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What the F#@^ is “Camp” Style?

Marianne Wisenthal

Posted on April 09 2019

Rihanna in long yellow gown, Solange in circular dress, Sarah Jessica Parker in long black dress with elaborate headpiece.Harper's Bazaar

Camp is the Theme of the 2019 Met Gala

Set on the first Monday in May, the annual Met Gala is to high fashion what the Academy Awards are to Hollywood. But instead of gold statuettes, gala ‘winners’ are essentially awarded head-to-toe photos on Vogue.com.

A fundraising party to launch the Costume Institute’s latest fashion exhibit, this is an event that takes itself very seriously (Anna Wintour oversees the guest list and you know how she can be). Previous themes have included head-scratchers like Manus x Machina: Fashion In An Age Of Technology (2016) and Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination (2018).

Rihanna at the 2018 Met Gala
Rihanna at the 2018 Met Gala/Pinterest


2019’s theme is equally esoteric:
Camp: Notes On Fashion had us furrowing our brows the instant it was announced. According to Costume Institute curator Andrew Bolton, You’ve got to be incredibly sophisticated to understand camp”.

Pffft… Read our Coles Notes and you’ll be ready for your close-up:

 

WTF is Camp?

WTF indeed! The Met Gala theme was inspired by a 1964 essay by Susan Sontag called Notes on “Camp”. Here Sontag tells us everything we ever wanted to know about the term as it relates to art, culture, design, cinema, architecture, and (of course) fashion. In a nutshell, camp can be summed up as ‘modern dandyism, a love of the unnatural, artifice and exaggeration’. 

VULTURE. Image of Susan Sontag smoking a cigarette looking to the left.
Susan Sontag/Vulture

According to Sontag (who was quite possibly the antithesis of artifice), the following things are ‘camp’:

    • Noel Coward plays
    • Trompe l’oeil
    • The Palace of Versailles
    • Swan Lake
    • Flash Gordon comics
    • King Kong
    • National Enquirer Headlines
    • Anita Ekberg in La Dolce Vita

 

How Is Camp Represented In Today’s Fashion?

Remember how everything in the 90’s was all Calvin Klein beige-clean-lines-minimalism? Camp is the complete opposite. In human form it’s Lady Gaga in a meat dress, wearing six-inch platform shoes, over-bleached hair and fluorescent green lipstick (no surprise then that Gaga is this year’s Met Gala co-chair).

In these over-the-top times, we’re seeing more extravagance in fashion than ever before. Big bows, bold mixed prints, feathered embellishments, and tutti-frutti colour palettes were all spotted on the Spring/Summer ’19 runways. But the Gucci collection was as camp as they come: We saw jeans cut like chaps, ostrich-feather showgirl fans, and men’s briefs with the GG logo right at the crotch. One model wore a live bird on her shoulder. Oscar Wilde would have been so proud. 

Gucci S/S 2019

 

 

How Will Camp Be Represented At This Year’s Met Gala?


Lady Gaga and elaborate shoe headpieceShopdrop

Our eponymous founder Miriam is really hoping Schiaparelli’s vintage shoe hat will make an appearance. And why not? Met Ball attendees are notorious for pulling out all the stops. Remember Zayn Malik’s bionic arm (2016) and Frances McDormand’s leafy teal headdress? Given the latest theme, we predict this year’s crop of outfits will be bolder than ever. Look out for theatricality, excess, and over-the-top ensembles. If Lady Gaga doesn’t go all out (a vegan dress perhaps?), we’ll eat our chocolate tiara. OMG, we can’t wait.

Frances McDormand MET GalaFrances McDormand giving us life at the 2018 Met Gala

 

How Can I Wear Camp IRL?

Camp is about panache and reflecting your personality. It takes confidence and a laissez-faire, ‘oh, this old thing?’ kind of attitude. Not sure you can pull off Rihanna’s bejewelled bishop hat or Madonna’s pantless punk look? That doesn’t mean you can’t find your own personal version of the theme. Try replacing a plain t-shirt with an embellished one, a simple pencil skirt with a fuller ruffled style, swap your classic white shirt for something in bold satin fuchsia, or simply stick a couple of feathers in your hair and carry a multi-coloured clutch. The best thing about camp is that there’s no right or wrong way to do it. It’s about sporting whatever makes you feel really, really good. Because as Sontag says, “Camp relishes rather than judges…It finds the success in passionate failures.“

So go for it. 

 



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