Time to get creative with the curtains
Since its inception in 1948, the Met Gala has been known as the biggest, most glittering event on the fashion calendar. While the night’s real purpose is to raise money for the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, we all know the truth: the Met Ball’s actual public service is to allow us mere mortals, whose invites seem to get lost in the post year after year, to gawk, swoon, and chastise the celebrities, models, and designers who make their way down the evening’s infamous red carpet.
This year, however, things are slightly different. While the fashionable event typically takes place on the first Monday of May (i.e. today), 2020’s proceedings have been postponed indefinitely, due to the outbreak of coronavirus. The actual exhibition itself, About Time: Duration and Fashion, which looks to Virginia Woolf’s Orlando as its inspiration, is expected to take place in October.
While the IRL Met Ball may have been curtailed, online, people are coming together to keep the magic alive in the digital realm. On Twitter, the platform’s ‘high fashion’ community is set to host its own virtual event this evening, while across Instagram and TikTok, people are getting creative, debuting their dream looks under the hashtag #metgalachallenge.
In case you’re planning to get involved either through tonight’s High Fashion Twitter event or via your own IG grid, we’ve looked back through the Ball’s ever-shifting history to present you with some of the wildest ensembles ever to have made their way down the red carpet to provide you with a little inspiration.
From 00s slogan tees (yes, the Met Gala was once a ~casual~ affair) to couture gowns, outfit changes, and unexpected guests. If you’ve ever uttered the words “if I were there, I would do it differently,” or berated someone for not sticking to the theme, now’s your chance to put your money where your mouth is.
RIHANNA DRESSED AS THE POPE, 2018
To kick things off, we pay homage to Rihanna, the reigning Met Gala Queen, who is seen here reigning as… well, what else? The Pope. With the 2018 exhibition entitled Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination, the night saw guests offer up their interpretation of the relationship between religion and fashion. Though Zendaya turned up as Joan of Arc and Lana Del Rey went as a Gucci angel, it was Rihanna who stole the show – which comes as no real considering she has won nearly every Met Gala she has attended. We know it’s not a game or anything, but see here and here for proof.
LIV TYLER AND STELLA MCCARTNEY KEPT THINGS (EXTREMELY) CASUAL, 1999
Like we said, once upon a time, the Met Gala was a bit more subdued. Starting off as a high-society evening in the 40s, it was catapulted into the cultural zeitgeist by Anna Wintour, who became chairwoman of the event in 1995. But before this, people came to the Met Ball in, yes, that’s right, t-shirts.
Rocking (sorry) up to the event in 1999, here we have Liv Tyler and Stella McCartney, sporting some very funky tops, for that year’s Rock Style exhibition. The outfits might not be as mind-blowing as Billy Porter’s golden entourage or Michele Lamy’s all-red Comme looks, but future attendees could take note on how to accurately convey a theme from these two.
JOHN GALLIANO FORESHADOWED JOE EXOTIC’S STYLE, 2006
Before we had Joe Exotic, we had John Galliano at the 2006 Met Ball. Pictured with Charlize Theron, the designer is seen wearing a red and white polka dot waistcoat (shirtless, of course), a pair of sequined blue jeans, an embroidered frock coat, a top hat, and some patterned trainers, as part of a look that channelled a theme centred around British fashion.
MARC JACOBS WORE COMME AND NOT MUCH ELSE, 2012
By now we have all become used to Marc Jacobs’ passion for fashion. Dressing up in Rick Owens, Gucci, and Prada, the designer’s adventurous and fun looks are often seen via Instagram, but here you can see it on the steps of the Met in 2012. Wearing a Comme des Garçons lace shirt dress, Jacobs finished off the look with some white boxers and a pair of 18th Century-style buckled shoes. With that year’s theme entitled Schiaparelli and Prada: Impossible Conversations, Jacobs said he wanted to pay homage to the designers through this look, by embracing the pair’s ‘unconventional’ approach to design. Speaking on the red carpet in an interview he explained: “I just didn't wanna wear a tuxedo and be boring… I think Miuccia Prada is such a celebration of the unconventional and so it felt like, appropriate, somehow.”
LADY GAGA SERVED SEVERAL LOOKS, 2019
For the 2019 Met Gala, expectations were high. The theme was Camp, and so we anticipated celebrities to go all out. And while some clearly missed the memo, (cc: Karlie Kloss), elsewhere guests truly stepped up to the plate – from Billy Porter and Cardi B, to Kylie and Kendall, people brought it.
Going one step further, however, was Lady Gaga (obvs). The “Bad Romance” singer showed up in not one but four looks, changing into each one on the red carpet. Starting off in a pink Brandon Maxwell parachute gown, Maxwell, who was also in attendance, then unzipped her dress to reveal a black look underneath. Then arrived a hot pink dress, accessorised with an oversized 80s cell phone, before she finished it all off with a sparkly bra and pants set. What can we say other than: “talented brilliant incredible amazing show stopping spectacular never the same totally unique”.
MARYLIN MANSON WAS AT THE MET GALA?! 2005
Any time a picture of Marilyn Manson appears on a red carpet from the early 00s it feels worthy of a list, and this time is no different. Manson turned up to the 2005 Met Gala, which was celebrating The House of Chanel, in his signature gothic eye make-up, paired with mismatched coloured contacts, and dark red lipstick. For the look? What else but an all-black ensemble made up of a military jacket, a black shirt, and some black suit trousers, all anchored down by some serious military boots. We mean, with those gold buttons on the jacket, you can see the Chanel inspiration. B+ for effort.
CHER AND BOB MACKIE INVENTED THE RED CARPET NAKED DRESS, 1974
This is Cher in 1974. She is wearing a sheer dress, embroidered with sequins, which has been finished off with a feather trim. The dress is by Bob Mackie. And well what else is there to say? She obviously looks incredible. So incredible that, years later, Kim Kardashian took this look as inspiration, wearing a similar piece by Givenchy to the Met Gala in 2015. “(Cher’s) always had the sickest style, I’m obsessed with her,” Kim once said in an interview. “To think that she was wearing these sheer dresses in the '70s and just what people must have thought back then.”
GIANNI AND DONATELLA VERSACE WENT HELL FOR LEATHER, 1996
We all know the power that can be yielded by two people attending a red carpet event in matching outfits, courtesy of Brtiney Spears and Justin Timberlake in their synched denim looks from 2001. But before Brtiney and Justin, there was Donatella and Gianni, who also proved the power of two, wearing these leather ensembles to the Met in 1996. With Donatella donning the house’s iconic black leather corset top and leather skirt, Gianni can also be seen wearing a black leather cowboy shirt finished off with a white blazer….
SJP AND ALEXANDER MCQUEEN WENT HELL FOR… TARTAN? 2006
… Which leads us nicely on to Alexander McQueen and Sarah Jessica Parker, who also took the Met Gala in complimentary looks, this time in tartan. With Lee sporting a tartan kilt and a black mess jacket, finished off with more tartan draped over his shoulder, his look is mirrored by SJP, who is seen wearing a nude coloured gown complete with tartan draped over one shoulder and a belt that renders her cinched to the gods. Applause for both the boldness and the commitment to the look, but then, were you expecting anything less?
NAOMI WORE A 00S SLOGAN T-SHIRT, 2001
In 2001, the theme of the Met Gala was Jacqueline Kennedy: The White House Years, which is why Naomi Campbell wore a black slogan t-shirt donning the words: ‘Like a Virgin’, obviously. Pictured with model Iman, Campbell is clearly harnessing some Madonna circa 1984 energy. Finishing off the look with a sheer lace skirt and plenty of costume jewellery, the fit is very emblematic of an era when slogan tops reigned supreme – a defining moment in fashion history and one the Met should perhaps explore? A Chaotic Time in Fashion: The Power of the Slogan T-shirt Andrew Bolton – we leave this with you.
AMBER VALLETTA BROUGHT HEAVY MARIE ANTOINETTE VIBES, 2004
Dangerous Liaisons: Fashion and Furniture in the 18th Century was the theme of 2004’s Met Gala, which is why Amber Valletta chose to come as Marie Antoinette, in a corset designed by Maggie Norris Couture and a skirt by John Galliano. Reflecting on the outfit choice in a later interview, the model said it was the most complicated look she has ever worn to the Met (and she has been to her fair few, btw). Although this year’s Met is no more, in our mind’s eye we hope someone out there was planning to reference this ridiculous outfit – powder wig and all.
VAL AND LARRY LEGASPI WERE ALL ABOUT THE GLAMOUR, 1979
The glamour... it oozes. Here, at the 1979 Met Gala, we have cult 70s designer Larry Legaspi and his wife Val. A slightly lesser-known outsider based in New York, Larry Legaspi’s work has served as an inspiration to Rick Owens, who has referenced his take on space-age 70s glam rock. Pictured here, Val is wearing a dramatic red fishtail gown, designed by Legaspi himself. In an interview with Dazed, Val reflected on the evening. “It was a totally crazy night,” she said. “Larry usually dressed these tall, long-legged supermodels like Grace and Pat, and here I was, this platinum-haired, five-foot-something, full-figured woman in this beautiful gown he’d made for me.” Finishing the look off with slicked-back hair and show-stopping purple eyeshadow, as for Larry himself, the designer sports a tux layered with an OTT white kimono-style coat.
Revisit the 2019 Met Ball below.