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 dictionary.com 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.

Dictionary.com’s 2nd definition of “camp” (accessed 05/07/19)

 

 

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Need help writing and citing?

Hi, all!

announcement for citation salon event 4/30/19

The FIT Library will host another citation help evening tomorrow night, April 30th! Come get donuts with a side helping of writing assistance! This event will be on the 6th floor of the library, aka the Art Resources Lab, from 5pm-midnight.

Just in case you need help sooner than that, here are our research guides about citations:

 

 

Library guide to citing APA style

 

 

 

MLA handbook 8th edition cover

 

 

Library guide to citing MLA style

 

 

 

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The world in pattern

Walking past the new book shelf this week, I found a book I really like.

Cover of The Chronology of Pattern"

 

In V&I, I often have talked about the history of design, the history of cloth, the history of fashion, and how closely important they are to the cultures within which they exist. This book gives a rough history of world art (yes, including non-western cultures and their design motifs!) though the idea of pattern. Pattern as in “the rhythmic and applied decoration on a surface”.

The motifs of 16th century Benin, Africa

 

The history of world design is more usually presented in terms of types of objects. For example, for ancient China, some centuries the only remains are a series of bronze vessels. For 18th century France, inlaid and extra-ornamented furniture is usually the central discussion topic. The textile trade between Europe and India is frequently discussed in terms of painted textiles called palimpores. Traditional conoisseurship most often catalogs items by stylistic changes over time, often valuing most the rarest remaining objects.

East-Asian art and the depiction of the cosmos

 

But this book is different. It tackles the history of human design by grouping a variety of objects by their dominant design motifs. This is a great idea for teaching the world history of art, especially to visual learners like FIT students. Also, focusing on the concepts to illustrate conveys a sense of what felt most important to those cultures. It’s awesome and I love it!

Early medieval medallion silks and the beasts within them

 

The book takes scholarly summaries concerning cultures and their objects, then combines it with glorious full color images of these objects. Even here, the definition of what constitutes objects worthy of study is so expanded from older books of ornament, that my heart rejoiced. The team who put this book together clearly attempted to break down the 19th century division between Fine Arts (sculpture, architecture, and painting) and Decorative Arts (everything else, but not really counting textiles and definitely excluding fashion as the most frivolous idea possible.) Objects in these gorgeously laid out pages include many textiles, including patterned silks, multicolored tapestries, rich carpets, and elaborate embroideries from many cultures. Even the rise of French couture gets a page.

19th century fabrics and the rise of fashion culture

 

The end of the book includes a comprehensive, worldwide timeline, giving contemporary contexts for those familiar with some cultures, but not others. There is also a glossary, focused mainly on the grammar and motifs of art history. Most importantly, there is a bibliography which offers the interested reader places to research further.

World timeline from 1647-2011

 

Given the sources of many old art friends pictured, this looks like it must have been a joint effort across departments at the Victoria & Albert museum in London, UK. It is an heroic one which will likely be used as the textbook for the next generation of culture and art history teachers. Flipping through it is like getting the best kind of museum tour.

 

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