Meta Gala 2019: Camp and Kitsch
The first Monday in May arrived this week, and with it, fashion’s biggest night. The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Met Gala, a collaboration between Vogue and the museum’s Costume Institute which heralds its annual spring exhibit. This year’s theme? Camp: Notes on Fashion.
The title is a tongue-in-cheek reference to Susan Sontag’s “Notes on ‘Camp,’” an essay published in 1964 which proposed a framework toward understanding the crumbling divide between high art and pop culture at the time; declaring the “the essence of Camp” as “artifice and exaggeration.”
Though, contrary to Sontag’s treatise, the concept of Camp actually originally arose and coalesced as a sensibility and aesthetic in 19th century England amongst a small coterie of queer artists, including Oscar Wilde, and lives on today as an expression of Queer pastiche and flamboyance. Elio Iannacci points out, in an op-ed for Daily Xtra, the Met’s historical oversight in writing “Sontag’s treatise does not identify camp for what it had been and still is: a distinctly queer language, a queer way of reading and seeing culture and a queer form of survival in a world that is often hostile.” Camp exists today as a continuation of this legacy, as an aesthetic and performative subversion of the status quo.
It is important, to note, that the Gala this year, co-chaired by Gucci creative director Alessandro Michele, and Lady Gaga, is a testament to the influence of Camp in popular culture. Celebrities turned out artifice and exaggeration in droves, serving as an ode to the tenacity and wit of Queer aesthetics and the ability of fashion to turn the gaudy and the banal into the spectacular. Here is a roundup of our favourite looks.
Gaga’s 16-minute pink carpet performance was about as camp as it can get, boasting an ensemble of men in suits with umbrellas carrying her train. The singer stripped down to reveal 3 different Brandon Maxwell looks all the while vamping around with a full glam squad whilst answering calls on a retro cellphone.
The queen of Las Vegas stepped onto the pink carpet in a decidedly campy showgirl ensemble. Designed by Oscar De La Renta, the look was constructed from 18 panels, hand-beaded by 52 master embroiderers over a total of 3,000 hours and weighed over 22 pounds.
Wearing an Egyptian inspired winged look designed by The Blonds, Billy Porter arrived at the Gala hoisted in the air by a troupe of Broadway actors, if that’s not camp we don’t know what is.
If anyone knows camp, it’s Jeremy Scott. His Barbie Cosplay look for Kacey Musgraves was complete with a hot pink leather jacket, shawl, and hairdryer purse.
As Gucci creative director Alessandro Michele’s guest for the night, Jared Leto took a page from the brand’s AW/18 runway show by sporting a replica of his own head as an accessory for the evening.
Dressed by beloved New York designer and Project Runway judge, Christian Siriano, Monae channeled a surrealist painting with her one-of-a-kind red carpet look that featured an eye on her chest (with eyelashes that fluttered!) while she carried a clutch in the shape of eye, and red lips printed on the colourblocked hot pink and white skirt.
Cardi B’s Thom Browne gown was ten feet of tulle and silk organza, topped with 30,000 burned and dyed coque feathers—all topped off with a Stephen Jones x Thom Browne hat, a seriously extravagant ensemble.
Ezra Miller is one of Hollywood’s most interesting men on the red carpet these days. While Miller’s Burberry suit was chic indeed, the look was elevated by his accessories and makeup. A blank-face mask on a stick, and underneath it, he revealed a painted visage with five optical-illusion eyeballs.
Cara Delevingne’s sheer, rainbow-striped Dior jumpsuit look was pure camp, complete with a bedazzled cane and ostentatious headpiece featuring banana’s, eyeballs and teeth.
Ciara’s custom Dundas gown was by Camp standards merely par for the course, but what accentuated and elevated the look was her impossibly oversized Diana Ross style afro.
Actress Laverne Cox hit the pink carpet in a sculptural gown that was custom made by Christian Siriano. “Camp for me is a self-referential art form. It comments on itself,” said Cox, who attended the ball for the first time this year. “Camp employs an invisible wink, a kind of pastiche with tongue firmly planted in cheek. . . As Philip Core proclaims in the title of his 1984 book, ‘camp is the lie that tells the truth.’”
Cody is a Glossi Mag contributor.
He is a photography aficionado, masters candidate, fashion enthusiast, avid Ariana Grande fan and lover of all things aesthetically pleasing.