This year’s Met Gala theme, “Camp: Notes on Fashion,” has proven difficult for people to wrap their heads around. (One thing we know for sure: it has nothing to do with fire and marshmallows.) The theme was born out of Susan Sontag’s esoteric 1964 essay “Notes on ‘Camp,’” a sort of bible spelling out the laws of camp aesthetics. In general, the term suggests flamboyance, excessiveness, and fantasy—a style that would normally draw the ire of the fashion police.
The exhibition, opening May 9, explores the camp canon, from a sequin Versace catsuit emblazoned with Vogue covers to an opera coat resembling a packaged microwave meal by Mochino to Stephen Jones’s headpiece of oversized lips—the cheekiness is in-your-face.
Of course, what constitutes the genre is open to interpretation. Andrew Bolton, the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Wendy Yu curator in charge of the costume institute, is quick to point out that all fashion is in some form or another campy. As we gear up for tonight’s Met Gala, we turned to the design world to crowdsource ideas about camp and to see how the style is manifested in these top designers’ work.