Memorable Met Gala looks through the years, from Hillary Clinton to Zendaya and Rihanna

The annual event has solidified its reputation as the pinnacle of the fashion calendar

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From a humble midnight supper in 1948 to the extravagant fashion spectacle that it is today, the Met Gala has become an annual cultural juggernaut.

Brainchild of fashion publicist Eleanor Lambert, the event was created to raise funds for The Costume Institute at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. It was an intimate affair gathering the city's social elite and a few fashion figures.

It evolved through time, more so when fashion editor Diana Vreeland took the reins in the 1970s, introducing themed exhibitions and shining a spotlight on celebrity guests. In 1995 Vogue US editor-in-chief Anna Wintour became involved, ushering in Met Gala's modern era.

Coveted invitations were handed out to the who's who of the entertainment and fashion worlds, who strutted the venue in boundary-pushing interpretations of the chosen theme, solidifying its reputation as the pinnacle of the fashion calendar.

The glittering event returns on Monday with a star-studded guest list who will dress to the theme The Garden of Time, tied to the museum's current exhibition called Sleeping Beauties: Reawakening Fashion.

Far from being about the Disney fairy tale, it is a more oblique discussion of the fragility of clothes, nature and, ultimately, life itself. Drawing from the institute's huge archive, curator Andrew Boltan has unearthed pieces that stretch back decades, some even centuries, to map the passage of time.

Pieces on show will include an Elizabethan bodice from the early 1600s – almost too fragile to be handled – and an evening cape by Charles Frederick Worth from 1889, which has tulips woven into the fabric.

This gives a glimpse into what the guests are going to show up in at the event, with the most obvious route being costumes fit for a garden party, decked in florals and trailing foliage. But the obvious is not always the go-to for celebrities, many of whom opt for outrageous interpretations of the theme.

Kim Kardashian wears Marilyn Monroe's $5 million dress at Met Gala

Kim Kardashian wears Marilyn Monroe's $5 million dress at Met Gala

There have been many Met Gala moments that caused media frenzy. From Cher's daring sheer gown in 1974 sending shock waves through a conservative fashion scene at the time, to the late Princess Diana showing up in 1996 wearing a Dior navy silk slip dress with black lace details. There was also the rare public appearance of former US first lady Jackie Kennedy in 1979.

More recently, singers such as Rihanna and Lady Gaga have turned heads with their dramatic looks and theatrical entrances – from the former's yellow Guo Pei gown in 2015 to the latter's stripping through four different outfits in one of 2019's most popular fashion moments.

While western fashion houses dominate the red carpet, Arab designers have also come up with a few entries, from Zuhair Murad's shimmering silver creation worn by Jennifer Lopez in 2010 to Dubai label Amwaj accessorising Zoe Kravitz in 2019.

Updated: May 03, 2024, 5:22 AM