The 24 best Met Gala dresses of all time, according to Bazaar editors

From Rihanna’s iconic omelet gown to Princess Diana’s heavenly Dior slipdress.

Harper's Bazaar India

The Met Gala’s red carpet is widely considered the most exciting of the year. Unlike others, it isn’t dictated by vague and unspoken fashion rules: It has a specific theme, and even the most casual observers expect guests to follow it. As a result, those who take big fashion risks are often rewarded, and those who don’t tend to be forgotten. There’s pressure, of course, but what makes the evening so fun to watch unfold is that it’s pure unadulterated capital-F Fashion, and even those who don’t speak the language of style feel the urge to chime in.

At Bazaar, we’ll admit we pay special attention to those who go above and beyond with the prompt, and our favorite looks in Met Gala history tend to be those that get it right. For “China: Through the Looking Glass,” in 2015, Rihanna outshone everyone in a yellow Guo Pei dress with a train so long, it cascaded off the sides of the museum steps. In 2006, for “AngloMania: Tradition and Transgression in British Fashion,” Sarah Jessica Parker showed up on Alexander McQueen’s arm in an asymmetrical plaid dress with lace accents. And in 2018, for “Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination,” Solange wore a structural Iris van Herpen latex gown with a woven halo atop her do-rag embroidered with the phrase “My God Wears a Durag.” These guests didn’t just understand the assignment—they reinvented it entirely.

Ahead, 24 Met Gala looks our team can never forget.

1. Rihanna in Comme des Garçons, 2017

Rihanna in Comme des Garçons, 2017

I always come back to Rihanna’s Comme des Garçons look in 2017! It’s hard to wear a puffball around your torso for an entire evening, but she made it look easy. (Then again, making things look easy is a Rihanna specialty.) I especially love the way her beauty look plays with the dress: The strong blush brings out the pink tones, and the bangs and high bun emphasize the girlishness of the patchwork dress. It all works in concert to make her look like a visitor from another planet where this is standard formal event attire—and personally, I would like to spend some time on that planet. —Izzy Grinspan, digital director

2. Zendaya in Versace, 2018

Zendaya in Versace, 2018

Lives were changed when Zendaya showed up to the “Heavenly Bodies” Met Gala dressed up as Joan of Arc (it’s me—I’m “lives”). The custom-made Versace gown is, simply put, extremely cool—from the armor-plating cold shoulders and tiered metallic waist accessory, to the ingenious draping of chainmail into a cowl neckline and train. Zendaya was already something of a red-carpet muse by the time she appeared at the 2018 gala, but I truly believe it’s this look that cemented her status as fashion’s next It girl. —Chelsey Sanchez, associate editor

3. Rihanna in Guo Pei, 2015

Rihanna in Guo Pei, 2015

Every year I watch the First Monday in May documentary, and I know at exactly what moment Rihanna is going to step out onto the red carpet in this iconic yellow Guo Pei dress. Still, I can feel my hair stand up every single time. The dress is beautiful, it is spiritual, it is glam. It also became known for those hilarious memes that Photoshopped eggs and frying pans onto the enormous bright yellow train. In many ways, it represents the duality of fashion in my eyes. And while people made jokes about it, whenever I look at photos of it, I don’t see an omelet. Instead, I hear André Leon Talley’s voice gushing, “This moment! This fantasy!” —Tara Gonzalez, senior fashion editor

4. Sarah Jessica Parker in Alexander McQueen, 2006

Sarah Jessica Parker in Alexander McQueen, 2006

Not only was this look the perfect marriage of the theme—“AngloMania: Tradition and Transgression in British Fashion”—with McQueen’s legendary vision, but it was the first time, as a 15-year-old, I realized just how cool plaid can be. That sounds silly, but the same year just two or so months before, the Luella Bartley for Target collab had launched and I’d purchased the strapless green plaid dress. It was just sitting in my closet in Florida. Then SJP and McQueen wore this look to the Met Gala a month later, and I thought, “This is it. This is the coolest look ever.” A few years later, I even bought a one-shoulder draped plaid dress from AllSaints that reminded me of this look. The blend of classic femininity with elements of punk and prep just really set the tone for my personal style journey. —Jenna Rosenstein, beauty director

5. Solange in Iris van Herpen, 2018

Solange in Iris van Herpen, 2018

I’m obsessed with just about everything Solange does, which includes wearing this sculptural look by Iris van Herpen to the 2018 Met Gala. The theme that year was “Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination,” a concept embodied in her outfit with a gilded, woven halo worn as a headpiece atop of a black silk do-rag—another crown or halo of sorts. And along the bottom of the headpiece’s extended cape? This phrase “My God Wears a Durag.” Part performance art piece, part fashion serve, Solange’s outfit placed a spotlight on Black culture. More specifically, it made the do-rag—an everyday beauty and fashion staple that usually costs no more than $15 at the drugstore—feel more sanctified, elevated, and important, if just for one evening. —Tiffany Dodson, associate beauty commerce editor

6. Rosalía in Givenchy, 2022

Rosalía in Givenchy, 2022

Rosalía’s look for the Gilded Age Met Gala in 2022 was so extremely underrated. The beaded corset, cascading ruffle train, and puffed off-the-shoulder sleeves make her look like she’s stepped out of a John Singer Sargent painting. But the metal spikes dotting her spine, the sheerness of the skirt that reveals swaths of skin, and the sharp structural sunglasses are purely her. Rarely do I think of personal style when I think of the Met Gala, but she managed to nail the theme while looking entirely like herself. Maybe it’s because she is so artful and intentional in everything she does, but I could totally see this working on her Motomami tour if she just ruched the skirt up on the sides. —TG

7. Iman in Stella McCartney, 2007

Iman in Stella McCartney, 2007

It almost feels silly to try to explain this one. Isn’t it obvious? It’s Iman and David Bowie. It’s tuxedos. It’s a waistcoat. And a CANE. —Leah Chernikoff, executive editor

8. Lil’ Kim in Marc Jacobs, 2005

Lil’ Kim in Marc Jacobs, 2005

I just love their love. The two are close friends, and I thought Kim looked so brilliant in this hot-pink velvet gown—natural for her, but also not without glamour. True story: I spotted this gown on the RealReal during the pandemic for a laughable price and snagged it. It’s now one of my most prized possessions. —Brooke Bobb, fashion news director

9. Ashley Olsen in Dior, 2013

Ashley Olsen in Dior, 2013

Attendees of the Met Gala do not traditionally dress for comfort, but Ashley Olsen looks chic and very much at ease wearing vintage Dior. Olsen’s look in 2013 basically forecasted the use of organza and sheer paneling that has dominated the runway in recent years. But of course, she did it first—and on the Met Gala red carpet at that. —Perri Tomkiewicz, digital design director

10. Claire Danes in Zac Posen, 2016

Claire Danes in Zac Posen, 2016

I don’t think any other look at the 2016 Met Gala came closer to acing the “Manus × Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology” theme than Claire Danes in this magnificent, glow-in-the-dark ball gown. Constructed out of custom fiber-optic organza, the icy-blue haute couture creation caught people’s attention for its innovative luminescent effect. But it’s the other, simpler details of the dress (the bustier’s raw hem, the flattering Basque waist) that take the cake for me. I think of it as the precursor to Zendaya’s memorable interpretation of Cinderella (in another light-up princess dress, no less) at the 2019 Met Gala. —CS

11. Blake Lively in Versace, 2022

Blake Lively in Versace, 2022

When Blake Lively acted as one of the hosts for the Met Gala in 2022, she completely stole the show with her metallic Versace dress. That year, the guests were working with an admittedly vague “In America” theme that was teased as “Gilded Glamour,” but Lively seemed to understand the assignment perfectly. Her geometric gown gave serious Great Gatsby vibes, but the best part was when she revealed a secret teal skirt that represented the oxidation of the Statue of Liberty. C’mon, how does it get better than that? —Joel Calfee, editorial and social media assistant

12. Princess Diana in Dior, 1996

Princess Diana in Dior, 1996

Princess Diana’s 1997 Met Gala look was one to remember. The deep navy slip, courtesy of Dior, was one of the sultriest ensembles she wore after her split from the then-Prince Charles. It was less of an ode to her royal fashion sense and more an embrace of her love of New York style. —Bianca Betancourt, culture editor

13. Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen in Comme des Garçons, 2017

Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen in Comme des Garçons, 2017

Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen are fashion superfans beloved by other fashion superfans. So of course for “Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between,” they knew exactly what to do. These coordinating boho looks from Kawakubo’s “Broken Brides” Fall 2005 collection are every fashion nerd’s dream come true, and they were wearing archival on the red carpet before everyone else. —TG

14. Kate Moss in Calvin Klein, 1995

Kate Moss in Calvin Klein, 1995

Okay, this is my fave! There is no dress more effortless and cool and sexy than this. I know the Met is where you’re supposed to take risks, have fun, and be a bit messy, but recently I think the gimmicks have gone too far. I will always respect the choice to just look perfect instead. —Faith Brown, senior social media manager

15. Liv Tyler and Stella McCartney in Stella McCartney, 1999

Liv Tyler and Stella McCartney in Stella McCartney, 1999

I love the unapologetic ease and personality behind Stella McCartney’s and Liv Tyler’s looks for the 1999 Met Gala, where the theme was “Rock Style.” The duo famously paired handmade studded Hanes tanks with, respectively, Chloé trousers (designed by McCartney herself—iconic!) and a slip skirt, cementing their places in fashion history and rock royalty forever. —TD

16. Frances McDormand in Valentino Couture, 2018

Frances McDormand in Valentino Couture, 2018

Frances is literally the antithesis of the Met Gala. She’s deeply private, uncompromisingly kooky, and usually a fan of easy silhouettes and Birkenstocks for public events. The fact that she went all out in this dreamy Valentino Couture cape and headpiece—and played the part by posing dramatically on the steps—was an inspiration. —Brooke Bobb

17. Miuccia Prada in Prada, 2007

Miuccia Prada in Prada, 2007

Looking back at endless pages of red-carpet photos from the Met Gala, it can all start to look a bit pageant-y. You know who never looks like that? Mrs. Prada. Here she is in 2007, and who cares what the theme was? (It was “Poiret: King of Fashion.”) She just looks festive and cooler than everyone else (because she is!). —LC

18. Kate Moss in Marc Jacobs, 2009

Kate Moss in Marc Jacobs, 2009

I think it’s funny that Kate Moss was basically the theme of the 2009 Met Gala, “The Model As Muse: Embodying Fashion.” It would be impossible for her not to get it right, and still she showed up in a liquid metallic minidress, cut to expose her entire back, with matching head wrap. She went as Marc Jacobs’s date, and these photos were so formative to me as a teenager, I remember looking at them and thinking: This is the essence of fashion. Which it was—and still is. —TG

19. Zoë Kravitz in Saint Laurent, 2021

Zoë Kravitz in Saint Laurent, 2021

I swoon over anything Zoë Kravitz wears, but her dress at the 2021 Met Gala is high on my list of favorites. The theme was “In America: A Lexicon of Fashion,” and Kravitz declared her independence by gracing the carpet in a sheer metal mesh Saint Laurent gown and matching thong. Zoë was ahead of the times (per usual), as sheer has been the trend for a while now, and I’m sure we’ll see a few sheer moments on the 2024 Met Gala carpet, too. —Katie Intner, associate beauty editor

20. Kendall Jenner in Givenchy Haute Couture, 2021

Kendall Jenner in Givenchy Haute Couture, 2021

You had me at crystals. Kendall Jenner at the 2021 Met Gala was by far my favorite look ever. I was then and still am now so obsessed. I made it the background of my phone—that’s how much I loved it. Jenner was inspired by Audrey Hepburn’s My Fair Lady gown. The paired choker and sheer gloves embellished with crystals just made this 11/10. Absolutely breathtaking. —Alicia Banilivy, fashion retail and credits editor

21. Hailey Bieber in Alexander Wang, 2022

Hailey Bieber in Alexander Wang, 2022

Remember when Hailey Bieber did Barbiecore, before Barbiecore was even a thing, on the Met steps? The model’s ultra-fem bubblegum-pink look with an exposed thong lives rent-free in my head. —Rosa Sanchez, senior news editor

22. Naomi Campbell in Versace, 1995

Naomi Campbell in Versace, 1995

I adore Naomi Campbell in a sparkly silver Versace from 1995. It’s hard to do a two-tone metallic dress, but trust Gianni Versace to make it look effortless. It’s timeless, sexy, and forever. Naomi’s tonal hair and makeup also look perfectly ’90s. In a parallel universe, I think this is what I look like at red-carpet events. —Lynette Nylander, executive digital director

23. Ariana Grande in Vera Wang, 2018

Ariana Grande in Vera Wang, 2018

Sometimes the Met Gala themes lead to looks that are a little too on-the-nose, and when the concept was “Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination” in 2018, the carpet was certainly stuffed with lots of crosses and rosaries. However, when Ariana Grande strutted out in an ethereal Vera Wang dress with illustrations of the Sistine Chapel on it, she winked not only at the theme of the evening, but also to her forthcoming album, Sweetener. It was a fitting, yet somehow still surprising choice, and the result was absolutely magical. God is a woman, and her name is Vera Wang. —JC

24. Anja Rubik in Versace, 2012

Anja Rubik in Versace, 2012

Most will remember Angelina Jolie’s thigh-high slit Versace dress at the 2012 Oscars as the leg dress. It was memed to infinity. But for me, this Anthony Vaccarello dress that could be worn only by Anja Rubik, is the leg dress. Her entire leg, from the tippy top of her hip bone down, is just out there, looking fab. I don’t love this dress as much as I respect it. —LC


Feature Image Credits: Timothy A. Clary // Getty Images 

This article originally appeared in in May 2024.

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