The Most Controversial Met Gala Looks of All Time, from Kim Kardashian and Rihanna to Princess Diana

Often referred to as the biggest night in fashion, the Met Gala’s guests are in a prime position to make a statement with their looks.

Purposefully or not, celebrities have a history of ruffling feathers at the annual fundraising event (looking at you, Kim Kardashian).

Controversy often stems from the gala’s theme, which not only informs the evening’s dress code but corresponds with an exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute.

Whether using the red carpet to take a political stance or simply ignoring the theme altogether, there are no shortage of controversial moments in Met Gala history.

Here are some of the buzziest, most talked about looks over the years.

Kim Kardashian’s Marilyn Monroe Dress in 2022

Kim Kardashian attends The 2022 Met Gala Celebrating "In America: An Anthology of Fashion" at The Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 02, 2022
Kim Kardashian at the 2022 Met Gala.

Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic

Always one to stir things up on the Met Gala carpet, Kim Kardashian broke the internet yet again in 2022 by arriving in a gown originally that belonged to Marilyn Monroe. The iconic movie star famously wore the glittering ivory dress when she sang “Happy Birthday” to President John F. Kennedy in 1962.

Kardashian borrowed the gown from Ripley’s Believe It or Not!, which purchased the dress from Julien’s Auction in November 2016 for a whopping $4.81 million.

The reality star revealed that she had to lose 16 pounds to fit into the dress, as she wasn’t permitted to alter it.

“I tried it on and it didn’t fit me. I said, ‘Give me three weeks.’ I had to lose 16 pounds down today,” Kardashian told Vogue correspondent La La Anthony on the red carpet.

“It was such a challenge. It was like a [movie] role. I was determined to fit [into] it. I haven’t had carbs or sugar in about three weeks. We’re having pizza and donut party back at the hotel [after the Met Gala],” she added.

Critics called out Kardashian not only for her extreme weight loss measures but for her choice to wear such a historic dress.

Cara Delevingne’s “Peg the Patriarchy” Breast Plate in 2021

Cara Delevingne attends The 2021 Met Gala Celebrating In America: A Lexicon Of Fashion at Metropolitan Museum of Art on September 13, 2021
Cara Delevingne at the 2021 Met Gala.

Theo Wargo/Getty

At the 2021 Met Gala, the model made a statement in Dior Haute Couture white trousers and a matching breastplate reading, “Peg the patriarchy.” The bold phrase caused an uproar among fans; while some praised Delevingne for her bravado, others criticized her for being crass.

The ensemble also caught the attention of Canada-based sex educator Luna Matatas, who said she coined and trademarked the term “peg the patriarchy” in 2015.

“This happens to small artists all the time,” Matatas said via Instagram at the time, per Refinery29. “So much so that I have an assistant whose job includes finding and tracing people printing and selling Peg the Patriarchy. Remember that as a fat, queer, POC I am working twice as hard just to do what I’m already amazing at. From censorship to patriarchy to racism, all biz barriers specific to my social location.”

Rihanna’s Papal Headpiece in 2018

Rihanna at Met Ball
Rihanna at the 2018 Met Gala.

Getty Images

For the 2018 theme of “Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination,” Rihanna wore a papal mitre (a ceremonial head-dress of bishops) and an opulent strapless mini dress with a matching collared robe by Maison Margiela Artisanal.

While the singer’s look adhered to the theme, some critics suggested it was disrespectful to the Catholic religion.

“My religion is not your costume,” one user shared on social media, per The Independent.

“Among the worst things I’ve ever seen in my life,” said another. “Heresy at its finest.”

Kim Kardashian’s Face-Covering Balenciaga Look in 2021

Kim Kardashian Met Gala
Kim Kardashian at the 2021 Met Gala.

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Kardashian subverted expectations at the 2021 Met Gala by arriving in a face-covering body stocking by Balenciaga.

The custom ensemble featured a long-sleeve turtleneck bodysuit worn under an oversized T-shirt dress with a long pleated train. She completed the look with jersey boots, jersey gloves and a mask that covered her face and head.

While some turned their noses up at the unexpected look, it highlighted Kardashian’s undeniable influence.

“This look on Kim is like a new subculture and fashion statement,” a source told PEOPLE at the time. “No logo, no face, but everyone knows it’s her.”

Princess Diana in a Dior Slip Dress in 1996

Diana, Princess of Wales at Costume Institute Gala at Metropolitan Museum of Art
Princess Diana at the 1996 Met Gala.

Richard Corkery/NY Daily News via Getty

Princess Diana was revered for going against the grain, and her style was no exception.

At the 1996 Met Gala, she appeared in a navy silk slip dress with black lace detailing from John Galliano’s debut couture collection as the Creative Director of Dior.

She accessorized with a matching silk robe-like topper and her signature pearl-and-sapphire choker necklace.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s “Tax the Rich” Dress in 2021

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez attends The 2021 Met Gala Celebrating In America: A Lexicon Of Fashion at Metropolitan Museum of Art on September 13, 2021
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez at the 2021 Met Gala.

Kevin Mazur/MG21/Getty

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Met Gala debut was nothing short of bold.

At the 2021 event, the Democratic congresswoman wore a white Brother Vellies gown with the political slogan “Tax the Rich” splashed across the back in red lettering. She accessorized with a pair of red shoes and a bag also bearing the phrase.

“It’s really about having a real conversation,” Ocasio-Cortez told reporters about the inspiration behind the statement. “It’s about fairness and equity in our system, and I think that this conversation is particularly relevant.”

Billie Eilish Debuting a New Look in 2021

Billie Eilish's 2021 Met Gala Beauty Look Was Inspired By Her Favorite Childhood Barbie
Billie Eilish at the 2021 Met Gala.

Billie Eilish’s first Met Gala was certainly a memorable one. At 19, the singer-songwriter had become known for her baggy, oversized style, so it was a massive surprise to fans when she showed up in a peach-colored tulle ball gown by Oscar de la Renta.

She embraced Old Hollywood glamour with a blonde bob and soft smokey makeup look.

“It just was time,” Eilish told Keke Palmer on the red carpet about her fashion change-up. “It was time for this, and I feel like I’ve grown so much in the last few years.”

She continued, “I’ve always wanted to do this. I was just scared and didn’t feel comfortable in my skin and I feel like I finally did.”

Karlie Kloss Missing the Camp Theme in 2019

Karlie Kloss departs The Mark Hotel for the 2019
Karlie Kloss at the 2019 Met Gala.

Andrew Toth/Getty

Karlie Kloss may never live down her 2019 Met Gala look. The model caught flak for seemingly ignoring the theme of “Camp: Notes on Fashion” and instead opting for a gold minidress with puffy black sleeves.

In November 2023, Kloss admitted that she “deserved” the criticism.

“Oh boy,” Kloss said in an installment of Vogue’s video series Life in Looks. “Yes, this was the Met Gala that I think I broke the internet, but not in a good way. I still get trolled about this look, where I was ‘looking camp straight in the eye.’ ”

“And I still get, rightfully, trolled,” she said with a laugh. “I’ll accept it. Honestly I deserved that one.”

Katy Perry’s Chandelier Dress in 2019

Katy Perry attends The 2019 Met Gala Celebrating Camp: Notes On Fashion at The Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 6, 2019
Katy Perry at the 2019 Met Gala.

Rabbani and Solimene Photography/WireImage

In 2019, Katy Perry approached the “Camp” theme head-on by arriving dressed as a giant chandelier with working light bulbs.

The ensemble, designed by Jeremy Scott for Moschino, consisted of a  silver Swarovski crystal-covered mini dress with matching collar and clear Swarovski crystals dripping down the bodice. She balanced a chandelier corset around her waist and wore a matching smaller chandelier as a headpiece.

Kim Kardashian’s “Wet” Mugler Dress in 2019

Kim Kardashian West at the 2019 Met Gala Red Carpet
Kim Kardashian West wears a custom Mr. Pearl corset to the 2019 Met Gala.

Neilson Barnard /Getty Images

Kardashian shut down the red carpet in 2019 with her wet-looking Mugler dress with a corset bodice and beads mimicking dripping water.

The star said that the designer (who came out of retirement to create the piece) envisioned her as a “California girl stepping out of the ocean.”

“This is about eight months in the making,” Kardashian told Vogue on the red carpet. “He envisioned me as this California girl stepping out of the ocean, wet, dripping.”

Once again, Kardashian’s look came with intense physical demands, as the dress’ corset was so restrictive.

“Once we’re all at the top of the carpet we can all take a deep breath,” she told Vogue. “I don’t know if I can in this corset. I honestly had to do practice. It’s a proper corset by Mr. Pearl. I never had one like this. It is insane.”

She added, “I have doughnuts waiting for me tomorrow morning: hot, fresh doughnuts. They are special ones from here vanilla with rainbow sprinkles.”

Kendall Jenne’s Sheer La Perla Gown and Thong in 2017

Kendall Jenner attends the "Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garcons: Art Of The In-Between" Costume Institute Gala at Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 1, 2017
Kendall Jenner at the 2017 Met Gala.

J. Kempin/Getty

Kendall Jenner turned heads at the 2017 Met Gala in a sheer mesh dress by La Perla Haute Couture. The model made the look even more risqué by wearing a black thong intentionally visible underneath.

According to the brand, the custom gown featured 85,000 hand-painted crystals and took more than 160 hours to make, spanning 5 cities and 26 artisans.

Taylor Swift’s Dramatic Beauty Transformation in 2016

Taylor Swift wears a tousled platinum bob to the 2016 Met Gala
Taylor Swift at the 2016 Met Gala.

Getty Images

Taylor Swift’s 2016 Met Gala look was a departure from her usual sweet style.

The singer made a splash in a metallic Louis Vuitton minidress with cutout boots, but the most shocking aspect was her dramatic glam featuring a new bleach blonde bob and black lipstick.

Sarah Jessica Parker Accused of Cultural Appropriation in 2015

Met Gala 2015: Sarah Jessica Parker wears fiery headpiece
Sarah Jessica Parker at the 2015 Met Gala.

Several 2015 Met Gala attendees were accused of interpreting the theme of “China: Through the Looking Glass” in inappropriate ways, but Sarah Jessica Parker received the bulk of criticism.

The Sex and the City star wore an H&M dress of her own design with a Philip Treacy headpiece that some said perpetuated an offensive stereotype.

“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,” said Mashable writer David Yi, per The Washington Post.

He continued, “Parker probably didn’t realize, then, that she was setting Asian women back 75 years to the 1930s to the first derogatory ‘dragon lady’ portrayal. The original term was used to describe strong Asian women but was a pejorative that made them into villains.”

Rihanna’s Enormous Fur-Lined Gown in 2015

Rihanna wears a golden yellow embroidered Guo Pei gown with train to the 2015 Met Gala
Rihanna at the 2015 Met Gala.

Getty Images

Rihanna’s fur-lined yellow gown at the 2015 Met Gala caused quite the stir. The 55- lb. creation (designed by Chinese couturier Guo Pei) seemed to take up the entire staircase as the star made her entrance, and subsequently provided endless fodder for memes.

Years later, the Fenty founder admitted that she was nervous about the crowd’s reaction and that she had her driver circle the Metropolitan Museum of Art three times before she arrived.

Rihanna’s look also drew criticism from fur activists, as the yellow garment was made with fox fur. Per Dazed, at the September 2015 launch of her perfume RiRi, anti-fur protesters stormed the event and chanted “shame on Rihanna.”

Gwyneth Paltrow’s Anti-Punk Look in 2013

Gwyneth Paltrow attends the Costume Institute Gala for the "PUNK: Chaos to Couture" exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 6, 2013
Gwyneth Paltrow at the 2013 Met Gala.

Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty

Gwyneth Paltrow went against the 2013 Met Gala theme of “PUNK: Chaos to Couture” by wearing a long-sleeved bright pink gown by Valentino.

Kim Kardashian in a Givenchy Floral Dress 2013

Kim Kardashian
Kim Kardashian at the 2013 Met Gala.

Larry Busacca/Getty

Kardashian’s Met Gala debut didn’t go exactly as she hoped. The mogul attended the 2013 Gala as her then-husband Kanye West’s plus one and at the time, she was pregnant with their daughter, North.

She opted for a long-sleeved, high-necked floral gown by Givenchy — and the look was instantly turned into memes online due to comparisons to couch material.

“I think Robin Williams even tweeted it, said I looked like Mrs. Doubtfire,” Kardashian shared in her 2019 Vogue Life in Looks video. “I was crying the whole way home because I just couldn’t believe it.”

Liv Tyler and Stella McCartney in “Rock Royalty” T-shirts in 1999

Liv Tyler and Stella McCartney at the 1999 'Rock Style' Gala at the Met

Liv Tyler and Stella McCartney at the 1999 Met Gala.

Mitchell Gerber/Corbis/VCG via Getty

Liv Tyler and Stella McCartney decided against traditional evening wear for the 1999 Met Gala theme of “Rock Style.”

The daughters of Steven Tyler and Paul McCartney, respectively, appeared in studded off-the-shoulder tank tops reading “Rock Royalty.”

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