For context, Vogue editor Anna Wintour has overseen every detail of the Met Gala — from the attendees to the seating charts — since 1995. She's also cochaired the event since 1999 alongside a revolving group of celebrity cochairs. Each year, a theme is chosen to coordinate with a new curated exhibit at the Met. This year, the exhibition is "Karl Lagerfeld: A Line of Beauty."
While celebrating a designer who contributed to iconic fashion houses like Chanel and Fendi before his death in 2019 may seem innocuous, the controversy around this theme stems from the many problematic statements he made during his lifetime, including using "cruel" anti-fat language, defending colleagues who were accused of sexual assault, and putting a model in both blackface and yellowface.
On Instagram, she wrote, "This man... was indeed, supremely talented, but used his platform is [sic] such a distinctly hateful way, mostly towards women, so repeatedly and up until the last years of his life, showing no remorse, offering no atonement, no apology, no help to groups he attacked...there was no explanation for his cruel outbursts."
Indeed, there are so many other incredible designers or unique concepts the Met could've pulled from. So, I decided to come up with a few potential themes. Without further ado, here are 18 Met Gala themes that would be better than celebrating Karl Lagerfeld:
For starters, there are plenty of fashion icons we've recently lost whose legacies deserve to be honored.
After getting his start in fashion by designing streetwear in Chicago, Abloh became both the founder of Off-White and the artistic director of menswear for Louis Vuitton. His LV position made him the first Black person to be named artistic director at a French luxury fashion house.
For an easy way to stay on theme, attendees would wear his designs. For example, Kylie Jenner wore an Off-White bridal gown to the 2022 Met Gala to honor the designer after he died the previous year.
However, they could also choose to go with looks inspired by his legacy, such as working with one of the Chicago-based streetwear designers who are launching their careers in the same way Abloh did. They could also mix Off-White-inspired streetwear with Louis Vuitton–inspired couture pieces.
2. "Eunice W. Johnson: A Beautiful Legacy"
Johnson was an entrepreneur who created the Ebony Fashion Fair, an internationally touring event that showcased fashion for Black consumers. Not only did the fair exhibit designs from major labels like Yves Saint Laurent and Valentino, but it also boosted the careers of up-and-coming Black designers.
Likewise, the aim of this Met Gala theme would be to honor Johnson's legacy by showcasing Black designers and stylists.
3. "André Leon Talley: A Pioneer"
Talley was the first Black man to hold the position of creative director at Vogue. For many years, he was also one of the most memorable parts of the Met Gala, serving as the magazine's red carpet correspondent. He used his influence in the fashion world to uplift designers of color and push for more diversity in the industry.
He also had an iconic sense of style. He was known for his caftans and capes, so there would be plenty of inspiration for attendees to pull from.
There are also designers who are actively working to make the fashion world a more inclusive place.
4. "Christian Siriano: Celebrating Every Body"
After winning Project Runway back in 2007, Siriano has built a reputation as an inclusive designer. For example, when many other fashion labels refused to dress Leslie Jones for her Ghostbusters premiere in 2016, Siriano stepped up to the plate with a stunning red dress from his namesake label.
Under this theme, participating designers would be encouraged to be more inclusive than past years with the attendees they chose to invite — a change that would also need to stick in the future.
5. "Tadashi Shoji: The Figure Is the Canvas"
Shoji walked so Siriano could run. He once told Page Six Style, "Making a dress is like painting on a canvas, and the figure is the canvas. You just have to change the proportions, that’s all. Whether it’s a big canvas, a small canvas, a narrow canvas — if the proportions are correct, the painting will come out beautiful."
Similar to the Siriano theme, this Met Gala would honor the designer's ethos of inclusivity. Attendees could wear some of Shoji's designs, but I'd also love to see some interpret "the figure is the canvas" to adjust an iconic outfit from the past (such as Audrey Hepburn's black Breakfast at Tiffany's dress or Hedy Lamar's starry Ziegfeld Girl gown) to fit their body type and personal style.
Or instead of focusing on one person, Anna Wintour and the cochairs could've chosen a theme that's just fun.
6. "Barbie: She's Everything"
Thanks to the hype around the upcoming Barbie movie, this theme would be equally topical and fun. And, honestly, if the Met wants to celebrate a fashion icon, then I can't really think of anyone better.
I'd love to see celebs embrace Barbie's "I can be anything" message by showing up in bright pink version of their childhood dream jobs, from astronaut suits to princess gowns. Alternatively, they could recreate one of the doll's many iconic looks.
Of course, the coordinating exhibition on the history of Barbie's fashion would be absolutely fabulous as well.
7. "Cosmos Couture"
Before the 2023 Met Gala theme was announced, a viral TikTok theory predicted that the upcoming event would be space themed. To be on theme, attendees would simply need to show up in their celestial-inspired best. Honestly, such a simple, straightforward theme might be helpful for those who can never seem to show up on theme.
8. "Extravagant Experiment: Fashion on the Forefront of Technology"
For this theme, designers and attendees would take a page out of Coperni's book. During Paris Fashion Week 2022, the brand closed out its runway show by spray painting a dress onto Bella Hadid live on stage. They used Fabrican, a spray-on fabric technology created by Dr. Manel Torres.
This Met Gala would call for show-stopping, risky, never-before-seen experimentation in the name of fashion.
9. "Art Deco"
Last year's Met Gala theme — "Gilded Glamour" — took inspiration from the last few decades of the 19th century. So, continuing in chronological order, this year could take inspiration from the art deco style that was popular in the '20s and '30s.
IMO, a Roaring '20s Met Gala would be unmatched.
10. "Showstopper: The Costumes of Broadway"
The Met Gala benefits the Costume Institute and takes place in New York City, so why not celebrate one of the most iconic aspects of the city's culture?
Imagine a red carpet packed with glamorous outfits inspired by Six, Hamilton, Phantom of the Opera, and Wicked...
11. "Tomorrowland: Retrofuturism"
Retrofuturism depicts the future as it was imagined in the past. For example, think of Tomorrowland in Magic Kingdom or The Jetsons. It's a retro idea of what the future was supposed to be.
The exhibit to go with this theme would be so interesting, too. It could showcase old designs and collections that demonstrate "what designers of the past thought we'd be wearing today."
12. "The Art of Cosplay"
Cosplay — which is short for costume play — seems like a fitting theme for the Costume Institute. The 2008 Met Gala theme was "Superheroes: Fashion and Fantasy," so this wouldn't be so out of reach.
Basically, attendees' outfits would be inspired by their favorite characters from pop culture, similar to Zendaya's Cinderella look from the 2019 Met Gala.
13. "The Wonderful World of Disney"
Again, if there can be a superhero theme, then there can be a Disney theme. Attendees would take inspiration from their favorite Disney characters — but in a "modern Snow White" way, not a "Gucci Mickey Mouse T-shirt" way.
14. "ReWear: Sustainability in Style"
Under this theme, the Met Gala would be focused on sustainability. Attendees would rewear an outfit from an important moment in their lives. For example, Angelina Jolie might wear her black slit dress from the 2012 Oscars.
This wouldn't be a completely new concept to Met Gala attendees. For the 2022 event, Emma Stone rewore one of the dresses from her wedding.
15. "Fairy Tale: Fantasy and Whimsy"
Honestly, I can't believe there hasn't been a fairy tale–themed Met Gala yet. It seems simple, yet the results would be stunning. It would be all ball gowns and crowns and maybe even a horse-drawn carriage...
Imagine someone going as Odette from Swan Lake and staging a transformation from swan to princess on the red carpet, or another attendee dressing as Maleficent in dragon form.
16. "Graffiti: Anywhere Is a Canvas"
This idea was inspired by Katy Perry's 2015 Met Gala Moschino dress, which resulted in a copyright lawsuit from graffiti artist Rime. However, rather than, well, using their artwork without permission, designers would be encouraged to collaborate with graffiti artists to create memorable outfits.
17. "Pop Icons"
They've done rock ("Rock Style" in 1999) and punk ("Punk: Chaos to Couture" in 2013), but there's never been a Met Gala to celebrate the style influence of pop stars like Cher, Prince, Madonna, and Beyoncé.
Celebs pay homage to their heroes on the red carpet all the time anyway, so plenty of the attendees would already have practice staying on theme! For example, Dua Lipa took inspiration from Amy Winehouse at the 2021 BRIT Awards, and Zendaya channeled David Bowie at the 2016 Grammys.
18. And finally: "New Voices"
We're used to seeing celebs walk the red carpet in Dior, Chanel, and other major fashion labels. However, under this theme, the big names would take a back seat while up-and-coming designers who've never been featured at the Met Gala would take the reins.
Attendees could even choose to collaborate with fashion students and recent grads to help them get a head start in their careers.