The 2019 Met Gala Is All About Camp. Here's What That Means.

Susan Sontag's essay "Notes on 'Camp'" informed the 2019 Met Gala. Here's what that could look like on the red carpet.

The 2019 Met Gala red carpet is just around the corner. This year, we’re anticipating some of the most exciting and downright fun fashion moments in the event’s history. And they couldn’t be coming at a better time.

Let’s start with the theme, which is essentially a celebration of all things camp ― and no, that’s not referring to the place you spend your summers getting eaten alive by mosquitos. Instead, both the red carpet and accompanying exhibit will focus on camp in fashion, which means you can expect some quirky, frivolous and over-the-top looks both on the red carpet and inside the walls of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

A model wears a dress by Viktor & Rolf.
A model wears a dress by Viktor & Rolf.

The Costume Institute’s head curator, Andrew Bolton, shaped the exhibit. It’s called “Camp: Notes on Fashion” ― inspired by “Notes on ‘Camp,’” Susan Sontag’s 1964 essay that outlines the very sensibility of camp. According to Sontag’s definitions (yes, there are multiple), camp is multifaceted and can be expressed in a number of ways.

In Sontag’s words, camp “is the love of the exaggerated, the ‘off,’ of things-being-what-they-are-not” and “the farthest extension, in sensibility, of the metaphor of life as theater.” A few things the writer considers to be campy are Tiffany lamps, Aubrey Beardsley drawings and women’s clothes from the 1920s, specifically feather boas and fringed and beaded dresses. She also considers art nouveau and Old Hollywood actresses like Jayne Mansfield and Jane Russell to be embodiments of camp.

A model presents a creation by John Galliano for Christian Dior during his spring/summer 2008 couture collection show in Paris on Jan. 21, 2008.
A model presents a creation by John Galliano for Christian Dior during his spring/summer 2008 couture collection show in Paris on Jan. 21, 2008.

Sontag notes that the camp sensibility is “disengaged, depoliticized ― or at least apolitical.” Bolton, on the other hand, told The New York Times the opposite.

“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 told the Times. “Whether it’s pop camp, queer camp, high camp, or political camp — Trump is a very camp figure — I think it’s very timely.”

Considering those diverging descriptions, camp can be both a little zany and serious. Whether it’s disengaged from politics or not, camp can, at the very least, offer a distraction from a bleak world. That’s not to say it’s time to stop paying attention to what’s going around us. But everyone needs an escape from reality sometimes — and if a night of over-the-top, potentially absurd fashion is going to provide that, so be it.

Come Monday night, celebrities, models and fashion insiders will ascend the stairs outside the Met wearing their sartorial interpretations of camp. If you’re curious about how that might look, think of designers and brands like Jeremy Scott, Moschino, Gucci (the label’s current creative director, Alessandro Michele is one of the gala’s co-chairs) and Rodarte.

To help you visualize it even better, we’ve put together a few examples of some campy fashion through the years. Check them out below: