The best and worst of the 2024 Met Gala

Most of the fashion was yawn fuel

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Zendaya attends the 2024 Met Gala (Getty)
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On Monday night, celebrities, designers and the highest edges of New York’s upper crust attended the biggest party of the fashion calendar, the Met Gala. Given its supposed importance, you’d think the looks would always be fantastic; that it would be a night for designers to compete for the best, most creative, most glamorous couture.

The reality is a lot more disappointing. There are only ever a few truly standout looks, with most being bland at best — and when designers bother to follow the theme, it’s usually in a painfully uncreative manner. The message of…

On Monday night, celebrities, designers and the highest edges of New York’s upper crust attended the biggest party of the fashion calendar, the Met Gala. Given its supposed importance, you’d think the looks would always be fantastic; that it would be a night for designers to compete for the best, most creative, most glamorous couture.

The reality is a lot more disappointing. There are only ever a few truly standout looks, with most being bland at best — and when designers bother to follow the theme, it’s usually in a painfully uncreative manner. The message of the Met Gala should be that the fashion industry is filled with incredible creative talent. But it usually just tells you that money doesn’t buy taste; nor does being employed by Chanel.

This year was no different — and though there were pro-Palestinian protesters outside, they didn’t get much attention or cause a nuisance and the whole thing went along smoothly. Condé Nast workers had threatened to picket the event on Vogue’s biggest night of traffic, but a deal was reached with their union, letting Anna Wintour’s big party go ahead uninterrupted. Or we should say, one of her big parties. She also runs her competing “Vogue World” events, which nobody can really define, but certainly splits attention from the Met Gala among designers trying to win her favor.

The theme for this year’s Met was “The Garden of Time,” after J.G. Ballard’s 1962 short story of the same title, and is supporting a collection at the Metropolitan Museum’s Costume Institute themed around Sleeping Beauties: Reawakening Fashion. Ballard’s story is about a count and countess enjoying the final days in their palatial estate, temporarily slowing down time by plucking “time flowers” before they are swamped by an incoming angry populist mob, who destroy them and everything they had.

It’s an odd choice of theme for a party whose invitations cost $75,000 per seat or $350,000 per table, so most designers just ignored the context. They presumed most people hadn’t read the story, as they hadn’t either, so made things based around “gardens” and “time” and “sleeping beauties” more generally. Sketch petals on everything and nobody will notice the oddity of it all! Wealth inequality isn’t a problem! Keep eating the slop!  

Along with corsets, flower motifs certainly were the lazy trend of the night, with a ton of boring suits with small flowers embroidered on it and many, many, many more boring dresses with flower graphics (wow!). There were a few fun takes on this — a pre-distressed Diesel dress worn by Dove Cameron, Precious Lee’s petal­ backed black velvet dress and the 2018 Alexander McQueen corset and skirt by Tory Burch— but most were yawn fuel.

The best flower dresses were made by gender-fluid designer Harris Reed, one of the most impressive, talented young designers working, who is bound to lead a big brand before too long. He has long had a soft spot for floral details (particularly his recent, beautiful Shadow Dance collection) and he killed it here, with a beautiful look on Demi Moore, which he topped with his own outfit. It’s theatrical yet delicate — and really special.

There were also many sheer dresses — worn by Elsa Pataky, Jennifer Lopez, Zoe Saldana, Nell Diamond, Adut Akech, Phoebe Dynevor and most notably, by Emily Ratajkowski, model and campaigner against the ills of objectification. Most were pathologically uninteresting — a tiresome “oh I’m so edgy” half-measure instead of just walking the red carpet naked. If that’s what you want to do, do it!

Emily Ratajkowski (Getty)

In mogul nepo-dressers, Ivy Getty lead the way in a chic, peach embroidered dress, followed by Jamie Singer Soros in lovely Cinderella-esque blue gown, with pink flower embroidery on the midriff. Grace and Wendi Murdoch chose floral gowns from London’s Miss Sohee, which were pleasant but generic and uninspired (unless Big Rupert is in a magazine buying mood, in which case I love them, they’re amazing, I like my job, thank you).

Also, there were no transforming, multi-stage looks (remember Blake Lively’s incredible dress from 2022?) and Cardi B had the only truly epic, oversized look of the night. Many of the typical show-stopper style stars — Rihanna, Beyoncé, A$AP Rocky, Taylor Swift, Lady Gaga — were not in attendance. 

What Lauren Sánchez would wear was a hot topic of conversation among fashion circles, and the result was… fine? It was classy, unlike many of her recent outfits, but it doesn’t leave a particularly strong impression. The look that provoked the most fashion-world chatter was of Tom Ford, who slighted the company he founded but recently sold, choosing a Saint Laurent suit instead. The look that garnered the most controversy was probably that of Kim Kardashian. The dress was OK — and the tied gray cardigan was a fun, sexy addition, but all eyes were drawn to her immensely, unsettlingly tight corset.

There was also the evergreen trend of designers choosing to completely ignore the theme. One of the best looks of the night was the all-shine Swarovski look by Irina Shayk, but what does it have to do with anything? The same is true of Rachel Zegler, Naomi Campbell and Ed Sheeran, who attended in light blue looks inspired by disco style, and Gabrielle Union and Anok Yai who came for an “under the sea” theme that wasn’t happening. True to their name, the K-pop group Stray Kids looked like they’d got lost on their way to another event, wearing a set of coated suits by Tommy Hilfiger which would have worked for any formal event.

The best excuse for avoiding the theme was Rosalia who told Vogue that she wore a black Dior dress as, when you close your eyes, you see black; therefore it connects to the “Sleeping Beauties” collection. As fashion reporter Amy Odell put it in her Substack live chat of the event: “Props to her for coming up with that story about why she picked it that wasn’t ‘i was paid.’”

The good

Event co-chair Zendaya — whose work with stylist Law Roach has made her a modern style icon — had two looks at the show; both were great. Starting in an opulent green and blue custom Maison Margiela couture piece (which looked like a peacock who was transformed by a witch into a supermodel), she later changed into a dramatic black vintage Givenchy dress, which she personally bought, topped with a large rose-filled hat.

Both looks were uncoincidentally designed by John Galliano, the legendary designer who Wintour is reportedly pushing for a comeback. Will it work? On one hand, he was kicked from polite society after a drunken antisemitic rant; but on the other, antisemitic rants have never been so acceptable it seems.

Shortly after she debuted her first look, we got another wearing fairy-tale inspired outfit, in the beautifully 3D-printed clock-inspired gold look by Chris Habana, worn by Sabrina Harrison, and then another by Dee Ocleppo, wearing an elegant, hooded dress. The most notable mystical dress came courtesy of Lana Del Rey, wearing a tall, veiled-wrapped, branch-covered beige dress. It was a little too close to Halloween costume for my tastes, but she looked great in it regardless, and it’s the first thing made by Seán McGirr’s version of Alexander McQueen that I like, so that’s a win.

The two biggest brands of the night were Thom Browne (whose husband, Andrew Bolton, is the head curator of the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art) and Loewe. And though its creative director, Jonathan Anderson, can often swamp his designs in gimmicks, most of Loewe’s Met looks displayed his ability to make compelling, theme-appropriate outfits, with distinct, unique profiles. His two best were worn by Greta Lee and Taylor Russell. Lee wore one of the very few good sheer outfits of the night — a white Chantilly silk lace column dress, dotted with embroidered flowers, with a towering neckline somewhat recalling a trellis used to grow vines — whereas Russell wore a polished wooden carapace, ending in a flowing cream skirt.

There were also a few examples of classical elegance worth highlighting. Penélope Cruz wore a Chanel Haute Couture bustier evening gown, constructed out of eight floral laces, taking over 500 hours to make, and it gave her a classic Old Hollywood glamour that has been desperately missing from red carpets. From a world away was Alia Bhatt’s delicate, ornate mint-green saree, which took 163 craftspeople almost 2,000 hours to make, and was well worth the effort. Finally, there was Eiza González Rivera’s perfect pink gown from Del Core, made of layered fabrics to resemble orchid petals.

Among men, the best looks were from the effortlessly suave Colman Domingo, Succession’s Jeremy Strong in a cream Loro Piana suit and Lewis Hamilton in a stunning Burberry look, inspired by John Ystumllyn, the first black gardener in Wales. It’s a beautiful idea and one of the few looks that interestingly plays with the themes of The Garden of Time. Kieran Culkin also gets a runner-up here for wearing an exquisite KidSuper suit. Sure, it doesn’t fit the theme, but it’s lovely, and I am biased as I’ve been considering buying this exact suit for a few months now.

Colman Domingo (Getty)

The only “flower suits” that impressed were worn by Jonathan Bailey and Jon Batiste. Bailey’s beautiful Loewe tux — white double-breasted jacket, with a black satin lapel, paired with black trousers — was finished with a large, hand-painted metal peony, used in place of a bowtie; and Jon Batiste’s floral silk jacquard halter-neck waistcoat pulled his Dunhill three-piece together perfectly. It’s also worth noting Dan Levy’s Loewe flower suit, which fades from one texture to the other, inspired by the brand’s new faded trucker jacket, which will likely be the most beautiful fashion item to release this year.

The best

The best (and only truly incredible) looks were worn by Tyla, Doja Cat and Cardi B, though each were very distinct.

On first glance, Tyla’s dress by Olivier Rousteing of Balmain was a perfectly shape beige dress, but it’s only on closer inspection that you learn the entire dress was made of formed sand. It was original, innovative and actually on theme, and though it could only be worn once — by now, it’s nothing — for one brief moment, it was perfection.

Tyla (Getty)

Doja Cat’s look seems like its complete opposite, but once again you have a distinct, unique thoughtful piece, here designed by Guram Gvasalia of Vetements. It was a dress-length white T-shirt, wetted in select areas using hair gel, both paying tribute to the most important flower in the world — cotton — but also the theme of time. In motion, it looks spontaneous, as though she just stepped out of a shower (particularly given her makeup), but when posed, the carefully placed wetness made her resemble a Greek marble statue. It’s unpretentious yet striking and thoughtful and reminds me of the best of Lady Gaga.

Finally, the night finished with Cardi B, in a dramatic oversized, off-the-shoulder gown by Windowsen, whose endless layers of black tulle and huge round train made her look like she landed on a gust of smoke. It’s fabulously dramatic and creates the kind of wow impression that should be the default for an event like this.

Cardi B (Getty)

The worst

As always, there were some stinkers at the 2024 Met Gala, so here they are:

If Dua Lipa’s sheer dress was Moulin Rouge cosplay, to be bought for the boudoir, then Benedetta Piccoli was a high-fashion version of something you would see young women wearing as they sell themselves on inner-city street corners. Chloë Sevigny’s look was a bad mish-mash of Victorian influences, whereas Gustav Magnar Witzoe wore bedazzled Roman cosplay and Harrison Ghee looked like a rejected contestant on RuPaul’s Drag Race. Jordan Roth’s sleeveless petal burqa brought fierce competition in the “worst floral outfit” category, going up against the flower-smothered sheer dresses of Nelly Korda, Maleah Joi Moon and Kelsea Ballerini — and Jenny Chandler’s heinous stained-glass-esque dress.

Kelsea Ballerini (Getty)

Nina Hollein designed and made her own dress, and I hope she really liked it, because I sure did not; it’s just a droopy clash of colors and textures. Speaking of designing your own dress; I was shocked by how much I disliked the seafoam wispy number worn by Donatella Versace. Her recent runway collections have been fabulous (particularly her collaborative collection with Dua Lipa), but this looked tattered and boring. The worst styled look was by Gayle King: a horrific clash of her red hair, vaguely orange make up, green dress (made of obviously and cheap-looking thin fabric) and gold and purple-bowed heels.

The second worst looks came courtesy of Taika Waititi and Rita Ora, in Marni. Though his all-leather suit had promise, her beaded skin-tone thing — paired with her wet-look hair — looked bedraggled rather than avant garde, and because it was so heavy, she constantly looked uncomfortable wearing it.

Taika Waititi and Rita Ora (Getty)

Taking the cake, and another cake, and another cake, was Lizzo. Setting time aside from being sued for sexually harassing her staff, she walked the carpet in a brown “vase dress” from French brand Weinsanto. The original sketches show a quite striking, elegant design, but in practice, on her, it looked like a flower, which has long fallen off the stem and is now decaying on the muddy ground. If there were a more apt metaphor for her career trajectory, it would be hard to find.