Musings before the MET

Tallulah Hutson explores the theme of the approaching MET Gala and what it might mean beyond 2019

I hypothesise that fashion always pays tribute to the recent themes of the Costume Institute’s annual Gala at the MET each May. Celebrities draped in electric lights and space-age silver plates took to the steps of the MET in 2016. The theme – Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology. Metallics and the charm of retro-tech have streaked the scenes of both fashion and film ever since. Fashion weeks of early 2018 featured the Gucci Cyborg, MiuMiu’s Aliens and more.

Jourdan Dunn in Balmain, MET Gala 2016
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Kanye West (MET Gala 2016) in a Balmain look that feels a little like Gucci cyborg foresight
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Brows raised over 2018’s own MET Gala theme – Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination. On the evening itself, thousands of eyes dined out on glittering jewels, weeping veiled women and immeasurable embroidery. Ultimately the crowns and the crowds were won by Versace, who dressed several guests and created what can only be described as a series of Renaissance-reminiscent living artworks. Since then, we have seen the resurfacing of lace, intricate patterns, indulgent fabrics and rich colour palettes. Gold and bold was given the green light, which probably aided our current 80s revival as well.

Blake Lively in Versace, MET Gala 2018
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Zendaya in Versace, MET Gala 2018
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Emilia Clarke in Dolce & Gabbana, MET Gala 2018
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It is now 2019 and the first Monday of May approaches. What can we expect from the MET’s much anticipated theme, Camp: Notes on Fashion? According to the Costume Institute’s curator Andrew Bolton, this year’s theme was inspired by the writings of Susan Sontag in her 1964 essay, Notes on “Camp”. Sontag, a writer and philosopher famed for her essays on modern culture, described camp as an expression of frivolity, artifice and shocking excess. The Costume Institute’s corresponding exhibition at the MET will explore the concept of camp through time, from its Versailles-affiliated origins up to the present day.

What does this mean for the fashion that will follow? I think we can expect ruffles and frills for certain. Smock dresses would not surprise me, with their heightened and artificial homage to naivety and mock-innocence. Over-sized hair and 1960s A-line cuts can almost be guaranteed. The theme will likely feed society’s budding fetish for GoGo boots, colour brights and patent leather. It might push intimate floral prints into the backseat, as bolder clashing stripes, sequins and electric hues force their way through. I’m imagining unusual colour combinations starkly outlined across lips and eye-lids too.

In the uncertain times we seem to live in, the theme may be somewhat of a surprise – is ostentation and exaggeration offensive when people’s perception of the world around them is being irrevocably rocked? Perhaps not. We are in an age of ridicule, ridiculousness and outrage. In such times of chaos it might be instinctive to crave a celebration of silliness. To throw our arms open to the concepts colour and character, to all that is fearless and unforgettable. Let’s take something with a pinch of salt that’s fun for once, revelling in frocks and frills with our tongues in our cheeks. Could the feeling be that when everything else is fake news, why not have some fun with being a bit fake too? At the least, artifice is better out than in. Coming back to camp style may serve as a timely reminder of exactly the kind of exaggeration it is safe to embrace.

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