The 53 best Met Gala looks of all time

From a gloriously 1980s Cher in Bob Mackie to Rihanna in, well, everything ...

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The first Met Gala was held in 1948 as a fund-raising dinner for The Costume Institute at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. The gala began as a fairly subdued affair, with no red carpet in sight — it was more about society types in cocktail dresses making small talk and (hopefully) getting out their cheque books.

But in the mid-1970s, fashion editor Diana Vreeland came on to the scene, and it evolved into the celebrity-filled fashion smorgasbord we know today. Annual themes were introduced in 1973, and that's when we started to see actual costume play.

Vogue US editor-in-chief Anna Wintour, now synonymous with the event, became involved in 1995. Even then, the museum's stairs were grey and bare until the mid-2000s. That's when the production of the event really ramped up a notch, with the entire staircase turned into an extravagant flower-filled red carpet year-on-year.

And this year will be no different. The event returns on Monday, when fashion's most famous faces will walk the red carpet in flamboyant creations, designed especially for the event.

This year's theme is inspired by the exhibit, Karl Lagerfeld: A Line of Beauty, which looks at the late designer's "stylistic vocabulary as expressed in aesthetic themes that appear time and again in his fashions from the 1950s to his final collection in 2019". The show has been created by the Met's star curator, Andrew Bolton.

This year's five hosts are drawn from television (Emmy-winning writer, actor and producer Michaela Coel); the movies (Oscar-winning actor Penelope Cruz, who has worked with Chanel for more than 20 years); sports (recently retired tennis superstar Roger Federer); and music (Grammy-winning songstress Dua Lipa). Finally, there is Vogue's Anna Wintour running the whole thing as usual.

In anticipation of the return of fashion's big night out, we've looked back into the archives to revisit some of the greatest red carpet gowns worn to galas past.

Scroll through the gallery above to see some of the best Met Gala dresses from years gone by, from the likes of Lady Gaga, Rihanna and more.