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Camp: Notes on Fashion

I have never walked the red carpet. I’m still waiting for that invite. But I’m pretty sure if I did I’d be hard pushed to match the outfits that were seen on the Met Gala’s pink carpet on Monday night.

Izzy Ashton

Assistant Editor, BITE

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I have never walked the red carpet. I’m still waiting for that invite. But I’m pretty sure if I did I’d be hard pushed to match the outfits that were seen on the Met Gala’s pink carpet on Monday night. Every year the ball marks the opening of an exhibition celebrating a different fashion theme. Last year it was a nod to Catholicism, the year before was a retrospective on the Comme des Garcons founder Rei Kuwakubo. And for 2019, the pink carpet went Camp.

Camp: Notes on Fashion is the Met Costume Institute’s exhibition in question exploring camp through the ages, from the royal courts of Louis XIV of France to a three-headed flamingo headpiece by Stephen Jones.

The word camp typically relates to anything that is intentionally, and that’s the important part, ostentatious or excessively effeminate. The choice of theme for this year comes off the back of a surge in popularity for theatrical fashion. As Andrew Bolton, chief curator for the Institute said, “We are experiencing a resurgence of camp.”

An undercurrent to the whole exhibition is Susan Sontag’s 1964 essay Notes on ‘Camp’ in which she described camp as an aesthetic. This was the essay said to have sent camp into the mainstream and provides the backbone to the pink themed exhibition. There is even a room dedicated to Sontag’s 58 principles of camp including irony, theatricality and parody.

A statement from the Met highlighted why camp is so prevalent today: "It is no coincidence that camp resurfaces during moments of social, political, and economic instability – when society is polarised – because, despite its mainstreaming, it has never lost its power to subvert and to challenge the status quo."

Camp: Notes on Fashion opens on 9th May 2019 and runs until 8th September 2019. Visit the Met’s website to find out more.

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