Another Met Gala has come and gone, the most coveted invitation of the year for the sartorial set, hosted by Anna Wintour, Rihanna, Donatella Versace, and Amal Clooney. The benefit brings serious star power to the famous steps of the Metropolitan Museum of Art the first Monday each May to benefit the Costume Institute. Vogue's Wintour has final say on who attends the exclusive event, and guests are encouraged (though not required) to dress according to the exhibition's theme.
This year, that was "Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination." The Vatican lent about 50 pieces from the Sistine Chapel Sacristy to be exhibited alone in the Anna Wintour Costume Center; 150 designer pieces inspired by Catholicism are shown in a separate space. The exhibition is the largest the Costume Institute has assembled, stretching across three galleries and about 58,600 square feet. Aside from the designer interpretations and pieces on loan from the Vatican, the Met's personal collection of religious art is also on display.
Past Met Gala themes have garnered controversy, and this year's was no different. The "Sunday Best" dress code, meant to spark a dialogue on religion's influence on designers, generated no shortage of wordplay in headlines, especially when it came to Madonna's surprise performance: "We bow down to Madonna," "Nun of your business," "Madonna's surprise performance was nothing short of divine," and so on.
Others took issue with the theme, calling it offensive or even cultural appropriation—though the latter is a tougher sell; the term is defined by a majority culture adopting or borrowing from a minority culture, and there are an estimated 1.2 billion Catholics in the world. Whether or not you believe religion is separate from culture, there's no doubting its historical influence over everything from art to design.
Outfits ranged from ethereal to heavy metal-esque, with subtle nods to religion to full-on literal interpretations. Some argued celebs (and their respective designers) abandoned taste and took it too far this year, while others loved the bold looks–Rihanna's much-discussed Maison Margiela ensemble and matching papal hat was a lightning rod of sorts. Other hotly debated standouts include Madonna's John Paul Gautier gown with crucifix crown and cross necklaces, Katy Perry's six-foot feathered angel wings, first-time Met Gala attendee Ariana Grande's custom Vera Wang printed with Michelangelo's The Last Judgement from the altar wall of the Sistine Chapel, and Zendaya's custom Versace channeling Joan of Arc. Notably, Blake Lively's Versace gown was so big it required a party bus.
Say what you will about thematic interpretations, but the night was full of dramatic aesthetics. Here are our favorite looks–the first five from one non-religious editor and the latter from a writer raised in the fold.
1. Rihanna in Maison Margiela
2. Cardi B in Moschino
3. Kim Kardashian in custom Versace
4. Solange Knowles in Iris van Herpen Couture
5. Winnie Harlow in Tommy Hilfiger
1. Blake Lively in custom Versace
2. Frances McDormand in Valentino Haute Couture
3. Diane Kruger in Prabal Gurung
4. Amal Clooney in Richard Quinn
5. Cara Delevingne in Dior Haute Couture