The Best (and Worst) of the Met Gala

The Met Gala is like fashion Christmas. Even for all of us non-celebrities miles and miles away from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, there’s a feeling of anticipation days before the event. Hours before the event, people sit refreshing their feeds like kids up before the sun. Then, around 6 PM Eastern Time, the stream of brightly colored Instagram photos comes pouring in like beautifully wrapped gifts under a sparkly tree. The Met Gala is also like Christmas because you’ll most likely be wearing ratty old pajamas while you critique the meticulously crafted presents with the utmost skepticism.

 

The Met Gala is one of the only days I will judge others based solely on their outward appearance. Any other day, celebrities are just people––they should wear what they feel the most comfortable and truly themselves in. And there’s no accounting for taste. But not on the first Monday in May, that day you’d better bring it.

 

More than just a fancy party, an invitation to the gala comes with the huge responsibility of creating a piece that is as stylish as it is provocative. On top of the normal stresses of red-carpet wear, the Met Gala comes with a complex theme that is often deeply rooted in fashion history and will be followed by that year’s highly coveted fashion exhibit. Even for those not heavily immersed in celebrity culture, there was no escaping the instantly iconic Pope costume Rihanna wore for last year’s “Heavenly Bodies” theme.

 

This year the theme was a slightly less obvious one: “Camp: Notes on Fashion” inspired by the 1964 essay by Susan Sontag. The essay is a compilation of 58 different definitions of camp, some of the highlights include number four:

“ Random examples of items which are part of the canon of Camp:

    Zuleika Dobson

    Tiffany lamps

    Scopitone films

    The Brown Derby restaurant on Sunset Boulevard in LA

    The Enquirer, headlines and stories

    Aubrey Beardsley drawings

    Swan Lake

    Bellini's operas

    Visconti's direction of Salome and 'Tis Pity She's a Whore

    Certain turn-of-the-century picture postcards

    Schoedsack's King Kong

    The Cuban pop singer La Lupe

    Lynn Ward's novel in woodcuts, God's Man

    The old Flash Gordon comics

    Women's clothes of the twenties (feather boas, fringed and beaded dresses, etc.)

    The novels of Ronald Firbank and Ivy Compton-Burnett

    Stag movies seen without lust.”

 

Number ten: “Camp sees everything in quotation marks. It's not a lamp, but a "lamp"; not a woman, but a "woman." To perceive Camp in objects and persons is to understand Being-as-Playing-a-Role. It is the farthest extension, in sensibility, of the metaphor of life as theater.”

 

Or number 41: “The whole point of Camp is to dethrone the serious. Camp is playful, anti-serious. More precisely, Camp involves a new, more complex relation to "the serious." One can be serious about the frivolous, frivolous about the serious.”

 

Though given a rather direct and complete list of what it means to be “camp”, celebrities spent the last year trying to embody what was set out right in front of them. Some, like Katy Perry, pulled right out of the essay in order to most perfectly embody the theme. Others like Jared Leto (who could be spotted carrying his own head), took a looser––but not less ambitious approach to “camp”. While each outfit walking that pink carpet has a price tag to rival my student loan debt, not everybody’s money was put to good use. 

Katy Perry Image Source: Time MagazineJared Leto Image Source: Uproxx

Now that the dust has settled and the glitter has been (mostly) scrubbed from the floors of the museum, I’ve finally begun to wrap my head around what this year’s gala actually was. Though opinions will surely differ, in order to most thoroughly understand, I put together a list of the highs and the lows of the year.

 

Winners:

The theme itself! Maybe not even a 58 point list is enough to truly define what it means to be “camp” but this surely was one hell of a show. With co-chairs Harry Styles and Lady Gaga steering the ship, there was plenty of room for the hundreds of big hair, big dresses, and the biggest personalities.

(A first glimpse at the “Camp” exhibit which debuted to the public on May 9th.)

Image Source: Vox

Lady Gaga: In the days following “A Star is Born”, early 2000’s era Lady Gaga fans worried that she had finally hung up her meat dress in favor of more subtle career moves. But following Lady Gaga’s four costume changes (complete with an entire entourage as she made her entrance), we knew that she was better––and weirder––than ever.

Image Source: Vanity Fair

Billy Porter: Carried in by six shirtless men, Billy Porter pulled all the stops when making his presence known. The entrance alone was powerful enough to shut the whole event down, but Porter didn’t stop there. When he finally touched down, his “Sun God” costume reached its final form when he spread his ten-foot wings and posed for pictures.

Image Source: Vulture

Zendaya: At this point, the 22-year-old actress is a seasoned Met Gala professional. Since her time on Disney, Zendaya has been shaking it up at the event and this year was no different. Her Cinderella dress literally lit up the night. Adding the perfect touch, Zendaya left just one glass slipper behind on the carpet.

Image Source: BET

Christian Siriano: While the designer stepped out in a simple black suit, all of his designs truly shone on the pink carpet. From Janelle Monet’s truly “camp” Avante-Garde blinking eye look to the instant classic masculine/feminine look worn by actor Michael Urie, Siriano didn’t have one flop all night. While we could spend hours on just one of Siriano’s designs (and the amazing celebrities who wore these looks), Siriano represents an important cultural shift for the world of design. Not hindered by toxic masculinity or limited by the rigidness of Hollywood beauty standards, Siriano creates stunning looks that showcase the unique beauty of every body in Hollywood.

Michael Urie Source: Forbes Janelle Monet Source: Fashion Sizzle

Ezra Miller: While Miller had a beautifully tailored Burberry suit complete with a crystal corset, the makeup really takes the cake for this look. All eyes were truly on Miller at the Met Gala––literally. Counting five extra eyes, I truly couldn’t get enough of this look.

Image Source: Vulture

The Losers:

Kim Kardashian: While nobody can deny Kardashian’s beauty, that’s about all she had going for her. In a tight-fitting, brown dress that minimized her waist, it looked like Kardashian didn’t even know there was a theme. Coming from a family known pretty exclusively for their role as socialites, Kardashian looked woefully out of the loop––like the kid in elementary school who forgot it was picture day.

Image Source: Metro

James Charles: The outfit was bad enough on its own. While Charles criticized Zoe Kravitz for her look at the Vanity Fair Oscars after-party, some said this looked like a cheap knock off. Charles went on to invent the phrase “influencer representation”, which left many people with an even worse impression. Youtubers, James, are not a historically marginalized group of people. Next!

Image Source: Seventeen

Rami Malek/Taron Egerton: Both men portrayed 70’s/80’s camp sensations, Freddie Mercury and Elton John respectively. With an abundance of campy outfits at their disposal and hours logged playing men who embody the theme, Malek and Egerton showed up in little more than a black suit. With one yellow jacket or oversized pair of sunglasses, either man could’ve easily stolen the show, but they let that opportunity slip through their fingers.

Image Source: Capital FM

While I sit here in my six dollar Target brand shorts from the eighth grade, my impression of this year’s Met Gala is overwhelmingly positive. While there are some celebrities that fail to grasp my attention, no one who paid mind to the theme failed. From Cinderella to Barbie to whatever gazillion-eyed thing Ezra Miller was, the people who went all out were truly stunning. My overall takeaways: be bold, be brave, make millions of dollars and get invited to the most exclusive event in the celebrity world.