The Most Questionable Past Met Gala Looks

The Met Gala has given us some truly stunning fashion moments throughout the years. While the event (which is also known as "fashion's biggest night of the year") is typically an annual occurrence, there have been a couple of exceptions to the rule, the most recent being its cancellation in 2020 due to the pandemic. With each year offering a different theme, such as camp or punk, most of the guests at the star-studded event typically dress according to the year's conception. But, of course, with such a wide array of fashion, naturally, not every look will be well-received, and some outfits have even faced serious backlash.

While some ensembles, like Karlie Kloss's 2019 look, received criticism simply for appearing to be off theme, others, like Sarah Jessica Parker's 2015 outfit, were considered controversial due to problematic associations with Asian stereotypes. Similarly, other getups, like Rihanna's pope-inspired outfit or Kim Kardashian's head-to-toe black ensemble, received backlash due to some critics seeing connections to cultural appropriation. Of course, with no shortage of unique pieces rocking the red carpet throughout the years, these Met Gala looks will definitely be remembered for their questionable nature.

Sarah Jessica Parker received backlash for her look in 2015

As noted by Complex, the theme for 2015's Met Gala, "China: Through the Looking Glass," was a significant improvement over its original conception, "Chinese Whispers: Tales of the East, in Art, Film, and Fashion." Still, even with the alteration, its name was considered questionable, and the outlet stated that many fashion-focused Asian Americans were uneasy about how the night would play out. Of course, when it came to speculations of cultural appropriation, Sarah Jessica Parker's Philip Treacy headdress drew plenty of criticism. The article's writer, Jian DeLeon, even referred to the look as "Dragon Lady-esque intimidation," adding "the heavy eyeshadow, long black dress, and ribbon detail channeled the stereotypical image of a '60s-era seductive Oriental villainess."

Similarly, Mashable writer David Yi stated, "While some found Sarah Jessica Parker's Phillip Treacy headpiece to be the night's dramatic pièce de résistance, in my eyes, I saw blatant racism: the spot-on Asian Dragon Lady stereotype." He went on to say that the cliché portrayal was a negative image for Asian women that fed into offensive stereotyping. Of course, these two sources were far from the only ones disappointed by Parker's headdress. Offering up their take on the star's appearance, GenerAsians stated that Parker's "outfit was outlandish and ignorant, with a ridiculous headdress that did nothing for appreciating Chinese culture and design." The article went on to express disappointment in the media's lack of attention on the Chinese designers and celebrities in attendance. 

Rihanna's pope-inspired gown and headdress made waves

With her stunning style, Rihanna has earned a reputation for nailing each year's Met Gala theme. Of course, while some focused fashion outlets like Elle praised the Fenty Beauty creator's look for 2019's "Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination," some critics didn't think the singer's look was a truly impressive showstopper. As noted by the Evening Standard, Rihanna's pope-inspired John Galliano dress and papal-influenced headdress left some fans furious over the look's interpretation of the theme. "Rihanna I love you but showing up with a pope head piece is so offensive to me," one tweet stated. "Rihanna being culturally insensitive," declared another.

One writer for Insider suggested the Gala's theme (as well as Rihanna's outfit) revealed a "double standard" for what is typically deemed cultural appropriation, but also noted that Catholic officials actually approved of the theme, to the point that Cardinal Dolan, the Archbishop of New York, was in attendance. The writer ultimately stated that Rihanna's look did not deserve criticism, but plenty of Twitter users still found Rihanna's look offensive, and expressed their disapproval unapologetically.

Karlie Kloss was accused of ignoring the Met Gala theme in 2019

With plenty of stars using the 2019 Met Gala theme, "Camp: Notes on Fashion," as an excuse to go all out, Cosmopolitan stated that many fans were highly disappointed by Karlie Kloss's outfit, expressing that the model's look didn't exactly scream "over the top." Rocking a metallic gold mini with puffy black sleeves, Kloss completed her Met Gala ensemble with gold heels and hair pulled back into a bun. As a relatively simple choice for such an extreme theme, the responses to the star's look were pretty negative. Comments ranged from unflattering comparisons, such as one Twitter user stating that she looked like a Twix candy bar, to others declaring that Kloss's outfit was just "beyond boring."

Similarly, InStyle reaffirmed that Twitter users were not happy with the star's choice, noting that when compared to other showstoppers of the night, like Lady Gaga's stunning multi-look or Elle Fanning's eye-catching accessories, it just wasn't on the same level. One Twitter user stated, "karlie kloss is the host of project runway and is literally paid to send people home for bad fashion looks and yet has the audacity to show up like this." InStyle reported that Kloss's look almost didn't happen thanks to a wardrobe malfunction, adding that critics likely would have preferred if she'd gone for a different outfit instead of having her underwhelming black and gold ensemble mended at the last minute.

Kim Kardashian's 2019 Met look required too many extreme measures

While the Met Gala's theme, "Camp: Notes on Fashion," brought out some wonderfully over-the-top styles, some truly stood in the spotlight more than others. While W Magazine stated that Kim Kardashian's look may or may not have met the definition of camp, the outfit was still a memorable statement for one partially eye-catching aspect: its shockingly cinched waist. While there were even rumors that the star had ribs removed to fit into the dress, Kardashian shot down that speculation while chatting with WSJ Magazine. "I don't even know if that's possible," she stated. However, she did reveal that the actual process wasn't exactly a walk in the park.

Going on to explain how she seemingly achieved the impossible, the reality star explained that she'd worn a Mr. Pearl corset. "I have never felt pain like that in my life," she declared before adding that she had images of "the aftermath when I took it off — the indentations on my back and my stomach." Similarly, in an Instagram post detailing how she'd reached the end result, Kardashian stated that the entire affair had taken seven months and involved fittings and breathing lessons from the corset maker. Harper's Bazaar noted that the intense process for Kardashian's look had drawn criticism from those who felt the highly unrealistic silhouette promoted unachievable beauty standards.

Some took offense to the words on Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's gown

For her first Met Gala, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez truly made a statement wearing a gown embellished with the words "Tax the Rich." According to The New York Times, the reactions to her message were pretty strong, with some stating that the words on AOC's gown, combined with her attendance at the lavish event, made her a hypocrite. However, the outlet noted that while tickets to attend the star-studded event are pretty pricey ($35,000 per ticket or $200,000 to $300,000 for a table), New York City elected officials are invited free of charge. Of course, despite the explanation for her appearance, there was still backlash, which included harsh comments from conservatives like Donald Trump Jr. and Rep. Jim Banks.

Still, plenty stood by AOC's message, such as former New York City mayoral candidate Maya Wiley. "To walk into a space that's about art, fashion, luxury and wealth and say, 'Here is the conversation we have to confront, but I'm going to confront it in the vernacular of the event,' is brilliant," she stated. Additionally, despite the criticism, InStyle reported that AOC appeared to stand by her attendance and her message with an Instagram story explaining her choices. Revealing that she'd expected some negative response considering the nature of her work and her experience in politics, AOC also reaffirmed that many New York officials attend the Met Gala and that there were others there with her that evening as well.

Critics compared Kim K's Givenchy dress to a vintage couch

As noted by the Skims founder herself in a video for Vogue, Kim Kardashian initially made her Met Gala debut back in 2013 as Kanye West's plus one. With that year's theme being "Punk: Chaos to Couture," the reality star chose to rock a floral Givenchy dress with matching gloves and heels. While Kardashian said she was initially nervous about wearing the ensemble, she stated that she ultimately gave in because Riccardo Tisci (Givenchy's creative director) encouraged her to wear the floral dress. While Kardashian added that on the ride to the event, her then-husband told her she looked "so beautiful," the night ultimately ended on a sour note after numerous unflattering comparisons regarding the star's look began to circulate on social media.

"There was all these memes about me and this couch and I think like, Robin Williams even tweeted it and said I look like Ms. Doubtfire," she stated. Kardashian went on to reveal that the comparison of her dress to a vintage couch left her in tears. However, looking back on the past event with fresh eyes, the "Keeping Up" star declared that she now loves her highly mocked look. Kardashian also added that she got the stamp of approval from some seriously fashion-focused stars during the event. "I just remember the Olsen twins came up to me and loved my outfit and my gloves, so none of the critics mattered because the Olsen twins approved."

Kendall Jenner's sheer dress raised plenty of eyebrows

As noted by Vogue, Kendall Jenner's sheer dress for the 2017 Met Gala was definitely one unforgettable look. While the article praised the star's glitter-flecked La Perla ensemble, they additionally remarked that the dress' material and open back made quite a bold statement. While the reality star told Allure that she enjoyed her outfit and was a fan of wearing "something that's a little controversial," Teen Vogue declared that not all of Jenner's feedback was positive, and some of the remarks were downright offensive. "She's half naked. There is no need for the nudity. She is a beautiful young lady who looks just as pretty fully clothed," one user remarked. "Wow! Too slutty for public. Come on! Don't stoop that low," stated another.

Furthermore, according to Teen Vogue, in addition to the slut-shaming comments, some Twitter users were claiming that the star was trying to copy Rose McGowan's iconic outfit at the MTV VMAs in 1998. "Dear Kendall Jenner, Rose McGowan called. She wants her MTV Music Awards dress steamed by close of business Thursday," one person wrote. Another remarked that while it was a good effort, it didn't compare to the "Charmed" actor's infamous look. But, of course, despite having some similarities, the article stated that there were plenty of noticeable differences between the two, and either way, both stars looked stunning in the style.

Sarah Jessica Parker's defended her technology-themed Met Gala look

As noted by Us Weekly, in 2016, Sarah Jessica Parker defended her look for the Met Gala's "Manus X Machina: Fashion in the age of technology" theme. An Instagram post from fashion blogger Ivy Marshall accused Parker, Diane von Furstenberg, and Madonna of not getting the memo for the event's theme. However, Parker didn't appreciate anyone questioning her fashion sense, and quickly clapped back at the criticism stating, "I'm a stickler for the theme and pay close attention to what it means." She added, "Perhaps you weren't aware of the technology used in the details and embellishments of the design."

Similarly, an article by Vanity Fair noted that Parker's look had been receiving comparison to the Broadway show "Hamilton." (Most notably, a since-deleted poll from Perez Hilton asked who wore it better, Parker or Lin-Manuel Miranda's Alexander Hamilton.) While the resemblance initially seemed to be nothing more than a joke, a New York Times piece written by Parker herself revealed that "Hamilton" was indeed an inspiration for her ensemble. According to Parker, after deciding that she didn't want to use physical technology as part of her look, she and her design team decided to focus on something more unique. Parker stated that she was inspired by the costumes in "Hamilton" after seeing the show with her daughters, and incorporated the technology theme through embellishments done by artists "who take the idea of old-fashioned couture embroidery and, with technology, apply it to fabrications using paint." 

Cara Delevingne's custom Dior look ripped off a smaller creator

As stated by them, Cara Delevingne's custom Dior look for the 2019 Met Gala had a powerful message that truly made a bold statement. "It's about women empowerment, gender equality — it's a bit like, 'Stick it to the man,'" the model said during the event. Still, the intent of the words on Delevingne's bulletproof vest later got lost when it was revealed that the slogan's creator, Luna Matatas, wasn't credited for the phrase at all. According to the article, Matatas, a Black queer sex educator, consistently used the phrase in her work and on her merchandise since 2015, and later trademarked the term in Canada in 2018.

With no recognition, it came as no surprise that Matatas told Jezebel that she was upset by the situation. "It would have been so easy to give credit," the sex educator said, adding, "It's such an extension of the tools of patriarchy to have competition, to have very callous ways of being in the same spaces together. We're both feminists, let's lift each other up." Similarly, while chatting with Insider, Matatas revealed that she'd reached out to both Delevingne and Lora DiCarlo (the sex toy company co-owned by Delevingne) but never heard back, and doesn't expect a response. Matatas also noted that there wasn't really anything she could do, as she couldn't afford to take legal action.

Kim K's head-to-toe black ensemble wasn't received well

As reported by Elle, Kim Kardashian's head-to-toe black outfit at the 2021 Met Gala had plenty of people talking about her getup. However, the response to her Balenciaga look wasn't entirely positive. Noting that Twitter users had compared the reality star to a dementor from "Harry Potter," other critics claimed that her experimental ensemble had nothing to do with that year's theme, "In America: A Lexicon of Fashion." However, Kardashian appeared to disagree with the idea that her look wasn't reflective of the concept, stating in an Instagram post, "'What's more American than a T-shirt head to toe?!'"

Still, despite standing up for her ensemble, HuffPost revealed that the Skims founder initially wasn't a fan of the look. "I fought against it. I was like, I don't know how I could wear the mask," Kardashian stated. Nevertheless, while Kardashian ultimately chose to wear the getup, writer Hafsa Lodi pointed out another problematic aspect of the ensemble. In her write-up for the Independent, Lodi stated that she found the reality star's head-to-toe outfit "bizarre and distasteful," considering its similarities to a burka, and noted that it was ironic that Kardashian's look was being praised. Lodi wrote, "The burka, after all, has become a symbol of extremism, and when Muslim women choose to wear skin-covering abayas and burkas, they're considered stifling and oppressive — the furthest thing from high fashion and glamorous."

Some critics weren't fans of Jaden Smith's unusual accessory

As reported by Marie Claire, Jaden Smith's Louis Vuitton outfit for the 2017 Met Gala included a surprising accessory: a bundle of his chopped-off blonde dreadlocks. While the outlet additionally noted that Smith's father, Will Smith, had previously cut his son's hair in an Instagram Story, the bundle's reappearance at the fashionable event had unexpectedly reacquainted them with their former owner. While other outlets such as noted distaste for the look, calling it "the strangest and grossest" accessory, Harper's Bazaar revealed that there was a special meaning behind the hair that had stirred up numerous memes.

During a red carpet interview with André Leon Talley for Vogue, Smith revealed the story behind his unique accessory. Smith told the late fashion extraordinaire that he was "going for more of a Dracula look today, you know, kind of Matrix vibe." Talley then praised Smith's gold accessories and diamond embellished grill before the "Karate Kid" star pulled his locks out of his pocket and told the fashion journalist, "since I couldn't bring my sister as a date, I brought my old hair." For his part, Talley looked thrilled by Smith's choice and clapped in approval. "This is avant garde!" Talley exclaimed before examining the bundle. Then, telling Smith that he hadn't realized what the hair was before the rapper had pulled it out, Talley said, "That's so cool to carry it in your pocket."

Kylie Jenner claimed her Met dress made her bleed

As reported by Teen Vogue, 2016 was the year that Kylie Jenner made her Met Gala debut wearing a truly breathtaking custom Balmain dress with eye-catching embellishments. While there wasn't really anyone questioning her fashion choice for the event, the Kylie Cosmetics creator later made a surprising reveal about her dress that raised more than a few eyebrows. On Snapchat, Jenner showed off an image of her legs covered in red scratches. "When ur dress made you bleed and ur feet are purple," the reality star captioned the photo.

However, in referencing the struggles that many fashionistas make in order to look stunning, Jenner also posted a follow-up on social media, which affirmed that she stood by her decision to wear the gown. In a second Snapchat showing off an image of her face, the reality star captioned the photo, "It was worth it though." However, some outlets like The Quint World appeared to disagree, citing the infamous "Kylie-Jenner-lip-challenge" as proof that potentially injuring yourself for beauty isn't worth it. However, other sites like Glamour and Refinery29 appeared to understand the "Keeping Up" star's reasoning, noting how good she looked for her Met Gala debut. 

Some said Madonna's 2016 Met look was too revealing

As noted by Vanity Fair, the 2016 Met Gala brought out plenty of unforgettable looks, some of which received some not-so-stellar reviews from critics. One star who received criticism for her outfit was none other than Madonna, who rocked a bondage-inspired Givenchy outfit that included lace, jewelry, and thigh-high leather boots. While on the red carpet, the iconic singer stated that she'd picked her eye-catching clothes "cause it's light." However, not everyone believed that the look suited the singer. Page Six claimed that the star had appeared in a "peculiar posterior-baring bondage outfit" and "hijacked" the red carpet in an attempt to get attention.

After the criticism, Madonna took to Instagram to explain the meaning behind her look. "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," the "Material Girl" singer declared. She then expressed her disappointment in the end result, also saying that it only served to prove her point and was "proof that we still live in an age-ist and sexist society." Madonna then affirmed that she wasn't going to change her style and limit herself simply because of her age, stating that taking chances is how one paves the way for transformation. The "Evita" star finished by saying that she had no regrets about her decision, and encouraged others to fight against prejudice as well.

People were disturbed by Jared Leto's unusual accessory

As reported by Insider, Jared Leto is definitely known to be an adventurous dresser, and his ensemble for 2019's Met Gala didn't disappoint. While Leto himself rocked Alessandro Michele for Gucci, he truly took the Gala's "Camp: Notes on Fashion" theme to heart with a lifelike replica of his own head. The outlet added that when paired with Leto's scarlet gown, the look appeared to channel "Game of Thrones." Gucci's Autumn/Winter runway show in 2018 had a similar aesthetic, with models carrying replicas of their heads. However, despite appearing to do the most with his look, it would seem that not everyone appreciated Leto's effort.

Noted by the Daily Mail as "the most absurd look" at the fashion event, the outlet declared that the Oscar-winning actor's ensemble included the strangest accessory of the night, adding that the prosthetic's hairstyle and beard were an exact match for Leto's. Similarly, HuffPost and USA Today both referred to the severed head as "creepy." 

While speaking to Vogue on the red carpet, the "Dallas Buyers Club" actor stated, "It's Gucci, it's head by Gucci, it's a little bizarre. It's all Alessandro, it's all the team at Gucci." When asked how he interpreted that year's theme, Leto replied, "Camp is celebrating things that maybe are discarded. It's not taking life or fashion too serious, and I'm happy to be a part of it" (via HuffPost).