20 Years of Met Gala Themes: A Look Back at Many First Mondays in May

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With the first Monday in May only days away, partygoers are preparing for what André Leon Talley calls the “Super Bowl of fashion.” The Met Gala is the major fundraising event that happens each year and kicks off the Costume Institute’s new exhibitions. This year’s theme is “Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination” and will have hundreds of items on display, including dozens of artifacts and objects sent over from the Vatican (most of which have never seen the light beyond Rome). Attendees dress up according to their interpretation of the theme, which has varied wildly throughout the years. Below, we’ve charted out all the themes dating back to the first year Anna Wintour became a chair of the event, 1995.

2017: “Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between”
The most recent Met Gala toasted the legendary Japanese designer Rei Kawakubo and featured her “objects,” as she liked to call them. Some guests, like Rihanna and Caroline Kennedy, stuck to the theme and sported original pieces, while others interpreted the topic through other designers. The event was cochaired by Katy Perry and Pharrell Williams and celebrated Kawakubo’s vision and legacy.2016: “Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology”
The exclusive event went back to the future with tech at the forefront. Stars like Claire Danes literally lit up the ball in a glowing gown, while Emma Watson wore a five-piece Calvin Klein Collection set which was made of recycled plastic bottles. The exhibition itself focused on the dichotomy between handmade and machine-made fashion, displaying over 100 pieces of haute couture and ready-to-wear.

2015: “China: Through the Looking Glass”
The gala celebrated China’s influence on Western fashion with a theme fit for an emperor. The exhibition was a joint effort between the head of the museum’s Department of Asian Art and the Costume Institute, showing looks from Chanel, Alexander McQueen, and Christian Dior Haute Couture. Attendees from George and Amal Clooney to Rihanna (wearing a stunning yellow robe by Chinese designer Guo Pei) dressed on-theme for a night at the museum.

2014: “Charles James: Beyond Fashion”
The museum celebrated a major figure in the fashion world, but one less known to the general public. The Charles James theme was lively and highly anticipated, with a display of 100 of his most important designs. Cochaired by Sarah Jessica Parker, Bradley Cooper, and Oscar de la Renta, the party was filled with ball gowns of the sleek and larger-than-life variety.

From designer retrospective to celebrations of the supernatural, see all the themes of the last two decades, below.

2013: “Punk: Chaos to Couture”

2012: “Schiaparelli and Prada: Impossible Conversations”

2011: “Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty”

2010: “American Woman: Fashioning a National Identity”

2009: “The Model As Muse: Embodying Fashion”

2008: “Superheroes: Fashion and Fantasy”

2007: “Poiret: King of Fashion”

2006: “AngloMania: Tradition and Transgression in British Fashion”

2005: “The House of Chanel”

2004: “Dangerous Liaisons: Fashion and Furniture in the 18th Century”

2003: “Goddess: The Classical Mode”

2002: No theme

2001: “Jacqueline Kennedy: The White House Years”

2000: No theme

1999: “Rock Style”

1998: “Cubism and Fashion”

1997: “Gianni Versace”

1996: “Christian Dior”

1995: “Haute Couture”

See The Best Met Gala Looks of All Time