The 2019 Met Gala theme was “camp” and had people scratching their heads. Susan Sontag wrote of camp that ‘The essence of Camp is the love of the unnatural: of artifice and exaggeration.” Camp celebrates and elevates taste that is defined as “bad” by the cultural elite. It is also an a-political celebration of the absurd.
Many were perplexed by the choice of “camp” for the Met Gala – last year’s history laden “Fashion and the Catholic Imagination” inspired weighty and regal looks. Some even felt that the choice of “Camp” was problematic – that the term is dated and homophobic. However, Camp has often alluded to the outsiders – Sontag wrote “Camp is esoteric – something of a private code, a badge of identity even, among small urban cliques.” She was referring to the LGBTQI community of the 1960s – who were excluded from the realms of good taste as defined by the white, heterosexual fashion community.
We are taking a look at those who nailed the subversive, highly individualistic appeal of camp – with looks that celebrated performativity and theatricality of this years theme.
Nothing succeeds like excess at a camp Met Gala and Cardi B’s custom Thom Browne gown proved the point. The quilted creation took 2000 hours and 35 people to create – it is quilted with down and decorated with 30,000 feathers. Ludicrously opulent perfection.
Trust Lady Gaga to get the memo re theatricality. Like Cardi B, she brought a train of attendants with her and outstripped everyone (figuratively and literally) for a sheer volume of outfit changes – performing a high fashion burlesque in front of a sea of photographers on the red carpet complete with wind machine. Pure, intoxicating, joyful theatre.
Zendaya and Law Roach
Zendaya was not only on theme but unexpectedly heartwarming. Dressed as Cinderella in a Tommy Hilfiger confection, Zendaya paired up with Law Roach as her fairy godmother. Roach, a superstar stylist, has been dressing the now 22 year old fashion maven since she was 14 and they served up a transformative Cinderella moment. A wave of Roach’s magic wand saw Zendaya’s subdued dove-grey gown literally light up. The Met Gala is a night that has celebrity stylists working behind the scene for months. It was truly touching to see the relationship between stylist and star acted out on the red carpet.
Benedict Cumberbatch and Sophie Hunter
A surprise win? Benedict Cumberbatch and wife Sophie Hunter. Cumberbatch dressed in all white bespoke Labassa Wolfe with emerald accents (his pin was in face the Time Stone from the Avengers Endgame film) and brocade slippers. Wife, avant-garde theatre and opera director Sophie Hunter opted for a suitably theatrical ensemble. The taffeta lilac gown was off the shoulder and featured bell sleeves. The couple struck the perfect balance between regal and playful on the pink carpet.
It seems like a major trend on the Met Gala carpet was assistants! From Cardi B and Lady Gaga to Zendaya. Billy Porter joined the assistants gang, carried onto the carpet by six shirtless men in a reference to Elizabeth Taylor’s iconic Cleopatra moment. The golden outfit was designed by New York label The Blonds with boots from Guiseppe Zanotti.