NOTES ON CAMP: WHAT WE CAN EXPECT ON THE FIRST MONDAY IN MAY
words by DANIELLE RANSOM • Fashion
In 1964, Susan Sontag penned her essay ‘Notes on Camp’. It encompassed 58 definitions to explain what this aesthetic meant to the world, with the hallmark described as “the spirit of extravagance".
So what is ‘Camp’?
Sontag noted that “the essence of Camp is its love of the unnatural: of artifice and exaggeration.” Camp may often be confused with kitschy or flamboyant; rather think of it as a surplus of irony, nostalgia, vintage, innocence - all at once.
It’s fitting Lady Gaga was named one of this year's Gala co-chairs. There is no doubt that the more elaborate, daring, and controversial moments of her career are what has helped cement her as an icon of today. And many of these would fall into the definition of Sontag's very definition of camp.
From her iconic meat dress at 2010 MTV Video Music Awards to her Greco-Roman Art-pop phase, Gaga’s lavish looks have often toed the line between style and theatre, and irony and controversy — perhaps the point of Camp.
What can expect to see at this year's Met Gala?
Over the last year alone, we have seen moments of camp titillating our senses - perhaps unbeknown to most. Cardi B walking the red carpet at the 2019 Grammys was one such example. In a jaw-dropping, shock-inducing, somewhat-alarming, vintage gown by the famed Thierry Mugler. Ms. B was literally emerging from a shell pearl shell.
Other recent examples can be taken from the Spring/Summer 2019 runways: Rick Owens Mad Max-esque collection, Matty Bovan’s trippy Alice in Wonderland garments, and Rodarte’s ethereal work. And let us not forget the iconic heroes of camp from our time, Andy Warhol, Bjork, and Oscar Wilde.
Looking back to the courts of French royalty and Louis XIV, the time was personified by excess. Courtesans were known to go broke trying to keep with the latest fashions. This period introduced the world to theatrics and the frivolous aspect of fashion - the very beginning of bringing camp to the mainstream. As Oscar Wilde famously said, “one should either be a work of art or wear a work of art.
Why is the Met Gala so important?
The Met Gala isn’t just a night for show-stopping outfits. The gala, which was founded in 1948, is a benefit to raise funds for the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and every year marks the opening night of the annual Costume Institute's exhibition. The event asks attendees to look at the theme from a contemporary perspective, and lean on fashion to pay homage to the source of inspiration
Who will be at the Met Gala?
Dubbed the “Oscars of the East Coast”, the invite-only affair is a mixture of A-listers, fashion insiders, and media who have made significant achievements or contributions in fashion. Vogue Editor-in-Chief Anna Wintour, the patron saint of the Met Gala, has chaired the committee and has overseen the event since 1995 (she is also in charge of the guest list!). This year’s co-chairs include Lady Gaga, Gucci designer Alessandro Michele, Harry Styles and Serena Williams, who will each serve as hosts for the event. The Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute’s Spring 2019 exhibition will be “Camp: Notes on Fashion” and on display from May 9 through September 8, 2019.