Style & Beauty

The 2019 Met Gala Is All About Camp. Here's What That Means.

Susan Sontag's essay "Notes on 'Camp'" informed the 2019 Met Gala. Here's what that could look like on the red carpet.

The 2019 Met Gala red carpet is just around the corner. This year, we’re anticipating some of the most exciting and downright fun fashion moments in the event’s history. And they couldn’t be coming at a better time.

Let’s start with the theme, which is essentially a celebration of all things camp ― and no, that’s not referring to the place you spend your summers getting eaten alive by mosquitos. Instead, both the red carpet and accompanying exhibit will focus on camp in fashion, which means you can expect some quirky, frivolous and over-the-top looks both on the red carpet and inside the walls of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

The Costume Institute’s head curator, Andrew Bolton, shaped the exhibit. It’s called “Camp: Notes on Fashion” ― inspired by “Notes on ‘Camp,’” Susan Sontag’s 1964 essay that outlines the very sensibility of camp. According to Sontag’s definitions (yes, there are multiple), camp is multifaceted and can be expressed in a number of ways.

In Sontag’s words, camp “is the love of the exaggerated, the ‘off,’ of things-being-what-they-are-not” and “the farthest extension, in sensibility, of the metaphor of life as theater.” A few things the writer considers to be campy are Tiffany lamps, Aubrey Beardsley drawings and women’s clothes from the 1920s, specifically feather boas and fringed and beaded dresses. She also considers art nouveau and Old Hollywood actresses like Jayne Mansfield and Jane Russell to be embodiments of camp.

A model presents a creation by John Galliano for Christian Dior during his spring/summer 2008 couture collection show in Paris on Jan. 21, 2008.
A model presents a creation by John Galliano for Christian Dior during his spring/summer 2008 couture collection show in Paris on Jan. 21, 2008.

Sontag notes that the camp sensibility is “disengaged, depoliticized ― or at least apolitical.” Bolton, on the other hand, told The New York Times the opposite.

“We are going through an extreme camp moment, and it felt very relevant to the cultural conversation to look at what is often dismissed as empty frivolity but can be actually a very sophisticated and powerful political tool, especially for marginalized cultures,” Bolton told the Times. “Whether it’s pop camp, queer camp, high camp, or political camp — Trump is a very camp figure — I think it’s very timely.”

Considering those diverging descriptions, camp can be both a little zany and serious. Whether it’s disengaged from politics or not, camp can, at the very least, offer a distraction from a bleak world. That’s not to say it’s time to stop paying attention to what’s going around us. But everyone needs an escape from reality sometimes — and if a night of over-the-top, potentially absurd fashion is going to provide that, so be it.

Come Monday night, celebrities, models and fashion insiders will ascend the stairs outside the Met wearing their sartorial interpretations of camp. If you’re curious about how that might look, think of designers and brands like Jeremy Scott, Moschino, Gucci (the label’s current creative director, Alessandro Michele is one of the gala’s co-chairs) and Rodarte.

To help you visualize it even better, we’ve put together a few examples of some campy fashion through the years. Check them out below:

Images Press via Getty Images
A model on the runway at the Moschino spring 1989 fashion show in Paris.
Michelle Leung via Getty Images
A model wears a dress modelled after a jukebox by Jeremy Scott as part of the designer's fall/winter 2007 collection.
Chris Moore/Catwalking via Getty Images
A model walks the catwalk during the Comme Des Garcons fashion show for Paris Fashion Week on Feb. 27, 2007.
Karl Prouse/Catwalking via Getty Images
A model walks the runway at the Viktor & Rolf spring/summer 2008 fashion show on Oct. 1, 2007 in Paris.
Karl Prouse/Catwalking via Getty Images
A model walks the runway during the Jean Charles De Castelbajac spring/summer 2010 show on Oct. 6, 2009 in Paris.
Victor VIRGILE via Getty Images
A model walks the runway at the Gucci fall/winter 2016 fashion show on Feb. 24, 2016 in Milan.
Catwalking via Getty Images
A model walks the runway at the Gucci fall/winter 2017 fashion show in Milan on Feb. 22, 2017.
Catwalking via Getty Images
A model walks the runway at the Gucci fall/winter 2017 fashion show.
Victor VIRGILE via Getty Images
A model walks the runway during the Schiaparelli fall/winter 2018 show on July 2, 2018 in Paris.
Frazer Harrison via Getty Images
A model walks the runway at the Disney Villains x The Blonds show during New York Fashion Week on Sept. 7, 2018.
Victor VIRGILE via Getty Images
A model walks the runway at the Moschino spring/summer 2019 fashion show on Sept. 20, 2018 in Milan.
Peter White via Getty Images
A model walks the runway during the Balmain spring/summer 2019 show on Jan. 23, 2019 in Paris.
Victor VIRGILE via Getty Images
A model walks the runway during the Schiaparelli spring/summer 2019 couture show on Jan. 21 in Paris.
Victor VIRGILE via Getty Images
A model walks the runway at the Gucci spring/summer 2019 show in Paris on Sept. 24, 2019.
Michael Kovac via Getty Images
A model wears a Rodarte dress during the label's fall/winter 2019 show on Feb. 5, 2019 in Pasadena, California.
Presley Ann via Getty Images
A model wears a Rodarte dress during the label's fall/winter 2019 show on Feb. 5, 2019 in Pasadena, California.
Victor VIRGILE via Getty Images
A model walks the runway at the Moschino fall/winter 2019 show on Feb. 21 in Milan.
2018 Met Gala Red Carpet Looks