Grace Hartzel at the Met Gala

Getty Images

Google “Met Gala” today and a message sure to sadden even the iciest of fashion hearts will appear in the search results: “Date—Postponed.” What’s usually an opportunity for celebrities, models, and editors to peacock on a red carpet at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York is now, simply, the first Monday in May. For now, there will no longer be connotations of Lady Gaga doing performance art at 2019’s “Camp: Notes on Fashion”, or Cher in a sheer, feathered body suit studded with diamantés at the 1974 “Romantic and Glamorous Hollywood Design”-themed edition. The coronavirus pandemic took care of this year’s scheduled celebration, wiping it from the social calendar until further notice. The theme for 2020 is “About Time: Fashion and Duration”—an idea, in retrospect, that is almost a parody in its irony. These days, time means very little. 

A virtual take on the Met Gala will be hosted on the Met’s website tonight, with previews of the upcoming exhibition, and performances from Virgil Abloh and Florence and the Machine. But if the online version is anything like Carine Roitfeld’s digital runway show from last week, we’re skeptical. There’s nothing like the real thing. 

We asked some of our favorite celebrities and fashion folk, Marc Jacobs and HAIM among them, to identify their favorite looks from Met Galas past. From Rihanna’s Guo Pei cape that quickly became an omelette meme online, to Stella McCartney and Liv Tyler’s casual moment, here are the most iconic outfits in Met history, in the eyes of Grace Coddington, Jodie Turner-Smith, and more.


Year: 2009

Theme: The Model as Muse: Embodying Fashion 

Related Videos
Marc Jacobs and Kate Moss
Marc Jacobs and Kate Moss at the “Model As Muse” Met Gala, 2009.
Getty Images
Kate Moss and Marc Jacobs
Exclusive photos of Kate Moss and Marc Jacobs prepping for the 2009 Met Gala.
Courtesy of Michael Ariano

“My all-time favorite was the gold lamé draped mini gown and turban that we collaborated on with Kate Moss and Stephen Jones. Stefano Pilati made the matching pumps while he was at Yves Saint Laurent. Kate wore extraordinary sapphires tucked into her turban. As always, she outshone everyone. Actual gold metal threads woven on a silk warp. Divine.” — Marc Jacobs, designer


Year: 1999

Theme: Rock Style

Stella McCartney and Liv Tyler at the Met Gala
Stella McCartney and Liv Tyler at the “Rock Style” Met Gala, 1999.
Getty Images

“We remember seeing these photos and thinking how cool they were. They were the epitome of rock royalty—and to wear some handmade shirts from the Filth Mart in New York City to the Met Gala was iconic. We were such huge Chloe fans and obsessed with what Stella was doing there at the time. We would wear these outfits now.” — HAIM, band


Year: 2015

Theme: China: Through the Looking Glass

Beyoncé at the Met Gala
Beyoncé at the “China: Through The Looking Glass” Met Gala, 2015.
Getty Images

“The most memorable was Beyonce's 'naked' dress from 2015. It was a tipping point, I think. The Met red carpet said goodbye to fashion and fully, unabashedly, and unfortunately, embraced spectacle. It definitely wasn't a favorite look. But it was influential.” — Robin Givhan, fashion critic

“Who didn't bow down to Beyoncé in Givenchy couture in 2015?!? I mean, she had already slayed 2014 in Givenchy, and then she returned the following year in the same designer with that heavenly sheer and bedazzled creation that was elevated to the Gods with that high ponytail. Halleloo!” — Shangela, performer


Year: 2007

Theme: Poiret: King of Fashion

Cate Blanchett at the Met Gala
Cate Blanchett at the “Poiret: King Of Fashion” Met Gala, 2007.
Getty Images

"I loved this Balenciaga dress because it had the glamour of an extreme dress without being extreme. It was, at the same time, classically chic. It was glamorous, simple and chic all at once. [Cate Blanchett] looked extraordinary in it." — Grace Coddington, fashion editor


Year: 2018

Theme: Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination

Lena Waithe at the Met Gala
Lena Waithe at the “Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination” Met Gala, 2018.
Getty Images

“As a foot soldier in the queer revolution, I am constantly turning my head to our queer captains for inspiration. When impresario Lena Waithe donned the LGBTQ+ flag in custom Carolina Herrera in 2018, God was truly in the details: expertly tailored suiting, medallions at the lapels, elegantly structured hair and her cape hits the floor—couture, not costume.” — Larry Owens, actor, writer, and comedian

Year: 2008

Theme: Superheroes: Fantasy and Fashion

Anna Wintour at the Met Gala
Anna Wintour at the “Superheroes: Fashion and Fantasy & Goddess: The Classical Mode” Met Gala, 2008.
Dimitrios Kambouris/WireImage/Getty Images

“Anna Wintour in silver Chanel in 2008.  I like the horns on the gown and all that. It made her sort of look like a chic monster, which is perfect for her.” — Cat Marnell, author


Year: 2019

Theme: Camp: Notes on Fashion

Cody Fern at the Met Gala
Cody Fern at the “Camp: Notes on Fashion” Met Gala, 2019.
Getty Images

“I love Cody Fern’s look from last year. It was one of the first looks I worked on with Cody, with Maison Margiela. He looked like an elegant alien from another [planet] 👽.” — Nicola Formichetti, creative director and fashion director to Lady Gaga

Year: 2018

Theme: Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination

Heavenly Bodies: Fashion & The Catholic Imagination Costume Institute Gala
Cardi B at the “Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination” Met Gala, 2018.

Dia Dipasupil

“One of the most powerful Met Gala looks had to be Cardi B in 2018. She rocked her Moschino gown with her glorious pregnant belly looking like an actual masterpiece. She combined high fashion with feminine divinity. It was beautiful.” — Leah McSweeney, founder of Married to the Mob and “Real Housewife” of New York


Year: 2017

Theme: Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between

Grace Hartzel at the Met Gala
Grace Hartzel at the “Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between” Met Gala, 2017.

Getty Images

“The one that comes to mind is Grace Hartzel’s look from 2017, which was pretty epic. Otherwise, my favorite wasn’t originally worn at the Met Gala, but later displayed in the camp exhibition: Björk’s swan dress.” — Ali Michael, model


Year: 2015

Theme: China: Through the Looking Glass

Rihanna at the Met Gala
Rihanna at the “China: Through the Looking Glass” Met Gala, 2015.
Getty Images

“Rihanna rarely disappoints, but this look? The decadence! The elegance! The levels of stunt queen melodrama! Things she did: that.” — Jodie-Turner Smith, actress


Year: 1999 & 2001

Theme: Rock Style & Jacqueline Kennedy: The White House Years

Naomi Campbell and Iman at the Met Gala
Naomi Campbell and Iman arrive at the “Jacqueline Kennedy: The White House Years” Met Gala, 1999.
Getty Images

“There have been so many iconic Met Gala looks that it’s nearly impossible to select one, so I picked two in a similar vein—when Stella McCartney, Liv Tyler, and Naomi Campbell all wore t-shirts. I am partial to Naomi's because her Dolce and Gabbana “Like a Virgin“ top is part of my Gabriel Held vintage archive. While camp was the theme last year, there is something delightfully campy and subversive about wearing a t-shirt to a fashion industry gala. Both were referential and tongue-in-cheek, which I always appreciate in fashion.” — Gabriel Held, stylist and fashion historian


Year: 2008

Theme: Superheroes: Fashion and Fantasy & Goddess: The Classical Mode

Christina Ricci at the Met Gala
Christina Ricci at the “Superheroes: Fashion and Fantasy & Goddess: The Classical Mode” Met Gala, 2008.
Getty Images

“Christina Ricci in Givenchy in 2008—excellent execution of the theme and staying chic/sexy. Or Diana Ross in YSL in 2003. She was Tom Ford’s guest, after he did a collection inspired by her.”—Ian Bradley, stylist


Year: 2010

Theme: American Woman: Fashioning a National Identity

Chloe Sevigny at the Met Gala
Jack McCollough, Chloë Sevigny, and Lazaro Hernandez at the “American Woman: Fashioning a National Identity” Met Gala, 2010.
Getty Images

“I loved this green lace dress we made for Chloe. She has always been a Proenza Schouler muse and I loved doing long-sleeve and short black tie.” — Lazaro Hernandez, designer

Year: 2016

Theme: Manus X Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology

Proenza Schouler
Sketch courtesy of Proenza Schouler.
Image courtesy of Proenza Schouler.
Brie Larson at the Met Gala
Brie Larson at the “Manus x Machina: Fashion In An Age Of Technology” Met Gala, 2016.
Getty Images

"I think my favorite Met dresses have been the ones we reworked from a show idea. This one was a bit of an evolution from the spring 2016 show. Originally long sleeved and constructed in knitwear, we reworked it by hacking off the sleeves and embroidering it in silver paillettes. No one better to wear it that year than Brie Larson, fresh off her Oscar win." — Jack McCollough, designer

Year: 1974, 2015, 2018, & 2016

Themes: Romantic and Glamorous Hollywood Design, China Through the Looking Glass, Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination, Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology

Bianca and Mick Jagger at the Met Gala
Bianca Jagger and Mick Jagger at the “Romantic and Glamorous Hollywood Design” Met Gala, 1974.
Getty Images

“There are four, I’m afraid. For the epitome of chic, I have chosen Bianca Jagger from 1974. I love the clean lines, simplicity, elegance, and glamour of the red sequins, and especially love the matching beret.

Amal and George Clooney
Amal Clooney and George Clooney at the “China: Through The Looking Glass” Met Gala, 2015.
Getty Images

Amal Clooney in Galliano in 2015 also exudes the same elegance and sophistication, but with the drama of scarlet.

Solange at the Met Gala
Solange Knowles at the “Manus x Machina: Fashion In An Age Of Technology” Met Gala, 2016; Solange at the “Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination” Met Gala, 2018.
Getty Images

By complete contrast, I love both these looks worn by Solange Knowles, who is obviously a woman who knows her own taste as opposed to being dictated to by a stylist.

These are both dramatic, radical, and individual looks, yet quite similar in their striking silhouette and theatricality.”—Sandy Powell, costume designer

Year: 1974

Theme: Romantic and Glamorous Hollywood Design

Cher and Bob Mackie
Cher and Bob Mackie at the “Romantic and Glamorous Hollywood Design” Met Gala, 1974.
Getty Images

“Who doesn’t love Cher and Bob Mackie? She could still wear that outfit and look glamorous.” — Wendy Williams, talk show host and media personality

Related: Drama at the Met Gala: A Brief History