May 7, 2019
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Met Gala 2019: Too much of a good thing?

May 7, 2019

Is camp still camp if everyone is doing it?

Katy Perry - AFP

Preceding the Met Gala, the press opening of Camp: Notes on Fashion detailed several takes on the true interpretation of the sensibility, with the most concrete rules of the theatrical aesthetic being found in Susan Sontag’s 1964 essay, “Notes on ‘Camp’.”

With Sontag’s guidance in mind, how did the Met Gala attendees looks stack up?

Lady Gaga - Photo: AFP

First, there were the evening’s co-chairs: Lady Gaga, Alessandro Michele, Harry Styles, Serena Williams, and Anna Wintour. Each rose to the occasion with appropriately eccentric looks: Wintour in a pink sequined couture Chanel gown with an accompanying feathered cape, Williams in a neon yellow, origami-like Versace gown with matching yellow sneakers, Michele in an iridescent red number adorned with bows and Styles in a classically campy all-black look complete with a sheer top frothing with lace accents, earrings and heels.

Emerging as a stand-out from the gala stars was Gaga, whose four-part Brandon Maxwell look began with a gargantuan hot pink dress, only to transition into an additional two dresses and a final glittering black bra and fishnets.

Cardi B - Photo: AFP

Of course, the pop star’s career has shown her to be someone to whom camp comes naturally, and in that arena she was not alone. Other beautiful takes on camp came from Cardi B, in a blood-red Thom Browne gown embellished with 30,000 coque feathers; Janelle Monáe in a Surrealist Christian Siriano creation; alongside other stand-outs including Jared Leto, Ezra Miller and Hamish Bowles, as gender fluidity stole the limelight.

“The hallmark of camp is the spirit of extravagance. Camp is a woman walking around in a dress made of three million feathers,” wrote Sontag.

Feathers were indeed one of the most common looks on the pink carpet that evening, with Naomi Campbell, Lizzo, Winnie Harlow, Janet Mock and both Kyle and Kendall Jenner showing up in feather-heavy ensembles in a rainbow of orange, purple, mauve, red and black.

The rise of camp fashion and its current spot within the mainstream saw a proliferation of bold and flamboyant outfits for this year's theme. In comparison, other ensembles fell short of being extravagant enough to create a real stir. The ubiquity of camp fashion, ironically, seemed to dilute its subversive punch.


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