It’s official: the theme for the 2023 Met Gala is “Karl Lagerfeld: A Line of Beauty.” The exhibition will examine the life—and creative legacy—of the late designer, who shaped the face of fashion for more than half a century.
The theme announcement is an important one. It dictates the dress code (celebrities, designers, and change-makers are challenged to create costumes that serve as both a fashion statement and a tribute to the concept), the decor, and most importantly, the larger purpose of the night itself. The gala is, yes, a major star-studded fundraising event, but its importance goes beyond dollars raised and social media impressions made. It’s a grand display of art as fashion and fashion as art, showing how both forms comprise and define our cultural fabric.
Each theme is chosen with the utmost consideration—what story does this tell? What history does it teach? In 2018, “Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination” showcased hundreds of holy items from the Vatican. A few years earlier, “China: Through the Looking Glass” celebrated China’s influence on Western and Eastern design, while May 2019 explored “Camp” and its exaggerated artifice.
Below, we’ve charted out each year’s Met Gala theme dating back to 1995, the first year Anna Wintour became a chair of the event.
2022: “In America: An Anthology of Fashion”
“In America: An Anthology of Fashion” was the second part of the Metropolitan Museum’s examination of American fashion. (The first, “In America: A Lexicon of Fashion,” debuted in September 2021 and served as the theme for that year’s Met Gala.) Whereas “Lexicon” was an expansive look at American fashion as a whole—especially its younger designers—Anthology acted as a historical retrospective on both the designs and the stories of their makers: “The stories really reflect the evolution of American style, but they also explore the work of individual tailors, dress-makers, and designers,” Andrew Bolton, the Wendy Yu Curator in Charge of the Costume Institute, explains. “What’s exciting for me is that some of the names will be very familiar to students of fashion like Charles James, Halston, and Oscar de la Renta, but a lot of the other names really have been forgotten, overlooked or relegated into the footnotes of fashion history.”
2021: In America: A Lexicon of Fashion
Andrew Bolton, The Costume Institute’s Wendy Yu Curator in Charge, told Vogue he centered the 2021 event around the question “who gets to be American?” which was originally posed on a red, white, and blue silk sash from Prabal Gurung’s tenth anniversary collection. “American designers are at the forefront of conversations around diversity, inclusivity, sustainability, gender fluidity, and body positivity,” he said. “The framework of the show enables us to focus on the younger designers who are engaging thoughtfully and deeply with those ideas.” The exhibition included over 100 pieces from American designers, ranging from Marc Jacobs to La Réunion.
Guests, which included co-chairs Timothée Chalamet, Billie Eilish, Amanda Gorman, and Naomi Osaka, abided by the night’s official dress code: American independence.