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The Met Gala is the most iconic fashion event of the year, where all gather round to judge celebrities’ much-anticipated looks. Attendees never fail to stir up controversy with style wins, fails, and moments that will live on for all time. With originality, adherence to theme, beauty, and cultural impact as our criteria, here are some of the best all-time Met Gala looks:
10. Princess Diana, Christian Dior (1996)
When it comes to Princess Diana, every one of her looks deserve a place in fashion history. Diana’s navy blue Dior dress at the 1996 Met Gala exemplified the ’90s silk, lace, and slip silhouette that are currently making a comeback. Her pearl choker studded with a planet-sized sapphire — a wedding gift from Beatrix — was a stand-out piece from the look, pairing allure with royalty.
9. Zendaya, Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between (2017)
At the 2017 Gala, Zendaya swept onto the red carpet in a stunning ball gown of gold and orange. The top’s wrapping flowed right into the paint strokes of the rococo-inspired parrot pattern. The design was undeniably classic, artistic, and unforgettable. We could sing (or squawk) about it all day long!
8. Lupita Nyong’o, Camp: Notes on Fashion (2019)
Lupita Nyong’o’s outfit of pink six-pointed stars, rainbow ruffle shoulders, and golden hair picks transformed her into a campy angel, paying homage to the drag origins of camp, Black style, and the actress’s own personality. Ultimately, her outfit was impossible to look away from.
7. Solange Knowles, China: Through the Looking Glass (2015)
Although it might’ve fit 2016’s theme of “Manus x Machina” better, Knowles’s printed dress was one of the most visually mesmerizing looks ever. The fabric appeared as if it was almost molded from a UFO hull or static TV screen, sucked into a space-time continuum, developed like film, and pleated like a mermaid’s tail.
6. Naomi Campbell, Haute Couture (1995)
Naomi Campbell’s gem-encrusted dress transformed her into a walking diamond under the camera flash, and its glamorous elegance proves timeless. She looked like a modern Cinderella showered with her Fairy Godmother’s magic sparkles. The dress was custom-made by haute couture icon Gianni Versace himself.
5. Ariana Grande, Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination (2018)
Ariana Grande brought Michelangelo to the Met for one of the best themes of all time. Her gown’s “The Last Judgment” pattern, draped romantically over softened layers of tulle, had art history nerds everywhere singing “Hallelujah.” Each detail was exquisite: the tan tulle evoked the Sistine Chapel’s arches while Grande wore matching painted nails.
4. Lady Gaga, Camp: Notes on Fashion (2019)
The 2019 Met Gala theme “Camp: Notes on Fashion” let the reins loose on creativity, yet many guests disappointed in decidedly mundane suits and dresses. Good thing Lady Gaga — one of the co-chairs that year — was born camp. With a whopping four outfit changes, she entered the pink carpet in a voluminous hot pink gown and draped herself over the stairs in sparkly black lingerie, teaching everyone a lesson on the true essence of camp: performance.
3. Cher, Romantic and Glamorous Hollywood Design (1974)
Cher began a storied tradition of “naked” dresses with the naked dress. Glittering, feathery streams cascaded down a sheer, form-fitting dress that Cher graced both the red carpet and a TIME magazine cover with. Her legacy remained ever present with the showstopping “naked” Met Gala looks of Beyoncé in 2015 and Kendall Jenner in 2021.
2. Zendaya, Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination (2018)
Draped in silver chainmail-esque beading and glittering plates of armor, Zendaya perfected costume couture. She stood out from a sea of bejeweled Madonnas by emulating Joan of Arc, ready to defend France from the English, for the Catholicism-inspired theme.
1. Rihanna, China: Through the Looking Glass (2015)
Rihanna is a consistent Met Gala superstar, but her imperial yellow Guo Pei gown was especially iconic. Rihanna brought visibility to a talented Chinese designer as the dress stirred up a lot of buzz, prompting comparisons to eggs, pizza, and Spongebob. Rihanna’s 2018 Pope look and 2017 Comme des Garçons dress are other memorable appearances, with only the limitations of this article preventing them from joining the Guo Pei dress on this list.
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