Live Updates: Stars Are Arriving to the 2024 Met Gala

This is Emily Ratajkowski’s ninth Met Gala. She is basically a regular.

Even so, attending the event remains a great “pressure,” said Ms. Ratajkowski, a model and writer.

“I have worn things that I have not felt comfortable in, and I do feel that it shows,” she said. “Maybe it shows in the way that I choose my hair and makeup, or the way I pose, or whatever.”

This year is different, she insisted. “It feels really natural on me — comfortable, truly,” Ms. Ratajkowski, 32, said on a video call about two weeks before the gala.

“It” is this: a long-sleeve backless gown from a 2001 Atelier Versace couture collection. The sheer white dress is intricately hand-beaded, with embellishments that cling to and dangle off her like miniature icicles.

Its fragility is what made Ms. Ratajkowski first take notice. “I just wanted to feel like I was wearing something that could be in the exhibit,” she said.

Because of the gala’s dress code — “Garden of Time,” which riffs on the Costume Institute’s spring exhibition, “Sleeping Beauties: Reawakening Fashion” — red-carpet watchers could expect one of two motifs: vegetation and vintage.

Ms. Ratajkowski hit both notes, while also referring back to her own style preferences (sheerness, opulence) and history.

She wore another vintage couture Versace gown to the Met Gala in 2022 — that one from 1992. It evoked a sexy, high-fashion Wonka: colorful and complicated, with a juicy bejeweled halter top connected to a similarly beaded choker. A silk-collaged skirt burst out from Ms. Ratajkowski’s hips, revealing her tanned legs and an interior lined with gold netting and fringe. The dress code then was “gilded glamour.”

To be able to wear vintage for a second time to fashion’s most celebrated (most lucrative, most clicked) evening was a “privilege,” her stylist Jorden Bickham said. “You’re going to an event where a lot of times you don’t have much say in what you’re wearing.” Many celebrities are dressed by the brands who invite them or by whomever Vogue nudges them to wear.

Ms. Bickham, who often dresses Ms. Ratajkowski in archival fashion when they work together, found the 2001 Versace gown at Tab Vintage, which specializes in bridal and special-occasion dressing.

Alexis Novak, the founder of Tab, said she bought it from a Versace collector.

“It’s one of those pieces you see and it’s immediately apparent that a lot of care and skill went into it,” Ms. Novak said. “When I finally saw it in person, the first thing I thought was, ‘This has to be seen.’”

The train is particularly delicate, which concerns Ms. Ratajkowski — to a point. As glamorous as the Met Gala seems, it involves a lot of “trekking” up museum stairs and through its halls, surrounded by an elite mob of fellow attendees.

“I’ve stepped on many a train, and I’ve had my train stepped on many times,” she said. “I respect the things I’m wearing, but once you get off the carpet, you’re a little bit like: ‘OK, let’s not be so precious. Let’s try to enjoy ourselves.’”

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