A completely unqualified and unnecessarily harsh review of the 2019 Met Gala

Divya Nelakonda, News Editor

Known as the “Superbowl of Fashion,” the Met Gala an invitation-only fundraiser for the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s (Met) costume institute and launch party for its Spring exhibition had an exclusive list of celebrities, designers, models, brand representatives and industry insiders flocking to the Met for the 2019 Met Gala.

Held annually on the first Monday of May, on the evening of the Met Gala, attendees are encouraged to (although, disappointingly, a majority fail to) interpret the “theme,” the dress code for the event that corresponds to the clothing featured in the Costume Institute’s exhibit. Past years’ themes have included, “Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination,” “Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology” and “Punk: Chaos to Couture.” This year’s theme was “Camp: Notes on Fashion” inspired by Susan Sontag’s 1964 essay, “Notes on Camp.”

No, the camp being referenced is not the sleeping bags, tent and bugs of camping. Camp as the theme of the Met Gala is an agent of aestheticism. In her essay, Sontag defines camp through 58 entries or “jottings,” and describes the essence of Camp as the love of the “unnatural: of artifice and exaggeration.”  Think Galliano’s Dior in the 2000s, Thierry Mugler in the 90s or almost anything from Moschino.

The theme of Camp is also largely relevant to today’s social and political climate, especially with the historical relation between Camp and homosexuality. The word “camp” originated as a secret language used by queer people in the 19th and 20th century.

The derivation of “camp” is thought to be from the French word “camper” meaning, to portray or pose, or from the Italian word “campare,” which is to make something stand out. Looks that celebrate theatricality, exaggeration, parody, irony, and humor were highly anticipated on the Met Gala pink carpet. I too thought, given the expected “over-the-topness” of every Met Gala, a theme that asks for just that should not be difficult. And while there were many looks to commend, few truly committed to the absurdity that it camp.