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Camp Notes

It’s a sensibility, not an idea

Published

Bold and grotesque, the red carpet of Met Gala last Monday, with the theme “Camp: Notes on Fashion,” was a moving exhibit of fashion at its most exuberant. Dubbed as the Oscars of fashion, this year’s gala centered its theme on the 1964 essay of Susan Sontag, Notes on “Camp.” Stars showed their interpretation of what it would like if the words of Sontag were to manifest in wearable form. Taking a cue from the playwright Oscar Wilde, who said, “One should either be a work of art, or wear a work of art,” as mentioned in the essay, the red carpet turned into a theatrical rite of passage, a “camp vision.” From colorful ensembles, gender-bending styles, and severed head to the optimum display of textures and unusual fabrication, every look captured the eccentric sensibility of what “camp” meant in art, fashion, film, and pop culture.

(Images sourced from AFP and Getty Images)

Camp doesn’t propose that it is in bad taste to be serious; it doesn’t sneer anyone who succeeds in being seriously dramatic.

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Serena Williams in Atelier Versace and Nike x Off-White sneakers

Camp taste nourishes itself on the love that has gone into certain objects and personal styles.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - MAY 06: Katy Perry attends The 2019 Met Gala Celebrating Camp: Notes on Fashion at Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 06, 2019 in New York City. Neilson Barnard/Getty Images/AFP

Katy Perry in Moschino

Camp proposes a comic vision of the world.

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Ezra Miller in Burberry with Tiffany and Co. jewelry

Camp introduces a new standard: artifice as an ideal, theatricality.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - MAY 06: Constance Wu attends The 2019 Met Gala Celebrating Camp: Notes on Fashion at Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 06, 2019 in New York City. Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for The Met Museum/Vogue/AFP

Constance Wu in Marchesa

The whole point of camp is to dethrone the serious. Camp is playful, anti-serious.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - MAY 06: Hailee Steinfeld attends The 2019 Met Gala Celebrating Camp: Notes on Fashion at Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 06, 2019 in New York City. Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for The Met Museum/Vogue/AFP

Hailee Steinfeld in Viktor and Rolf Couture

Camp is a woman walking around in a dress made of three million feathers.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - MAY 06: Anna Wintour attends The 2019 Met Gala Celebrating Camp: Notes on Fashion at Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 06, 2019 in New York City. Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for The Met Museum/Vogue/AFP

Anna Wintour in Chanel Couture

Camp is the paintings of Carlo Crivelli, with their real jewels and trompe-l’oeil insects and cracks in the masonry.

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Darren Criss in Balmain

Camp rests on innocence. That means camp discloses innocence, but also, when it can, corrupts it.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - MAY 06: Emma Roberts attends The 2019 Met Gala Celebrating Camp: Notes on Fashion at Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 06, 2019 in New York City. Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for The Met Museum/Vogue/AFP

Emma Roberts in Giambattista Valli

Camp is the triumph of the epicene style. (The convertibility of “man” and “woman,” “person” and “thing.”)

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Michael Urie in Christian Siriano

To emphasize style is to slight content, or to introduce an attitude, which is neutral with respect to content.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - MAY 06: Jared Leto attends The 2019 Met Gala Celebrating Camp: Notes on Fashion at Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 06, 2019 in New York City. Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for The Met Museum/Vogue/AFP

Jared Leto in Gucci

Camp is a certain mode of aestheticism. It is one way of seeing the world as an aesthetic phenomenon.

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Cara Delevingne in Dior

Camp taste draws on a mostly unacknowledged truth of taste: the most refined form of sexual attractiveness (as well as the most refined form of sexual pleasure) consists in going against the grain of one’s sex.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - MAY 06: Harry Styles attends The 2019 Met Gala Celebrating Camp: Notes on Fashion at Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 06, 2019 in New York City. Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images/AFP

Harry Styles in Gucci

The hallmark of camp is the spirit of extravagance.

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Cardi B in Thom Browne

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - MAY 06: Lady Gaga attends The 2019 Met Gala Celebrating Camp: Notes on Fashion at Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 06, 2019 in New York City. Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for The Met Museum/Vogue/AFP

Lady Gaga in Brandon Maxwell

Camp is the glorification of “character.” The statement is of no importance – except, of course, to the person (Loie Fuller, Gaudí, Cecil B. De Mille, Crivelli, de Gaulle, etc.) who makes it.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - MAY 06: Lupita Nyong'o attends The 2019 Met Gala Celebrating Camp: Notes on Fashion at Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 06, 2019 in New York City. Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for The Met Museum/Vogue/AFP

Lupita Nyong’o in Atelier Versace

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - MAY 06: Billy Porter attends The 2019 Met Gala Celebrating Camp: Notes on Fashion at Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 06, 2019 in New York City. Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images/AFP

Billy Porter in The Blonds, shoes by Giuseppe Zanotti, and makeup by Pat McGrath

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