Camp: Notes on Fashion


Camp: Notes on Fashion

The Costume Institute’s Spring 2019 exhibition at The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Images courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Words by Hannah Rose Prendergast

The MET Gala’s spring 2019 exhibition, Camp: Notes on Fashion, explores the effervescent nature of Camp from its marginalized state all the way through to its influence on modern pop culture. To help guide this year’s theme are the words penned by late writer Susan Sontag in her 1964 essay ‘Notes on Camp.’

Trying to pin down Camp is not easy—it evades capture and is often inextricably tied to the meaning of fashion. As curator Andrew Bolton puts it “Fashion is the most overt and enduring conduit of the Camp aesthetic.” Existing in most forms of artistic expression to toe the line between contemporary and high art, Camp expresses itself using “irony, humor, parody, pastiche, artifice, theatricality, and exaggeration.”

Derived from the French term “se camper,” camp first appeared in the 1600s when there was an “extraordinary feeling for artifice, for surface, and for symmetry.” During the Victorian era, Camp emerged as the stereotype of “effeminate aristocrat”—one that Sontag dedicated to Oscar Wilde. Interestingly enough, though, her seminal work undermines the queerness that is Camp, particularly as a signaling practice. “One feels that if homosexuals hadn’t more or less invented Camp, someone else would,” Sontag writes. After homosexuality was decriminalized in Britain in 1967, Camp grew increasingly mainstream and away from gay culture. Today, Camp qualifies as anything that is “so outrageously artificial, affected, inappropriate, or out-of-date as to be considered amusing.”

The exhibition showcases 250 objects, including womenswear, menswear, sculptures, paintings, and drawings dating from the 17th century to the present. Among the designers are Alexander McQueen, Christian Dior, Cristóbal Balenciaga, Jean Paul Gaultier, Jeremy Scott, John Galliano, Marc Jacobs, Thom Browne, Viktor & Rolf, Vivienne Westwood, and Virgil Abloh’s Off-White. Gucci is also featured prominently as a sponsor for this year’s Gala, which is a more than appropriate choice for the house which is committed to Camp like no other. Iconically illustrating this point is the polarizing effect of their ‘Flashtrek’ sneakers: you love them, or you hate them or as Sontag says, “it’s good because it’s awful.”

In any context, Camp does not take itself too seriously. With the same circularity as a Tomo Koizumi gown, attempts to define Camp are, in and of themselves, Camp. Camp: Notes in Fashion is on view at the MET from May 9 through September 8, 2019.

EDITORIAL2020coatdressdriesdries vandries van notenearringsisabelisabel marantlongchamplouis vuittonmarantmarchnotenpradasandalsshoestrousersvanvan noten

Warm Strength

EDITORIALblack vinyl finishblack vinyl finish trenchblack vinyl finish trench coatfaux furfaux fur leopard jacketfaux fur leopard jacket frenchfaux fur zebra jacketfaux fur zebra jacket versacefinish trench coatfinish trench coat burberryfur leopard jacket french connectionfur zebra jacket versacejacket calvin kleinleather jacket tripp nycsilver jacket calvin kleintrench coat burberryturtleneck loro pianovinyl finish trenchvinyl finish trench coatvinyl finish trench coat burberry

By the Grace

FASHION2020adeamadornedcollectionculturedressesfall-winterfall-winter 2020fashionfestivalsjapanesejapanese culturekawaiikemarisoftsoft beltstrack pantstraditionalwide softwide soft belts


EDITORIALalt= link="false href="# title= target=cs_column fade="false fade_animation="in fade_animation_offset="45pxcs_column fade="false fade_animation="in fade_animation_offset="45px fade_duration="750cs_row inner_container="true marginless_columns="false style="marginfade="false fade_animation="in fade_animation_offset="45px fade_duration="750fade="false fade_animation="in fade_animation_offset="45px fade_duration="750 type="1/1href="# title= target= info="none info_place="toplink="false href="# title= target= info="noneparallax="false separator_top_type="none separator_top_height="50px separator_top_inset="0pxparallax="false separator_top_type="none separator_top_height="50px separator_top_inset="0px separator_top_angle_point="50separator_bottom_type="none separator_bottom_height="50px separator_bottom_inset="0px separator_bottom_angle_point="50separator_top_angle_point="50 separator_bottom_type="none separator_bottom_height="50px separator_bottom_inset="0pxseparator_top_angle_point="50 separator_bottom_type="none separator_bottom_height="50px separator_bottom_inset="0px separator_bottom_angle_point="50separator_top_height="50px separator_top_inset="0px separator_top_angle_point="50 separator_bottom_type="noneseparator_top_height="50px separator_top_inset="0px separator_top_angle_point="50 separator_bottom_type="none separator_bottom_height="50pxseparator_top_inset="0px separator_top_angle_point="50 separator_bottom_type="none separator_bottom_height="50pxseparator_top_inset="0px separator_top_angle_point="50 separator_bottom_type="none separator_bottom_height="50px separator_bottom_inset="0pxseparator_top_type="none separator_top_height="50px separator_top_inset="0px separator_top_angle_point="50separator_top_type="none separator_top_height="50px separator_top_inset="0px separator_top_angle_point="50 separator_bottom_type="nonetitle= target= info="none info_place="top info_trigger="hover

Dream Theory

EDITORIAL20202828 2020awaw 2020bathazarbreezyciinderellaciinderella bathazarcocococo breezyfebruaryfebruary 28february 28 2020joycejoyce maomaomarch

Woman’s Day with Furla

FASHION20202828 2020adamchristopherchristopher kanecollectiondesignerdressesfashionfebruaryfebruary 28february 28 2020fwfw 2020kanenatureseensexualitytriangle

Bally AW 2020

Christopher Kane AW 2020
FASHION2020adamchristopherchristopher kanecollectiondesignerdressesevefashionillustratedkanenatureseensexualityshapeshirtsstyledtrianglewoman

Christopher Kane AW 2020

EDITORIAL20202424 2020dressearringfallfall winterfall winter 2020februaryfebruary 24february 24 2020winterwinter 2020

Color Shift