This year, the annual Metropolitan Museum of Art opened their costume design exhibit on Monday, May 5. This event is otherwise known as the Met Gala, where celebrities of all kinds arrive in their most excellent clothes to view the exhibit. Every year, celebrities are told to dress in accordance with changing theme. This year, it was Camp: Notes on Fashion.
Camp is not an everyday term, so many people were left wondering what this meant. The essentials of camp are extravagance, cheesiness, and uniqueness. The title is based on Susan Sontag’s notes by the same name. In these notes, she explains extensively the definition of camp and its relation to fashion, which is that they are pretty much opposites. Fashion involves expressing certain contexts and tones through elements of clothing, and finding aesthetics. Camp involves disregarding the aesthetics of a medium and focusing on the message, leading to an outrageous result. Oftentimes, an outfit can be very fashionable, or very campy, but not both. Here are the best examples of celebrities whose clothes somehow discovered the balance:
Cara Delevingne by Dior: The vibrant colors, accentuated body shape, and extreme headpiece are the incorporations of camp. The fashion comes from the even proportions, and the neutral colors balancing out the intense ones, such as the clear dress and nude makeup. Camp is about going outside of the norm, and the invasive lines and elaborate headpiece truly show a uniqueness.
Ezra Miller by Burberry: By wearing heavy makeup (such as the bright red lip), Miller is already defying norms and serving camp. On top of that, he has a cape, a mask of his own face, and five additional eyes. It is clear that the statement of this outfit is more important than the look, but it’s still fashionable. Miller incorporates vintage fabrics and silhouettes with a groundbreaking twist to create a beautiful, yet campy, look.
Priyanka Chopra by Dior: Taking 1,500 hours to create, Chopra’s dress combines textures and themes to create a sense of extravagance. Although admittedly one of the least campy on this list, Chopra brings a regal experience to the Gala. By using muted colors, soft fabrics, and geometric shapes, this dress leans on the side of fashion, but it counteracts this with the clashing of textures to create several different tones and themes in one design.
Anna Wintour by Chanel: Again, one of the more fashionable on this list, Wintour incorporates a classic silhouette with interesting textures and patterns. Not to mention the fact that she’s wearing thousands of feathers, a technique that Sontag specifically stated was an example of camp. Although the silhouette is simple, the combination of pastels with hot pink and plum create a nice contrast. Also, Rihanna said that this was her favorite look from this year’s Gala, and we all know that Rihanna knows best when it comes to fashion.
Kendall Jenner by Versace: While both sisters looked good, I tend to favor Kendall’s look. It’s vibrant, it’s extraordinary, it’s got a stunning silhouette, it’s got interesting textures, and it’s extremely beautiful. While it’s both fashionable and campy, what it’s missing is a message. The closest it gets is its allusion to 1920’s flapper style fashion.
Janelle Monae by Christian Siriano: This look has absolutely everything one could want out of the Met Gala. The exaggeration in both subject and silhouette is extremely campy, and the bright pops of hot pink in the black and white color scheme both create a break in the norm and applies both sleek fashion and wild camp. The silhouette is actually simple, though exaggerated. Both sides are symmetrical in shape (except for the hats, which create another deviation from the norm). It is only when you look at what’s within the shapes that it becomes extremely unique. It is both sleek and extreme.
Cardi B by Thom Browne: What is truly campy about this outfit is the texture. Yes, the wild train, bust, and headpiece are interesting, but the quilt-like fabric makes this a standout. The fabric behaves in ways that normal fabric does not; it is unique. Otherwise, the color and regality of this outfit are traditionally very fashionable.
Lupita Nyongo by Versace: Nyongo truly deserves to be on this list. Her color scheme and clashing patterns scream “camp” and the top-heavy silhouette with the shoulderpads is fashion-forward. However, it was so extravagant that I literally could not draw it. Brava.
Lady Gaga by Brandon Maxwell: Lady Gaga wore four different looks to the Met Gala: an extremely flowy, large hot pink dress and a head bow, a sleeker black dress with a matching umbrella, a form fitting hot pink dress and oversized sunglasses, and black underwear with stoned heels and fishnets. I did not include Lady Gaga on this list because I felt that her performance and shock factor were more campy and impressive than any of her individual looks. While they were all both campy and beautiful in different ways, her attitude was what made them so.
Lena Waithe by Pyer Moss: Waithe wore a baby blue suit, with thin pinstripes that were actually lyrics. Cited songs included “I’m Coming Out” by Diana Ross, “I Will Survive” by Gloria Gaynor, and “Take Me or Leave Me” from Rent. Additionally, her golden buttons showed faces that she wanted to pay homage to such as late rapper Nipsey Hussle. Spread across her back were the words “BLACK DRAG QUEENS INVENTED CAMP.”
Billy Porter by The Blonds: Porter was decked out in gold from head to toe. With a gold crown, gold wings, a gold skin-tight bodysuit, a gold wig, gold makeup, and gold eyebrows. Not to mention, he was carried in on a gold lounger. Everything about Porter’s look was extremely camp, but I didn’t include him on this list because I could not find enough traditional fashion elements in this look, similar to Lady Gaga.
Zendaya by Tommy Hilfiger: Zendaya received a lot of attention as she dressed in a soft Cinderella gown which lit up on command of stylist Law Roach. Personally, I think there have been higher quality versions of the lit-up ball gown. However, the theming and performance —including leaving a glass slipper on the carpet— were campy if nothing else, and qualify her for an honorable mention.