The 2019 Met Gala, fashion’s biggest night of the year was everything the theme demanded! It was CAMP, after all. The theme – “Camp: Notes on Fashion” based on Susan Sontag’s 1964 essay “Notes on camp” delivered the most incredible fashion you could wish for.
What is camp? In Susan Sontag’s essay, she provides 58 definitions for camp. One of them is “The hallmark of Camp is the spirit of extravagance. The camp is a woman walking around in a dress made of three million feathers.”
Camp made complete sense for the fashion house Gucci; whose success in recent years has relied on being over the top yet cool. The company’s creative director and one of the co-chairs of the Gala, Alessandro Michele expressed that Sontag’s essay makes complete sense to him: the unique ability to combine high art and pop culture.
Michele has sent models down the runway carrying mannequin heads, just like Jared Leto’s look at the Gala – all hallmarks of the over-the-top nature of camp itself. While Harry Styles, who was also co-chairing the Met Gala has been consistently adorning Gucci’s flashy suits with sparkles and bell bottoms, along with other adventurous prints and ruffles for years now. To us, that is all camp!
Andrew Bolton, the curator in charge of the Costume Institute said that the style “has become increasingly more mainstream in its pluralities — political camp, queer camp, Pop camp, the conflation of high and low, the idea that there is no such thing as originality.” Camp can possibly be traced back to the French term se camper, which means to pose exaggeratedly.
While a hit in the world of fashionistas and celebrities, a lot of people were (and continue to be) confused about whether celebs nailed the camp aesthetic. In our opinion, this year’s theme was easier and more diverse than the previous themes of the Gala. Camp can simply be opening your mind to hundreds of possibilities and not putting any restrictions or boundaries on your outfit. Is it risky? Of course! But, totally worth it!
Think about the previous Met Galas, you would have definitely seen camp. Remember when Rihanna dressed up as the Pope? Or when Sarah Jessica Parker sported that strange nativity scene on her head? Or probably anything Lady Gaga has worn over the years. That’s all camp!
Talking about Gaga, she gave the Ball its defining moment! Even before the event began, she turned her arrival into an immersive experience, walking three blocks to the Met in a flowing Brandon Maxwell pink cape dress with a 25-foot train.
Perfectly keeping in tone with the theme, she had 3 different outfit changes, complete with umbrella-wielding dancers performing choreographed movements and a beauty team jumping in mid-way to pantomime a “touch-up”. According to Gaga, it was exactly how she envisioned it. She said, “What I really love about, what we’re doing is that it, reads like an essay or a poem and it tells a story. It’s so in line with Susan Sontag’s notes. I feel that it’s intelligent and I feel it’s also very innocent in a lot of ways.” She always knew she had a camp soul.
A lot of camp-style began in urban communities and amongst people of color and queer individuals, as we’re pointing to celebrities who encapsulate that. Large gold hoops, copious jewelry, bold and bright outfits that the majority of the people would call ‘tacky’, or ‘ghetto’ on brown skin, soon became the sought-after look for stars and A-list actors in the need to appear ‘urban’ and ‘retro’.
Take a look at ‘Drag’. Drag, in its purest form, is an over-the-top exaggeration of life, rooted in identity. There are camp queens — that’s a subcategory of drag — but even glamour queens are still camp because it’s still an aesthetic that’s embracing this over-the-top version of femininity that isn’t truly grounded in what actual women are like.
Why do you think a theme like ‘Camp’ was needed in today’s day and age? It’s because we all are progressing forth to embrace the beauty of camp, even in today’s society where half the population would raise their voice against and question, the values and culture of camp. But let’s not forget, we’ve got the 2019 Met Gala to look up to for a ‘camp-ier’ tomorrow!
The camp is a feeling – a reflection of blackness and LGBT culture, street culture and urban culture. Along with art and culture, it’s muddled with a long legacy of individualism and expression. It’s actually interesting to see how people define that for the masses, especially in this era of fashion.