Let's get the burning question dealt with first: what is "Camp"? What does it mean to be and embody "Campiness"? Perhaps our best understanding of what this is comes from an essay by Susan Sontag, where she writes:
Indeed the essence of Camp is its love of the unnatural: of artifice and exaggeration.
The spirit of Camp can be found in flamboyance, in "cheesiness" and in the ostentatious. It takes the question of "What is art?" and turns it on its head, abandoning the serious nature and taking the ironic, anti-serious path. Camp is delightful and appealing because it offers an aesthetic that allows us to be serious about the frivolous, and frivolous about the serious.
Camp is a mood. Camp is looking at a bright pink studded-to-the-gods jacket and going, "that's too much, far too much, but its so good because of it." To further quote the modern Queen of Camp, Rupaul -
It's about seeing the absurdity of life- have you seen the papers lately? It's camp!
Having camp be the theme of this year's Met Gala is camp in itself, after all, the event is held in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The gala is arguably one of the biggest events on the fashion calendar, and is the equivalent of the Superbowl or the Oscars in the fashion world. The Met gala presents the opportunity to see some of our favourite celebrities going all out (or not, in some cases) to meet the theme of the gala which changes every year. Going beyond the visual spectacle, the technical work that has gone into the creation of these incredible looks is often overlooked: in this article, we dive into some of our favourite looks from the red carpet with our trainer, Thomas Tan, and try to suss out the technical mastery and design features that went into making inspiration a reality.
Tony award-winning producer Jordan Roth oversees five Broadway theatres while maintaining his status as a fashion icon of New York city - so it seemed only fitting that he embodied all those things when he hit the Met with this masterpiece by Iris Van Herpen. Featuring beautiful photos of the Royal Swedish Opera and the Palais Garnier in Paris taken by David Leventi and Richard Termine , notable characteristics of this piece were its movement and 3D-quality. A true testament to art meeting science, Iris Van Herpen worked with architecture professor Phillips Beesley of the University of Waterloo to produce this visual effect.
According to their Instagram,
To create this look, first, the outer layer was made with the ‘glitch’ delicate laser-cutting technique; each line is 0.8 mm thin, and interlinked to all the other thousands of lines by small waves. The line-design of the waves, when moving, creates a three-dimensional bubble effect and is designed to move faster than the eye can follow - therefore called a ‘glitch’. It literally tricks the eyes and mind.
Printed on a hybrid material of cotton and mylar, this beautiful web of fabric would only reveal the theatre contained within when stretched. You can see this transformation in the video below.
So, what's the #ThomasTea?
"The fact that you can't see the opera house until he extends his wings- it's so sharp and so beautiful...it's magnificent because its not a typical Iris Van Herpen kind of style. Is it camp? I'm not too sure- but putting yourself in the middle of a stage in the middle of an opera? Camp."
Janelle Monae's look for the Met definitely demanded a second look (pun intended) with her camp look created in collaboration with Christian Siriano. With its balloon skirt, mechanical batting eyelid (yes, it moves!), and gravity defying hats, this look paid homage to Monae's favourite artist- Picasso. In an interview with Entertainment Tonight on the red carpet, she highlighted her love for surrealism, and had drawn inspiration for the look from Pablo Picasso's African-influenced period of the early 1900's. This particular period brought about pictorial flatness, vivid colour palettes and cubism, elements that can easily be spotted in the piece.
Alright, spill it, #ThomasTea!
"So Camp, so amazing- it is totally her brand. The black and white colour scheme....wearing art on yourself is very campy, but particularly because it was Picasso. She's always been a style icon, marching to her own drum with great androgyny."
The first thing that grabs your eye for this look are the absolutely ostentatious, neon-rainbow wings that extend from the shoulder, an airbrushed organza structure that significantly adds to the drama and the silhouette of the dress. The geometric pink stars that form the body of the dress are made of leather and hand-embroidered with fuchsia-tone crystals, joined via macramé. Several nods are made to this year's theme, especially in the style of makeup and hair. Makeup artist Nick Barose had drawn inspiration from drag queens for the look, with one in particular- Divine. The towering hair-do makes two nods, in two very distinct directions: one to Marie Antoinette, with the towering beehive channeling the excess extravagance of a period that could have been called the Camp-age. The other nod was to her roots, drawing inspiration from Lauren Kelley's self-portrait “Pickin'” (2007) and demonstrating "the power, malleability, and luxuriousness of natural hair texture", according to her hairstylist Vernon Francois .
(Thomas took one look at this photo and had an exclamation of what can only be described as pure appreciation.)
"A lot of people found it scary (laughs) but I think it is very very campy. It's not just about the outfit, but touching on something related to her culture, something she's always been proud of. Even though she's wearing something ostentatious, she's paid homage to her roots. To see Versace represented in this way is special- this isn't a 'classic' Versace Silhouette."
Where do you start with this look? How do you start? Billy Porter floated into the Met not just wearing something that was quintessentially camp, but performing and embodying the spirit of camp. Porter's inspiration came from one of the modern camp icons; in this case, Diana Ross in her Egyptian look from Mahogany. He was dressed by The Blonds in a bejewelled catsuit, 10 foot wings and a 24-karat gold headpiece which took months to construct, the amount of time needed seeming almost ridiculous until you get up close and personal with this piece. Over a million beads and crystals were hand-embellished on the various parts of his look. On the construction of the cape (also wings), Phillipe Blond of the Blond duo told MSN,
The wing cape is an archival piece, and it is comprised of gold baguettes, crystals, and beads, all anchored with caviar beads. Each wing was made to look three dimensional by using tube beads as stilts to raise certain areas. In all, Billy will be wearing well over a million crystals, beads, and chains!
Without a doubt, this piece was a showstopper. What does Thomas think?
"Egyptian Queen in all the sense. It is very traditional Camp, very Camp in an LGBT sense, a gay, dramatic sense. It's a lot of magnificent detailing that's lost in big images."
While it may not appear to have the flamboyance of the previous looks, Diane Von Furstenberg's (DVF) has approached camp in a very traditional manner, putting the serious in the frivolous and the frivolous in the serious. This two-part gown features a picture of her face, taken in 1977 by Ara Gallant for an Interview magazine cover, with her Lady Liberty crown and torch 3D printed by Machine Dazzle. After being 3D printed, the designer painted them in copper, copper-leafed them, and topped it off with Swavroski crystals. Her involvement in the Statue of Liberty- Ellis Island Foundation helps us make sense of Lady Liberty direction: her work with the foundation has helped to raise over $100 million for its new museum. The significance of this look, however, lies in the way it pays tribute to her mother. Diane's mother was taken to Auschwitz on the exact day she wore this look, 75 years prior.
#ThomasTea , so much tea.
"Yes, Camp! Wearing her own face in a Statue of Liberty image? It relates so well to the Susan Sontag essay. I personally find this look particularly powerful because she's also an immigrant. It also satires, in my opinion, an Instagram culture!"
Lets get the facts out of the way first: this dress was not small, and neither was the effort put into making it. This anatomical tulle dress featured a chest piece encrusted in half a million dollars worth of rubies, shaped affectionately into breasts (complete with nipples). It also featured a three-meter long train and 30,000 burned and dyed coque feathers, all of which took a team of thirty five over 2000 hours to craft. The figure hugging dress was designed to hug and highlight the rapper's curves as an homage to the female form, according to dress designer Browne. With its oxblood colour and impressive headpiece by milliner Stephen Jones, it definitely fulfils feelings of extravagance that are synonymous to the Camp theme.
So, how's that #ThomasTea
"Not my favourite because there are so many reference points that we have seen in the past: the whole headgear and feathers, very reminiscent of Alexander McQueen pre-Sarah Burton. Is it a technical feat? Yes. It is so difficult to quilt this gown. Thom Browne is amazing at playing with proportions and is always a bit quirky."
The Met Gala presents an opportunity for attendees and designers to go all out and get with the theme, although not everyone may do so. These 6 picks are our favourites not only for what they represent, but also for the blending of techniques and science used to achieve the final product.
What picks would you have included that we didn't?
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