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Alanna Martine Kilkeary / Her Campus
Style > Fashion

A Decade of Glitz and Glamour: Ranking Met Gala Themes

Updated Published
The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UC Riverside chapter.

Every year, on the first weekend in May, almost every A-list celebrity gathers on the steps of the Metropolitan Museum of Art for a night of glamor and rubbing elbows. Being invited to the Met Gala is every Hollywood hopeful’s dream, though few will ever rise to such stardom. While none of us common folk know what happens inside, we eagerly await the night every year so we can sit in front of our televisions to watch the parade of sparkles and tulle and pretend to be fashion critics. 

Every year, the Met releases an abstract theme for the guests to dress for. Getting the chance to have their pieces walk the Met is the highlight of most designers’ careers and they delight in letting their imaginations run wild. However, while some designs are stunning and perfectly embody the theme, others fall short of their lofty ideals. So, with the 2024 Met Gala firmly in the rear view, let’s review the last decade of themes. 

2015: China: Through the Looking Glass

Inspired by traditional Chinese styles and fashions, many designers outdid themselves in their designs. Selena Gomez, Livia Antonio Berardi, and Amal Clooney all stunned as they walked the carpet. This year also began the reign of Zendaya, Rihanna, and Lady Gaga — icons of the Met Galas and often the most anticipated looks of the night. However, some failed to accomplish the glitz and glamor that the Met Gala is used to seeing — I’m looking at you Cara Delevigne. 

2016: Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology

While 2016 seems to be a collectively negative memory in most people’s minds, the year’s Met Gala remains one of my favorites to date. Nearly every outfit was a beautiful display of blending fashion and technology. A few notable mentions for me are Nicole Kidman and Katy Perry. I also want to commend Zayn Malik for his execution this year. While most men’s outfits are boring black suits, Zayn’s robotic arm added an additional layer to his look. However, I would be remiss to not mention Taylor Swift this year – the bleached bob and dark purple lipstick combo will forever be etched into our collective memories. 

2017: Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between

Rei Kawakubo is the founder of Comme des Garçons, a Japanese fashion house, featuring large, shapeless, and extravagant silhouettes with a dash of Japanese street fashion. Comme des Garçons was camp before camp became a thing two years later. In one of the worst showings to date, I give you the 2017 Met Gala. I had lofty expectations for this theme, given my love for the designer, and nearly every person was lackluster at best. Lily James, Ruth Negga, and Héloïse Letissier got close, but I was still left wanting more. The only one I could actually applaud is Rihanna. 

2018: Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination

For many, this was their first experience watching the Met Gala, so it stuck in many people’s minds. It also stuck in my mind due to the elegance of some of the designs. While the Met Gala  never has a perfect year where everyone is on theme, 2018 stands apart due to the standouts that truly knocked me off my feet. Blake Lively, Rihanna, Cara Delevigne, Zendaya, Cardi B, Gigi Hadid, Stella Maxwell, Chadwick Boseman, Priyanka Chopra, Lana Del Ray, Ariana Grande, and Katy Perry all left me feeling seriously blessed. 

2019: Camp: Notes on Fashion

A favorite of many, 2019’s theme truly embodied what the Met Gala is all about: extravagance, gaudiness, ostentatious, and over-the-top designs. I wanted designs that were over-the-top, ugly, and gaudy, and I was honestly let down by the simplicity of some outfits. However, many owned this theme, including Jordan Roth, Ryan Murphy, Kylie Jenner, Cara Delevigne, Hailee Steinfeld, Janelle Mona, Violet Chachki, Zendaya, Ezra Miller, Cardi B, and Katy Perry. I also absolutely cannot talk about the 2019 Met Gala without mentioning Jared Leto’s second head or Lady Gaga’s four-part fashion performance — truly show stopping. 

2021: In America: A Lexicon of Fashion

Coming back from COVID, the fashion world was thrilled with the return of the Gala. They came back with a bang — a two part, two-year exhibit focusing on the legacy of American fashion. Many knocked this look out of the park such as: A$AP Rocky, Quannah Chasinghorse, Cara Delevigne, Shawn Mendes, Kim Kardashian, Imaan Hammam, Ben Platt, Iman, and Billie Eilish. However, some of the outfits went completely over my head — Kim Petras … I’ve got questions. I also have to mention Lil Naz X channeling his inner Lady Gaga with a three-part outfit. However, nothing will ever top Lady Gaga’s original.

2022: In America: An Anthology of Fashion

2022 marked the second year of the two part series honoring American fashion. This year had similar success as the first — some dressed in underwhelming and basic designs, while others truly awed. Some notable mentions this year are: Kylie Jenner, Kourtney Kardashian, Gigi Hadid, David Lauren, and Billie Eilish. I must also mention Lizzo playing the flute while walking up the steps, and Kim Kardashian ruining a classic Marilyn Monroe dress. I also suggest checking out Austin Butler this year … not because he’s particularly on theme … he just looked really hot. 

2023: Karl Lagerfeld: A Line of Beauty

Karl Lagerfeld was an icon in the fashion industry, spending most of his career designing for Chanel. After he passed away in 2019, the Met Gala honored his contributions to the industry. His early designs featured elegant lines with flowing silhouettes — the epitome of haute couture. His later work presented more modern, innovative designs in mainly black and white. Celebrities took the monochrome to heart, with very little color on the carpet this year. Some of the best included Jenna Ortega, Anne Hathaway, Bad Bunny, Dua Lipa, Tems, Conan Gray, and Jeremy Hope. However, some celebs that I consider safe bets to stun were shocking in their garish designs, including Rihanna, Doja Cat (in her infamous cat prosthetics), and Jared Leto, who was in a full cat mascot suit. 

2024: The Garden of Time

Wow wow wow! This year absolutely blew me away. This was truly one of my favorite themes of all time, and despite a few notable faces missing from the carpet, the guests did not disappoint. This theme had a lot to play with in terms of symbolism — both natural botanicals and abstract interpretations of time. I had so many favorites — Bad Bunny, Gigi Hadid, Emma Chamberlain, Lana Del Ray, Ariana Grande, Chloë Sevigny, Taylor Russell, Elle Fanning, Janelle Monae, Doja Cat, Adwoa Aboah (this one actually made me quite emotional), Iris Law, Amelia Gray, Dan Levy, Zendaya, and Tyla. 

Megan Gillam

UC Riverside '24

I am an undergraduate student at the University of California, Riverside. I am a double major in English Literature and Psychology. At UCR, I am a writer for Her Campus magazine, on the executive board of my sorority, Alpha Chi Omega, and am apart of the Psi Chi honor society. I enjoy writing, reading, horseback riding, hanging out with friends, shopping, cooking, and playing with my dog.