On the first Monday in May 2019 we were invited to spectate the New York Metropolitan Museum’s annual Gala, or more commonly know as the Met Gala. The event is held in order to raise funds for the Costume Institute at the Museum, and thus a wide range of celebrities and designers are guested to appear in extreme garments that should reflect on the chosen theme. As for this years exhibition, the theme was ‘Camp: Notes on Fashion’.
What is camp?
Camp is not simply a word that can be explained by one direct answer. By definition, camp means ‘ostentatiously and extravagantly effeminate’. Camp has been many things over the entire time of its recognition: from Louis XIV’s emphasis on fashion and interiors in the 16th century, to Oscar Wilde’s flamboyant attitude and behaviours, there are many historical references that can be used to describe camp. The word can mostly be used to refer to something as elaborate or over the top, a bit maximalist or fun, and never to be taken seriously other than the idea that something is seriously camp. In a modern day sense, people can often refer to LGBTQ+ traits as camp, particularly within the drag community. As a brief overall, camp is to be extraordinary and more than average. There is no subtlety to camp.
Some important context
The Met has titled this years theme after the 1960’s paper by Susan Gontag also titled ‘Notes on Camp’. The text describes a whole variety of possibilities for defining the word Camp, and it also recommends specific objects, plays, styles and media that could be considered as camp. If you’d like to give it a read, the link is here:
The show itself
The Gala this year was an extraordinary display of pink, flowers, flamingos, bright lights and decor. From the images released so far, the many rooms on display at the exhibition have been painted in complimentary pastels tones such as pink and green, with one large room in particular displaying a wide variety of garments from small and big designers, which have been placed inside neon lit boxes.
The costume institute have branched out a lot when resourcing appropriate looks for the exhibition this year. As well as collecting pieces from past centuries, including one of Marie Antoinette’s handmaid’s dresses, they have also welcomed lesser recognised designers and pieces from more recent years. Two incredible dresses from one of my all time favourite designers, Molly Goddard, have been included into the collection due to the excessive volume within these tulle dresses, often gathered together with metres and metres of fabric inside. Another designer and also a personal favourite of mine, Edda Gimnes, has also been featured within the show, for her wacky and bold illustrative garments that really cannot be compared to anything else on the market.
Now onto the looks…
The best of the best
This category belongs to the individuals that went above and beyond for bringing their looks to life, those who went past the obvious and really looked into the idea of Camp, or just simply nailed the concept of taking everything one step further.
Ezra Miller was a celebrity that I anticipated the most for the Met Gala, and he did not disappoint, with two incredible yet very differently toned outfits, either one of them makes up for those who turned up in plain black suits. Lady Gaga followed a similar style of having multiple looks before the actual gala has even began, instead adding in an extra two looks including stripping down into some black underwear and tights and continuing to truly perform her concept. Saoirse Ronan and Florence Welch turned up in fully embellished oriental influenced pieces, with both really stepping outside their comfort zones with their own styles too. Billy Porter also stole the show for the men’s looks, arriving in a fully beaded and glistening Egyptian style outfit with gigantic wings and heavy makeup, being carried in by six men all in similar tones. Janelle Monae took inspiration from the expressionist period of art, wearing a geometric gown resembling a Picasso painting. Naomi Campbell looked incredible and sassy in a pink low cut dress with feather shawl and white lace tights, a little feature that I think completed the look. And of course, Zendaya arriving in a light up Cinderella ball gown was a great was to show both regality and pomp, as well as the exaggerated cartoon figures we have all grown up watching.
Could’ve been better
This is quite a small category for those that I expected more from, I liked the idea of but the look just didn’t work out in the end, or did actually try but it just wasn’t as good as everyone else. To start with, I’ll have to say that Harry was an incredible let down. Considering he pulls out the campest of camp outfits for every concert or interview he does, I expected a lot more. A black jumpsuit with nothing going on from the waist down is not co-host of the CAMP Met Gala appropriate. I expected at least a heavily detailed suit, a skirt even. Likewise for Ru Paul, I expected some kind of elaborate drag outfit like Aquaria at least, maybe even a double look like in the Low music video. I don’t really care for Hailey Steinfeld, however I love the Viktor and Rolf quotation tulle dresses, and I think that the hair and that headband just make the whole look seem a bit too nice, and not in a good way. As for Kendall and Kylie, yes they look incredible and have actually stuck to the theme for the first time in their lives, yet it’s nothing crazy or wowing in comparison to the other looks we’ve seen. Try better next time?
Why did you even bother showing up
This category just speaks for itself. Taron Egerton, the actor playing the iconic Elton John, turning up in a black ‘slightly shiny’ suit with a ribbon bow tie? Don’t do Elton like that. Obviously the two are separate individuals, but to be currently talked about in relation to your role as Elton, and to turn up to a Camp themed Met Gala in something you could easily wear anywhere else, not acceptable. James Charles (1.why are you here, 2. Alexander Wang WHY did you dress him) looking like he lost every item of clothing except his suitcase he hasn’t unpacked since coachella, not good enough. To be boasting on social media about how thankful you are to be invited to a met gala, and completely slap the dress code in the face? Do not call yourself ‘extra’ if you turn up to a camp Met Gala with a black smokey eye. Cody Fern, I’m not angry, I’m just disappointed. The couple from Riverdale I always forget the name of, just no. Bouncer Kanye and Kim not dressing according to the theme but who’s shocked there. Oh Kris, don’t do Viktor and Rolf like that.
And last but certainly not least, some final looks that I thought were bold for the individuals themselves, fit beautifully with the theme but weren’t too overbearing, or they’re just my faves. Emma Roberts looking like a killer fairy in a Giambattista Valli ruffled tulle gown, although very similar to that of Molly Goddard. Baz Luhrmann (my favourite director) and his wife Catherine Martin, the costume designer for The Great Gatsby, one of my favourite films (also directed by Luhrmann) both looking incredible. Benedict Cumberbatch proving that camp does not have to be too intimidating for the average male, and that you can look immensely stylish whilst also being relevant to the theme. Anna Wintour looked stunning in that dress, but the feather coat is what won me over. Lili Reinhart and Cole Sprouse really trying this time, I especially admire the Marie Antoinette reference. Alessandro Michele looking AMAZING in pink. And finally, Elle Fanning providing a 60’s Twiggy style dream with silky hair and those miraculous nails.
To conclude, the Met Gala’s show this year has been my personal favourite and one that I don’t think will ever be topped for my own taste. From the colour schemes to the hosts, the outfits and the joy, to my idol Cher performing both her own hits and ABBA hits, nothing could ever compare. This year seemed to be broader in theme and as a result we got huge variety in looks, especially in comparison to last year, so at least there will definitely be a look that suits everyone.
Thank you for reading this!