The best-dressed writers at the Met Gala.

Brittany Allen

May 6, 2024, 3:57pm

Over the past twenty years or so, the Costume Institute’s annual Met Ball has exploded from in-crowd cause célèbre to the Oscars of fashion. The benefit began in 1948 as a slightly cheeky fundraiser popular among the Capote’s Swans set. But decades of careful marketing from the gala’s co-sponsor (Vogue, via Diana Vreeland and Anna Wintour) have grown the evening into the starry pageant it is today, wherein ultra-famous guests honor a theme in the hautest of haute couture. Basically, it’s a Halloween party for people who aren’t allowed to have candy. And though the sheer absurdity of the evening can rankle, I will not lie to you and call myself immune from the lewks.

This year’s pageant is set to commence in a few hours, by the skin of Anna Wintour’s teeth. (Condé Nast narrowly avoided a strike this week.) Because the the gala apparently loves its quasi-literary themes, the evening’s dress code is inspired by a J.G. Ballard short story. Even though literary themes haven’t historically correlated to literary guests at this event.

There’s a few obvious reasons for this. For one thing, writers rarely have gala money. I’ll go out on a limb and say that we also tend not to have the kind of stylist/facialist/publicist budgets that make one enticing to a Getty photographer. Nonetheless, I believe we are a fashionable people, often deserving of sartorial praise.

As proof, may I present the following writer lewks from Met galas gone-by.


Oh, Fran Lebowitz. I knew I’d find you here. Beloved bard of the city, our cranky queen. Lebowitz is well-known for her signature fashionspecifically that iconic pairing of pocket squares, Savile Row jackets, cowboy boots, and Levi’s 501s. A recurring presence at the ball, she can often be found rocking a tux with predictable panache. This look from 1983’s gala (theme: “Yves Saint Laurent: 25 Years of Design”) is a classic entry. Serious and stylish.

tina fey attends the costume institute gala benefit to news photo 1650982777

And speaking of cranky queens! Tina Fey only attended the Met Gala once, in 2015. And though it’s hard to see how this inoffensive navy jumpsuit engages that year’s theme (“China: Through the Looking Glass”), it’s a solid look. This is the kind of sleek-but-mutable glamour I dream of taking to the playground in my Park Slope mom dreams.

Honestly, the real props here are due to Fey’s now-infamous, Liz Lemon-y remarks on the evening’s festivities. She told David Letterman the gala was a “jerk parade… it’s just every jerk from every walk of life…wearing some stupid thing.”

Thanks as ever for the perspective, Tina. (And for speaking truth to funny.)

Cleo Wade

The best-selling inspirational author and poet Cleo Wade rocked some colorful Gucci at the 2018 ball, themed for “Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination.” A warm presence always, I think Wade represented the profession well here. I mess with this dress because it reminds me of Italian Ice.

jeremy ohaerris met

Speaking of Gucci: the playwright, producer, and screenwriter Jeremy O. Harris brought a bright palette to the carpet in 2019 (theme: “Camp: Notes on Fashion”). I love the custom fit, but I think I’m most excited by the accessories here. I’m personally still waiting for the hair baubles + cigarette holder trend to resurface.

Tavi G

Tavi Gevinson, longtime style icon, actor, and writer (most recently of this blazing, brilliant zine), managed to rock 2016’s gala despite its oblique theme. (“Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology”?!) This lovely Coach mini dress, paired with a bright lip and heels, is all playful elegance.

tomi adeyemi met gala

The Hugo and Nebula award-winning author Tomi Adeyemi, known for her best-selling fantasy series, Legacy of Orisha, seemed entirely at home on the gold carpet in 2021. Adeyemi honored another nebulous theme (“In America: A Lexicon of Fashion”) with a jaw-dropping organza Valentino concoction. May I just say on behalf of all author/sartorialists: goals. 


Okay, I sense this one will be divisive. But I am here to tell you that I like GG’s trendy nun look from 2018. Her dress (from The Row) is dramatic but restrained, and the sweeping sleeves feel perfectly on point for “Heavenly Bodies.” America’s favorite screenwriter is also giving another literary character with this get-up: Miss Clavel.

(But in a fun way!!!)

met gala all the looks 2023 Michaela Coel

The screenwriter, show-runner, essayist, actor, what-can’t-she-do artist Michaela Coel stunned last year in Schiaparelli Haute Couture. As one of the co-chairs for 2023’s ball (“Karl Lagerfeld: A Line of Beauty”), expectations were highbut Coel frankly stomped all over them in this highly ornate sheath situation. Although given its apparent composition of “130,000 crystals, 26,000 mixed stones, and over 3,800 hours of work,” I do fear this garment may have destroyed someone’s…fingers.

Thank you for joining this writerly fashion odyssey, which you’ll note is conscripted by an actor and model-heavy archive and the fact that red carpet photos from the ball are a somewhat recent phenomenon. Now to questions: Is our ogling of this event…ridiculous? Oh, yes. Obscene, even? Ah, you betcha. But I hope it brings a little sparkle to your Monday, all the same.

Next year,  literarati with an allergy to bourgeois myth-making and a crash pad in New York might consider dolling up for The People’s Ball, instead. An annual “celebration of fashion, personal style, and inclusivity,” hosted by the Brooklyn Public Library, that’s a costume party you might actually get photographed at.

(Provided, of course, you come on theme.)

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