Every year, it kills me that we’re not near New York, or able to get there regularly anymore, because the Met Gala does make me curious what the actual exhibit has to say. Here are some photos of part of it to pique your curiosity, and Refinery29 wrote a very interesting piece asking why more “black camp,” as the author refers to it, is not included — something that gets to the heart of Lena Waithe’s outfit, for example. There is a lot of good detail about camp as it connects to certain genres and the black cultural experience, and it concludes thusly:
While Monday’s red carpet was noticeably absent of rappers — 21 Savage in Dapper Dan and Travis Scott in Dior each quietly slipped by — the “pimp/player fashion” a derivative stemming from Blaxploitation films would have been an easy way to wear camp, yet only Tiffany Haddish fully attempted that trope (complete with a cane and a ziploc bag of chicken in her handbag). Given the absence of black designers and black cultural references in the Met exhibit, it’s important to enlighten the masses about black culture’s contributions to camp style. And to acknowledge how this oversight happened in the first place. As [“Girl With the Bamboo Earring” podcast host Shelby Ivey] Christie explains, “cultural nuance requires people from that background to be involved, or someone who is committed to understanding.” In that regard, the Met Gala and the corresponding exhibit fall painfully short.
It’s worth your time, especially considered in conjunction with Vogue’s own ineptitude when it comes to diversity.
And now, as we exhale hard on the other side of ALL THAT CONTENT and look back and wonder what it told any of us about camp. I read a review of the exhibit that said it got camp all wrong, and made it too shiny and silly and digestible, or something. To ME, the gala experience showed that the definition of camp is malleable, and can vary depending on the context — which can include wearer or maker or era. I look for an outsize sense of creativity and commitment, hopefully tinged with joy and love of the craft, including a crucial elan from the wearer themselves. So, for example, Ciara looked deliciously camp to me, whereas Emily Ratajkowski fell flat. I think you can find camp in taking something personal, or specific about you, and blowing it up into a larger context (like Zendaya or Keiynan Lonsdale’s butterfly gown). If you live in a space that’s routinely campy, I do not think that slowly erodes a person’s campiness — in other words, Gaga’s still got it — and I don’t buy that on this night, trying to subvert camp was in any way camp. So, for example, I reject that GOOP was somehow stealth-campy by wearing something actively drab. But there are also probably arguments that refute or make ridiculous everything I just said, and certainly the world as a whole has changed greatly since Susan Sontag made her arguments in the famous essay. Maybe camp now lives in the spaces we create by always continuing the conversation. Any conversation. Charles Finch said on Twitter, “Camp’s power is that it belongs to those to whom little belongs.” What is it to you?
And who were your favorites? We were going to do a poll, but the Met in general is SO subjective, and this year even more so. Doing it by which designer won the Met turned out not to be feasible for us organizationally, in terms of our actual lives, so I feel like we should just throw it open for discussion. Who were, say, your top three or 5, and who were your bottom? I thought Ezra and Billy and Michael Urie nailed it; I think, as much as Gaga fatigues me, she certainly delivered a camp performance; I think Kacey Musgraves’s Barbie was flawlessly done. Janelle Monae’s was absolute art. Cara Delevingne took hers to a great place. That’s more than five. As for the worst… I mean, Gwyneth Paltrow could do so much, yet does so little. I am not sure she’s ever really embraced a Met theme; honestly, if she’d just come as her character from A View from the Top, she might’ve gotten an A. Louis Vuitton mostly bored me; Chanel didn’t go full boar; Gal Gadot looked stunning, but for another year. And the big loser for me is NOBODY wearing Schiaparelli. A flamingo head gown is I BELIEVE in the exhibit, but surely there’s plenty to choose from; how did nobody make that happen?
Before I turn it over to you, Vogue had guests do a bunch of goofy Instagram videos again, and you should definitely see some of them. Like:
Okay. YOUR TURN.