By Huw Lemmey
Fashion’s favourite ball has just announced its theme for 2019 – and it’s ‘camp’. But how can it top this year, when Rihanna dressed as an archbishop and Katy Perry was an angel?
With appropriate fanfare and screams from the gallery, the theme of next year’s Met Gala is announced. The red carpet event is now a venerable institution, and for the past 70 years guests of the Metropolitan Museum’s annual fundraising gala have been thrilling the fashion world with increasingly astonishing outfits, each one riffing on the theme of the summer show at the Met’s Costume Institute. Next year’s exhibition will be a celebration of Susan Sontag’s seminal 1960s essay, Notes on “Camp”.
What more perfect theme for the ball, an event already swimming in tongue-in-cheek pastiche, than “camp”? Sontag described camp as “the consistently aesthetic experience of the world. It incarnates a victory of ‘style’ over ‘content’, ‘aesthetics’ over ‘morality’, of irony over tragedy.” More than just simple flamboyance, camp revels in playing up the serious until it becomes ridiculous, “dethroning” it. Good taste be damned — some things are so bad they become good. Camp gives us a sideways look at the world by taking the frivolous seriously, while acknowledging that everything, in the end, is artifice.