The Met Gala: Most outrageous dresses of all time

·Contributor
·11-min read

It's the fashion world's answer to the Oscars and thankfully after a year off, the Met Gala is back.

Held at the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute in New York it is a chance for fashion designers and A-list celebrities to come together for the opening of the annual fashion exhibition while raising money for the institute. 

Anna Wintour at the 2019 Met Gala
Co-chair of the Met Gala, Vogue's Anna Wintour. Photo by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images

Each year the theme of the gala sets the tone for the annual exhibition and also gives direction to the celebrities and designers on what to wear to the event.

Hosted by Vogue's editor-in-chief Anna Wintour, the fundraiser is considered one of the most glittering and exclusive events in the world. If you haven't got an invite to the Met Ball, you haven't made it.

When it first started out in the late 40s it was a society dinner attended by New York's elite and those in fashion however since the 70s, when Hollywood celebrities started to grace the guest list, it has morphed into a much more prestigious and glamorous affair.

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Over the years, outfits have become more exclusive with guests dressed in one-off haute couture gowns supporting their favourite designer who also attends the ball. But in recent years the confidence of those attending and the fashion designers interpreting the theme have meant the red carpet looks have become more outrageous combining high fashion with costume for an almost carnival feel.

Usually held on the first Monday in May, September 13th will see celebrities walk the red carpet at the 73rd Met Gala. This year's theme is In America: A Lexicon of Fashion which the Institute's curator Andrew Bolton described as the question: "who gets to be American?"

"American designers are at the forefront of conversations around diversity, inclusivity, sustainability, gender fluidity, and body positivity," Andrew told Vogue. "The framework of the show enables us to focus on the younger designers who are engaging thoughtfully and deeply with those ideas."

With the dress code being American independence, we can't wait to see how this is interpreted by the designers and those more flamboyant attendees.

In the meantime, here are our favourite over the top outfits from past Galas.

Jennifer Lopez – 2015

Theme – China: Through the Looking Glass

Jennifer Lopez in Versace at the Met Gala
PJennifer Lopez in sheer Versace for the 'China: Through The Looking Glass' Costume Institute Benefit Gala. Photo: Getty Images
Jennifer Lopez at the 2015 Met Gala
Jennifer Lopez's revealing dress at the 2015 "China: Through The Looking Glass" Costume Institute Benefit Gala. Photo by Karwai Tang/WireImage

Jen wore her favourite designer Versace to the Met Gala is 2015 but there wasn't a lot to the dress. The sheer frock featured a sequinned dragon that protected her modesty but it definitely represented the theme of the gala well.

Beyonce – 2015

Theme – China: Through the Looking Glass

Beyonce Knowles attends the 2015 Met Gala celebrating
Beyonce Knowles in a gem-studdedt gown at the 2015 Met Gala celebrating "China: Through the Looking Glass". Photo: Getty Images
Beyonce at the 2015 Met Gala
Beyonce Knowles in Givenchy at The Met Gala celebrating "China: Through the Looking Glass". Photo by Charles Sykes/Invision/AP

And J.Lo wasn't the only one who decided to show more that year. Beyonce turned up fashionably late in a beautifully jewelled delicate translucent Givenchy gown, designed by Riccardo Tisci, that definitely turned heads.

Madonna – 2016 

Theme – Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology 

Madonna at the 2016 Met Gala
Madonna attends the 'Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology' Costume Institute Gala. Photo: Getty Images
Madonna attends the 2015 Met Gala
Madonna attends 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. Photo: Getty Images

Givenchy creative director Riccardo Tisci also designed Madonna's outfit the following year. Although she faced some criticism, she was quick to fight back.

"We have fought and continue to fight for civil rights and gay rights around the world. When it comes to women’s rights we are still in the dark ages. My dress at the Met Ball was a political statement as well as a fashion statement," she said on social media.

"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 ageist and sexist society. I have never thought in a limited way and I’m not going to start."

Rita Ora– 2016

Theme – Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology

Rita Ora at the Met Gala in a silver dress
Rita Ora stunned in Vera Wang as she arrived for the "Manus x Machina: Fashion In An Age Of Technology" Costume Institute Gala. Photo: Getty Images

Singer Rita Ora made a grand entrance in beautifully feathered silver gown to the 2016 ball. Designer Vera Wang worked personally with Rita Ora to produce a dress that reflected the singer.

"The Met is the most significant fashion party in the world and a Met dress should reflect the individuality, state of mind, and personal style of the celebrity." Vera told Vogue. "The design [for Rita] was about her skin, her sensuality, and her sense of freedom."

Sarah Jessica Parker – 2018 

Theme – Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination

Sarah Jessica Parker at the Met Gala 2018
Sarah Jessica Parker attends the 2018 Heavenly Bodies: Fashion & The Catholic Imagination Met Gala. Photo: Getty Images

She became a fashionista after starring as New York newspaper columnist Carrie in Sex And The City but Sarah Jessica Parker has shown over the years that she, and not just her character, deserves that title.

To the 2018 gala she wore a stunning gown designed by Dolce & Gabbana Alta Moda featuring a nativity scene in the headwear – that's taking the theme of the ball very seriously!

Solange Knowles – 2018

Theme – Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination

Solange Knowles at the 2018 Met Gala
Solange Knowles in Iris Van Herpen at the Heavenly Bodies: Fashion & The Catholic Imagination Met Gala. Photo: Getty Images

It wasn't Solange who chose fashion designer Iris van Herpen to create her costume for the 2018 Met Ball but her twitter followers that decided on her look that year. 

"Dead ass about to let y’all pick my Met Gala look cuz i can’t handle the anxiety rn . . . which saint shall I draw energy from and pull up to the function as?" she asked on the social media platform. Well they certainly made sure she stood out from the crowd!

Lared Leto – 2019 

Theme – Camp: Notes on Fashion

Jared Leto attends The Metropolitan Museum Of Art's 2019
Musician and actor Jared Leto attends the 2019 Met Ball "Camp: Notes On Fashion". Photo: Getty Images

It was less about the outfit that actor and musician Jared Leto wore, a camp and regal Alessandro Michele for Gucci satin suit and cape, and more the fact he accessorised it with his own head that had people talking.

However Jared loved the look so much he had Gucci design his wardrobe for his band Thirty Seconds To Mars' tour later that year.

"We wanted it to be vibrant, alive, and fun. Working with the Gucci gang was an absolute pleasure as always," he told GQ. "I can’t tell you how grateful I am to be a part of that big, crazy Italian family."

Michael Urie – 2019

Theme – Camp: Notes on Fashion

Michael Urie at the 2019 Met Gala
Ugly Betty star Michael Urie attending the 2019 Met Gala. Photo: Getty Images

Ugly Betty ulum Michael Urie certainly made the right impression attending his first Met Ball in 2019. Taking on the full Camp theme he was dressed by Christian Siriano in a costume that split his look to represent both the feminine and masculine sides of his personality.

"You can be your own prom date no matter who you are!" Michael said on Insta.

Priyanka Chopra – 2019

Theme – Camp: Notes on Fashion

 Priyanka Chopra at the 2019 Met Gala.
Priyanka Chopra at the 2019 Met Gala Celebrating Camp: Notes on Fashion. Photo: Getty Images

As a former Miss World, actress Priyanka Chopra (aka Mrs Nick Jonas) has all the gravitas to pull off this unusual look. The stunning dress by Dior teamed with unusual hair and makeup helped create a quirky fairytale look. 

She was on the red carpet with hubby Nick for the first time since they wed and the lovely side note to their relationship is that their first date was at the Met Gala in 2017.

Cardi B – 2019

Theme – Camp: Notes on Fashion

Cardi B at the Met Gala in a red outfit in 2019
Cardi 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. Photo: Getty Images

There was no denying that Cardi B's entrance at the Met Gala in 2019 turned heads. The extravagant blood red quilted gown, designed by Thom Browne, took 35 people more than 2,000 hours to make and featured 44-carat ruby nipples, custom-designed by Stefere Jewellery, at a cost of US$250,000. 

Designed to represent the female form it featured embellishments to emphasis the 'yonic areas'. "I designed this dress for Cardi specifically because she has the ultimate beauty in a woman’s body, and that is what the dress is about for me: taking advantage of that beauty," Thom told Vogue.

Katy Perry– 2019

Theme – Camp: Notes on Fashion

Katy Perry as a chandelier at the Met Gala 2019
Katy Perry provides all the lighting she needs on the red carpet at the 2019 Met Gala Celebrating Camp: Notes On Fashion. Photo: Getty Images
Katy Perry as a burger at the Met Gala 2019
Katy Perry dressed as a hamburger for the after party of the 2019 Met Gala C. Photo: Getty Images

Designer Jeremy Scott ensured singer Katy Perry lit up the red carpet on her arrival at the Met Ball in 2019. "Who has ever been to a ball that did not have a chandelier?!," Jeremy, Moschino's creative director, told Vogue. "Working with Katy is always fun because she really gets my humor and can play with it like nobody else and even amp it up a few notches."

With the weight of all those Swarovski crystals and the chandelier itself, it's no wonder Katy changed for the after party – but no one expected a burger costume (also by Jeremy Scott)! It's great to see her having such fun at such big fashion event.

Lady Gaga – 2019

Theme – Camp: Notes on Fashion

Lady Gaga in a pink overcoat at the Met Gala 2019
Lady Gaga arrives in a beautiful ballgown at the 2019 Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute Benefit. Photo by Jennifer Graylock/PA Images via Getty Images
Lady Gaga in a black dress holding a black umbrella at the Met Gala
Lady Gaga unveils her second outfit at the 2019 Met Gala celebrating "Camp: Notes on Fashion" . Photo by Taylor Hill/FilmMagic
Lady Gaga in a pink sheath dress at the Met Gala
Lady Gaga in her third costume change for the 2019 Met Gala celebrating "Camp: Notes on Fashion" at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Photo by Taylor Hill/FilmMagic
Lady Gaga in bra and knickers at the Met Gala 2019
Lady Gaga strips to her bra and knickers in her final outfit reveal at The Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute benefit gala celebrating the opening of the "Camp: Notes on Fashion". Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP

It was Lady Gaga who stole the show at the 2019 Met Gala, when she made a grand entrance and completely camped up her unveiling of not one but four outfits by Brandon Maxwell.

Rather than walk the red carpet, Lady Gaga put on a carefully choreographed show, gradually revealing her final look for the event.

"What I really love about what we're doing is that it, it reads like an essay or a poem and it tells a story," Gaga told Vogue. "I feel that it's intelligent and I feel it's also very innocent in a lot of ways."

Well it certainly had everyone talking and leaves a lot for this year's attendee – even Gaga herself – to live up to.

And since the Met Gala was cancelled last year due to the pandemic, we can't wait to see what Hollywood's finest has cooked up with the world's top fashion designers this year.

The Met Gala In America: A Lexicon of Fashion will take place on Monday September 13th in New York

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