Met Gala Themes Throughout the Years: A Look Back at the First Monday of May, Since 1995
When the Met Gala was first created in 1948, its aim was to raise money for the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute. To this day, that is the purpose of the Met Gala — and it doesn’t hurt that New York’s elite doesn’t mind a night of sipping champagne and dressing up to the nines. Plus, who doesn’t love a themed party?
Even 74 years after the first annual event, the Met Gala is still going strong, with the world’s most influential beautiful people travelling from far and wide, to walk up the famous steps and have their photos taken in designer costumes. It’s the thing of fairytales, really.
There’s one thing that guides the fashion of each Met Gala, and that is the theme. Chosen by Vogue editor-in-chief, Anna Wintour, the Met Gala theme aims to centre around a timely social topic, offering inspiration for boundary-pushing fashion looks.
To look through the past themes of the Met Gala is like flicking through a fashion history book. And so, in the lead-up to the Met Gala on May 3, 2022, here are all the themes and most iconic Met Gala looks since 1995.
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2022 — In America: An Anthology of Fashion
The 2022 Met Gala theme was “Gilded Glamour,” a nod to the corresponding exhibit “In America: An Anthology of Fashion.” It’s the second part of a Met installation following the 2021 Met Gala exhibit “In America: A Lexicon of Fashion” and the 2021 Met Gala “American Independence” theme.
Blake Lively wore one of the most iconic looks of the 2022 Met Gala, with a transformative Atelier Versace gown, inspired by the Statue of Liberty.
2021 — In America: A Lexicon of Fashion
The 2021 theme was centred around one question, according to Andrew Bolton, and it was “who gets to be American?”.
It was an ode to some of America’s historical icons, as well as a question of race and equality. Some of our faves from last year, include Kaia Gerber and Billie Eilish, but this Audrey Hepburn-inspired look from Kendall Jenner took the cake.
2020 — “About Time: Fashion and Duration”
The 2020 gala was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but its theme is still worth revisiting. In honour of the Met’s 150th anniversary, the theme “About Time” was set to take a look back at the last 150 years of fashion. It’s a shame that this Met didn’t happen because the looks would’ve been iconic.
2019 — “Camp: Notes on Fashion”
The Met Gala’s 2019 theme, “Camp”, was a controversial one. While many people didn’t quite understand the assignment, you’ll undoubtedly remember this Jared Leto look, which is as strange as it is fabulous.
Camp has been defined as “an intentional over-the-top-ness a slightly (or extremely) ‘off’ quality, bad taste as a vehicle for good art”, by Susan Sontag in 1964.
2018 — “Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination”
“Heavenly Bodies”, the Met Gala theme of 2018, produced some of the most iconic looks in modern times. The theme of religion has an undoubtedly regal air to it, which lends itself to over the top silhouettes and dresses worthy of a monarch.
It’s hard to choose a favourite look from the 2018 Met, but we couldn’t go past Rihanna’s Pope-inspired look.
2017 — “Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between”
The 2017 Met Gala theme, saluted the legendary self-taught Japanese designer Rei Kawakubo and featured her “objects,” as she likes to call them. As the founder of Comme des Garçons, Kawakubo is known for her avant-garde designs and for creating things that live outside the ordinary — like wearable art and fashion that tells a story.
In 2017, Katy Perry’s look was truly unforgettable, wearing a piece of Maison Margiela Artisanal that brought all the drama the theme demanded.
2016 — “Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology”
The 2016 Met Gala theme was all about the future of fashion, and although the looks were generally a little less extravagant than other years, this was an important and timely theme.
Emma Watson wore a five-piece Calvin Klein set, made entirely from plastic bottles.
2015 — “China: Through the Looking Glass”
The 2015 Met Gala was all about celebrating China’s influence on Western fashion; a theme fit for an emperor. This year saw some of the most incredible looks that were to ever come out of the Met Gala red carpet — such as that viral yellow robe worn by Rihanna, designed by Chinese designer Guo Pei.
2014 — “Charles James: Beyond Fashion”
Charles James is a huge figure in the fashion world, but lesser-known to the public. He was an English-American fashion designer, best known for his ball gowns and highly-structured aesthetic.
Therefore, the 2014 Met Gala red carpet was (appropriately) filled with ball gowns! We love this divine Charles James-inspired Oscar de la Renta number on our queen, Sarah Jessica Parker.
2013 — “Punk: Chaos to Couture”
Honestly, 2013 was perhaps one of the more disappointing Met Gala years. With such an incredible theme, “Punk: Chaos to Couture”, that left designers the space to really rebel against fashion norms and push boundaries, everyone played it pretty safe.
Christina Ricci wore one of the best outfits of the night: a gown by the queen of punk herself: Vivienne Westwood.
2012 — “Schiaparelli and Prada: Impossible Conversations”
The 2012 Met Gala theme, “Schiaparelli and Prada: Impossible Conversations”, explored the connections between Schiaparelli and Prada, two Italian female designers, whose design styles and motivations are to challenge conventional ideas around beauty and femininity.
Many people turned up in incredible looks either by, or inspired by, one of the designers — such as Carey Mulligan, who wore this insanely beautiful Prada number.
2011 — “Alexander McQueen - Savage Beauty”
The 2011 Met Gala theme was “Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty,” designed to honour the late fashion designer and his work. Needless to say, it was a controversial red carpet moment when Vogue editor-in-chief, Anna Wintour, who organises and presides over the event every year, turned up in a long-sleeve Chanel dress instead of a McQueen look.
2010 — “American Woman: Fashioning a National Identity”
2010’s theme was basically: dress in your best evening gown.
A bit of a less creative year, but we love this look from JLo — when does she ever go wrong?
2009 — “The Model as Muse: Embodying Fashion”
The 2009 Met Gala theme, “The Model as Muse: Embodying Fashion”, can be seen one of two ways:
A. a problematic romanticisation of supermodels as the pinnacle of beauty
B. a romantic celebration of the role a muse plays in the life of an artist.
Either way, this theme would not fly today, but we do love Kate Moss’s headpiece in her all-silver look.
2008 — “Superheroes: Fashion and Fantasy”
Naomi Watts seems to be the only one who got the memo for the 2008 met Gala theme, rocking up in this gorge Marilyn Monroe/Wonderwoman-inspired gown.
Is it just me or are themes meaning a little less the further back we go?
2007 — “Poiret: King of Fashion”
2006 — “AngloMania: Tradition and Transgression in British Fashion”
AngloMania directly translates to: the excessive admiration of English customs. Think Burberry, tartan — materials that represent British ideals and history.
This Vivienne Westwood dress worn by Sara Jessica Parker perfectly embodies the 2006 Met Gala theme.
2005 — “The House of Chanel”
Although everyone was celebrating Chanel at the 2005 Met Gala, Jessica Simpson wore a Michael Kors dress on the red carpet and honestly, it was a moment.
2004 — “Dangerous Liaisons: Fashion and Furniture in the 18th Century”
Yay! Finally! We have a costume. Model Amber Valletta’s 2004 Met Gala look fits the “Dangerous Liaisons” theme perfectly; looking like someone’s deranged 18th-century mistress. She wears a Maggie Norris Couture corset and John Galliano skirt — an outfit that only works at an event like the Met Gala. We’re obsessed.
2003 — “Goddess: The Classical Mode”
Diana Ross wins the 2003 Met Gala because she is — quite literally — a goddess in red.
2001 — “Jacqueline Kennedy: The White House Years”
Guys! Hilary Clinton wore leopard print at the 2001 Met Gala celebrating Jacqueline Kennedy! That is all.
2000 — No theme
There was no Met Gala in 2000 — the year that was set to be all about Chanel — due to the death of Richard Martin, chief curator of the Costume Institute as well as ongoing disputes that the museum had been called out for regarding commercial sponsorship. Basically, the Met had been accused of allowing designers and brands to have too much influence through sponsorship. They’d create the Met Gala theme around an iconic designer, but only because said designer had given them lots of money to do so. Fashion and finance drama at its finest, dahhhhlings.
1999 — “Rock Style”
We’re not really sure about this theme. But we do know that Elizabeth Hurley looks rock chic, and we love it.
1998 — “Cubism and Fashion”
Okay there is literally no cubism to be found at the 1998 Met Gala. Seriously, they didn’t care for a theme back then did they?
Here is a beautiful photo of Liv Tyler at the 1998 Met Gala, looking nothing like an abstract piece of art.
1997 — “Gianni Versace”
Model Carolyn Murphy wears Versace at the 1997 Met Gala, a theme that honoured the life and death of Gianni Versace.
1996 — “Christian Dior”
Here, we have less of a theme and more of a sponsorship announcement. Christian Dior sponsored the 1996 Met Gala, and therefore, the theme was his name.
Here is a pic of iconic supermodel Linda Evangelista with her boyfriend at the time, Kyle Mclaughlin, attending the Met Gala in 1996.