July 17, 2019 | 78° F

Explaining the Met Gala's theme, 'Camp: Notes on Fashion'


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Every year, the Metropolitan Museum of Art (Met) hosts one of the most acclaimed events in pop culture: the Met Gala. In an effort to commemorate the grand opening of the Costume Institute’s annual fashion exhibit, the banquet takes place in the museum itself. Musical luminaries and Hollywood big-names are invited to participate in an evening in which they can show off their unique style while donating money in support of art. 

Organized by the world’s leading fashion publication, Vogue, the magazine’s staff is in charge of the benefit committee as well as the guest list. In addition, after seeking approval from her superiors, Anna Wintour, Vogue’s editor-in-chief, proceeds to initiate a plan for the theme. 

The Met is notorious for its distinct themes. For instance, the theme for last year’s gala was “Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and Catholic Imagination.” In each of their looks, celebrities incorporated Catholic symbols in their attire, as the faith was their main source of inspiration. This year, on the other hand, the theme is “Camp: Notes on Fashion.” 

As the word “camp” is mentioned, many people may be inclined to believe that this year’s theme calls for longline parkas, shabby t-shirts and boxy cargo shorts. Wrong. 

This theme does not resemble the attire one would wear on a camping trip, in fact it's quite the opposite. “Camp: Notes on Fashion” is a style of dress in which people are encouraged to wear “exaggerated” forms of clothing, allowing this year’s gala to be extraordinarily extravagant. 

To break it down, “camp” is inspired by writer and scholar Susan Sontag’s 1964 essay "Notes on 'Camp'", which defines the word as “love of the unnatural: of artifice and exaggeration.” 

If you’re still puzzled, let’s examine the meaning of “camp” in other artistic mediums. In theatrical performances, literature, music or art in general, it's associated with having a sort of aesthetic value. Rather than focus on the idea, "camp" revels in dramatization. The louder, the better. 

An example of such an ensemble that may fit this category is a gown stretching 25 feet, gathered in tulle and made to sit on a woman’s body. Yes, it doesn’t exactly sound comfortable, but it fits the theme. Eschewing the typical “less is more” mindset, opulence is the goal. 

If you can recall, a couple months back, a series of dresses shown on the runway went viral. Shown in the Viktor and Rolf Spring Summer 2019 Couture Collection, women wore excessively large dresses with phrases written on the front. Some said “No Photos Please,” or “I’m not shy, I just don’t like you.” These serve as examples of “camp” fashion as they're outlandish and not typically worn by people.

As for the men, the same conditions apply. In order to comply with the “camp” theme, the outfit must be overstated. An example can range anywhere from a snazzy shirt paired with baggy overalls, or a fitted waistcoat over an insanely long jacket. To make it even more “camp,” men may wear clothing marked by words, similar to the dresses in the Viktor and Rolf Spring Summer 2019 Couture Collection,. 

I imagine that the world is curious to see what kinds of looks the celebrities choose for this year’s MET Gala, especially since the theme highlights the beauty of horrific distaste. 

As someone who is knowledgeable of the subject, I would expect stars such as Lady Gaga, Rihanna, Cardi B and Chadwick Boseman to wholeheartedly prepare for this event, as they did the year before. 

On May 6, 2019 you will be able to witness firsthand how certain celebrities rock their take on “camp” fashion. Similar to previous years, I’m sure they won’t disappoint. 


Maliha Khan

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