Deconstructing the 2024 Met Gala’s most stunning moments 

From the most creative interpretations of the theme to a shocking absence, the 2024 Met Gala got the theGrio team talking.

The carpet was dappled with green, and many of the gowns followed suit as celebs and socialites convened for the “Super Bowl of Fashion” on the first Monday of May, better known as the 2024 Met Gala. Themed around the short story “The Garden of Time” — itself an interpretation of the “Sleeping Beauties: Reawakening Fashion” exhibit which opened Monday at The Met’s Costume Institute, the code invited guests to riff on not only the beauty of the natural world but also its ephemeral nature, which many attendees addressed with details that evoked decay. The same ethos applied to many of the archival pieces that appeared on the steps of the Metropolitan Museum of Art on Monday night, reminding us that while fashion may be everchanging, the art of creation remains timeless.

Still, in any given year, the styles showcased at the Met range from exquisite to unconventional to incomprehensible — and this year was no different. From conspicuous absences to confounding couture, here are a few 2024 Met Gala moments that were, in a word, stunning.

Rihanna missed it?!

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Rihanna attends the FENTY x PUMA Creeper Phatty Earth Tone Launch Party at Tobacco Dock on April 17, 2024, in London, England. (Photo by Stuart C. Wilson/Getty Images) Credit: Photo by Stuart C. Wilson/Getty Images

The theme of the 2024 Met Gala was “Sleeping Beauties” — and if reports are accurate, we’re hoping that’s exactly what Rihanna was doing instead of attending this year. After telling Extra she would be taking a “real simple” approach to her 2024 gala look — and being spotted during the previous weekend sporting glamorous pink tresses that set fans buzzing about her possible look, the Met Gala regular (and 2018 co-chair) was conspicuously absent from the festivities As paparazzi anticipated yet another of Rih’s fashionably late entrances, a source confirmed to People magazine the 36-year-old “bad girl” and busy mom of two had come down with the flu, leaving her ardent fans almost as thirsty as they are for “R9” — almost.

Tyla traded “Water” for sand

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Tyla attends The 2024 Met Gala Celebrating “Sleeping Beauties: Reawakening Fashion” at The Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 06, 2024, in New York City. (Photo by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images) Credit: Photo by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images

In an event where the most major looks often come last, Grammy-winning singer Tyla positioned herself as an early contender for best dressed of the evening, arriving in a couture strapless sand-covered organza gown by Balmain. Designed by Beyoncé favorite Olivier Rousteing (who sported a sand sculpture of his own sleeping face beneath his evening suit), the trompe l’oeil, micro-crystal-studded, sand-covered strapless gown was molded to Tyla’s body, putting a shimmering new spin on timelessness.

“The inspiration behind this creation stemmed from a desire to redefine boundaries and transform a transient material into an everlasting masterpiece,” Rousteing told Vogue ahead of the gala. “The idea of sculpting a garment from something as ephemeral as sand ignited my imagination and I could not be happier with the end result,” he added. The duo finished off the museum-worthy look with a clutch that doubled as a functioning hourglass…and once inside the event, Rousteing magically wielded a pair of scissors to convert the gown into a minidress.

Colman Domingo wore the best red carpet tribute

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Colman Domingo attends The 2024 Met Gala Celebrating “Sleeping Beauties: Reawakening Fashion” at The Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 06, 2024, in New York City. (Photo by Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images) Credit: Photo by Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images

Whether crafting a character or turning a look, Colman Domingo is the epitome of leading man energy. The ever-dapper Oscar nominee took a poignant approach to the “Garden of Time” theme, wearing a stunning black-and-ivory wide-legged, caped suit by Willy Chavarria that paid tribute to both late Vogue editor André Leon Talley and beloved actor Chadwick Boseman.

“They both wore capes when they were at the Met,” the “Rustin” star told E! on the red carpet, where he carried a bouquet of white calla lilies as an accessory. “Everything I do, I feel like it’s gotta be for the culture. It’s gotta be more than just for me. … I wanted to honor these brothers who were here before me as well.”

In that same vein, honorable mention goes to Formula One racer Lewis Hamilton, whose floral-beaded black-on-black suit and coat by Burberry was inspired by 18th-century gardener John Ystumllyn, an enslaved man who became the first Black gardener in Wales, and inscribed with a verse from “The Gardener” by Black British poet Alex Wharton.

Queen Latifah and Eboni Nichols made their Met Gala debut

(Left to right) Eboni Nichols and Queen Latifah attend The 2024 Met Gala Celebrating “Sleeping Beauties: Reawakening Fashion” at The Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 06, 2024 in New York City. (Photo by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images) Credit: Photo by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images

Considering that Queen Latifah has been famous for over three decades, it’s almost inconceivable that the multi-hyphenate star had never attended a Met Gala before Monday. But as she took to the carpet, Latifah had love by her side; longtime partner Eboni Nichols joined her on the steps of The Met, where both women were dressed in Thom Browne. Latifah’s garden-themed gown and coat were beaded with a bird-of-paradise motif — a symbol of freedom and royalty, among other meanings; the rapper-turned-actress topped the look with an asymmetrically braided blunt bob.

FKA twigs channeled Josephine Baker

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FKA twigs attends The 2024 Met Gala Celebrating “Sleeping Beauties: Reawakening Fashion” at The Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 06, 2024 in New York City. (Photo by Marleen Moise/Getty Images) Credit: Photo by Marleen Moise/Getty Images

As a controversy brewed in the U.K. in January surrounding a revealing ad for Calvin Klein starring entertainer FKA twigs, the artist called out the “double standard” in a statement, noting, “[I] hold the art I create with my vessel to the standards of women like Josephine Baker, Eartha Kitt, and Grace Jones, who broke down barriers of what it looks like to be empowered and harness a unique embodied sensuality.”

On Monday night, the performer doubled down on this comparison as she appeared “dripping in Stella McCartney diamonds,” which were lab-grown, according to the sustainably focused designer. Joining a bedazzled crew of fellow celebrities on the steps of The Met, FKA twigs donned an openwork diamond crop top and hot pants, which she wore with sparkling stockings and a dramatic cocoon-like, looped knit coat. Along with the Folies Bergère-ready ensemble, the artist’s intricately woven updo paid visual homage to “La Baker,” putting a modern twist on some of the icon’s most famed performance looks.

Da’Vine Joy Randolph debuted “Gap Couture”

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Da’Vine Joy Randolph attends The 2024 Met Gala Celebrating “Sleeping Beauties: Reawakening Fashion” at The Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 06, 2024 in New York City. (Photo by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images)

In a look that read part Disney heroine, part Americana, Oscar winner Da’Vine Joy Randolph’s voluminous gown was reportedly “inspired by 1700s eveningwear,” according to the New York Times, and created entirely in denim — Gap denim, no less. Designer Zac Posen leveraged the Met Gala as his first major fashion foray since becoming the legacy brand’s new creative director in February, also using the opportunity to showcase denim, which he called a “canvas for creativity.” Even amongst our team here at theGrio, reviews were mixed.

“OK, from a distance, I kind of actually do really like it, but looking at it up close I am so upset that it was wrinkled!” commented Lifestyle Writer Kay Wicker on the gown’s detachable skirt, adding: “I don’t know if it works with the theme, though.”

What matters most is that Randolph was thrilled with the look. “I knew for sure the fit was going to be insane,” she told the Times. “I knew that this dress was going to look like it was poured on my body, which is very exciting for me as a curvy girl who likes to show her body.”

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To theme, or not to theme? Hits, misses, and hmmms…

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Gabrielle Union attends The 2024 Met Gala Celebrating “Sleeping Beauties: Reawakening Fashion” at The Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 06, 2024 in New York City. (Photo by Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images)

“This is my favorite Met look ever,” repeat Met Gala guest Gabrielle Union told Vogue on the red carpet. Dressed in a mermaid-inspired beaded gown by Michael Kors with a jeweled starfish as a hair accessory, Union’s look, while lovely and impeccably fit, seemed to loosely skirt this year’s theme. That said, had the theme been “Under the Sea,” she may have easily been one of our favorites of the night. 

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Keke Palmer attends The 2024 Met Gala Celebrating “Sleeping Beauties: Reawakening Fashion” at The Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 06, 2024 in New York City. (Photo by Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images)

Similarly, Keke Palmer’s look seemed to more closely reference Vanessa Bell Calloway’s now-iconic “Coming to America” look than the “Garden of Time” theme — although, with a high ponytail that added a foot to her height, she did evoke a very glamorous, shimmering tree (or a very glamorous mummy). While many loved the “Big Boss” energy Palmer brought to this year’s Met look, our team was less than enthused, with theGrio’s Lifestyle Writer Haniyah Philogene simply stating, “I hated it, LOL.” 

However, one of the most controversial looks of the night was worn by former Met Gala co-chair Serena Williams, who arrived in a toga-like, one-shouldered gold gown by Balenciaga, topped with a gold floral headpiece by Jennifer Behr. Reportedly created from 25 meters of gold foil-laminated Italian taffeta, the gown reportedly took a total of 150 hours to complete, according to Vogue.

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Serena Williams attends The 2024 Met Gala Celebrating “Sleeping Beauties: Reawakening Fashion” at The Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 06, 2024 in New York City. (Photo by Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images)

“This gown represents a collective effort to create something truly extraordinary, and I am immensely proud to be the one to showcase it,” Williams told the magazine. “I love how the sand gold color plays off my dress and how its tone changes depending on the angle and light.”

Onlookers were divided on the look, with Philogene noting that, while the gold was flattering, for her, the accessories killed the effect. “The Black gloves and stockings and shoes just threw off the whole look,” she explained. “I’m also struggling to see how it fits in the theme.”

Wicker agreed, adding, “Yeah, it just wasn’t really touching on the theme for me. … The gown was actually gorgeous, it was just at the wrong event.”

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(Left to right) Doja Cat and Lizzo attend The 2024 Met Gala Celebrating “Sleeping Beauties: Reawakening Fashion” at The Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 06, 2024 in New York City. (Photos: Getty Images)

And amid a number of truly offbeat looks, Doja Cat’s wet t-shirt dress and Lizzo’s structural, sheer, skin-toned gown and headpiece admittedly left us scratching our heads. With a glittery tear-stained face and a very baring, clinging gown over her seemingly naked flesh, we weren’t sure if Doja Cat was just ignoring the theme altogether or simply woke up late from her disco nap. Meanwhile, though Lizzo’s petal-strewn custom ensemble by Victor Weinsanto technically fit the themes of flora and decay, the sleeveless look, which WWD reported was intended to be “evocative of a blooming flower,” left us feeling…wilted and bewildered.

Deborah Roberts highlighted Harlem Toile

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Deborah Roberts attends The 2024 Met Gala Celebrating “Sleeping Beauties: Reawakening Fashion” at The Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 06, 2024 in New York City. (Photo by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images)

In a veritable sea of pale green gowns, the design of Deborah Roberts’ may not have been a runaway favorite, but the print certainly hit the brief, as the “20/20” host took to the carpet in the famed “Harlem Toile” print by designer Sheila Bridges. Juxtaposing traditional scenes of pastoral life with Black urban characters and motifs — including basketball and boomboxes — the gown played with the “Garden of Time” theme in a contemporary, culturally relevant way that forced the question: Who is granted entry into hallowed spaces like The Met — and the canon of the fashion industry?

Headwraps had a moment

(Left to right) Willow Smith, Erykah Badu, and Cardi B attend The 2024 Met Gala Celebrating “Sleeping Beauties: Reawakening Fashion” at The Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 06, 2024, in New York City. (Photos: Getty Images)

When Willow Smith, Cardi B and Erykah Badu all choose to rock tall black headwraps to a function, is it safe to say it’s a trend? Admittedly, we’re still trying to figure out how any of their outfits fit the theme; Cardi’s designer Sensen Lii of Windowsen told WWD that the star’s black gown was created from “nearly 3,000 meters of organza,” explaining that “the design is floral, reminiscent of a garden’s trees, flowers and earth.” But while Badu actually wore a vibrant floral print, it was the accessory she helped popularize in the late ‘90s to early aughts that was truly one of the “Sleeping Beauties” revived at this year’s Met Gala.

Zendaya wore not one, but three Met Gala looks … and somehow, none dazzled us

This was hard to admit, but after months — nay, years of watching Zendaya conquer pretty much every red carpet she stepped onto, her 2024 Met Gala looks left us feeling…flat. As Wicker aptly noted as we collectively reflected on the gala co-chair’s looks, “When you’re always hitting it gets boring…” and who hits fashion out of the park more than Zendaya? After a succession of incredible, on-theme looks for her recent “Dune” and “Challengers” tours — not to mention her storied appearances at Met Galas past — it’s no secret that the actress-producer and her partner in style, Law Roach, know how to spin a theme. The duo presented a trio of couture creations for this year’s co-chairing appearance (including a pared-down third look for inside the gala), yet, as hard as it is to admit, Zendaya’s Met looks didn’t fully dazzle our team, who felt that, by and large, the looks slightly overwhelmed the renowned beauty.

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Zendaya attends The 2024 Met Gala Celebrating “Sleeping Beauties: Reawakening Fashion” at The Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 06, 2024 in New York City. (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for The Met Museum/Vogue)

“The first dress [by John Galliano for Maison Margiela] felt like a solid entrance to the gala,” noted Philogene, pointing out how the dramatic makeup by Pat McGrath leaned “into the green colors of a garden and then the overall darkness.” She added, “I feel like it made [Zendaya] stand out amidst the abundance of people who leaned into the floral elements of the theme.”

Wicker disagreed somewhat, saying, “I remember each [look], but not because they were remarkable,” noting that across all the attendees, this year’s gala looks felt more off-theme than in years past. “[Zendaya] was on-theme, but I agree the dresses were kind of wearing her. She’s had bigger, even more creative moments in the past. I think her glam — from the eyebrows to the lighter hair color — was also off.”

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Zendaya attends The 2024 Met Gala Celebrating “Sleeping Beauties: Reawakening Fashion” at The Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 06, 2024 in New York City. (Photo by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images)

While Zendaya’s first look “was a stunner” and “on theme,” Philogene admitted it was “toned down compared to her recent looks.” However, she added, “the second one felt unnecessary,” referencing the gown Zendaya wore to close the evening’s carpet, also designed by Galliano, who seemed to be the quiet force behind many of the evening’s most buzzed-about looks, the voluminous black 1996 Givenchy couture was topped with a 2007n Alexander McQueen headpiece crafted to look like a bouquet of flowers. “Ultimately, her looks were OK, but leaned more into the gimmick and drama as opposed to the fashion,” Philogene conceded.

Nevertheless, Law Roach had a busy and successful night, not only dressing Zendaya but other standouts on the red carpet while staging two costume changes of his own (in Margiela and Rahul Mishra), and further establishing himself as a star in his own right. As Roach recently told the New York Times, “When I’m with my clients, the client is always the priority. But when I started doing television, I got to feel like the priority. I love having my own identity. I don’t want to be known as Celine Dion’s stylist or Ariana Grande’s stylist.”

Did anyone actually read “The Garden of Time”?

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – MAY 6: Pro-Palestine protestors march on the outskirts of the Met Gala on May 6, 2024 in New York City. A demonstration at Hunter College drew around 200 protesters, who joined other area-college marches to the Met Gala being held this evening at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. (Photo by Alex Kent/Getty Images)

The dress code of the 2024 Met Gala was inspired by J.G. Ballard’s 1962 short story, “The Garden of Time.” But while the title might evoke a secret garden, the text itself is much darker; depicting the story of the fictional Count Axel and his wife, who “live and listen to Mozart in a magnificent villa, surrounded by a garden of crystal flowers, as an angry and unruly army advances upon them,” writes LitHub in its synopsis of the tale, adding: “To keep the ‘approaching rabble’ at bay, Axel must turn back time by plucking the flowers, one by one, until they are all gone, and there is no time left.”

As couture-draped celebs ascended the steps of the Met against the backdrop of protests pleading against the current conflict in Gaza to the treatment of fashion workers, it didn’t escape our notice that while the goal was to dress on theme, the juxtaposition of fantasy and reality may have been the best fit. While it provides a fashionable yet fleeting escape, the Met Gala may have to dip its toe further into the real world to remain relevant.


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