Unlike the Oscars or even the Grammys, the Met Gala red carpet is the one that consistently delivers on wildly over-the-top style moments. This is the event where A-listers take risks…and they don’t always pay off.
As we gear up for the latest Met Gala on May 2 (the second part of the “In America” theme that debuted last September), we’re looking back on some of the biggest busts from the history of the fashion event. From Rihanna’s scrambled egg cosplay to Solange’s sleeping bag couture, here are 17 of the wackiest looks that have graced the famed steps of the Met in years past.
1. Rihanna in Guo Pei (2015)
We don’t want to play favorites, but it’s Rihanna’s entrance each year that gets us most excited. Why? She really, really goes for it. From her sculptural Commes de Garçons moment in 2017 to channeling the Pope in 2018, it’s hard to choose the wildest Riri look, but we’re going to have to go with the yellow confection she wore to celebrate the “China: Through the Looking Glass” exhibit that spawned countless memes.
2. Liv Tyler and Stella McCartney (1999)
Are one-shouldered T-shirts and low-rise khakis necessarily Met-appropriate? Nah, but the combo is, as Tyler and McCartney’s bedazzled tops so subtly proclaim, rock royalty. That means this duo can (and apparently will) do whatever the hell they want.
3. Helena Christensen in Zac Posen (2009)
Posen with the designer himself (get it? get it??), Christensen seemed to be campaigning for the role of teacher’s pet—the teacher in this case being Anna Wintour. She’s wearing a V-neck dress where the “V” stood for, you guessed it, Vogue. Is it ice skater-y and campy? Sure, but when the theme is “The Model as Muse,” and you’re one of the most iconic models of all time, you can kind of do whatever you want.
4. Helen Lasichanh in Rei Kawakubo (2017)
Here we have the chicest Sour Patch Kid of all time. Pharrell’s more stylish half consistently rules the Met red carpet, and she pulled out all the stops back in 2017. She even sacrificed the use of her arms and hands—that’s dedication, people. Pharrell, meanwhile, wore the basic bro uniform…snooze!
5. Lupita Nyong’o in Prada (2014)
The 2014 gala celebrated English-American designer Charles James. The exhibit, according to The Met, “explore[d] James’s design process, specifically his use of sculptural, scientific, and mathematical approaches to construct revolutionary ball gowns and innovative tailoring that continue to influence designers today.” Straying slightly (or not so slightly) from the ball gown theme, Nyong’o’s green Prada number was part flapper, part fishing net and featured a brown slip dress beneath a tangle of netting and feathers. With a matching emerald headband and heels, the choice was as bold as it was unexpected (i.e., very confusing).
6. Sarah Jessica Parker in Monse (2016)
Serving Jack Sparrow and Alexander Hamilton realness, SJP’s white tank top, jacket and…capris (???) were the target of so much fashion-critic ire that the actress took to The New York Times to explain—and defend—her all white choice.
7. Katy Perry in Versace (2018)
Perry is never one to disappoint on the Met red carpet (and by disappoint, we mean wear something not totally batsh*t). Case in point: Her getup for last year’s Catholic-themed shebang. Of the gilded and feathered Versace ensemble, she told The New York Times, “I feel very angelic. Celestial. Ethereal.” Understandably so.
8. Amber Valletta in John Galliano (2004)
Regarding the Marie Antoinette-inspired look she wore for the gala celebrating “Dangerous Liaisons: Fashion and Furniture in the 18th Century,” Valletta told W: “Looking back on it, I think it’s so badass that I went for it, because it was at a time when people were just starting to get into the theme. That was a cool moment to be pushing the envelope.” We’re just grateful she didn’t show up as a guillotine.
9. Solange in Thom Browne (2017)
While many (arguably too many) celebs play it safe on the one night they can really push the sartorial envelope, Solange is always game to go all-in on a theme. For the exhibit celebrating Japanese designer Rei Kawakubo, she opted for a Thom Browne-designed coat that’s part sleeping bag, part puffer jacket. Taking the whole unconventional thing even further, she finished the look with a long, quilted train and ice skate-inspired shoes. Sky-high heels aside, imagine how warm and cozy she was.
10. Lady Gaga in Versace (2016)
Watching her sashay down the red carpet in show-stopping couture gowns, it’s easy to forget that Lady Gaga’s fashion roots are a touch more…avant-garde. Take her outfit for the “Manus x Machina” exhibit: Between the giant hair, giant shoes and barely-there bodysuit, this is peak Gaga. And we’re peak obsessed.
11. Daphne Guinness in Alexander McQueen (2011)
You know your dress is making a statement when your famously ice-blonde-and-black hair looks positively normal in comparison. Fittingly, for the opening of the “Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty” exhibit, the muse, model and philanthropist paid tribute to her late friend Lee McQueen in one of his signature over-the-top frocks, which she changed into in the windows at Barneys. The lilac dress, which was part of McQueen’s spring 2011 collection, featured a high neckline, cap sleeves and a super-tight bodice that gave way to an exaggeratedly wide skirt.
12. Cardi B in Moschino by Jeremy Scott (2018)
Is it wise to play it safe for your first Met Gala experience? If you’re Cardi B, absolutely not. Her pearl-embellished gown came complete with a thigh-high slit and detachable train that she took off once inside the party. Accessories-wise, she went in the opposite direction of subtle with a thick choker and an absurdly ornate headpiece. Basically, Cardi’s maiden voyage at the Met won’t soon be forgotten.
13. Zayn Malik in Versace (2016)
Looking like an extra in RoboCop, Malik stole the spotlight from then-girlfriend Gigi Hadid in 2016. The suit-armored sleeve combo might’ve been made by Versace, but Malik bragged to Dazed that he was actually responsible for the design: “I was asked to design my own costume by Donatella Versace!” Casual.
14. Karolina Kurkova in Viktor & Rolf (2005)
You’ve heard of wearing your heart on your sleeve, yes? How about wearing your heart across your draped white ball gown? That’s precisely what Kurkova did in this one-shouldered dress for the “House of Chanel” themed Costume Institute exhibit. Honestly, we’re not sure if this would work on anyone who’s not an eight-foot-tall Czech glamazon supermodel, but all things considered, Kurkova looks fab—if a little out-there.
15. Madonna in Givenchy (2016)
According to the singer, there was more to this bondage-inspired leather-and-lace look than meets the eye. “We have fought and continue to fight for civil rights and gay rights around the world,” Madonna wrote on Instagram. “When it comes to women’s rights we are still in the dark ages. My dress at the Met Ball was a political statement as well as a fashion statement.” Sure thing.
16. Marc Jacobs in Commes des Garcons (2012)
As Harry Styles proved in 2019, a sheer black ensemble can be quite dazzling. However, while Marc Jacobs was trying to pay tribute to fellow designers Miuccia Prada and Elsa Schiaparelli with his lace gown back in 2012, the inclusion of the white boxer briefs underneath was a bit of a disaster. Jacobs certainly succeeded in grabbing everyone’s attention, but it looked like he had forgotten to change his underwear before dressing up for the big night. We have to respect the boldness, at least.
17. Jared Leto in Gucci (2019)
In 2019, Jared Leto took the Met Gala theme of “Camp: Notes on Fashion” to a wild extreme when he showed up in a bejeweled red Gucci gown while carrying a fake replica of his own severed head. As W magazine noted, this was a nod to Gucci’s fall 2018 collection, where runway models carried recreations of their heads (and made plenty of heads turn in the audience). However, it was still a bit unnerving to see double Leto on the Met steps.