Gala or Met Ball is an annual fundraiser dedicated to New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute. The gala was officially founded by fashion publicist Eleanor Lambert in 1948. Attendees of the early galas were exclusively members of New York’s elite or the city’s fashion industry. But that changed in 1972, when Diana Vreeland became consultant to the Costume Institute and transformed the Gala into a gaudy global affair. Vreeland also introduced the concept of Gala themes — which are in line with the specific themes of that year’s Costume Institute exhibition and determine what guests will wear for the night.

A few noteworthy themes from the past include 2013’s “Punk: Chaos, which celebrated punk’s impact on high fashion amid the early 1970s and onwards; 2015’s “China: Through the Looking Glass,” which examined China’s great influence on Western fashion over the centuries; 2018’s “Heavenly Bodies: Fashion & The Catholic Imagination,” arguably the Gala’s most controversial theme yet that saw guests decked in jeweled crucifixes and angel wings; and 2022’s “Gilded Glamour and White Tie,” which basically called for floor-length gowns and black coats. 

This year’s exhibition theme, called “Karl Lagerfeld: A Line of Beauty,” honors the late fashion designer’s artistic vision and enduring legacy. As explained by Net-a-Porter: 

“The Met Gala 2023 theme — Karl Lagerfeld: A Line of Beauty — will trace the designer’s evolution, from winning the Woolmark Prize in 1954 to being hired as an assistant to Pierre Balmain, and revisits his prolific career at Chanel, Fendi, Chloé, Balmain, Patou and his own eponymous brand, until his death in 2019.”

Attendees will therefore wear red-carpet looks dedicated to Lagerfeld’s most iconic designs, whether that’s his itty-bitty Chanel bikini top or his iconic black dress draped in gold chains, and his own personal style, from his dark glasses and tailored suits to his slick-back ponytail.

As expected, this year’s event promises no shortage of extravagance. So, in anticipation of it all, we looked back on the 12 most outrageous Met Gala outfits of all time — everything from the most visually weird and stunning to the most cumbersome and bold.

RihannaRihanna attends the “China: Through The Looking Glass” Costume Institute Benefit Gala at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 4, 2015 in New York City. (Mike Coppola/Getty Images)
Undoubtedly the queen of the Met Gala, Rihanna stole the show in her ornate fur-trimmed yellow cape gown, which flaunted a 16-foot train and weighed an astounding 55 pounds. It’s also worth mentioning that the entire look took 20 months to make. Talk about luxury!
Sarah Jessica ParkerSarah Jessica Parker arrives at the Costume Institute Gala Benefit at The Metropolitan Museum of Art May 5, 2015 in New York. (TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP via Getty Images)
If there’s one thing SJP will rock on the Met Gala carpet, it’s an outrageous — and meme-worthy — headpiece. The “Sex and the City” star pulled up to the red carpet in the fiery accessory, complete with tassels, ribbons and pom-poms, along with a sleek, one-shoulder black gown.
SolangeSolange attends “China: Through the Looking Glass”, the 2015 Costume Institute Gala, at Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 4, 2015 in New York City. (Taylor Hill/FilmMagic/Getty Images)
If it hasn’t already been made clear, the Met Gala’s “China: Through the Looking Glass” exhibition featured some of the most over-the-top looks yet. Solange surely took a risk with her trippy, clam-shaped 3D ensemble, which was met with both praise and confusion. As Bustle’s Melanie Richtman described, Solange looked like a seashell, or a stingray, or, even, a frilled-neck dragon…
MadonnaMadonna arrives for the “Manus x Machina: Fashion In An Age Of Technology” Costume Institute Gala at Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 2, 2016 in New York City. (Karwai Tang/WireImage/Getty Images)
The pop icon bared her breasts and booty in a sheer all-black look that she explained was a “political statement” fighting against ageism:


“The fact that people actually believe a woman is not allowed to express her sexuality and be adventurous past a certain age is proof that we still live in an age-ist and sexist society,” she wrote in an Instagram caption. “I have never thought in a limited way and I’m not going to start.”

RihannaRihanna attends the “Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garcons: Art Of The In-Between” Costume Institute Gala at Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 1, 2017 in New York City. (Mike Coppola/Getty Images for

No Met Gala roundup is complete without Rihanna’s fantastical dress that was akin to an enlarged flower bomb. The complete look was made from three-dimensional petals, all arranged to create a cascading pattern at the bottom, and finished off with over-the-knee lace-up gladiator heels. Not only did Rihanna take home the best dressed award but her dress was featured on display in the Costume Exhibit that year.

Frances McDormandFrances McDormand attends the Heavenly Bodies: Fashion & The Catholic Imagination Costume Institute Gala at The Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 7, 2018 in New York City. (Jason Kempin/Getty Images)
McDormand graced the carpet in a baggy blue cape-dress and a matching colored headpiece made up of a bundle of stems and leaves. Like clockwork, the “Nomadland” star spurred online buzz on Twitter, with fans showering her with compliments and saying she’s “cosplaying her favorite evil character from THE MAGICIANS at the Met Gala.”
Katy PerryKaty Perry attends The 2019 Met Gala Celebrating Camp: Notes on Fashion at Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 06, 2019 in New York City. (John Lamparski/Getty Images)
The singer took camp to a whole new level with her intricate chandelier outfit, embellished with silver jewels and candlesticks. Per Entertainment Weekly, the look was seemingly a direct reference to Susan Sontag’s 1964 essay “Notes on Camp.” Later in the night, Perry swapped her look for a tasty hamburger costume.
Cardi BCardi B attends The 2019 Met Gala Celebrating Camp: Notes On Fashion – Arrivals at The Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 6, 2019 in New York City. (Rabbani and Solimene Photography/WireImage/Getty Images)
Cardi B’s all-red high-neck gown included 30,000 feathers along with 44 carats worth of rubies attached on the custom bodice and a 10-foot-long train. The full get-up, valued at $250,000, took 2,000 hours to make and required five people to carry it up the Met steps.
Alexandria Ocasio-CortezCongresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) attends the 2021 Met Gala Celebrating In America: A Lexicon Of Fashion at the Metropolitan Museum Of Art on September 13, 2021 in New York City. (Ray Tamarra/GC Images)
From the front, AOC’s Gala get-up looked like a simple figure-fitting white dress. But from the back, the dress bore a bold political message: “Tax the Rich” written in large red letters. As if the look wasn’t controversial enough, a congressional watchdog later revealed that Ocasio-Cortez might have violated House rules when she received gifts associated with her attendance at the event.
Kim KardashianKim Kardashian attends The 2021 Met Gala Celebrating In America: A Lexicon Of Fashion at Metropolitan Museum of Art on September 13, 2021 in New York City. (Theo Wargo/Getty Images)

The media personality made quite the entrance in her skin-tight, all-black outfit that covered her entire body, including her face. While some were confused how the spooky showstopper related to that year’s theme (“In America: A Lexicon Of Fashion”), others asked how Kim K was able to breathe under her costume…and use the restroom.

Carolyn B. MaloneyCarolyn B. Maloney attends The 2021 Met Gala Celebrating In America: A Lexicon Of Fashion at Metropolitan Museum of Art on September 13, 2021 in New York City. (Mike Coppola/Getty Images)
New York congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney wore a colorful ensemble covered in pro-Equal Rights Amendment taglines along with a bright green purse decorated with “ERA YES,” an endorsement of the proposed Equal Rights Amendment. On Twitter, the congresswoman explained that she has “long used fashion as a force 4 change.”
Fredrik RobertssonFredrik Robertsson attends The 2022 Met Gala Celebrating “In America: An Anthology of Fashion” at The Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 02, 2022 in New York City. (Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for The Met Museum/Vogue)

The Swedish fashionista and LGBTQ+ activist, who was mistaken for actor-musician Jared Leto, stepped onto the carpet in a silver spine-filled haute couture gown, silver makeup and a gelled updo. Robertsson’s futuristic outfit certainly stole the show — and outdid Leto’s own cream tweed tux look, which he wore with Alessandro Michele, creative director of Gucci.

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