2019 MET Gala: outlandish, or on theme?

Lilia Machado, Staff Writer

     The famed 2019 MET Gala, a night spent in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. This is no ordinary gala: America’s favorite celebrities and well known Internet personalities dress up each year according to a fashion-related theme, which is no stranger to the outlandish. This year’s MET gala was a sight to behold on account of this year’s theme: Camp: notes on fashion. But what is camp? No, it is not what one would wear to a weekend of camping, yet, it is the epitome of flamboyant fashion culture. Camp is many things; while it can be opinion based, it can also be rolled into a limitless style and behavior. Camp is a style of fashion and expression for the sake of being unintentionally different, like the chandelier-topped singer Katy Perry at this year’s MET Gala.

     Past MET Gala themes include 2018’s “Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination”, to which Rihannah was labeled ‘best dressed of the night’ by many, and 2017’s “Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between”, which championed artist Rei Kawakubo, the famed designer of ‘Comme des Garçons’, alongside an exhibition presenting her works of art.

     Differing opinions on what “qualifies” as camp will most certainly vary, as this is a common occurrence among fashion fans who aim to pick apart each year’s “best dressed” from those horribly out-of-theme.

Camp: Notes on Fashion took a turn for the interesting, some might say. Just glancing through images

online of what the gala’s attendees wore is not enough to fully soak in the meaning of the exuberant theme. With roots in early homosexual culture, camp’s hushed background is reflected in the exhibit itself. The halls of the exhibition start out cramped and then leads up to wider and more open spaces, which was by design. Since camp is a reflection of modern culture and lifestyle, camp will often occur at the turns or the century (for example, the shift in societal norms in the 60’s, and the prevalence of LGBTQIA+ culture in modern America). The Met Costume Institute’s installation is a journey though the very early to modern day camp lifestyle. Since the gala’s theme was based off of Susan Sontag’s “Camp: Notes on Fashion” (which was published in 1964), Sontag’s insightful yet ironically serious voice can be felt through the exhibition’s pieces.    

     In Sontag’s “Camp: Notes on Fashion”, Rule 24 states that: “When something is just bad (rather than Camp), it’s often because it is too mediocre in its ambition. The artist hasn’t attempted to do anything really outlandish.” This was the case for many attendees; the men (for the most part) stuck to simple black pressed suits, and the women, elegant swaying dresses. Sianna Risko ’20 stated her opinion blatantly in regards to the attendee’s outfits: “Some were good and some were absolutely horrible” and Zoë Wishengrad ’20 joked that “Rihanna was best dressed”, even though Rihanna did not attend. Although known as the “Superbowl of Fashion”, the gala can receive little recognition.

      When a celebrity is seen wearing something outlandish, like Vogue’s Hamish Bowles dull purple John Galliano suit and Persian-rug-like cape, people will turn to social media to ridicule or praise said outfit. But, this is where the MET gala’s purpose can be overlooked and under appreciated. Some might feel as if the important political and social statements are forgotten, like screenwriter Lena Waithe’s pride flag worn to the 2018 MET gala’s religiously-centered theme of “Heavenly Bodies”.

    The 2019 MET gala was a mesh of loud and sadly underwhelming clothing. Sontag writes that “the hallmark of Camp is the spirit of extravagance”, which held true for the most part. Some notable highlights from this year’s gala include, again, Hamish Bowles’s purple suit and cape, Lady Gaga’s pink ball gown featuring a 16 minute “performance art”-like stunt, Lizzo’s coral feathered ensemble, and Billy Porter’s golden extendable wings. Outfits lacking in camp attitude include Rachel Brosnahan’s Victorian-cut red gown, Alexander Skarsgård’s plain black Burberry suit (or the entirety of Burberry that night), and Charlotte Tilbury’s flattering, yet mundane royal blue evening dress.

     Overall, the 2019 NYC MET gala served as an intense cultural fusion, combining  aspects of politics and fashion.