Met Gala: Let's Talk Follow-Through
The biggest day in fashion has come and gone. The first Monday of May, New York’s day of anticipated extravagance arrived. This year’s Met Gala was themed by Andrew Bolton, curator of the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, “Camp: Notes on Fashion.” This year’s theme probably involved far more interpretation than previous years; its foundations rested on Susan Sontag’s essay “Notes on Camp,” which sought to define ‘camp’ through a number of descriptions that never seemed to truly pin it down, its ambiguity a part of the term’s character. Camp has an illustrious background, dating back to the creation of Versailles and Louis XIV, which the exhibit harkens back to as well. Sontag writes, “Indeed the essence of Camp is its love of the unnatural: of artifice and exaggeration.” In Versailles, camp was embodied by the rules made for dress and behavior, by the serious attention paid to too-high wigs and beautiful embroidery. As history has progressed, camp has grown in strong association with queer culture. And, important to keep in perspective, the women and men who dress in camp fashion on a daily basis are the marginal, not frequently treated with the acceptance this theme chooses to seek out. In a way, this exhibit calls to the forefront camp so as to normalize and publicize this culture’s existence. Perhaps, this mentality is one to take when critiquing the fashion of this year’s guests.
Naturally, there were standouts. Some anticipated, some lesser known. Refreshingly, many male guests this year didn’t hold back. Billy Porter being carried in by six shirtless men, dripping in gold beading and equipped with full wings to emulate Egyptian goddess Isis was exceptional to say the least. He worked with the Blonds, who Porter claimed to feel was the best current representation of camp. Ezra Miller, wearing Burberry (and probably representative of the only interesting Burberry look of the night), outfitted his pinstripe suit with a bejeweled corset, a mask of his face, and a makeup look that’s already created a snapchat filter. His makeup gave Miller five extra eyes, two below his true eyes, and three above on his forehead. It undoubtedly made audiences feel something: horror, discomfort, intrigue. Sontag quotes “One should either be a work of art, or wear a work of art” from Phrases & Philosophies for the Use of the Young under her notes for Oscar Wilde. Here, Miller attempts to be the work of art, to physically become an illusion. Hamish Bowles wore a Maison Margiela by John Galliano fur-trimmed and quite colorful cape, accessorized with an equally-colorful green hairstyle. Everyone I’ve shown his outfit to has cringed in distaste, which helps to capture another essential facet to camp. Sontag concludes her essay: “The ultimate Camp statement: it's good because it's awful. Of course, one can't always say that. Only under certain conditions;” in Hamish Bowles’ case, this cape succeeds in becoming camp.
Some women also pushed themselves. Priyanka Chopra was nearly unrecognizable wearing Dior Haute Couture in a silver-plated dress with a colored feathered skirt, a cape, and a structural crown. It’s hard to even look at in its entirety. There’s so much going on; it’s precisely this dislike and inability to easily breakdown that helps it succeed as camp. Lupita Nyong’o wore a pink Versace gown, with massive and colored tulle sleeves, 5 hair picks, and a matching fan purse. It’s incredibly playful, slightly hideous, and wholly camp. Janelle Monae wore a Picasso-inspired Christian Siriano dress that packed hats on top of hats and a feather beaded eye to cover her chest area. Red lips cascaded down her incredibly long ponytail, and in all its bizarreness it succeeded.
Though there were more than a few guests that either forewent the theme all together or took it far too literally (ahem, Katy Perry - dressing up as a lamp doesn’t make you camp or particularly enticing at all — truthfully I don’t know if I hated her Heavenly Bodies party-city looking costume or her hamburger look this year more), but there were also a surprising number of guests who studied Sontag’s poem, worked well with their designers, and pulled off a seemingly particularly challenging theme. I, for one, was pleasantly surprised.