Understanding Camp Fashion

The Met Gala theme for 2019 has just been announced, Camp: Notes on Fashion, which according to the Metropolitan Museum was inspired by American writer and activist Susan Sontag’s 1964 essay Notes on “Camp”.

The theme is both extremely both broad and very specific, as those invited are asked to think bigger, more extravagantly and more outrageously than ever before. Understated or minimalistic designs have little place among this theme, setting the night up to be truly unparalleled. Camp, as described by Sontag, is the “love of the unnatural: of artifice and exaggeration.” The theme is more than just a colour scheme, silhouette or era: it is very much a vibe and a feeling.

When something is just bad, rather than camp, it’s often because it is too mediocre in its ambition. The artist hasn’t attempted to do anything really outlandish.

The fashion industry has seen incredible displays of camp fashion throughout the years, with designers such as Elsa Schiaparelli, Bob Mackie and Marc Jacobs ruling the camp-fashion world at given points. Each designer tackled camp fashion in totally different ways, speaking to the immense potential of this year’s theme. Schiaparelli was known for her bold use of pinks and extravagant Oscar gowns, while Mackie bought his signature camp to the screen and stage with Cher, Judy Garland and Mitzi Mayor all donning Mackie’s futuristic and irreverent designs. Jacobs drew inspiration from streetwear but elevated the genre with infusions of colour and playfulness. The designer has collaborated with a selection of artists known for their pop-inspired work to create a selection of camp and out of the box designs.

Camp has also been highly affiliated with Queer culture which in recent years, through the shining star that is Ru Paul’s Dragrace, has taken its rightful place among mainstream culture. Given the world’s new adornment of drag culture, the announcement of this year’s theme is not particularly surprising. While celebrities like David Bowie, Elton John and Lady Gaga have embraced the idea for many years; other performers are only more recently beginning to join in.

This year's Met Gala fashion presentations are expected to be head turning and totally over the top as, according to Sontag, if camp fashion is not executed with the utmost dedication it really not worth doing at all. “When something is just bad, rather than camp, it’s often because it is too mediocre in its ambition. The artist hasn’t attempted to do anything really outlandish.”