Welcome Back, Camp.
By SARAH M. IACOBACCI | May 22, 2019
Illustration by Sofia Romansky
May 6, 2019 was host to what is known as the “Super Bowl of Fashion,” the MET Gala. Each year, the Costume Institute exhibits a new theme at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, in which the gala serves as its aperitif. This year celebrated Susan Sontag’s 1964 essay: “Notes on Camp.” With a wealth of candy-coloured feathers, Camp à la extravagance rejoiced. This prompted the most prestigious of designers and their celebrity muses to flex their own interpretations of the abstract phenomena, birthing a plethora of keepsake moments.
This year’s pink carpet was graced with an overload of fun and fruity creations, and thousands of at-home “Joan Rivers” types, shared their opinions – generating close to 3 million mentions on Twitter by 9pm that very day. That left me glazing over an empty inbox, free of any signs that I had overlooked an invitation from Anna Wintour, while simultaneously sharing meme-able photos of the night to a group of friends.
In prefacing the following, I am a girl who at the age of 14 materialised her love for ‘The Academy Awards’ in shoe form (Louboutin, I’m open to collaborate). Consequently, my recount of the night will be biased. As, if I were to ever go to such a themed-event, prior research suggests that I would opt for an ensemble from The Lizzie McGuire Movie fashion show.
However, to better understand the idea of this year’s theme, I reverted to my college notes on Susan Sontag. Her statement explaining that “The whole point of Camp is to dethrone the serious,” puts the be-headed version of Jared Leto, that Gucci stamped, in better taste. With Leto wearing ‘himself’ supported by Gucci, the rise of maximalism has been confirmed, at least for the fashion elite. This creation was in fact a repetition from Gucci’s autumn/winter 2018 collection. Besides the obvious accessory, Alessandro Michele further dressed Leto in his design, which consisted of a red bejeweled high-neck gown. With that, if your FOMO still hasn’t been triggered, the revelation that multiple celebrities participated in the ‘Hot Potato-ing’ of the mannequin head, should do it.
Harry Styles was another character who took the theme head-on. Coming to his first MET gala, he saw and fabulously conquered his first chairing position at the event, all in the matter of one evening. Sharing the hosting responsibilities with Lady Gaga, Serena Williams and Anna Wintour, Styles wore Gucci: the sponsor of the event. Although, the choice of designer was of no surprise, as he recently became the face of their menswear campaign, his choice in wardrobe was. Without paying homage to the styles we have grown accustomed to seeing from him, he entertained a new version of his gender-fluid take on fashion that night. By taking frills, sheer fabric and heeled boots – he took these most-feminine traits and paired it with classical antagonists, like that of his tattoos and tailored trousers, subjecting camp to some form of elegance.
However, it was the multiple spectacles of the night, that truly celebrated all-things camp. With the carpet not shy of performative arrivals, originality was key in keeping the spectators’ attention. With Lady Gaga’s twenty minute choreography of outfit changes, it was assumed that the best part of the meal would be the appetiser. But then, Billy Porter’s entrance took on an Ancient Rome-inspired twist, being quickly followed by Cinderella and her fairy godmother (Zendaya), a candelabra (Katy Perry), and Cardi B wrapped in a comforter. No this was not Carnaval, but it made the event so much more iconic.
In addition to those spectacles, some let their outfits do the talking. If Kim Kardashian West’s body wasn’t already camp enough, Mugler’s creation took it to the next level. Putting the camp in family camping trip, Kris Jenner was there as well, alongside her two youngest daughters; Kendall and Kylie Jenner. The latter two, took a more literal translation, as Sontag wrote “Camp is a woman walking around in a dress made of three million feathers.’ Without undermining the ensembles, the pair looked sensational, and were further immortalised in several comparisons throughout pop culture history, in respect to their colour coordination.
That being said, the past decade has been focused on minimalism, but recently maximalism has been on the rise, as highlighted at this year’s gala. In its simplest form, maximalism is the antithesis of minimalism. This approach for some may come as a surprise, but the widening of our cultural landscape, leaves people mixing instead of matching. With self-expression, gender ambiguity and female empowerment becoming mainstream amongst the people in this ‘InstaAge,’ shifts in the fashion industry are bound to appear.
However, it was the nuance highlighted at the gala, that we should focus on when incorporating maximalism in our aesthetics. Manicures were big this year, with Elle Fanning sporting extensions with dangling ornaments, while Harry Styles covered a multi-tonal range of colours.
That being said, for the Dutchies out here, one may be surprised that even though practicality is highlighted in your culture, maximalism has been slowly creeping in. Perhaps, Dutch fashion duo Viktor & Rolf prompted people to explore, as they recently made headlines during their spring / summer 2019 couture collections for their iconic statement dresses – worn most recently by Hailee Steinfeld at the MET gala.
However, if couture isn’t in your budget range and disco clogs aren’t the most comfortable, then go for some printed fabrics instead. This past autumn saw an overload of leopard print fabric, and flared pants. In continuing that trend, don’t be afraid to mix patterns, instead of always focusing on the ‘rules’ of matching. Then again, for the average 9-5 worker, it may be most practical to take on maximalism with a minimalistic approach, but don’t let that stop you from expressing yourself.
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