What Exactly Is Camp?

This is how you can do it in your own life

The 2019 Met Gala theme might be its buzziest yet, bringing forth incarnations of wildly fabulous people dressed in insanely extravagant outfits. Perfect for an OTT Instagram age, there’s no doubt the theme Camp: Notes On Fashion is a visual wonderland. But what exactly is camp and how can we spot it?

Based off Susan Sontag’s essay Notes On Camp, the theme takes cues from the 58 bullet points Sontag advises have ‘camp’ qualities. These range from explaining certain periods — Art Nouveau — to the intricacies of what exactly makes something camp — “The pure examples of Camp are unintentional; they are dead serious” she wrote. In essence, Sontag’s essay is the fashion bible dictating 2019’s red carpet.


In a nutshell, camp is fun. It’s bad taste verging on ugly, but somehow still a little beautiful. It’s flamboyant, tacky, a little off and definitely artificial. As Sontag writes, something that appears naturally cannot be camp. It’s Gucci (the 2019 sponsor for the Met Gala), it’s Versace (last year’s sponsor), it’s Queen Elizabeth matching her umbrellas to her outfits, it’s Riverdale’s tacky-ish settings and cliché outfits, it’s Villanelle’s pink tulle Molly Goddard dress in Killing Eve. It’s probably your grandmother’s living room chairs — the ones with the tassels. It’s everything that is just a little bit, well, naff.

Killing Eve

It’s hard to spot a campy item, person or taste. As Sontag writes, camp is a sensibility. Just like the Game Of Thrones plotline, very few people inherently know what camp is — but that’s exactly what it is. It’s as individual as it is societal; the fact it’s camp comes from a place of it not being cool, which in turn makes it unabashedly, in-the-know cool. Sort of like how you feel wearing a piece of clothing that’s meant to be ironic but is actually a bit of a status symbol. Like how low rise flared jeans and velour tracksuits are somehow back in fashion, going from an ironic nostalgia hit to something people are spending big money on.

Queen Elizabeth

So, what can we expect? The red carpet will likely be packed with tulle. Designers like Tomo Koizumi, Molly Goddard and Viktor & Rolf will no doubt be taking pride of place on big names, who will turn to them for over-the-top, louder than life dresses that require party buses to transport. Likewise, fake flowers, more glitter than skin, latex, lyra, figure hugging gowns and OTT hair and make-up will abundant. It’ll be like a drag show met Hollywood, tinged with a hint of Bella Hadid’s throwback personal style. Instagram will be wild on Met Gala day, enter at your own risk — because these are the clickbait versions of red carpet dresses. 

Big names like Lady Gaga and the Kardashians will opt for big ticket camp hauls. We predict short skirts, big hair, headpieces, lots of colour. More conservative guests will add touches of camp by way of unexpected colour, uber-high heels or thigh high latex boots. Hair accessories are a real possibility, perhaps bows or rainbow highlights. Think tacky, but then Met Gala that tackiness.

Bella Hadid

Still confused? We guarantee it’ll all make sense soon — just watch and learn from Gaga and all will be explained.

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