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A nondefinitive ranking of every Met Gala theme since 2013

With the first Monday in May falling on the 1st this year, the annual Met Gala is just around the corner. Hosted by Vogue's editor-in-chief (and couture queen) Anna Wintour, the event is often hailed as fashion's biggest night—and we couldn't be more excited to see this year's looks. 

A selection of year-defining A-list celebs, musicians and fashion designers are invited to dress according to a unique theme, with inspiration spanning everything from punk rock to hyper-advanced technology. The 2023 theme is "Karl Lagerfeld: A Line of Beauty," a tribute to the late creative director of Chanel and Fendi whose decades-long career has plenty for guests to take inspo from. 

While show-stopping looks are practically guaranteed each year, there's no question that some themes have yielded better outfits than others—which is why we're here to present our totally unofficial (but also totally accurate) ranking of every Met Gala theme since 2013. We can't tell where 2023's theme will fall on our list of faves just yet, but this ranking will keep us entertained while we wait for May 1.

9. Charles James: Beyond Fashion (2014)

Sculpted, architectural pieces honoring mid-21st century designer Charles James highlighted the 2014 gala. Creative interpretations of simplistic dress cuts were popular (our girl Rita Ora slayed in a champagne-colored play on the 2014-chic sweetheart dress), but most looks were a bit too basic for our taste. We did get Taylor Swift in a stunning old Hollywood-style gown this year—a nod to to the future "Wildest Dreams" music video? We think so. 


8. China: Through the Looking Glass (2015) 

The 2015 theme sought to memorialize the impact of Chinese culture on Western fashion, and the results were, well, mixed. For example, we loved Rihanna's show-stopping yellow train and Kendall Jenner's elegant emerald gown, but we weren't the biggest fans of Lady Gaga's kimono-inspired getup, which fell far outside of the theme. (PSA Gaga: Kimonos are Japanese.)


7. Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garcons: Art of the In-Between (2017)

Avant-garde fashion was at the centerpiece of the 2017 Met Gala, with the abstract vision of Japanese designer Rei Kawakubo shining through in textured, layered pieces. Kawakubo was known for testing the boundaries of fashion, and while celebs like Rihanna totally understood the assignment with a flowery, geometric dress, others fell noticeably short of that innovation. But Zendaya's look complete with an intricate macaw pattern was everything we could've ever wanted. So we're thankful for that. 


6. Punk: Chaos to Couture (2013)

OK, this theme was arguably one of the most unique concepts to come out of the Met Gala, but many celebs seemed to miss the memo (we're looking at Gwyneth Paltrow's stunning but gloriously off-theme pink long-sleeved gown). Rocker-inspired looks from musicians like Miley Cyrus and Madonna did manage to do punk justice, with spiked hair and Avril Lavigne-esque plaid giving total "Sk8er Boi" vibes. 


5. In America: A Lexicon of Fashion (2021)

Returning from a year-and-a-half hiatus due to COVID-19, the 2021 theme was the first of a two-part series highlighting all things American fashion. Guests were encouraged to wear looks from American-based designers that showcased fashion's role in shaping American history. Looks like Lupita Nyong'o's quintessentially American denim dress defined the night, while celebs like Lili Reinhart took on a more subdued (yet equally on-theme) take, wearing a dress adorned with the U.S. state flowers.


4. In America: An Anthology of Fashion (2022)

Otherwise known as Gilded Glamour, this was the second of the two-part series celebrating American fashion. In this anthology, looks focused closely on the overlooked backbone of the American textile industry in the 1890s. The cutest Met Gala couple award was def won this year, with husband-wife co-chairs Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds stunning on the red carpet. 2022 also brought us Billie Eilish in a sustainably-made Victorian-style gown—perf for our fave vegan queen. 


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

Looks from 2016 were inspired by fashion's relationship with technology—and guests took their looks out of this world, to say the least. Metallic silver was the color of the night, worn by celebs like Kim Kardashian and Gigi Hadid. Others opted for looks inspired by the astral plane, with looks from actresses Dakota Johnson and Nicole Kidman in dresses seemingly decorated by the night sky. Taylor Swift also co-chaired this otherworldly evening, donning iconic bleached hair made famous in her song "Dress." This was also allegedly Joe Alwyn and Tay's meet-cute, but we aren't gonna talk about that. RIP. 


2. Camp: Notes on Fashion (2019)

"That's *so* camp."

Described as "a love of the unnatural: of artifice and exaggeration," 2019's theme taught us all about being "camp," which quickly became the internet's fave word. And whether it was Zendaya's Cinderella-inspired gown that actually glowed or Lady Gaga's four-look show of a dress, celebs definitely delivered. Some fits were outlandish, sure (Jared Leto literally brought his own faux head as an accessory), but it was by far one of the most entertaining galas to date, which is why it makes our top two. 


1. Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination (2018) 

There's no question about it: the 2018 MET Gala astounded. Inspired by the religious themes of medieval art, guests were invited to dress their "Sunday best." Needless to say that attendees exceeded expectations. Blake Lively wore a cascading red ballgown. Cardi B and Sarah Jessica Parker sported stunning golden headdresses. Katy Perry donned a majestic pair of angel wings (!!!). Almost every guest hit the "Heavenly Bodies" theme right on the nose, and five years later, we're still not over it. 


Have a fave MET Gala look we forgot to mention? Share it with us on Twitter @girlslifemag!

All GIFs via GIPHY
Top and silder image: @themetgalaofficial


by Laila Mayfield | 4/25/2023