How Jenna Lyons’s Met Gala Looks Redefined the Red Carpet

The Real Housewives of New York newcomer built a cult following for breaking a few fashion rules.

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Jenna Lyons in denim jacket and pink skirt
Lyons at the Met Gala 2012. Getty Images

In the season premiere of the Real Housewives of New York City reboot, Jenna Lyons invites the group over to her place for a girls’ night in. It’s a fairly low-key affair with one important request: wear gold, khaki, or black. The distinct dress code was inspired, in part, by Lyons’s time as executive creative director and president of J. Crew, where the employees would dress to theme every Friday. But while J. Crew employees may have been extremely familiar with khaki (which Lyons reminds audiences is, in fact, a color and not just a pair of pants) the new RHONY cast members were less-than-enthused about the guidelines. The women struggle to determine what to wear before all showing up in black. “I thought she was done with J. Crew,” Brynn Whitfield quips in a confessional. “Why are we still doing khaki?”

But true fashion fans know that it was Lyons’s own personal mix of metallics and neutrals—she often wears utilitarian essentials with ultra-feminine satin and sequins—that shaped the J. Crew aesthetic for years, not the other way around. Leaving the company didn’t mean abandoning the cool, preppy, androgynous style that made her a style star. Just look at the promotional images for the show, which show Lyons in a button-down and Converse, a sharp contrast from her gown-adorned co-stars. At the series’ New York premiere, Lyons did her own version of Housewives glamour, arriving in oversized jeans with an over-the-top pink floral Oscar de la Renta cape—a look that is quintessentially her.

With little tweaks over the years, Lyons has remained faithful to her high-low uniform. For proof, look no further than the Met Gala, an event she’s attended on seven occasions. Each time Lyons has ascended the Met steps, she’s done so in her signature blend of casual pieces with high-shine evening wear. During her tenure at J. Crew, it was a styling approach that landed her on countless mood—and Pinterest—boards.

As a whole new audience is being introduced to her influential—and often attainable—style, we’re taking a look back at her Met Gala hits which shed light on just how solid a gold, black, khaki, and metallic fashion formula can be.

2011 “Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty”
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Lyons, with designer Eddie Borgo, at the “Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty” Met Gala. For her first appearance on the famed steps, the fashion executive dressed down an ostrich feather skirt with a casual, v-neck sweater.

2012 “Schiaparelli and Prada: Impossible Conversations”
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Of course, Lyons wore all-J.Crew to the Met Gala in 2012, and while her pink satin skirt was more of a classic piece—inspired by shocking Schiaparelli pink—the way Lyons styled it made the outfit uniquely her.

“I didn’t want to wear duchesse silk satin with something sparkly or pearls,” she explained on Tumblr following the event. “I am who I am—so I took it down a notch with denim.”

2013 “Punk: Chaos to Couture”
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For the third year in a row, Lyons mixed high and low fashion for her Met Gala look, arriving to the 2013 event in a black sequin skirt with a white button-down layered underneath a sweater bearing the words, “SHARIF DON’T LIKE IT,” a reference to The Clash song, “Rock the Casbah.” A bold, classically J.Crew statement necklace, and her signature, thick-rimmed frames completed the ensemble.

2014 “Charles James: Beyond Fashion”
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While many guests showed up to the 2014 Met Gala in Charles James-inspired gowns, Lyons wasn’t too keen on wearing a typical gown with a train. “I knew I was going to get stuck on the red carpet with someone’s heel on my gown if I wasn’t careful,” she told the Hollywood Reporter.

Instead, she embraced her own “translation” of the theme and opted for a take on a men’s tuxedo that still paid homage to James. “That’s why the pants have a lot of volume to them, and the duchesse satin, which I thought was an important piece to it.”

2015 “China: Through The Looking Glass”
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Everyone was likely jealous of Lyons at the 2015 Met Gala, as she attended the event in a set of comfy white J. Crew pajamas, which she dressed up with a chainmail overlay and gold heels.

2016 “Manus x Machina: Fashion In An Age Of Technology” Met Gala
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Lyons facilitated a little Girls reunion at the 2016 Met Gala when she attended the event with the show’s co-producers and writers Jenni Konner and Lena Dunham. As a reminder, Lyons worked with the pair when she portrayed Dunham’s boss at GQ for three episodes on the show in 2014. Two years later, the trio came together again, embracing Lyons’s signature style (and possibly Yves Saint Laurent’s Le Smoking suit) in matching J. Crew looks. Each brought a bit of their own twist to the outfits, but they all wore Lyons’s classic black frames.

2017 “Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garcons: Art Of The In-Between” Met Gala
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The last time Lyons walked the Met Gala red carpet, she may have worn her most controversial look of all. In 2017, Lyons (pictured here with director Paul Feig) attended the event in a tulle, coral skirt, white button-down, and pin-adorned cargo vest. While Lyons ditched her glasses for the evening, she made up for the missing piece with lots of Buccellati jewelry.

2023 “Karl Lagerfeld: A Line of Beauty”
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Although Lyons didn’t technically attend the 2023 Met Gala, she did report on it for E! News from the sidelines. Of course, she still dressed up for the occasion, wearing a Thom Browne suit with a pair of pearl suspenders in addition to her most prized possession, vintage Chanel suspenders, atop a sheer blouse.

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