Fashion‘s biggest night out, the Met Gala, is set to take place on May 6, 2024. And while the guest list, what celebrities will wear, and other aspects of the event tends to remain top-secret information until the day of, the Met Gala theme is typically announced six to eight months prior – it’s now been announced that next year’s Met Gala theme is ‘Sleeping Beauties: Reawakening Fashion’.
The Met Gala theme not only denotes the dress code for that year’s event, it challenges designers, beckons analysis and most importantly, represents the accompanying theme of the Met’s collection for the year.
Whilst the Met Gala has existed since 1948 to raise funds for the museum’s globally-renowned costume institute, the event only started incorporating themes in 1973. Since then, and especially since 2001 (when the themes began to be heavily embraced by guests), the calibre of celebrity attendees and fashion has truly transformed the Met Gala from a socialite’s event to a globally anticipated fashion extravaganza.
Let’s look back at all of the Met Gala themes over the last 20 years.
Sleeping Beauties: Reawakening Fashion
The 2024 Met Gala theme has been revealed to be ‘Sleeping Beauties: Reawakening Fashion’. The theme is bursting with potential interpretations from fairy tale-esque couture to more literal analyses which could see archival sleep-themed looks such as Viktor & Rolf’s 2005 ‘bed dress’.
Reawakening fashion could also be a nod to the importance and delicacy of archival fashion. Much like The Beatles’ ability to release a song in 2023 using restorative AI tools, The Met is ‘reawakening’ extremely fragile historical fashion pieces with AI to convey the smells, sounds, textures, and motions of garments that can no longer directly interact with the body.
The accompanying collection is set to feature 250 garments and accessories spanning four centuries – a mere drop in the Met’s expansive 33,000 piece archives.
Karl Lagerfeld: A Line of Beauty
The 2023 Met Gala’s theme honoured the late designer Karl Lagerfeld who famously designed for Chanel, Krizia, Valentino and Chloé.
Stars like Nicole Kidman reached back into the fashion archives for the event.
In America: An Anthology of Fashion
In America: An Anthology of Fashion was the second act of the Metropolitan Museum’s focus of American fashion. Rather than focusing on emerging designers, which 2021’s In America: A Lexicon of Fashion honed in on, the anthology angle looked at American fashion as a whole.
In America: A Lexicon of Fashion
In America: A Lexicon of Fashion celebrated emerging American designers who are shaping the landscape of the country’s fashion scene and identity.
About Time: Fashion and Duration
For the first time in it’s then 72-year history, the Met Gala was cancelled in 2020 due to the global Coronavirus pandemic. The 2020 theme, About Time: Fashion and Duration, coincided with the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s 150th anniversary. The collection looked to trace fashion from 1870 to 2020 guided by the philosophies of Henri Bergson and Virginia Woolf on time.
Camp: Notes on Fashion
In 2019, the Met Gala theme was Camp: Notes on Fashion. For Met Gala enthusiasts, this is fondly looked on as one of the best Met Gala themes. The theme was inspired by Susan Sontag’s seminal 1964 essay Notes on ‘Camp’ which saw looks that embodied excess, performance with a murmur of ‘bad taste’.
Among those who encapsulated camp in their outfits was actress Julianne Moore.
Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination
Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination is revered as the best Met Gala theme ever. Every year when celebrities show up on the Met Gala red carpet, only a handful truly take the theme seriously. However, 2019’s Heavenly Bodies theme saw a number of stars put together outfits that solidified them into Met Gala fashion iconicity.
One of the most memorable looks of the night was Amal Clooney’s stunning hybrid Richard Quinn look.
Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between
The 2017 Met Gala theme hailed legendary Japanese designer Rei Kawakubo.
Miranda Kerr wore a red poppy–covered Oscar de la Renta gown in a classic silhouette.
Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology
The 2016 theme, Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology, posed the question of ‘What happens to the intricacy of handmade fashion in the digital age?’
In response to this, the stars stepped out in full force wearing intricately designed couture with a motif of futurism and technology.
China: Through the Looking Glass
China: Through the Looking Glass celebrated China’s influence on Western fashion.
Charles James: Beyond Fashion
In 2014, the Met Gala committee honoured English-American designer Charles James by displaying 100 of his most important designs in the Met and making him the theme of that year’s gala.
Punk: Chaos to Couture
Born in the 1970’s, the punk movement influenced every cultural aspect from music to art and even fashion. The 2013 Met Gala theme took a retrospective look at punk as a subversive movement in fashion.
Schiaparelli and Prada: Impossible Conversations
The 2012 Met Gala theme sought to juxtapose the work of Elsa Schiaparelli and Miuccia Prada in their respective namesake brands.
Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty
The 2011 Met Gala theme honoured the designer Alexander McQueen who tragically passed away the year prior.
American Woman: Fashioning a National Identity
American Woman: Fashioning a National Identity looked at the developing perceptions of the modern American woman from 1890 to 1940 and the effect of those perceptions on modern fashion.
The Model as Muse: Embodying Fashion
The Model as Muse: Embodying Fashion celebrated iconic fashion models of the twentieth century who inspired fashion in their respective eras such as Twiggy, Jerry Hall, Beverly Johnson, Iman, Kate Moss, Christy Turlington, Naomi Campbell, and Linda Evangelista.
Superheroes: Fashion and Fantasy
Superheroes: Fashion and Fantasy looked at superhero costuming-inspired clothes, along with actual costumes from superhero films. This theme proved to be one of the Met Gala’s most divisive to date. The collection and ensuing gala was dismissed as camp whilst others hailed it as “incredibly creative.”
Poiret: King of Fashion
In 2007, the Met Gala celebrated the life and work of designer and master couturier Paul Poiret who popularised the kimono-sleeved coat, the hobble skirt and the lampshade dress.
AngloMania: Tradition and Transgression in British Fashion
AngloMania: Tradition and Transgression in British Fashion assessed the way that British attitudes, ideas, and trends influenced 18th century fashion around Europe. Conversely, the Gala and its collection also looked at the way contemporary British designers sought to re-establish the rigid establishment of British couture such as Vivienne Westwood, John Galliano and Alexander McQueen.
The House of Chanel
The 2005 Met Gala celebrated the House of Chanel which saw a number of stars don incredible contemporary and archival Chanel looks.
Dangerous Liaisons: Fashion and Furniture in the 18th Century
The reigns of Louis XV (1723–74) and Louis XVI (1774–92) saw an unprecedented era of luxury and decadence in every aspect of culture, but particularly fashion. The 2004 collection centred around ‘fashion’ and ‘furniture’ merging ideals of beauty and pleasure through their forms and embellishments.
Goddess: The Classical Mode
Goddess: The Classical Mode looked at the enduring legacy of Greco-Roman dress on fashion over the centuries. Nicole Kidman’s Tom Ford-designed Gucci dress not only perfectly encapsulated the theme of the event, but the look has also arguably gone down as one of the most iconic in Met Gala history.
Following the 9/11 attacks in New York City, the 2002 Met Gala was cancelled. It was the third time in its then 54-year history that the event had been cancelled.
Jacqueline Kennedy: The White House Years
Coinciding with 40 years since she became First Lady, the 2001 Met Gala theme honoured Jacqueline Kennedy. During her time as First Lady, Jacqueline had an undeniable impact on global impact on style and fashion.
One of the best looks of the night was from Jacqueline’s own daughter, Caroline Kennedy, who channelled her mother’s enduring style with a white Carolina Herrera gown and matching elbow-length gloves.