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When Literature-meets-fashion, Met Gala 2019 Theme Is Pretty Difficult To Nail


Perhaps if the esteemed guests are able to sink in that a doorknob could be as admirable as a painting, like Oscar Wilde, they might as well nail this year's Met Gala theme. The first Monday of May is when Met Gala happens and it is a theme-based fundraising gala for the benefit of the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute. The celebrity guests grace the occasion in outfits that best complement the theme and yes, their costumes are pretty much evaluated with a hawk-eye vision. Met Gala is the most important fashion event, which makes it equally daunting too.

When it comes down to the theme, it is meticulously selected. The themes at Met Gala are not straightforward; they wouldn't ask the guests to come dressed up as Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Instead, the committee chooses the theme like the last year one, 'Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination'. Consequently, the themes are left open to myriad perspectives but usually we see the themes getting beautifully articulated and translated into costumes. However, what happens if the theme becomes extremely hard to decipher, such as the Met Gala 2019 theme?

This year's theme is based on 1964 essay of Susan Sontag, 'Notes On "Camp". It is a series of notes by the writer, which aims at explaining 'Camp'. Camp is a certain kind of sensibility and as written in the essay, it is not a natural mode of sensibility. Sontag has further described the essence of Camp is its love of unnatural: of artifice and exaggeration. So, it is safe to say that guests would come dressed in the something extremely maximalist and jaw-dropping. However, it is not as easy as it reads. First, what comes to the mind is that it is actually hard to define unnatural. What can be unnatural to one; can be perfectly natural to the other!

Sontag has given random examples of what falls within the ambit of camp. Elements and personalities such as Tiffany lamps, Swan Lake, La Lupe, and the old Flash Gordon comics among others are Campy. So, the designers can pick up from these examples, if they want to keep it a little safe. Later in the notes, she has also given an instance that Camp is a woman walking around in a dress made of three million feathers. She also revealed that androgynous and Art Nouveau also falls within the radius of Camp. Sontag has dropped the examples and given a sigh of relief but has she? In this very hard-to-understand essay, Sontag has gone further and written that not all extravagance is Campy. She wrote that Camp is art that proposes itself seriously, but cannot be taken altogether seriously because it is "too much". In other words, Camp is a failed passionate seriousness. She elaborated in her essay that a work can come close to Camp but fail to be Campy because that work succeeds. This sensibility called Camp is about naïve, innocent endeavors. Sontag has also given examples like Ripley's Believe-It-Or-Not items are rarely Campy because they lack the glamour, a visual appeal. So, we guess it is not merely about looking offbeat- acing the theme is also about owning that attitude. Like Sontag said, 'the connoisseur of Camp sniffs the stink and prides himself on his strong nerves'.

The Camp also discards deliberate attempts to look extravagant. So, yes this theme is actually one of the most intriguing elusive themes ever because it goes beyond looking surreal. The ultimate Camp statement is that it is good because it is awful but yes, everything awful doesn't necessarily mean Camp. At the end of it, we can imagine how difficult it will be for the designers and the celebrities to nail this vague Met Gala theme.

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