The Met Gala is soon upon us, where all of fashion’s heavyweights – from designers, to models, editors and muses – come together to celebrate the art form. It’s the Oscars of fashion, but what makes the annual ball one of the most exciting events of the year? The dress-up factor, of course.
Fact: everyone loves to dress up, even hard-faced fashion people, it seems. And with the Met assigning a different ‘theme’ to each year, the peacocking is rife (and the beauty looks are equally memorable).
Themes gone by include a Jacqueline Kennedy theme, Fashion and Furniture in the 18th Century and Punk. The Met Ball theme for 2017 is ‘Comme des Garçons’: a celebration of the brand’s visionary, Japanese Rei Kawakubo, and her designs.
Even if you don’t follow fashion, this year’s Met red carpet will be worth watching for the spectacle alone. Many of Comme’s painterly designs are not exactly wearable, so let’s see how some of the more serious attendees take on the tricky theme.
For now, we take a nostalgic look back at the Met’s best ever themes and which stars hit the nail on the head.
1996: Christian Dior
Back in the day, it was known for the Met Ball theme to be centred solely on the work and craft of one designer. For 1996, it was Christian Dior, the same year that Princess Diana attended her first (and only) Met Ball. For the occasion, Diana – pictured with friend and former magazine editor Liz Tilberis – wore a dress from John Galliano’s debut couture collection as the Creative Director of the brand. The navy slip dress with black lace detailing isn’t far off something we’d see today, just another example of Diana’s enduring influence on style.
2000: Rock Style
Amber Valletta rocked up to the 2000 ‘Rock Style’ Met Ball in an beaded gold jumpsuit with a low-cut neckline and SLAYED the game. How incredible does she look?
2001: Jacqueline Kennedy: The White House Years
In 2001, the institute celebrated 40 years since Jackie Onassis-Kennedy became First Lady and started her reign as a style icon. The best dressed of the night (in our opinion) was Renee Zellwegerwho channelled Jackie O perfectly in a strapless white and champagne-coloured Oleg Cassini dress. Perfectly classic, just as Ms. Kennedy would have have done.
2004: Dangerous Liaisons: Fashion and Furniture in the 18th Century
You wouldn’t be alone if 2004’s Met Ball theme has raised an eyebrow. How did the guests even begin to interpret the theme relating to how fashion influenced 18th century furniture?! Well with a bit of research, it seems. Someone who interpreted the theme in a stylish way (that is, without wearing some sort of chair-mounted fascinator) was Scarlett Johansson. The actress’s Calvin Klein dress was made of lemon-hued silk – AKA our dream cushion cover.
2006: Anglomania: Tradition and Transgression in British Fashion
British fashion had its day during the 2006 Anglomania Met Ball which was all about celebrating British designers (specifically between 2006 and the 30 years previous). Ever a stickler for a theme, Sarah-Jessica Parker turned up with Alexander McQueen on her arm, wearing an asymmetrical tartan dress by the late designer. Show-stealing.
2008: Superheroes: Fashion and Fantasy
The unequivocal Wonder Woman of fashion is Anna Wintour, so you can bet the 2008 ‘Superheroes’ theme was calling her name. The night saw shoulder pads and capes in abundance, but the infamous magazine editor showed who was boss by stepping out in a dramatic, silver Chanel Couture dress with bolstered shoulders and pockets. It was an outfit with superheroine proportions, and completely won the night.
2009: The Model As Muse: Embodying Fashion
The institute’s 2009 theme explored the relationship between muse and designer, and saw many model-designer dates for the night including Helena Christensen and Zac Posen, Lara Stone and Alexander Wang, and Coco Rocha and Issac Mizrahi. However the most talked about duo were Kate Moss and Marc Jacobs. Kate looked like a Grecian goddess wearing a draping gold minidress with a matching headdress – and the crowds loved it.
2010: American Woman: Fashioning a National Identity
The patriotic dress code saw many an attendee walk the gala carpet in shades of red, white and blue. One lady who nailed the all-American theme best was Taylor Swift, wearing natural, girl-next-door curls, a red lip and a flowing white gown.
2011: Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty
The year after his tragic death, the Met honoured the late designer Alexander McQueen and exhibited some of his never-before-seen work. The guests played their part, too, wearing stunning designs by the designer and works from other designers that emulated his fearless aesthetic. Wearing an embroidered, corseted Emilio Pucci gown with a fishtail bottom, Beyonce won the theme.
2013: Punk: Chaos to Couture
2013’s Punk: Chaos to Couture theme was the best in recent years for its pure dress-up potential. Attendees from Sienna Miller to Miley Cyrus and Diane Kruger really went for it with their punky ensembles, decked in studs, swathes of black and semi-perm coloured hair (thanks, Kruger). But everyone wondered what girl of the moment Cara Delevingne would wear and the model did not disappoint in head-to-toe studded Burberry and severe, smoky black eyes.
2015: China: Through the Looking Glass
Stars embraced 2015’s oriental theme with aplomb, but none the more than Rihanna. Rih’s canary yellow embroidered gown by Chinese designer Guo Pei ensured that she went down as one of the best dressed in Met Gala history. Now that’s how you do a theme. Other notable Met 2015 lookscame from Georgia-May Jagger and Beyonce.
2016: Manus x Machina: Fashion In An Age Of Technology
It was hard to know how to interpret the tricky interrelation between fashion and technology for 2016’s Met Ball theme. ‘Robotic’ chainmail, embellishment and silver seemed like the easiest road to go down, but thinking in more literal terms was Claire Danes. The actress wore a breathtaking blue Zac Posen princess gown, but when the lights were turned low (wait for it)…
It lit up with thousands of stunning fibre optic lights woven into the organza fabric. Danes stole the night. If this is what fashion and technology looks like, we’re in.
Zac Posen/Instagram [“Source-glamourmagazine.”]