CAMP: Notes on More Than Just Fashion

By Ryan Hartley, Photography Editor

Bigger dresses, bigger hair, bigger performances: the essence of the 2019 Met Gala, titled “Camp: Notes on Fashion,” held at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in Manhattan, New York City did not disappoint the fashion world and spectators as famous musicians, actors and other personalities made their way up the pink stairs.

Each year, the museum holds a benefit to open its next installation into its fashion department, all proceeds going towards the department itself.

Vogue, arguably the most popular fashion magazine and news outlet of all time, released an article to introduce the concept of the Met Gala and this year’s theme.

“The Costume Institute Gala at New York‘s Metropolitan Museum of Art is the biggest event on the fashion fundraising calendar. Founded by publicist Eleanor Lambert, the benefit was first held in 1948 to encourage donations from New York’s high society. In its modern incarnation, the most famous faces from the realms of fashion, film, music and art come together to raise money for the Met’s Costume Institute and celebrate the grand opening of its latest exhibition. The night is centered on the theme of the new exhibition…[,]” wrote Alice Newbold of Vogue.

Ezra Miller, Cara Delevingne and Jared Leto poase inside the 2019 Met Gala.
Photograph by @themetgala2019 via twitter

In order to reflect the industry it holds, the museum is constantly changing themes with each year; past themes include “Heavenly Bodies,” “Manus x Machina” and “Haute Couture” back in 1995.

Held on the first Monday of May every year, the event is often described as the super bowl of fashion, as stated by Vogue in their article covering the 21 years the MET has graced 5th avenue.

André Leon Talley describes the impact that the MET gala has on the world of fashion among others in a Vogue article by journalist Maria Ward.

“It all started in 1946, and over the decades, it has become a grand affair—the party of the year. The one other constant is the red carpet fashion. There is nothing quite like it, and it is vital and exciting to be a part of that,” said Talley.

Senior Alex Fabie responds to Kim Kardashian’s attire to the event, the first design Therry Mugler has made in over 20 years.

“Kim Kardashian is definitely a leader in our generation whether we like it or not, and she looks absolutely amazing in this dress,” said Fabie.

Harry Styles and Alexa Chung dramatically pose inside the Met Gala 2019.
Photograph by @eliesaaab via twitter

The concept of “Camp” as displayed by the museum’s exhibit now currently open to the public, is an idea that has existed in the art and, specifically, fashion world for years.

“Camp” originates most clearly from the drag scene and truly came to light during the 1980’s and 90’s with the emergence of the “club kid” scene of underground parties and bars, most notably in New York City, that allowed the kids to express themselves freely with elaborate costumes, wigs and other gender-bending forms of art.

Popular “club kids” during this time include James St. James, Amanda Lepore and arguably Leigh Bowery.

Today, the public can see “club kid” legacies and tastes in popular culture with drag phenomenons like Aquaria and Violet Chachki, the first drag personas ever invited to the benefit for the museum.

The definition of “Camp” reads as follows, according to Webster’s dictionary:

something so outrageously artificial, affected, inappropriate, or out-of-date as to be considered amusing” or “a style or mode of personal or creative expression that is absurdly exaggerated and often fuses elements of high and popular culture.”

Bella Hadid with Violet Chachki before they headed to the pink carpet at the 2019 Met Gala.
Photograph by @bellahadidbra via twitter

The tradition of “Camp” has reached into every aspect of popular art culture, seen in popular acts like Lady Gaga, Elton John and Prince.

It is not required to be a representative of the queer community to exhibit “Camp,” although the suppression of expression for queer individuals throughout history has led them to be the frontrunners in perfecting the subgenre of expression in art.

This year’s MET gala celebrated the essence of “Camp” through representation of the queer community, the outlandish outfits created by designers like Jeremy Scott for Moschino, Thierry Mugler and Marc Jacobs, according to an article published by the popular queer representation website “Them.” in honor of this year’s gala.

Senior Grace Wetzel responds to Lady Gaga’s attire to the Gala.

“Lady Gaga did everything I hoped she would do on the red carpet. Her second dress of the four she wore was my favorite,” said Wetzel.

Andrew Bolton, the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s curator, has curated some of the Met’s most visited and renowned exhibitions joining the museum in 2002 after working for the Victoria and Albert Museum in London for several years; receiving many awards like the 2015 Vilcek Prize in Fashion and the 2016 Fashion Group International Oracle Award, according to the museum’s own website.

Bolton is accredited and thanked for putting such grand works of art from Bjork’s swan dress from 2001 to the clothing of famous playwright Oscar Wilde.

The Met Gala is an event to be celebrated by the fashion world and those beyond as a trendsetter in art, displaying fashion’s spot among other artforms respectable by museums like photography, painting, sculpture, and more.

This year’s Met Gala was held on Monday, May 6 and all of the looks can be found here via Vogue.

The exhibit “Camp: Notes on Fashion” can be visited at the Met 5th avenue in Manhattan, New York City, NY from May 9 to Sept. 8, 2019.