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Alanna Martine Kilkeary / Her Campus
Style > Fashion

Ranking My Top 5 Favorite Met Gala Themes

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 VCU chapter.

To put it simply, the Met Gala is my Super Bowl. Every first Monday in May, the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute hosts celebrities coming from far and wide for a night that allows the fashion industry’s most creative individuals to flourish.

For those who don’t know, the Met Gala has a theme every year. The Costume Institute produces an annual fashion exhibit, which opens on the first Monday in May, with a specific theme that’s chosen. Whichever theme is picked for the exhibition sets the tone for the Met Gala; this year’s theme is “Karl Lagerfeld: A Line of Beauty.”

Unfortunately, while Karl Lagerfeld was a visionary and helped to change the course of fashion history, he was highly controversial. As a result, the announcement of this year’s theme produced some mixed reviews. While we’ll have to wait and see what’s going to come of this contentious theme, there’s no harm in reviewing past themes.

 Camp: Notes on Fashion (2019)

The 2019 Met Gala was one of the more interesting themes in the event’s history. I loved how guests and designers got to team up and create ensembles that expressed the humorous, theatrical and gaudy side of fashion. Personally, I did find certain iterations of the theme to be underwhelming because I feel like there was so much creative freedom given to attendees with the campy theme, but it birthed one of my favorite memes.

Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty (2011)

Alexander McQueen was one of the most revolutionary and creative designers in the history of fashion. Held one year after his tragic death, the 2011 Met Gala theme was created to honor McQueen’s artistry. Guests turned up in ensembles that personified McQueen’s beliefs in freedom of expression and allowing yourself to use your imagination. The many outfits that graced the red carpet that night featured some of the best pieces from McQueen’s collections, ranging from the signature plaid from his Highland collection to new looks inspired by his past collections.

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

I believe that the 2016 Met Gala theme was one of the more fascinating and thought-provoking ideas birthed by the Costume Institute. Manus x Machina explored the “dichotomy, in which hand and machine are presented as discordant tools in the creative process.” Both the exhibition and the red carpet featured looks from ready-to-wear and haute couture collections which emphasized the theme considering most haute couture pieces are made by hand. In contrast, ready-to-wear utilizes tools and machines to construct garments.

China: Through the Looking Glass (2015)

While a sizeable portion of Met Gala attendees ignore the theme when deciding what to wear for the red carpet, some of the guests pulled through for 2015’s “China: Through the Looking Glass.” The exhibition examined “the impact of Chinese aesthetics on Western fashion and how China has fueled the fashionable imagination for centuries.”

This theme allowed for international talent to be showcased; instead of working with a Western designer, Rihanna teamed up with Chinese couturier Guo Pei to create her ornate canary yellow cape complete with fur trim. Rihanna mentioned that her dress took two years to make, and the entire garment was constructed and embroidered by hand.

Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination (2018)

In my opinion, the best Met Gala theme to date was in 2018 with “Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination.” The guests that participated in the theme reimagined the relationship between religion and spirituality and its role in pop culture and fashion. Everything from Rihanna’s bejeweled papal garb to Arian Grande’s Sistine Chapel printed dress was absolute perfection and truly showcased the craftsmanship of fashion designers and artisans. 

Claudia Stewart is currently a senior at VCU, majoring in fashion merchandising with a minor in art history. She enjoys watching rom-coms, baking double chocolate chip cookies with her roommate, and finding the best spot for sushi in her free time. Stewart loves writing about pop culture, fashion, and beauty.