Met Gala 2019: advertisement or art?
Are the outfits worthy of being in a museum uniquely machines to make brands earn money?
The Met Gala, year after year, is full to the brim with actors, models, fashion tycoons and influencers all celebrating the world of high-end fashion and beauty. From Moschino to Mugler, to Chanel and Versace, the Met Gala is the epitome of an elitist, stylish realm that seems beyond the grasp of you and me. However, this year’s theme, ‘Camp: Notes on Fashion’, inspired by Susan Sontag’s seminal essay ‘Notes on Camp’, opened up a new understanding of fashion that I believe extends beyond the confines of the famous and fortunate. Bolton’s desire to exemplify the unnatural, extravagant but often marginalised world of camp culture through high-end fashion highlights how the outfits are worthy of being in a museum and should be celebrated as such. They are exemplary of how previously neglected themes and cultures from the past can be articulated and celebrated in modern fashion that extend beyond elite brands.
The outfit was more than a desire for financial gain but a celebration of two camp icons and their blooming careers
Bolton recognised the rising political and cultural agency of camp culture and the outfits at the Met Gala that followed certainly materialised Sontag’s “essence of camp”. To suggest that the likes of Lady Gaga and Zendaya, who not only embodied this essence but effectively produced performance art, were merely pawns in the wider money-making game of the fashion industry is to dilute the works and commitments of hundreds of talented artists who sought to produce a new kind of fashion. Brandon Maxwell’s nesting-doll style dress with four outfit changes and umbrella-twirling dancers cannot be reduced to an outfit that seeks to extend its brand influence through Lady Gaga;
instead it should be celebrated for its commitment to the innocence and intelligence of camp culture. Moreover, the long-standing relationship between Maxwell and Gaga further exemplifies how her outfit was more than a desire for financial gain but a celebration of two camp icons and their blooming careers that have grown together. Ezra Miller’s incredible eye optical-illusion make-up by Mimi Choi also serves to show the weird and wonderful creativity that was embedded within the very nature of the Met Gala which sets it apart from any other fashion event. ‘Camp’ does not necessarily need to mean beauty in the traditional sense but defines its aesthetics through outlandish self-expression that dares to break away from stylised forms of high-end fashion.
The looks presented should stand pride and place in a museum
Despite being criticised for not fully adhering to the theme of ‘camp’, Kim Kardashians outfit further exemplifies how Met Gala clothing cannot simply be a means to make brands money. The iconic wet corseted dress that she wore brought Mr Mugler out of a twenty-year retirement and took over eight months to create. Whilst it can be argued that this is perhaps a mere status symbol of the House of Mugler, the controversies surrounding how she actually got into the dress (some say she lost a rib or two!), her inability to sit down properly and even go the bathroom is indicative of the sacrifices one pays for fashion and beauty. These sacrifices are the body and soul of the excessive
and theatrical world of camp culture. Regardless of the shade served about whether certain celebrities truly fitted the ‘camp’ theme or the appropriation of camp culture more broadly, it cannot be disputed that Met Gala 2019 transformed the narrative on traditional fashion. The looks presented should stand pride and place in a museum as not only a reflection of shifts in artistic fashion, but as a memory of the potency of camp culture in our current socio-political climate that transcends beyond the barriers of elite fashion.
by Gabby Jonsberg-Holmes