Zendaya in a light-up Cinderella Tommy Hilfiger gown with stylist Law Roach, right. (Angela Weiss / AFP / Getty Images)
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Opinion: ‘Camp: Notes on Fashion’ Met Gala theme is more relevant now than ever

Fashion’s biggest evening has come and gone in an exuberant and outrageous fest.

On the first Monday of every May, Hollywood’s biggest celebrities and fashion’s biggest designers gather on the steps of the Metropolitan Museum of Art to join in celebrating a year full of art in the form of fashion. Hosted by the Editor-in-Chief of Vogue Magazine, Anna Wintour, along with guest hosts Lady Gaga, Harry Styles, Serena Williams and Alessandro Michelle (creative director of Gucci), celebrities in attendance included the Kardashian sisters, supermodel Gisele Bundchen and husband Tom Brady, Jennifer Lopez, Cardi B, and more, Vogue reported.

Each year, the lavish festival is themed around a certain idea or topic. Themes in past years have sparked great controversy: “Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination” (2018) greatly offended the Catholic Church, “China: Through the Looking Glass” (2015) was accused of heavy cultural appropriation, and “Costumes of Royal India” (1985) was also guilty of the same feat.

When the theme for this year’s MET Gala, “Camp: Notes on Fashion,” was announced, many were met with initial confusion. What exactly is camp? Is it supposed to be like summer camp? Do you wear hiking gear with tents attached?

Even at the event itself, attendees all had differing, if any, clear definitions “camp.” A plethora of different celebrities were asked to define camp during red-carpet interviews conducted by Vogue.

Model Bella Hadid claimed that, “camp is extravagant, camp is fun, camp is everything about fashion that we love,” she told Vogue.

Singer Harry Styles told the magazine that he, “thinks it’s about enjoyment and fun — no judgement.”

Miley Cyrus corroborated off of this idea, and told the publication powerhouse, “I think it’s being authentic… I think ‘camp’ kind of translates to wearing the most outrageous thing you can find.”

Shawn Mendes had a different approach and confessed to Vogue, “I don’t know… I don’t know how to explain that to you”.

Inspired by Susan Sontag’s 1964 essay “Notes on ‘Camp,'” which popularized the notion of camp in fashion, the theme of the gala had many different interpretations. According to J. Redding Ware’s dictionary published in 1909, camp is defined as “actions and gestures of exaggerated emphasis.” One thing is certain about the looks seen on the famous steps of the Met this past Monday evening: there was nothing short of camp.

Not a single person was dressed similarly. The notion of camp encouraged each individual to let their innermost personalities shine and be as extravagant as possible. Zendaya showed up in a dress mirroring the iconic Disney princess Cinderella, Lady Gaga became performance art in her 16 minute entrance (changing outfits four times!), Katy Perry wore an actual chandelier, Jared Leto carried a his own head whilst wearing a red Gucci dress, Kacey Musgraves’ head-to-toe Malibu Barbie look was nothing short of extra, and Janelle Monae practically became a Picasso painting.

Gender norms were challenged. Women wore pant suits, wide-legged pants, no makeup, and messy hair. Men wore high-heels, bedazzled body suits, corsets, and sheer lace tops. It didn’t matter who you were or what stereotypes people held about you — all the boundaries were pushed, and freedom of expression was at a high.

The variety of looks and takes on the theme is what greatly sets this Met Gala apart from all the others. In a political climate of the world today, being different and unique is something that is frowned upon. Now more than ever, we see that our freedom of speech and expression is crucial for our intellectual and social development. Women’s Marches and walkouts in high schools all across America encourage us to stand up for what we believe in and be heard — even if some people may not agree.

In Henry David Thoreau’s “Civil Disobedience,” he once stated that, “there will never be a really free and enlightened state until the state comes to recognize the individual as a higher and independent power, from which all its own power and authority are derived.” This year’s Met Gala demonstrated that there is great beauty and power when each person expresses themselves to the most extreme extent.

Camp corroborates off this sense of individualism and self-expression. Camp allows the individual to be whoever they want to be, dress however they want to dress, and portray whatever message they wish to. Camp, in a way, can inspire us all to express ourselves in a world in which it seems as if our first amendment right is at threat. Camp has no definition: camp is whatever you want it to be.

I applaud the Met Museum for choosing such a brilliant and relevant theme. In all social and political matters, may we all take note and sprinkle some of the “camp” essence into our everyday lives. After all, anything, whether it be a little bit of sparkle or three million feathers, can start a revolution and inspire others to do the same.

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