The sartorial stars are perfectly aligned for the Costume Institute’s 2019 exhibition, “Camp: Notes on Fashion” and the attendees who will dress the part Monday night at the Met Gala in New York City.
Inspired by Susan Sontag’s 1964 essay “Notes on ‘Camp,’” the exhibition examines how fashion designers have used their role as a vehicle to engage with camp in a myriad of compelling, humorous and unbecoming ways—and common themes in the Fall/Winter 19-20 collections fluttered down the runway in ruffles, tulle and feathers.
Approximately 250 objects, including women’s wear and men’s wear, sculptures, paintings and drawings dating from the 17th century to the present are on display. The exhibition, which runs from May 9 to Sept. 8, traces camp through history from the royal courts of Louis XIV and Louis XV, to its origins in European and American queer subcultures in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, to ways contemporary labels express irony, humor, parody, theatricality and exaggeration in their design.
“Camp’s disruptive nature and subversion of modern aesthetic values has often been trivialized, but this exhibition reveals that it has had a profound influence on both high art and popular culture,” said Max Hollein, director of The Met. “By tracing its evolution and highlighting its defining elements, the show embodies the ironic sensibilities of this audacious style, challenges conventional understandings of beauty and taste, and establishes the critical role that this important genre has played in the history of art and fashion.”
Recent collections from designers like Viktor & Rolf, Valentino, Christian Cowan and Met Gala sponsor Gucci will give attendees plenty of camp to work with. While completely different, each brand keys into playful, magpie elements like layers of tulle, exaggerated ruffles, crystals and pussy bows.
And with a multitude of ways to define camp, be it Moschino’s Fall/Winter 19-20 game show-inspired pin-up girl dresses, Molly Goddard’s Fall/Winter 19-20 colorful confections, or a nod to Karl Lagerfeld’s own campy uniform, the red carpet is bound to be one of the most outrageous yet. In in a video interview on Vogue.com, Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour predicted that feathers will be the biggest trend and that men, particularly Mick Jagger protégé Harry Styles and RuPaul, will win the evening.
Co-chaired by Wintour, as well as Gucci creative director Alessandro Michele, Lady Gaga, Harry Styles and Serena Williams, the fundraising event—which is often referred to as “fashion’s biggest night”—brings with it an endless stream of fashion moments. Last year’s exhibition, “Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination,” brought Rihanna dressed in a pope-inspired mini dress, Katy Perry in soaring angel wings and a congregation of celebrities wearing halos and religious headpieces.