When The Met Says Camp, Somehow It’s Vegas, Baby!

Photo by Angel Marchini/REX/Shutterstock (10216555b) Cher Cher in concert, Toronto, Canada – 22 Apr 2019

Was that Fifth Avenue or the Vegas strip on Monday night? The Met or the MGM? Although there were many interpretations of the Camp dress code it seemed that Elvis, Priscilla plus an entire stable of showgirls showed up at the museum (or at least their cash register’s) biggest night of the year. No doubt guests thought they nailed it – after all, what’s campier than Vegas? Unfortunately what happens at The Met Gala doesn’t always stay at The Met Gala despite the (oft broken) no selfie rule. So far I have not come across any bathroom selfies however I did see a video of Katy Perry being sideswiped by an incoming J.Lo cruise missile as the former attempted to change into her Moschino hamburger afterparty look and the latter breezed by in (Versace’s version of Cher coming out to do the 11 p.m. show) silver beaded number. Was anyone else horrified/delighted that Donatella’s acid green gown and hair stole the spotlight off of “Jenny from the Block?”

Yes, we “fashion industry insiders” all get it – The Met Gala has jumped the shark. Honestly tho, when you put the theme of Camp out as birdseed for the flock of seagulls, how did you expect not to get shit on? Let’s chew over Curator Andrew Bolton suggested guests dress in an “exuberant, playful and outrageous” manner while the invitation called for “studied triviality.” Somewhere at the intersection of campy, tacky, surrealistic, and avant-garde are those who took the bait — eating from the feeder of “go big or go home; it’s not about wearing a pretty dress.” How is it possible to perch precariously on that shaking telephone wire between those who sit at home in judgement — either clucking approval with comments such as “at least an effort was made” while others have their claws out cawing “it should be effortless. Everyone is trying too hard.” Weirdly, Cardi B (who closed out the carpet with the last to arrive Beyonce time slot) in her dark red Thom Browne “feminism” gown complete with “ruby nipples, vajayjay and booty” reminded me of an old stately tree with rings around the trunk, feather “leaves” on the shoulders and the nether region “hollow” womb perhaps waiting for a pigeon to land.

Showing up and showing out the “would-be showgirls” would be the drag queens, natch. I kept seeing a silhouette of a long black glove photobombing the pink carpet shots of other guests. Did someone drop a gigantic long black glove the way that Zendaya dropped that Cinderella glass slipper? Finally, after some eagle-eyed detective work, I realized that it belonged to one of the Moschino gang. It was actually the train of (definitely not shrinking) Violet Chachki aka Jason Dardo, winner of the seventh season of RuPaul’s Drag Race. No word on whether the “five fingered discount” was applicable for the evening’s ticket.

Props to those who brought actual props on the pink carpet featuring printed “white feathers” (which unfortunately read like dusty footprints on television). Hats off to you Jared Leto – Gucci’s Alessandro Michele let Leto have his head, in the most literal sense. Who says The Met Gala isn’t educational? I actually learned a new word: “Cephalophore” meaning “head-carrier,” referring to the statues of saints who had been beheaded, now depicted carrying their own (severed) head. Luckily, Jared still has the one attached to his shoulders as did the models on Gucci’s recent runway.

“Zendarella” of the aforementioned glass slipper also propped with her stylist fairy godmother Law Roach and his magic fairy dust sprinkling wand that lit up her Tomy Hilfiger gown. (The “lit” technology has certainly improved from a few short years ago when Katie Holmes wore an earlier iteration). Lady Gaga, who set the bar high right at the start, not only took over the carpet for a good 15 minutes but also managed to feature several props while assuming her role of Russian Matryoshka fashion doll. Tuxedoed attendants wielding large umbrellas, check; oversized crystal sunglasses that she somehow fit over her spiky gold eyelash protrusions, check; giant cellphone reminiscent of her “Telephone” video with the absent Queen Bey, check; matching pink wagon featuring Brandon Maxwell bubbly, check; Maxwell himself wielding a large waist slung sewing kit, check and check.

All in all, Janelle Monae’s surrealist Christian Siriano gown complete with blinking boob eyelash and multiple hats was hands-down the best conceived, most creative “eyeful” of the night. Being a Project Runway winner and now host (with Karlie Kloss) has served Siriano well – he created several attendees gowns apparently whipping them out in record speed. Honorable mention to Ezra Miller’s creepy multiple eyes, unless he really is the Illuminati.

A note or two about the actual exhibition that all this hoopla centers around “Camp: Notes on Fashion,” opening tomorrow. Upon entering the tunnel-like space designed to be “deliberately claustrophobic to represent the clandestine origins of camp” according to Curator Andrew Bolton’s comments at the press preview, I had a momentary enclosed space panic attack. After a crowded corridor there’s a room with a “typed out crawl” running along the ceiling, followed by narrow corridor leading to an area where it all “opens up.” Bolton explained how this is symbolic with the way that camp became more mainstream or accepted with the 1954 release of Christopher Isherwood’s quasi-fictional account of love, loss and regret entitled “The World in the Evening,” and 1964 Susan Sontag “Notes on Camp.” The latter is largely credited for giving the genre a “free-wheeling sensibility” and this exhibition a jumping off point.

Interrupting the “cacophony of voices” reading the comments from Sontag’s 58 listed notes (some in a startling booming basso profondo) are Judy Garland’s two alternating renditions of the campiest song ever. “Over the Rainbow” version one is at 16; the other version from just before she passed away from a barbiturate overdose. This is no doubt how it should be. As I gazed at the square pastel colored boxes displaying their various camp fashion items, both metaphorically and physically placed high and low I “heard” alternate music. Why is this set-up reminding me of the opening theme song from “The Brady Bunch” interspersed with Rock Auto’s (“All the Parts Your Car Will Ever Need”) commercial? Either way, it’s still campy.

A quick note on what I wore – from the archives of my closet I remembered that I had a shoe print Moschino suit (Resort 2016), which ended up getting quite a lot of attention from Jeremy Scott’s publicist along with others, but alas, not from the designer himself. When one attendee asked me who I was wearing I had the surreal experience of gesturing about four feet to my left indicating Scott as he quietly viewed the exhibition. “Him!” I stage whispered.

Laurel Marcus

OG journo major who thought Strunk & White's "The Elements of Style" was a fashion guide. Desktop comedienne -- the world of fashion gives me no shortage of material.

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