The Met Gala is one of the biggest events on the fashion industry calendar. The annual event raises funds for the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute. Since 1995, it has been in the hands of Vogue editor in chief Anna Wintour, who has wielded her influence to turn the gala into one of the most celebrity-studded affairs in fashion and Hollywood.
Eleanor Lambert, a fashion publicist, organized the Met Gala in 1948 as a fundraiser for the then-newly founded Costume Institute to commemorate the inauguration of its yearly show. The first gala was a banquet with tickets costing $50 apiece.
After Wintour took over the event, its red carpet became one of the most watched. Each year, the Met Gala gets a theme that fashion fans wait in anticipation of all year — the first was in 1973 with “The World of Balenciaga.”
The Met Gala has been annual since 1948 with the exception of 1991, 2000, 2002 and 2020. In 1991, the Costume Institute didn’t hold an exhibit. In 2000 there was no Met Gala due to a canceled Chanel exhibit. In 2002 the Gala was canceled following the tragic events of 9/11. In 2020 the Gala was canceled due to the widespread COVID-19 pandemic.
The exclusive event reportedly sees tickets going from $50,000 a pop for an individual seat to $300,000 for a sponsored table.
Here, WWD takes a look at the Met Gala themes throughout the years.
The World of Balenciaga
The first Met Gala theme was marked with a retrospective of legendary designer Cristóbal Balenciaga. Guests got to see how Balenciaga earned his reputation as a master couturier.
Romantic and Glamorous Hollywood Design
Hollywood’s influence on fashion is about as old and storied as the institution of Hollywood itself. In 1974, the Met Gala explored the history of Hollywood design.
Cher attends the Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute gala “Romantic and Glamorous Hollywood Design Exhibition” on Nov. 20, 1974 at the Metroplitan Museum of Art in New York City.
Ron Galella Collection via Getty
American Women of Style
The 1975 Met Gala theme celebrated influential women throughout what was then modern fashion history. The ladies in attendance had a ball.
Pat and William F. Buckley attend the Costume Institute’s “American Women of Style” exhibition and gala at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on Dec. 10, 1975.
The Glory of Russian Costume
In a stroll down Russian history lane, the 1976 Met Gala theme explored Russian costume through the ages. Russian traditional dress began developing in the ninth century and has continuously transformed since.
Imelda Marcos and Christina Ford attend The Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute gala “The Glory of Russian Costume” on Dec. 6, 1976 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.
Ron Galella Collection via Getty
Vanity Fair: A Treasure Trove
Under the leadership of costume institute consultant Diana Vreeland, the Met Gala explored Hollywood, society and fashion publication Vanity Fair’s private collection. Viewers enjoyed a once-in-a-lifetime look into the collection.
Grace Mirabella and William G. Cahan attend the Metropolitan Museum Costume Institute “Vanity Fair: A Treasure Trove” exhibition and gala in New York City on Dec. 12, 1977.
Diaghilev: Costumes and Designs of the Ballets Russes
Russian ballet costumes were highlighted at the 1978 Met Gala. Russian ballet has been highly regarded in the dance world and Russia and the former Soviet Union have produced many prominent ballet dancers throughout history from Mikhail Baryshnikov to Olga Smirnova.
Halston, Diana Ross and Steve Rubell attend The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s annual Costume Institute gala.
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Fashions of the Habsburg Era: Austria-Hungary
The 1979 Met Gala theme was a lesson in European history and fashion. The Habsburg era was one of important noble rule for Europe.
Berry Berenson and Studio 54 owner Steve Rubell attend The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute gala exhibition of “Fashion of the Hapsburg Era” on Dec. 3, 1979 at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.
Ron Galella Collection via Getty
The Manchu Dragon: Costumes of China, the Chi’ng Dynasty
The Chi’ng Dynasty period in China marked the last imperial dynasty the country saw. It also marked an extensive era of intricate and opulent Chinese fashion.
The 18th Century Woman
Rewinding to the previous century, the 1981 Met Gala theme explored the style of dress throughout the 18th century. Despite the theme, guests went for classic eveningwear.
The scene during Diana Vreeland’s 10th annual Costume Institute costume exhibit ball at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on Dec. 8, 1981 in New York.
Le Belle Époque
La Belle Époque was the period in French and European history that began in the 1880s and ended with the start of WWI. The era was marked by the rich’s inability to deal with grim modern life.
Yves Saint Laurent 25 Years of Design
Yves Saint Laurent became the first living designer honored by the Met Gala with a retrospective celebrating his 25-year career. It was easy to imagine there was no shortage of his designs worn by attendees.
James Galanos and friends attend the Costume Institute annual gala with a retrospective of fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on Dec. 6, 1983 in New York.
Man and the Horse
Undoubtedly no one loved the 1984 Met Gala theme more than equestrians, as it focused on the relationship between man and horse. Thankfully, there wasn’t a sea of men in horse jockey uniforms.
Tina Chow, Michael Chow, Paloma Picasso and Rafael Lopez-Cambil attend an event at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City on Dec. 3, 1984.
Costumes of Royal India
Paying homage to India’s rich cultural and artistic heritage, the 1985 Met Gala’s theme focused on the dress of India’s royals throughout history. The exhibit was rich with colorful patterns and garments.
The art form of dance was celebrated at the 1986 Met Gala. The exhibit focused on movement-friendly fashion.
Married American couple, broadcast journalist Barbara Walters and businessman and TV producer Merv Adelson attend the Met Gala at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York on Dec. 8, 1986.
In Style: Celebrating 50 Years of the Costume Institute
In 1987 the Met Gala theme paid homage to the Costume Institute itself, the very part of the Metropolitan Museum of Art the gala raises money for. This left guests with a wide variety of fashion choices for the event with such an expansive breadth to choose from.
From Queen to Empress: Victorian Dress 1837–1877
There is no denying the influence royal figures throughout history have had on fashion. In 1988, the Met Gala theme paid homage to Victorian dress and royalty focused on the time period of 1837 to 1877.
Nina Griscom, center, and guests attend an event at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City on Dec. 5, 1988.
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The Age of Napoleon: Costume from Revolution to Empire, 1789–1815
Napoleon Bonaparate was one of the biggest figures of the French revolution. His reign as emperor was also marked by an acclaimed period in fashion that was recognized by the Met Gala in 1989.
Théâtre de la Mode – Fashion Dolls: The Survival of Haute Couture
The 1990 Met Gala exhibit was particularly special because it featured mannequins created post-WWII by French fashion designers. After WWII, French couturiers worked to help the fashion industry rebound.
David Bowie and Iman attend the Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute’s annual gala to celebrate the ‘Theatre de la Mode’ exhibition on Dec. 4, 1990 in New York.
Fashion and History: A Dialogue
1992’s fashion and history theme was broad, as it focused on how fashion has changed throughout history. It drove home the idea that fashion is a reflection of its current time.
Fashion designer Bill Blass escorting his dates Veronica Hearst and Lynn Wyatt to the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s annual gala fundraiser benefiting the Costume Institute.
Diana Vreeland: Immoderate Style
Fashion editor Diana Vreeland served as the special consultant for the Costume Institute from 1972 to 1989. Several years after her death, Vreeland was honored with a Met Gala exhibit paying homage to her prominent style.
Ottavio ‘Tai’ and Rosita Missoni attend the Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute gala ‘Diana Vreeland: Immoderate Style’ on Dec. 7, 1993 in New York.
Orientalism: Vision of the East in Western Dress
The 1994 Met Gala theme brought together themes of East Asian cultural fashion together with Western style. It was the last Met Gala co-chaired by renowned socialite Pat Buckley, who had been a chair since 1978.
Guests attend the Met Gala at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City on Dec. 5, 1994.
The 1995 theme for the Met Gala was straightforward, simply labeled as Haute Couture.
Designer Bill Blass, Pat Buckley and Lynn Wyatt attending ‘Costume Institute Gala’ on Dec. 4, 1995 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.
Ron Galella Collection via Getty
The 1996 Met Gala was an homage to the late Christian Dior. In attendance was none other than fashion icon Princess Diana, who arrived at the Metropolitan Museum of Art with the Lady Dior bag whose name came from her title as Lady Diana Spencer before marrying King Charles.
Princess Diana wears a slinky long dress with no back from John Galliano for Christian Dior attend the opening night celebration of the Christian Dior exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on Dec. 10, 1996 in New York.
In 1997, the Met Gala was bittersweet as it was a retrospective of Gianni Versace, who was murdered earlier that year. Despite the morning for the fashion industry titan, the stars came out to celebrate his legacy, with the guest list including models like Naomi Campbell and pop stars like Madonna.
Madonna, Donatella Versace and Elton John get together at the Metropolitan Museum of Art for opening of the Costume Institute’s exhibition of the fashions of the late Gianni Versace on Dec. 8, 1997.
NY Daily News via Getty Images
Cubism and Fashion
The 1998 Met Gala highlighted the effect the Cubism art period had on fashion. Guests wore outfits inspired by legendary artist Pablo Picasso and other painters of the Cubism period.
Actress Sigourney Weaver and husband Jim Simpson attend the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute gala exhibition of ‘Cubism and Fashion’ on Dec. 7, 1998 at Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.
Ron Galella Collection via Getty
Rock ’n’ roll is one musical art form that has had the greatest impact on fashion. Designers from Vivienne Westwood to John Varvatos owe rock music to much of their aesthetics. In 1999, the Met Gala honored rock’s impact on fashion with a retrospective on rock style.
Liv Tyler and Stella McCartney at Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute Gala in New York City on Dec. 6, 1999.
Jacqueline Kennedy: The White House Years
Jacqueline Kennedy was one of the most influential first ladies of modern times, and she was highly regarded for her sense of style. The 2001 Met Gala explored the former first lady’s approach to fashion and how her style defined her time in the White House.
Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton attends The Costume Institute Gala to celebrate the clothes of Jacqueline Kennedy on April 23, 2001 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.
Goddess: The Classical Mode
With a theme like Goddess, the expectation was that most guests would show up channeling Greek gods and goddesses. However, that year many guests ended up wearing white, perhaps inspired by Roman togas.
Brazilian models Gisele Bündchen and Fernanda Tavares arrive for “Goddess: Costume Institute Benefit Gala,” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume on April 28, 2003 in New York City.
Dangerous Liaisons: Fashion and Furniture in the 18th Century
The 2004 Met Gala not only explored the art of dress but the art of furniture, too. Guests kept it classic that year with traditional ballgowns and tuxedos.
Model Amber Valletta attends the “Dangerous Liaisons: Fashion and Furniture in the 18th Century” Costume Institute benefit gala on April 26, 2004 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, in New York City.
The House of Chanel
If there was a precursor to this year’s Met Gala theme, it was the 2005’s the House of Chanel, honoring the eponymous label founded by Coco Chanel and the brand Lagerfeld led as creative director.
Musician John Taylor (L) and guests attend the Met Costume Institute gala celebrating Chanel at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 2, 2005 In New York City.
Anglomania: Tradition and Transgression in British Fashion
The 2006 Met Gala was a salute to the British, paying homage to British punk icons and the fashion designs of Vivienne Westwood, who is credited with popularizing the punk aesthetic in fashion. Guests didn’t go too punk, and still opted for classic eveningwear in most cases.
Actress Sarah Jessica Parker with designer Alexander McQueen attend the Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute Benefit Gala: Anglomania at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 1, 2006 in New York City.
Poiret: King of Fashion
Legendary fashion designer Paul Poiret’s legacy was acknowledged at the 2008 Met Gala. Guests kept it classic but elevated at this Met Gala with corset gowns to opulent ballgowns.
Actor Scarlett Johansson, designer Stella McCartney and model Amber Valletta attend the Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute Benefit Gala “Poiret: King Of Fashion” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 7, 2007 in New York City.
Superheroes: Fashion and Fantasy
Guests for the 2008 Met Gala did not arrived dressed as DC or Marvel Comics characters, but Victoria Beckham did don a villainess-inspired Giorgio Armani gown.
Actress Jennifer Connelly, designer Nicolas Ghesquiere and actress/singer Charlotte Gainsbourg arrive to the Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute Gala, Superheroes: Fashion and Fantasy, held at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 5, 2008 in New York City.
The Model as Muse: Embodying Fashion
The models reigned supreme at the 2009 Met Gala in a theme that was literally all about them. Of course, this left the theme wide open to interpretation, allowing for a mix of sartorial choices from minimalism to maximalism.
Guests at the 2009 Met Gala.
American Woman: Fashioning a National Identity
A new decade in America meant a turning cultural tide and shift. To reflect that, the 2010 Met Gala theme was based on American women fashioning a national identity. Red, white and blue made up much of the color palette that night.
Designer Oscar de la Renta and Oprah attend the Costume Institute Gala Benefit to celebrate the opening of the “American Woman: Fashioning a National Identity” exhibition at The Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 3, 2010 in New York City.
Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty
A year after the passing of Lee Alexander McQueen, the Met Gala honored the designer’s legacy with a retrospective of his work. Of course, guests wore plenty of Alexander McQueen.
Pierpaolo Piccioli of Valentino, actresses Dakota Fanning, Elle Fanning and designer Maria Grazia Chiuri of Valentino attend the “Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty” Costume Institute gala at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 2, 2011 in New York City.
Schiaparelli and Prada: Impossible Conversations
For the 2012 Gala, the Met decided to juxtapose the late Elsa Schiaparelli against living legend Miuccia Prada. Both designers weren’t afraid of maximalism, which was a theme also reflected on the red carpet.
Tom Bugbee, actress Ginnifer Goodwin, designer Monique Lhuillier and designer Tory Burch attend the “Schiaparelli and Prada: Impossible Conversations” Costume Institute Gala at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 7, 2012 in New York City.
Punk: Chaos to Couture
If the 2006 punk rock-y, fashion-heavy exhibit didn’t leave attendees satisfied, 2013 brought a full punk theme exhibit. Guests gave their best punk-inspired outfits a spit on the red carpet.
Joely Richardson, Daisy Bevan, and Vanessa Redgrave attend the Costume Institute gala for the “Punk: Chaos to Couture” exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 6, 2013 in New York City.
Charles James: Beyond Fashion
Charles James was one of the most influential fashion designers of his time, born in 1906 and dying in 1978. The designer, known for his ballgowns, was the theme for the 2014 Met Gala. Plenty of ballgowns graced the red carpet that year.
Lily Allen, Derek Blasberg, Hugh Jackman and Deborra-Lee Furness attend the “Charles James: Beyond Fashion” Costume Institute gGala at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 5, 2014 in New York City.
China: Through the Looking Glass
The 2015 Met Gala celebrated China’s influence on Western fashion, which has permeated the Fashion month catwalks for years. It also saw one of the most showstopping looks in Met Gala history when Rihanna walked up the stairs in a gold Guo Pei robe with fur trim and a pink lining. To this day, people still discuss Rihanna’s look, and it has sparked various internet memes.
Fashion designer Donatella Versace and singer Jennifer Lopez attend the “China: Through The Looking Glass” Costume Institute Benefit gala at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 4, 2015 in New York City.
Andrew H. Walker
Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology
Technology has become essential to everyday living, and the 2016 Met Gala celebrated the integration of fashion and technology. Claire Danes stood out in a dress by Zac Posen that literally lit up.
Kate Hudson and Lady Gaga attend 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.
Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between
Comme des Garçons designer Rei Kawakubo became one of the few living designers honored with a retrospective at the Met Gala. There was plenty of Comme des Garçons on the red carpet as well as outfits inspired by her sometimes avant-garde aesthetic.
Rihanna attends the “Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garcons: Art of the In-between” Costume Institute Gala at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 1, 2017 in New York City.
Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination
It’s surprising to some how much religion and fashion can go hand-in-hand, but 2018’s Met Gala showed how Catholicism influenced fashion through the ages. Outfits included Rihanna dressed as a high-fashion pope, and Katy Perry dressed as a literal angel.
Quavo, Takeoff and Offset of Migos attend the “Heavenly Bodies: Fashion & The Catholic Imagination” Costume Institute gala at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 7, 2018 in New York City.
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Camp: Notes on Fashion
Upon announcing the Camp theme for their 2019 Met Gala, the Museum had to make it clear it had nothing to do with actually going camping. Rather, it was a celebration of camp by the definition of an aesthetic style being appealing because of its outlandish taste or ironic value.
Adut Akech, Naomi Campbell, Pierpaolo Piccioli, Lily Collins, Julianne Moore, Mark Ronson, Lykke Li, Lay Zhang and Stefano Sassi attend the 2019 Met Gala celebrating “Camp: Notes on Fashion” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 6, 2019 in New York City.
Getty Images for The Met Museum/
In America: A Lexicon of Fashion
For the return of the Met Gala after COVID-19, the Costume Institute paid tribute to its home country. In America celebrated a breadth of American designers through the ages and explored the idea of what it means to be an American, and how we are all different but connected.
Evangelo Bousis, Michael Mente, Ciara and Peter Dundas attend the 2021 Met Gala celebrating “In America: A Lexicon of Fashion” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on September 13, 2021 in New York City.
In America: An Anthology of Fashion
The 2022 Met Gala was part two of the In America theme, this time exploring more historic American fashion. The red carpet theme was “Gilded Glamour,” and guests looked to New York’s Gilded Age for fashion inspiration. Blake Lively paid homage to the Statute of Liberty in a gown that could be reversed to be copper or green.
Lila Grace Moss and Kate Moss attend The 2022 Met Gala Celebrating “In America: An Anthology of Fashion” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 2, 2022 in New York City.
Karl Lagerfeld: A Line of Beauty
The legacy Lagerfeld left behind is one of the greatest in the history of fashion, with his time as creative director of Chanel and Fendi. He also designed for Chloé and began his career with Pierre Balmain. While the Met has made it clear this is not a retrospective, they are paying homage to the critically acclaimed designer.