The 2019 Met Gala will be inspired by Notes on Camp, a landmark essay by Susan Sontag. But what will that actually mean for the outfits?
Outside of the various fashion weeks and Oscars season, the Met Gala is one of the biggest events on the cross-cultural calendar. Chaired by Vogue doyenne Anna Wintour and beloved by fashion aficionados and celebrity watchers alike, the ball has achieved the status of a full-blown social media event.
On the first Monday in May, everyone gathers around their phones and laptops to see how the stars will attempt to tackle Wintour’s famously tricky themes. Who will take it seriously? Who will pull it off? Who will ignore both theme and fashion in favour of a plain slip dress? The answers to the first two of those questions, at least, is almost always ‘Rihanna’.
And the 2019 Met Gala looks set to be even bigger and better than previous years’. The theme – which will also form the basis of a year-long exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art – is inspired by Notes on Camp, a seminal 1964 essay by writer Susan Sontag, and has drummed up anticipation.
We’ve broken down everything we know about this year’s Met Gala below. Hold onto your feather boas…
What is the Met Gala?
The Met Gala is an annual fundraising event for The Costume Institute, which is part of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It was founded in 1948 by publicist Eleanor Lambert, and raised money for the then newly-founded Costume Institute. In 1972 then Vogue editor-in-chief Diana Vreeland became a consultant to the Costume Institute, and began to evolve the gala into a more glamorous occasion, eventually moving it to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, its current venue. Guests during Vreeland’s reign included Andy Warhol, Cher and Diana Ross. Anna Wintour has been chair of the Met Gala since 1995.
When is the Met Gala?
The Met Gala is always held on the first Monday in May, hence the name of the documentary about the 2015 event. This year’s gala takes place on Monday 6 May.
What’s the theme of the 2019 Met Gala?
The theme of the Met Gala is always taken from The Costume Institute’s spring exhibition. Previous themes have included Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty, Punk: Chaos to Couture and China: Through the Looking Glass.
This year’s exhibition and theme for the gala is Camp: Notes on Fashion. Designers whose work will be in the exhibition include Marc Jabons, Karl Lagerfeld, Vivienne Westwood and Donatella Versace.
What was Notes on Camp?
In short: a big bloody deal.
In long: a 1964 essay penned by Susan Sontag for the Partisan Review, a cultural commentary magazine. The piece dealt with the idea of ‘camp’ – explained through 58 separate points – which Sontag defined as an aesthetic sensibility made distinct by its ‘love of the unnatural’.
She was the first person to describe and systematically explain the ideas that make up the concept of ‘camp’ as we recognise the word today: a style of outlandishly exaggerated expression that brings together highbrow and pop culture. Sontag’s essay – and the subsequent plaudits it received – dragged camp kicking and kiki-ing from being an unspecified understanding of expression that existed within queer cultures, to a flamboyant way of living we celebrate today.
Who was Susan Sontag?
An extremely influential essayist and critic whose work focused on culture and the interpretation of it. She was born in 1933, died in 2004 and in between those two bookends, established herself as one of the foremost thinkers of the modern era. If you’re looking to introduce yourself to Sontag, start with Camp, then mosey onto 1966’s Against Interpretation and Other Essays.
Who is co-chairing this year’s Met Gala?
Wintour always selects a co-chair or chairs each year. The 2018 Met Gala, which took the theme of Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination, was co-chaired by Rihanna, Amal Clooney and Donatella. Previous event co-chairs have included Stella McCartney, Carey Mulligan, Sarah Jessica Parker and Kate Moss.
The 2019 gala will be co-chaired by Lady Gaga, Harry Styles, Serena Williams and Gucci’s creative director Alessandro Michele.
Who’s invited to the 2019 Met Gala?
As well as the co-chairs, the Met Gala has a 183-strong committee, which is approved by Wintour and has just been revealed.
The fashion industry is represented by people including Tom Ford, Donatella Versace, Miuccia Prada and Clare Waight Keller.
Other guests include writer and director Ryan Murphy, the creator of TV shows including Pose and American Horror Story, tennis player Venus Williams, and prominent New Yorkers and philanthropists. And it is rumoured that Cher will also be attending - one of the costumes from her 2008 Las Vegas residency at Caesars Palace is set to be included in the museum’s exhibition.
What sort of outfits can we expect to see from the theme?
Outlandish ones. Camp is all about reveling in the ostentatious, frivolous and absurd. Yes, RuPaul’s Drag Race is camp but so is Donald Trump, an individual cited as a figure of “political camp” by Andrew Bolton, curator of the Met’s Costume Institute, where the gala and exhibition alike will be held.
“We are going through an extreme camp moment, and it felt very relevant to the cultural conversation to look at what is often dismissed as empty frivolity but can be actually a very sophisticated and powerful political tool, especially for marginalized cultures,” Bolton said in a New York Times interview.
“Whether it’s pop camp, queer camp, high camp or political camp — Trump is a very camp figure — I think it’s very timely.”
Camp is all about exaggeration and overblown sensibilities. Think a 1989 Jean-Charles de Castelbajac coat made from stuffed Snoopy toys, the sister of a piece that will appear in the final exhibit. Or a superhero costume decked entirely in sequins. This is camp. And this is what the celebrities will be wearing. Well… at least the ones who stick to the theme.