Chase Burns: The Met Gala, the fashion world's buzziest event (or most irritating event, depending on who you ask), is happening tonight—RIGHT NOW, actually. The annual fundraiser for the Met's Costume Institute, held the first Monday in May, is a celebrity orgy of fashion designers and the glitterati. It's presided over by Vogue's Anna Wintour and curator Andrew Bolton, the man behind the Met's upcoming exhibit "Camp: Notes on Fashion," which happens to also be the theme of this evening's gala. Last year's theme was Heavenly Bodies. Rihanna dressed as the Pope.
This year's theme is, bewilderingly, Camp, as in Susan Sontag's essay Notes on Camp, and people, including myself, are worried. Camp is a style or, better put, a sensibility. Camp is "an intentional over-the-top-ness, a slightly (or extremely) 'off' quality, bad taste as a vehicle for good art," writes the New York Times. John Waters is Camp. So is Donald Trump. Lil' Kim is Camp, too. Camp is a way of viewing things. It's notoriously resistant to easy definitions. Once, in college, an advanced theater theory lecturer tried to explain the concept to me by presenting an ornate teapot. "Is this Camp?" He asked. We pondered. Then he THREW THE TEAPOT AGAINST THE GROUND. IT SHATTERED. "Is this Camp?" He asked again. We all, shocked, pondered again. I'm still pondering! IS THIS CAMP?!
The enigma of Camp is part of its delight, but the Met Gala has sent the sensibility into a sort of existential crisis, as I wrote earlier today. How can the Met Gala do Camp when it is inherently Camp? But the big question is: How will these celebrities interpret all of this?
First off, the red carpet is pink.
Because apparently nothing says Camp like the color pink.
Also, it looks like the vintage Mugler couture worn by Cardi B at this year's Grammys has shown up. It is being photographed behind glass:
Jasmyne Keimig: Anna Wintour, Vogue editor-in-chief and the Met Gala presider, has arrived. She’s wearing a couture sequined pink gown under a giant feathered cape, that seems to be a direct reference to Sontag’s line in Notes on Camp: “The hallmark fo Camp is the spirit of extravagance. Camp is a woman walking around in a dress made of three million feathers.” I suppose this is extravagant, especially for Wintour. It clashes, it glitters, it moves in the wind. I bet you she thinks it's ugly. Chase said anyone else would feel beautiful in this dress and I agree.
Here she is describing Camp to CNN earlier last month:
“If you read [Sontag's] remarkable essay, you will understand that ‘camp’ is an expression of everything that is artificial, everything that is a little bit fake, it’s the opposite of nature, so don’t wear your hunting boots or your backpack, and obviously we’re also looking at the influence that the LGBTQ community has had on camp,” Wintour said.
JK: GAGA IS IN THE BUILDING. I repeat, GAGA IS IN BUILDING. She did her homework! THIS IS CAMP! Arriving in a bright, gaudy, hot pink Brandon Maxwell dress replete with a giant bow and a train that needed more than six people to carry, the co-host of the Met Gala had her assistants flutter the dress around her before whipping it off to reveal ANOTHER black dress. Gaga then took off THAT DRESS to reveal a short cute hot pink number, which she then ripped off to pose in black underwear on the stairs. I’m clapping at my computer screen right now. Drag queens around the world are prepping their numbers mimicking these reveals as I type.
CB: Serena Williams, another host for the evening, has arrived. Something important to note: The presentation of her dress in daylight/on the street versus its presentation on the
On the carpet, her look seems bold, maaaaybe garish, but mostly regal. Like if Daenerys Stormborn decided she loved Jean-Paul Gaultier. The color is extra vibrant against the soft pink carpet. But outside...
It's entirely different. She looks like she's wearing a tarp. The dress is the color of one of those electric yellow dinosaurs that you put in water and watch grow. She's also wearing sneakers. This is definitely Camp, but it takes on a different dimension when she appears on the carpet. (It should be noted that my friend's mom, Rita, pointed out to me on Twitter that this dress is the color of a tennis ball.)
JK: Billy Porter is not. Here. To. Play. Arriving in pharaoh-like fashion on top of a chaise carried by six shirtless men decked out in gold jewelry and tight gold pants, the Pose actor is wearing a black cat suit covered in gold fringe, gold face paint, gold cowboy boots, and a head piece that wouldn’t be out of place on an Earth Wind & Fire album cover. Porter hopped off the chaise to spread his wings—literally. I gasped. Breathtaking. Corny as hell. I love it.
I don’t even know how to talk about this, but I think it's going to be my favorite look of the evening.
This is Vogue editor-at-large Hamish Bowles wearing what looks like my grandma’s handwoven rug/blanket on the carpet with shoes that look straight out of the 1700s.
JK: Screenwriter, director, and producer of Glee, American Horror Story and Pose (to name a few), showed up to the pink carpet looking like Poseidon-does-old-dandy. He's wearing a Liberace inspired suit and cape by Christian Siriano. The embroidery is absolutely masterly and intricate. His pants, suit, and bowtie, all appropriately glittery, like they belong on the Vegas Strip. But Murphy’s expression and stance are… a bit sullen? Shy? The outfit is legendary, but it’s wearing him—stick out a leg Ryan! Do a twirl! Conjure up some glittery shells or something! Or is this schleppy behavior what makes the whole thing Camp?
For the record, they portray on the big screen the most extravagant artists the world has ever encountered : Elton John and Freddie Mercury
But decided to wear these outfit... What a disappointment #MetGala pic.twitter.com/TReEDOxuOP
— NED 💙 (@Foxydoe) May 6, 2019
JK: As this Teen Vogue article discussed, black contributions to the camp aesthetic often get overlooked. The 1997 comedy B*A*P*S, starring Halle Barry with the legendary Ruth E. Carter doing costume design, is often cited as an example of black camp. Tiffany Haddish rolled up in a bell-bottomed Michael Kors zebra print suit and a tiny cowboy hat, that sort of riffs off the aesthetic put forth in the film.
CB: Someone had to do it. Jared Leto, seen here carrying his own head, is spoofing Gucci's Autumn Winter 2018 show, which featured models carrying their heads. They also carried baby dragon puppies! Gucci's creative director, Alessandro Michele, is one of the hosts for tonight's gala. He's known for making bad decisions.
JK: Lena Dunham and actress Jemima Kirke showed up in customized Christopher Kane Fall 2019 dresses. This... will take us a while to decipher, there are a lot of symbols in here:
CB: And inside the Gala it looks like a Victoria Secret runway.
And Miss Hari Nef just showed up in a garment that really gets this theme. That color of yellow can be nasty on pale skin, and it's paired with a clownish oversized turquoise bow. She's completely covered, like a horrible doll. And yet… And yet… It's sort of gorgeous in this setting, especially with this carpet that is really beginning to grate my eyeballs. What I especially love about this is how I imagine many of the straighter guests will probably gasp and go, "Oh, honey, this isn't Camp. You look so pretty." She's trolling us all. She's also probably sweating.
JK: Katy Perry arrived looking like a chandelier, er, lamp from Beauty and the Beast. It looks like
CB: The red carpet is winding down here, let's see if we've found some camp.
Ah! Hailee Steinfeld in one of the famous Viktor & Rolf dresses. I knew one of these would make an appearance.
JK: K Stew arrived wearing Chanel Fall 2019. This look left Chase and I speechless. It’s certainly not Camp—but then what is it? It’s kind of like Milla-Jovovich-in-The-Fifth-Element-inspired goth. This is also one we are still processing.
CB: And FINALLY. Here it is! A working definition of Camp!
Diane von Fürstenberg, a princess-cum-fashion designer, is seen here dressed as the Statue of Liberty, wearing herself. We've found our definition of Camp. Let's close this thing out!
Ending with a photo dump. We'll keep adding to it: