Camp: Notes on Fashion

The first Monday in May marks the annual Met Gala, the biggest event on the fashion calendar. The event was first held in 1948 to encourage New York’s high society to donate money to the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute. In the modern day, the Met Gala stays true to its origins, inviting elite guests from the fashion, film, music and art industries to attend a glamorous evening dedicated to raising money for the Met’s Costume Institute and celebrating the opening of its latest exhibition. Each year, the Met Gala centres around the theme prevalent within their new exhibition, encouraging those attending to emulate this theme on the red-carpet.

Monday 6th May marked the 71st anniversary of the Met Gala, presenting the theme ‘Camp: Notes on Fashion’. This year, the exhibition was inspired by Susan Sontag’s essay ‘Notes on Camp’ (1964), in which she explores the differentiating ways in which ‘camp’ can be interpreted. The curator of the event, Andrew Bolton, felt that Susan Sontag’s essay ran parallel with what we are experiencing in contemporary society, stating ‘I felt it would have a lot of cultural resonance.’ 

 Susan Sontag’s first note on ‘camp’ states that ‘Camp is a sensibility, not an idea’, suggesting that there is an emotional and purposeful depth to the trait. I felt that the red-carpet – or in true camp fashion, the pink-carpet - response to this theme was absolutely compelling.

 We saw some celebrities emulate Sontag’s notes quite literally. Camila Mendes wore a yellow dress decorated with feathers, embodying Sontag’s ‘Camp is a woman walking around in a dress made of three million feathers’. Following the same theory, we saw Katy Perry walk the carpet as a chandelier, emulating Sontag’s quote ‘Camp taste has an affinity for certain arts rather than others. Clothes, furniture, all the elements of visual décor make up a large part of camp’. 

Others created embodied their own interpretations of Sontag’s essay. A stand out for myself was Violet Chachki, dressed in a classic black Moschino gown with a train shaped like an opera glove. I felt that this look emulated the notion that camp should dethrone the serious, offering a playful and ridiculous reflection on an otherwise classic style. After all, what could be more camp than a drag queen walking the pink-carpet?

However, I think that everyone can agree that there were two celebrities that put everybody else to shame: Lady Gaga and Billy Porter provided us with two iconic moments on the pink-carpet. Lady Gaga arrived in a Brandon Maxwell bright pink dress, followed by a 25-foot-train and a team of suited men holding umbrellas. Upon arriving, Gaga revealed three additional outfits and gave the audience an extravagant performance on the steps of the Met. Billy Porter arrived with an equally fabulous entrance; being carried into the venue on a Litter supported by six shirtless men. With a nod to Ancient Egypt, Porter wore a The Blonds gold cat-suit, paired with 10-foot wings and a 24-karat gold headpiece. 

Ultimately, I think that the Met Gala this year epitomised fun and self-expression. Despite the many theories surrounding the meaning of ‘camp’, I think that this theme encouraged the celebration of one’s most overt sense of self; allowing the world to shy away from the seriousness of reality for an evening. 


Written by Amy Parrack