Camp: Autumn’s Notes on Fashion

Although the exhibition may be over, there is still a lot of buzz circulating about what exactly “camp” is. Therefore, we have decided to write our own take on the Met Gala, and Museum of Modern Art (MoMa) exhibition, with Halloween right around the corner. It is afterall, the most “camp” day of the year!

A Little Overview:

Containing over 250 items, the May through September exhibition at the MoMa explored the exuberant attitude of “camp” fashion. More specifically, it examined the elements of parody, humor, drama, and exaggeration in fashion.

History Lesson:

Dedicated to Oscar Wilde, the ideal of camp can be idealized in his quote, “one should either be a work of art, or wear a work of art.” Wilde’s status as an icon also points to another crucial element of camp. In its playfulness and its love of artifice and extravagance, camp as a sensibility is often associated with queerness, but meant to stay apolitical, and self-important.

The exaggeration and artifice of this aesthetic is what makes it camp. Gucci autumn winter 2018 fashion show during Milan Fashion Week. 

Relation to Gucci? 

Gucci was the official sponsor of this year’s collection at the MoMa. And, you would know why if you have seen any of its most recent collections, under the new creative head, Alessandro Michele. Gucci has consistently valued artificiality over naturalism as brand, which helps brings camp to a new level. Hip, flamboyant and unafraid, Gucci is not meant to be made in good taste. Willfully it is fashion, and for this sensibility, it is also camp.

Formal Definition:

“Through color, prints, patterns, materials, silhouettes, and embellishments, fashion both embraces and expresses such camp modes of representation as irony, parody, pastiche, artifice, theatricality, and exaggeration.”

How is camp different from the avant-garde?

In some ways, it isn't. The two categories are very similar in the way that they explore drama in fashion, but what makes camp a certain style is that there is no meaning. To analyze it, is to betray it. An elusive concept, camp is made in form of creative expressionism of high art and popular culture.

Photos & Designs:

Jun Takahashi (Japanese, born 1969) for Undercover (Japanese, founded 1990). Ensemble, fall/winter 2017–18. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Purchase, Friends of The Costume Institute Gifts, 2017 (2017.399a–d). Photo © Johnny Dufort, 2019

Franco Moschino (Italian, 1950–1994) for House of Moschino (Italian, founded 1983). Dress, fall/winter 1989. Courtesy of Moschino. Photo © Johnny Dufort, 2018

Jeremy Scott (American, born 1975) for House of Moschino (Italian, founded 1983). Ensemble, spring/summer 2018. Courtesy of Moschino. Photo © Johnny Dufort, 2019

Bertrand Guyon (French, born 1965) for House of Schiaparelli (French, founded 1927). Ensemble, fall/winter 2018–19 haute couture. Courtesy of Schiaparelli. Photo © Johnny Dufort, 2019

Left: Walter Van Beirendonck (Belgian, born 1957). Ensemble, spring/summer 2009. Courtesy of Walter Van Beirendonck. Right: Vivienne Westwood (British, born 1941). Ensemble, fall/winter 1989–90. Courtesy of Vivienne Westwood Archive. Photo © Johnny Dufort, 2019

Virgil Abloh (American, born 1980) for Off-White c/o Virgil Abloh (Italian, founded 2013). Ensemble, pre-fall 2018. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Gift of Virgil Abloh c/o Off-White™, 2018 (2018.585a–e). Photo © Johnny Dufort, 2018

Jeremy Scott (American, born 1975). Ensemble, spring/summer 2012 menswear. Courtesy of Jeremy Scott. Photo © Johnny Dufort, 2019

Marjan Pejoski (British, born Macedonia, 1968). Dress, fall/winter 2000–2001. Courtesy of Marjan Pejoski. Photo © Johnny Dufort, 2019

Reviews:

"The historical journey is thoroughly engaging. . . . you don't stop thinking about it. It sticks with you and niggles in the brain." —New York Times

"A high-ceilinged, over-the-rainbow extravaganza" —Wall Street Journal

"The exhibition's expressions of humor and joy are sure to delight" —Washington Post

"Just might top 2018's extravaganza. . . . focused and cleverly thought out, offering an instructive journey. . . . entertaining and educative . . . the attentive visitor will relish in the many sensibilities of camp" —Independent

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