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The Met Gala: What exactly is 'Notes on Camp'?

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The first Monday in May is fast approaching, and we all know what that means… the Met Gala is back. The uber-exclusive fashion ball hosted by Anna Wintour in collaboration with The New York Metropolitan Museum of Art is the fashion event of the year. Each annual event is based around a particular theme, this year being 'Notes on Camp'.

 

The themes co-inside with the Met’s current fashion exhibition, and previous themes include ‘China: Through the Looking Glass', 'Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology' (remember Claire Danes’ incredible light-up Cinderella gown?) and most recently 'Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination', where Rihanna dressed up as the *actual* pope. 

 Previous Met Gala looks // Image Credit: Jennifer Su, Via Flickr

Some people struggle to stick to the theme and turn up in any old black dress or head-to-florals complete with gloves ensemble (we’re looking at you, Kim Kardashian-West). 

 

2019 is the year of ‘Camp: Notes on Fashion’, and the co-chairs of the gala, alongside Anna Wintour, are Lady Gaga, Harry Styles, Serena Williams and Gucci’s Alessandro Michele. But what exactly is ‘Camp’, we hear you ask – no it’s not camping themed; we doubt Anna Wintour would ever be seen dead in combat trousers and hiking boots. Camp: Notes on Fashion is based upon Susan Sontag's 1964 essay which was written explaining all the different elements of ‘camp’ and what it means for fashion.

 

Feathers, pink, sequins, ruffles, exaggerated sleeves are all examples of camp. Anna Sui in the 90s is a perfect example of camp fashion in full force - her fluff trimmed mini dresses and feather headdresses are the epitome of camp as a concept. Think of Cher Horowitz from Clueless, Rachel Green from Friends and Sex And The City’s Carrie Bradshaw; these women and their wardrobes are as camp as they come. The late 90s and early 00s, in particular, are a great example of camp fashion - logomania, tiny handbags, tiny dogs in said tiny handbags and mini skirts are all quintessentially camp.

 

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In more recent years, camp has made a major comeback thanks to shows such as Ru Paul’s Drag Race and films like Bohemian Rhapsody and Rocketman, which follow the lives of the campest of the camp. Lady Gaga becoming one of the biggest film stars of the moment and arriving at Venice Film Festival in a complete feather ensemble is also deliciously camp – her all-black Oscar’s look, on the other hand, was not camp. 

 

The flamboyant outfits worn by the drag queens are pure camp – and we want to see it all at the Met Gala. Imagine Harry Styles in full Gucci, complete with florals, ruffles and sequins – sublime. Lady Gaga in vintage Anna Sui? Divine. 

 

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In her essay, Sontag explains that to truly be camp is to not actually try to be camp (bear with us), “The ultimate Camp statement: it’s good because it’s awful.” How many times have you seen a fashion look so horrendously ugly you actually kind of love it? How many of you watch truly terrible rom-coms on Netflix (Yes, A Christmas Prince this is about you) and enjoy them because they’re just SO bad. This is what camp is. Camp is so bad it’s good. It’s a “failed seriousness”, so previous Met Gala non-theme-followers like the Kardashians might actually be this year’s best in show – because nothing says camp more than a heavily pregnant Kim Kardashian-West in head-to-toe florals complete with gloves. 

 

To read Susan Sontag's full 'Notes on Camp' essay, click here. 

Lead images credits (all via Wikimedia Commons): Harry Styles: itsloutual // Anna Wintour: Karin Barr (Attribution 2.5 Generic License)// Lady Gaga: Sassy




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