Camp is as camp does: Met Gala 2019


Costumed male carried in a litter by 6 scantily clad attendents
Billy Porter carried into Met Gala by 6 attendents all dressed in gold


Choosing “Camp” (*! see below) as the theme of the 2019 Met Gala was itself as camp as an event theme can get. Media celebrity coverage has already taken the once-blandly elegant party for New York society to a level of visual exaggeration and self-referential play that rivals any Bollywood event. Yet camp also means playful, and the Met Gala has become the fashion world’s most playful pop-culture moment. (And Billy Porter, pictured above, won this round!)

Serena Williams in yellow event gown on Met Gala stairs
Serena Williams, both campy and comfy in flower-covered yellow with matching kicks.


While Hollywood and the music industries have not yet achieved the Bollywood level of play, American celebrities held their own on Monday. In keeping with the exaggeration of camp, the dominant fabrications were shiny metallic. In keeping with the effeminacy of camp, the dominant color showing was pink.

Lady Gaga in giant hot pink wrap on Met Gala pink carpet, with male attendents
Who understands an entrance? Lady Gaga! Wearing two of the best pink garments on the entire carpet.


There is much to be written about the association of pink with exaggeration and effeminacy, and the culture-wide misogyny that conflates them, this post is content to enjoy the joyful lunacy on the pink carpet Monday evening. There is little doubt that the team who chose the theme this year hoped to engage these ideas in this era of #metoo and the cultural debate over masculinity, femininity, and the fluidity between these two extremes. Even if they didn’t, the party attendees sure did.

The Metropolitan Museum’s Camp Fashion site

Woman in pink leather jacket and dress standing on pink carpet
Katy Musgraves playing off Barbie’s dream wardrobe, for the requisite exaggeration. Photo by Karsten Moran/NYT


You can look at Katie Perry and Celine Dion, who sparkled brightest in their metallics, elsewhere. For me the most thought provoking outfits of the evening were two specific references to art and identity, presented by Janelle Monae and Ezra Miller.

Janelle Monae in black, white and pink gown inspired by Picasso's art
Monae wearing a Siriano gown inspired by Pablo Picasso offered the perfect blend of thoughtful, but dramatic, formal and playful. Photo by Karsten Moran/NYT


Monae’s Siriano gown used an eye-shaped piece (that blinked, even) to cover her bust. She carried a eye-shaped purse in her opposite hand to complete the effect.

Ezra Miller, carrying a mask, and made up to look like he has 6 eyes,
Miller’s mask and makeup played with the idea of inner vs. outer selves. Photo by Karsten Moran/NYT


Plenty of celebrities played it safe (a.k.a. “phoning it in”). The pink carpet was awash in elegant black gowns and tuxes, or tastefully cut satin sheaths. To these people I can only say, it was kind of you to give a quiet background to offset your more flamboyant compadres.

My favorite effect of the evening was Zendaya’s fairy princess gown: it began the evening as a black ballgown, then lit up to this silvery fantasy when her attendant waved a wand.

Zendaya in ball gown with man in blue coat
Zendaya enjoying her inner princess moment. In my favorite effect, the black dress light up when her attendant waved his wand. Photo by Karsten Moran/NYT


I hope you had as much fun watching as I did!


*The adjective “camp” has several meanings: Merriam-Webster online gives these for the noun version: 1.a. “Something so outrageously artificial, affected, inappropriate, or out-of-date as to be considered amusing. b. “a style or mode of personal or creative expression that is absurdly exaggerated and often fuses elements of high and popular culture. 2. Exaggerated effeminate mannerisms (as of speech or gesture).”

Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary 2nd definition of “camp” (accessed 05/07/19)

!This idea of exaggeration coupled with effeminacy is drawn out further in the definition:

noun 1. something that provides sophisticated, knowing amusement, as by virture of its being artlessly mannered or stylized, self-consciously artificial or extravagant, or teasingly ingenuous and sentimental.” This dictionary goes so far as to include “homosexual” and “consciously artificial, … self-parodying, esp. when in dubious taste.” under its adjectival forms.’s 2nd definition of “camp” (accessed 05/07/19)



This entry was posted in design, fashion, museums, textiles and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Camp is as camp does: Met Gala 2019

Comments are closed.