Browse all

What is Camp fashion

The theme of the Met Gala 2019 is not as tricky as it seems

What is Camp fashion The theme of the Met Gala 2019 is not as tricky as it seems

Tonight the Met Gala 2019 exhibition launch and red carpet, one of the most anticipated fashion events of all time is set to take place at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. 

Each year, the event is organized by the Museum’s Costume Institute curator Andrew Bolton, in collaboration with Vogue USA’s editor-in-chief Anna Wintour who decides on many things such as the celebrities and brands to invite. Most times celebrities are paired with different brands and it has become an unspoken rule that each celebrity must wear a look from the brand which they are paired with or invited by for a look that is along the lines of the Gala’s theme. For each Gala, a specific theme is chosen by fashion mastermind Andrew Bolton and then approved by E-I-C Anna Wintour. Celebrities attending the Met are not required but are encouraged to dress within each theme’s guidelines. In the past, the MET has seen many different themes, some which have even been known for being controversial. From last year’s Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic to 2015’s China: Through the Looking Glass to 2008’s Superheroes and fashion theme. 

In most past instances there seems to have been a clear concept, but following the announcement of this year’s theme Camp: Notes on Fashion many were left scratching their heads in confusion. For this year’s showcase curator Andrew Bolton drew inspiration from the late American writer Susan Sontag’s 1964 essay Notes on ‘Camp’. In the essay, Sontag writes beautifully in ways that are of course poetic yet at the same time complex and contradictory — which may also contribute to the uncertainty. She speaks of camp as being “not necessarily bad” while at the same time being something that is “good because it is awful,” and then discusses the notion that “to talk about Camp is therefore to betray it.” 

However, the one line from the sonnet that briskly clears up the concept envisioned by Bolton is where Sontag says “the essence of Camp is its love of the unnatural: of artifice and exaggeration.” This paired with the word’s origins in fashion as described by Vogue as a word that “gained currency in the early 20th century worlds of fashion and the marginalised queer world at a time when homosexuality was a criminal offence and subtle signals and a coded slang language called Polari were all discreet signifiers of queerness.” 

Whether the inspiration is queer camp, high camp or political camp, with these two references in mind one can only think big and loud. This means anything that has been marked by society as ‘unnatural’ and blown up and exaggerated in multitudes. This can be anything from guests showing up in drag costumes to some dressed in versions of Donald Trump. This year’s theme is set to be playful yet at the same time offensive to the eyes. 

The exhibition and event will be underwritten by Gucci’s Alessandro Michele and co-chaired by a few celebs including Lady Gaga, two icons which have been known for breaking the rules of what is considered ‘natural.’ With these two as chairs and Michele being known for blurring gender lines and sending models down the runway with heads and dragons; and Gaga’s reputation of dressing in meat gowns and exiting cocoons on red carpets, it is needless to say that this year a simple black dress will not cut it.

With such a wide theme, there are many different runways and designer archives which celebrities could possibly pull from.

I have started to think it is everywhere, and that all fashion is on some level camp. It has gained such currency it has become invisible, and part of my goal is to make it visible again - said curator Andrew Bolton.

In an ode to the MET’s upcoming themed Gala, we’ve rounded up a few iconic runways looks that with the theme, could possibly work for this year’s red carpet.