February 4, 2023

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The Best Met Gala Looks, According to Fashion Experts

Photo-Illustration: by The Cut; Photos: Getty Images

Thegilded glamour”–themed Met Gala is fast approaching, and while we have some insights as to what we can expect — sadly, no Zendaya — this year’s red-carpet outfits (and antics) remain to be seen. Will Bennifer continue wearing masks while they kiss, maybe in bustles and corsets? Will Kim Kardashian arrive shrouded in gold? How will fashion designers interpret this era of Whartonian vibes and American excess, and who will carry on the tradition of showing up shamelessly off-theme?

As we ponder the gala’s forthcoming looks, let’s take a moment to commemorate the style highlights of Met Galas past. From Lil’ Kim draped in pink Versace at the 1999 “Rock Style” event, to Solange arriving at 2018’s “Heavenly Bodies” in a literal halo, here are some of the best erstwhile Met Gala looks, as selected by designers, stylists, and other fashion experts.

Rihanna in Guo Pei (2015).
Photo: Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic

What was your favorite Met Gala look? 
The exhibition was “China: Through the Looking Glass,” and the dress code was “Chinese white tie.” Everyone remembers the legendary yellow Guo Pei ensemble Rihanna wore on the red carpet. The custom Maison Margiela look she changed into for her performance was equally spectacular.

Describe the look to me. What did you like about it? 
The look was an antique Chinese hand-embroidered silk vest from the 1800s, transformed into a bustier patterned from an upside-down draped men’s tailored jacket, and it was worn with silk pajama pants, red latex gloves, and a jeweled headpiece. For personal reasons, this look has a very special place in my heart.

How do you think Rihanna would interpret gilded glamour? 
Rihanna is the undisputed queen of the Met Gala red carpet. She not only always fully embraces the theme but has repeatedly served iconic fashion moments. Recently, she has been completely redefining pregnancy style in the most incredible, subversive, and groundbreaking way. Pregnancy allowing, I have no doubt she would find a way to merge a major gilded glamour moment with her pregnancy-style journey that would leave all the children gagging. But should we be surprised? She brings it to us every ball!

The upcoming gala and the previous one anthologized American fashion. What theme would you most want to see next? 
I would love to see a Costume Institute exhibition focused on how the kimono and Japanese fashion and style as a whole, both historical and modern, have influenced the global fashion community through the years, and the different ways designers have taken inspiration from Japan. I think it would also lead to interesting discussions on appropriation versus appreciation vis-à-vis historical context both within the exhibition and on the red carpet.

Any other honorable mentions?
Often overlooked is the time Anna Wintour wore a look from John Galliano’s Dior Couture spring/summer 2004 Egyptian collection to the Met Gala of the same year.

Anna Wintour in John Galliano’s Dior Couture (2004).
Photo: Getty Images, Shutterstock

Zendaya in Versace (2018).
Photo: Dia Dipasupil/WireImage

What was your favorite Met Gala look?
Zendaya’s Joan of Arc look from the 2018 Met Gala, “Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination.”

Describe the look to me. What did you like about it? 
Zendaya wore a custom Versace metallic gown that, in my opinion, shook the earth’s core. It featured a belt, train, and low neck that accentuated her features and played well with the suggested theme.

Sadly, Zendaya won’t be there this year. How do you think she would have interpreted gilded glamour? 
Zendaya is glamour. It was my hope that she and Law Roach would have found a way to stay true to her personal style and utilize the moment to make a playful yet strong statement, as they’ve done in the past.

What theme would you want to see next? 
I’m looking forward to hopefully seeing our industry favorites incorporate more Black American designers.

Any other honorable mentions?
Anything Rihanna has ever worn.

Rihanna in Balenciaga (2021), Maison Margiela (2018), and Comme des Garçons (2017).
Photo: Getty Images

Lil’ Kim in Atelier Versace (1999).
Photo: Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection via Getty

What was your favorite Met Gala look? 
Lil’ Kim in Atelier Versace at the 1999 Met Gala. The exhibition was titled “Rock Style.”

Describe the look to me. What did you like about it? 
A pink mink coat worn with a pink gold-studded bralette with matching shorts and python boots. I enjoy when women wear clothes that would normally only be seen on a superhero or a Barbie.

How do you think Lil’ Kim would have interpreted gilded glamour? 
I would love to see Lil’ Kim in an obscenely large headpiece by Philip Treacy with lots of feathers. I feel like that would give gilded glamour.

What theme do you most want to see next? 
We’ve lost so many fashion giants lately — I feel like it’s time for another solo exhibition.

Any other honorable mentions? 
Cher in Bob Mackie at the 1974 gala. Naomi Campbell in Versace at the 1995 gala, and Naomi in Dolce & Gabbana at the 2001 gala.

Cher in Bob Mackie (1974); Naomi Campbell in Versace (1995) and Dolce & Gabbana (2001).
Photo: Getty Images

Ashley Graham in Dapper Dan x Gucci (2019).
Photo: Kevin Mazur/MG19/Getty Images for The Met Museum/

What was your favorite Met Gala look?
Ashley Graham’s Dapper Dan x Gucci look at the 2019 Met Gala. The theme was “camp.”

Describe the look to me. What did you like about it?

It’s not often that I get to see someone my size on the Met Gala red carpet. It was a classic, cool, sexy look — just a blazer! — and maybe a style you would only expect to see on a conventionally “thin” body. I loved it. Plus her maximalist pony was the cherry on top.

How do you think Graham would have interpreted gilded glamour? 
 I’ve been watching The Gilded Age, and I’m curious to see if anyone is going to replicate the false rumps and bum pads seen so frequently in that era. I’m so fascinated by the interpretation of the female form over time and how the “ideal” body type has shifted so dramatically.

What theme would you most want to see next? 
I’d love to see an exhibition and theme focused on celebrating the female form throughout history.

Solange Knowles in Iris van Herpen (2018).
Photo: Dia Dipasupil/WireImage

Name one person who had your favorite Met Gala look. What year and what theme? 
Solange Knowles in Iris van Herpen, styled by my friend Kyle Luu, at 2018’s “Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination.”

Describe the look to me. What did you like about it? 
It was kind of alien-like and grotesque but still glamorous. I love this kind of dichotomy when it comes to fashion and style. It reminded me of the singing diva in The Fifth Element: dark, glamorous, camp — an amazing interpretation of the theme.

The upcoming gala and the previous one anthologized American fashion. What theme would you most want to see next? 
I would like to see one in relation to how music, specifically hip-hop, continues to influence fashion, while paying respect to pioneers, artists, stylists, designers, etc. Something along those lines.

Any other honorable mentions of favorite looks?
Rihanna in Guo Pei (2015) and Comme des Garçons (2017); Miley Cyrus in Alexander Wang (2015); Madonna in Givenchy (2013); Marc Jacobs in Commes des Garçons (2012); Kim Kardashian in Thierry Mugler (2019); Cher in Bob Mackie (1974); Zendaya in Michael Kors (2016); and Céline Dion in Oscar de la Renta (2019).

Miley Cyrus in Alexander Wang (2015); Céline Dion in Oscar de la Renta (2019); Zendaya in Michael Kors (2016).
Photo: Getty Images

Dita Von Teese in Zac Posen (2014)
Photo: Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic

What was your favorite Met Gala look? 
Dita Von Teese in Zac Posen at the “Charles James: Beyond Fashion” exhibition in 2014. It was such an amazing and referential interpretation of James’s work by Posen. Claire Danes in Posen for the 2016 “Manus x Machina” show is another favorite.

Describe the look to me. What did you like about it? 
The way Posen referenced James’s work while also making sure to add his own flair and design language. Posen is perhaps one of the only designers today who could actually achieve anything near what Charles James was doing when it comes to technical skill. It was a feat. I think he has the right historical knowledge and technical abilities to interpret this year’s theme beautifully.

What theme would you most want to see next? 
I’d love to see something on fashion and subcultures over the years. I know we’ve seen punk, but I’d love a focus on the mid-’90s New Romantics. Or perhaps something focusing on gender. With everything we’ve been seeing in the menswear space, it feels like the right time to tackle this theme head-on and explore it in-depth through a historical survey on gender identity and expressions.

Any other honorable mentions of favorite looks?
I love anything Ashley and Mary-Kate Olsen wear. They have this insane vintage archive, and they always show up in something vintage that is just a treat to see out in the world.

Claire Danes in Zac Posen (2016); Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen at “Notes on Fashion” (2019).
Photo: Getty Images