MET gala 2019: the theme & the best-dressed ǀ Camp: notes on fashion ǀ Justine Leconte


Hi everyone it’s Justine. Every year in May, the Metropolitan Museum in New York is hosting a charity gala to celebrate fashion and its latest exhibition at the Costume Institute. It always gets a lot of press and international visibility and attention because all the guests are A- listers. They are wearing custom designs, couture gowns, special things that have been secretly developed just for that occasion (together with the designers). It’s always a great display of handcraft or creativity of innovations in terms of materials and fabrics. It’s super inspiring and really fun to look at. So let’s look at that. First, I will try to explain what the theme was, according to which the guests were expected to dress. And then we’ll do a ranking from boring to fantastically on theme and absolutely inspiring. Because, in this case boring means did not bother to look at the theme, even though it is a themed party. And wear something normal instead. If you’re not dressing out of your comfort zone for the Met Gala, where else would you do that? First, the theme. ‘Camp: Notes on Fashion.’ So, I have to admit, when I read the theme for the first time, I thought, “Am I missing a cultural reference?” Well, I had no idea what it could possibly mean, and if your native language is not English, you might be just as confused as I was. Be reassured, it’s normal. So, I had to do some further research and this is what I found. There is an essay by Susan Sontag (1964) that tries to conceptualise and to explain in words what camp means. Camp is not an idea, it’s not a concept. It’s rather a sensibility, aesthetically. It’s not elitist. It’s not snob, it’s not exclusive at all. It’s rather rooted in popular culture. I’m quoting, “It’s a taste for the unnatural, for artifice and exaggeration.” That immediately explains why Lady Gaga would be chosen as one of the co-hosts for the event. Whoo! Ha ha! She’s probably very camp! More on that later. Camp is either completely naive or else wholly conscious. If it is conscious, then how good you are at it, is measured in terms of artifice and not in terms of beauty. It’s seeing life as theatre, being extravagant and extraordinary, even playing a character, possibly. You’re not looking for good taste, you’re looking for something interesting aesthetically. You can bet that the red carpet people at this year’s Met Gala fully embraced that interpretation. In a nutshell, this theme fits perfectly for, I think, for designers. Um… Versace, and their extravaganza. Moschino by Jeremy Scott, and their bad tastes/humorous take on fashion. Gucci, the new creative director, so camp, and Schiaparelli, because you know, she invented shocking pink. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but the thumbnail photo for this video is framed in the exact font and reference of shocking pink. Let’s move on to the looks and to the ranking. Yes, we’re taking this way too seriously. First, the people who get one star out of five. Demi Moore, wearing St. Laurent. It is, not exactly completely outside of the theme. It is a possible interpretation of it, but she’s worn similar things in the past already. There are other ladies who chose this approach as well, a masculine look eh on a feminine silhouette, but, several ones did it more creatively really. Then Kim Kardashian. It’s a wet-look dress by Mugler in latex with actual water drops hanging, falling off her. The dress is absolutely beautiful. Don’t get me wrong, but it’s the silhouette that she wears at every event. It’s 100% her comfort zone. She didn’t play the theme really. Then Miley Cyrus. She is actually famous for being extravagant and/or outrageous. So this theme was for her, yet she’s wearing something surprisingly wearable and normal. Ha ha. Which for a Met Gala, does not do the job. Then we have a quite big group of people who get two to three stars. So I put them all together. Kendall and Kylie Jenner, in Versace. This is cabaret theatre, hence the feathers and all the volume. It’s not the craziest they’ve ever worn, but the matchy-matchy outfits and the matching hair are fun. They coordinated their outfits to make it more extra, and that counts. Nicki Minaj, you might argue that her look is extravagant and over-the-top. The thing is, that is what she always wears. It’s her aesthetics anyway. She has reportedly said, she does not understand what camp even means, so she just let the designer do his thing. But actually, she’s the personification of camp, if you asked me, so that was funny. Cardi B in Tom Brown. It reminds me a bit of Rihanna’s circle, yellow train dress a couple years ago. Except that this one looks like a pillow, with heavily padded hips. She’s accentuating the hips of motherhood. He apparently took 35 people and 2000 hours to make it. It’s not something you’d wear if you strictly wanted to look elegant, so it absolutely deserved a spot in this ranking. Women in rap music, currently, all seem to be somehow influenced by this idea of camp. Like, extravagant, what do you mean? This is my everyday look. Of course pink is my natural hair. Hello! Celine Dion. That’s a vintage musical look, kind of, definitely extravagant. Beautiful headpiece. There is a side of camp that likes vintage aesthetics because you wouldn’t wear it anymore today, but you still appreciate the boldness of it retrospectively, so missus Dion is absolutely on theme. Jordan Dunn in Zac Posen. Interesting, because models usually wear long, skin tight gowns that show of their bodies. Here she rather went for the aesthetic concept of the voluminous flower. She’s wearing a flower, rather than a flattering dress. The petals, by the way, are 3-D printed, very interesting execution. Hailee Steinfeld in Viktor & Rolf, this look made me smile It includes both humour and irony, with a flesh tone area, can you see that in her dress? Which makes anyone looking at her, automatically a voyeur. It’s a bold message and that deserves three stars. Moving on to four stars. This is a really very, very high level in terms of red carpet benchmarks. Be sure that the designers and the celebrities, in order to get these results, worked hand in hand for weeks and did multiple fittings. Hamish Bowles, from Vogue in Maison Margiela, very bold, even for him. Look at the hair! Ha ha. He’s one of the only men who did not come with the classic suit. He’s the one who could also have pulled off Schiaparelli, but Margiela is also a good choice. Ezra Miller in Burberry. There is this less obvious side of camp, which finds beauty in the feminine side of a man and in the masculine side of a woman, because a simple masculine man would be normal and therefore, aesthetically it wouldn’t be as interesting. Ezra Miller went for this androgynous look, paired with brilliant makeup. Janelle Monae in Christian Siriano. For me, that is the strongest take on the masculine/feminine thing among all those who went for that approach. It is art. It is glamorous. Listen, there is a little engine in the bra which makes the eye blink so the eyelashes move. How fun is that? Violet Chachki in Moschino. This, eh ha, Jessica Rabbit meets Dita Von Teese, with a train that looks like a hand glove. It’s cartoony smart and fun at the same time. Love it! Lupita Nyong’o came in Versace. This is very bold colour mix for her. Normally, she rather wears one tone throughout. I love the combination, the huge Afro hairstyle with multiple golden picks for good measure. Priyanka Chopra in Dior. She looks like the crazy Queen of Heart in Alice in Wonderland. Who is completely extra? I love it. The Queen of Heart is totally a camp character, great choice. And now, my favourites. These outfits get five stars. Diane von Furstenberg, wearing her own design, with her own face on it. That is coming from a very elegant lady, with a twinkle in the eye. I like it. Definitely one of the boldest looks among the designers, as well. Billy Porter, in ‘The Blondes’ came as Cleopatra, or is it Diana Ross? This is the part of camp that plays a character, adding drama for the sake of aesthetics. Donatella Versace changed her hair colour for the occasion, which is rare. An outrageous neon green on a couture dress, if that’s not camp, then I don’t know. Cara Delevigne in Dior. This is a comic outfit, for a supermodel, and also a daring design for a serious house like Dior. I mean, she’s confidently wearing a cooked egg and bananas in a headpiece, ha! And she had lots of fun apparently. Jared Leto is carrying his head around, literally. I found the idea hilarious. The outfit is by Gucci, like last year. To be honest, when I think about the Gucci man, I see Jarrett Leto. It’s a perfect match with that brand. Katy Perry in Moschino. She’s a master of humorous performance outfits. Here she casually came as a chandelier. Ha. She needed two people to get her up the stairs, because she couldn’t look down to see what she was putting her feet, that is camp. Lady Gaga, of course, in a colour that looks a lot like shocking pink, but not from Schiaparelli, attracting all the attention available. She started with a huge Hollywood gown, then took it off and went full cabaret with fishnet stockings and a provocative performance, which delighted the paparazzi. I think that Katy Perry and Lady Gaga are two ladies who clearly built up a camp Inspired aesthetics for themselves within pop culture. For them, this theme was a home run. If you enjoyed this review, and if at least one of the outfits made you smile, thumbs up! Thank you very much. Ha ha. Thank you. Overall, this year’s red carpet was less homogeneous than in previous years, but that’s mostly because camp is really a complex topic that can be tackled from many different angles, interpreted in different ways. There is not just one way of looking at it, and it’s good because, the Designers were free to pick the angle that they preferred, and I can see in the results how they had fun creating the looks. Confusing at first, but in the end a great theme. Now tell me, which outfit was your favourite, and why, of course. If you want to re-watch, watch, re-watch previous Met Galas, with a different theme each year, I’ve done a couple of years already on this channel, so I will link these videos here and down below in the description, if you want more entertainment. That’s it from me for today but I wish you a great rest of the day and I’ll see you soon in a new video. Take care, bye!

100 comments

  1. I agree with you on everything except Hailee Steinfeld. I remember everyone were talking about those Viktor & Rolf dresses when they came out, I would've prefered seeing her in something made for her. Those dresses are already very iconic and then her makeup and hair didn't do much, I feel like the dress wore her.

  2. To me, camp is so deeply rooted in queer culture and especially drag culture. it's hard for me to think about camp outside of subverting gender norms and that piece of rebellion and attitude of "we don't care what you think, we know we are fabulous"

  3. This probaly not-so-exciting question just popped up in my mind …after watching your very interesting videos about the fashion industry/fast-fashion –> there are four or more collections every year, where all the high fashion brands participate in. Where do the clothes from the runway go after the collection is "out"? Is there something like an fashion archive? Does every highfashion brand have a huge storage room somewhere?

  4. Dear Justine,
    I saw your Instagram story about EU!! I'm your follower-27 year old, with US education from Yerevan Armenia. We have in common with French people Charles Aznavour!! Also there is the statue of our Komitas Vardapet in the heart of Paris . we've learnt European classical composers in musical schools- Bach, Beethoven, Hayden, Mozart … Also we are fond of French songs by Edit Piaf, Mireille Mathieu, Joe Dassin, Lara Fabian, Garou, Indila… European culture based on Christian roots – architecture, paintings is close to us!!! we love that culture, that's why with pain in heart I also should say this…

    You give most of your followers the idea of fast fashion and explain consequences. This problem is only one side of globalization that you've faced in your industry. The most destructive forms are concerning traditional families: in Europe historically , traditionally families were formed based on Christian values. Please don't get trapped in this "acceptance " "being too polite" policy. They want to teach children in kindergarden that it's okay if they choose to be either boy or girl. This is serious crime against humanity. Also the LGBT propaganda for youth and the support they get in government level. Not to mention all the financial support for advertising this "lifestyle". Please note, that this all isn't smth new. LGBT existed since the human history begins. The story of Sodom and Gomor is mentioned in the Bible. Also, all orthodox Christian churches ( Catholics, Russian, Armenian and others) reject abortion. Do not confuse unresponsible, immoral ways to solve "the problem" with freedom. Please acknowledge the amount of abuse "the traditional family " gets, yet there are no human rights protectors who are concerned with this as in the case of lgbt. Why ???

  5. @justineleconteofficiel j’ai commence cours de francais, because I really love ur mentality and way u see the world. I thought new language opens up a new way of thinking and I wanna learn Justine’s way as well! Merci ma cherie 💋

  6. Well, I might be too old fashioned but camp is not for me. It reminds me of the excesses of Rococo when appearance was all there was and nothing more. I'm rather perplexed but happy I will not have to see such outfits again.

  7. I didn't really understand the theme but I preferred cardi b and the fun crowns and Katy Perry's look.

  8. I’m so glad that you explained what Camp is. I thought that the theme was camp as in summer camp.

  9. This is well done on so many levels: clear and intelligent explanation of camp, great way of thinking about fashion (even for people who don't really follow it) – a way to make it far more interesting. And your presentation style is friendly, thoughtful, and accessible. Thank you!

  10. I loved Zendaya’s dress, which wasnt mentioned here. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ from me.

  11. I think Christian Siriano’s design was the most artistic… I do not really understand the concept of «camp» to be honest.

  12. Cool, cool, COOL!! My favorite is the model in the stripes with the bananas on top! It just flowed from top to bottom. Loved it. Great video! Thanks Justine! ❤️💜💚

  13. Zendaya was the winner tbh. Her outfit was "camp", out of her comfort zone, inspiring and meaningfull. A little bit disappointed that you didn't talk about it ngl

  14. I loved lily Collins serving some Priscilla Presley camp realness. She managed to look cool and camp at the same time

  15. Hi Justine, I just found your YouTube website. You have turned my meh day into a binge watching extravaganza. You exude such positive energy. Your suggestions and tips are wonderful. If I had to describe you in one word it would be JOY. You radiate such a beautiful light.

  16. My husband watched with me. Thank you for giving us an entertaining lesson in ‘camp’! I love your videos!

  17. Merci, Justine. I was puzzled by the Met Gala procedures, and now I get it. … and now that I do, I love the idea and the many costume designs. What fun! Ezra Miller, Janelle Monáe, Billy Porter 👍👍

  18. I was honestly surprised nobody tackled the old fashion superhero, like ones 50s and their fashion looks. That is what I automatically think of as campy 'style'. An old fashioned idea or object that is over the top and ridiculous in today's climate, used ironically. You know, like a 16-year-old Robin wearing a super tight jumpsuit and saying "Bouncing Gargoyles Batman!", as they both fight a very fake looking bird. Camp

  19. Jesus! Even if your content wasn’t amazing I’d still watch you because I simply love the sound of your voice and your accent. That’s it! Bye!

  20. I'm fascinated by camp, so much so that I completed an essay on the topic during my BA! It's quite a well-understood concept in the UK but I hadn't really considered it's place in other cultures. So what could have been a thrilling Met Gala was certainly disappointing; I think being camp requires you to be so fearless about wearing something for fun rather than to be desirable and flattering, and not enough celebrities embraced that. I would have hoped the designers they worked with would push the aesthetic on them more! I did love some outfits though; Hailee Steinfeld, Hamish Bowles, Ezra Miller, and Jared Leto were standouts for me. I also appreciated Voilet Chachki's look, though there are several current drag queens who truly understand and embody camp who should have been invited!

  21. Kitschy is another word for camp or Campy it is an over the top over-exaggerated. I love the French tradition of Couture but unattainable for most people ..it is the opposite off sustainability! I think middle-class people can wear well made beautiful garments that are affordable …Couture is an art form and I approach my appreciation for it …somehow a dress that cost more than the average persons home that the person wearing it will wear only once is something .ooo1 of the population could ever have. I am not against it I just don't feel it is relevant to most people. But I guess it is fun to dream.

  22. Excellent analysis of the theme Camp. I liked Diane Von fursteinburg the best. It would have been over the top if had been i gigantic wrap dress instead of looking like a kaftan. Or if the dress had been draped like the Statue of Liberty

  23. I like your rankings cause you respect the theme and judge the looks based on it…. Some people who rank the looks judge on the dress and look pass the theme….
    Keep up will always return on your channel….

  24. I'm so happy to find you. I'm from Lima, Peru but I lived in Paris a time ago. It is true all about the sense of fashion and the importance of natural beauty that the French culture inspires.
    You look like a confident and at the same time truthful person so I'm more and more interest in your opinion about all the topics. Best!

  25. I guess because I’m British, I just really missed a sense of humour in the camp. Lots had it (the winking boob eye was IT) but I feel like most didn’t and even when they did it lacked a twinkle in the eye, a little nod and a wink to something cheeky. Gaga really didn’t do it for me, I just found it boring… but it’s all entirely subjective and anyone that enjoyed gaga, awesome! (Edited to add… that’s shocking pink to you? That’s interesting as it reads as dull medium pink to me)

  26. Violet Chachki dress is awesome, very film noir. The makeup could have been better coordinated but the dress is fun!

  27. By any means, I’m not homophobic at all but the ‘word’ camp in england often used as a slang term meaning ‘gay’. Not so sure what to make this camp theme but it sure is fun to browse

  28. I definitely have to say that "Camp" is such a good theme for the Met Gala. It's very good to know and now I have to find that essay that you found defining it. For my vote: Ezra Miller (Burberry) and Jared Leto (Gucci) because it has the extravagance, the aesthetics yet maintained a certain class that matches with the fashion house.

    Request: could you do a summary of the best of the best of the Met Gala for the past 5 or 10 years?

  29. didn't frank ocean show up dressed as a valet???
    shame shame for missing that beautiful moment. It's insanely hard to do subtle camp well and he accomplished it

  30. I love watching the MET Gala. Done right and you see walking masterpieces, I love it. I just want to commend you on a brilliant job at presenting this theme in particularly. For someone who has English as their second language, you're an incredibly eloquent. The way you've presented the MET Gala for this year made me fully understand and appreciate what the theme for this year truly was and what each pieces signifies and how they fit in with the theme for this year. I'm going to binge watch on all of your MET Gala videos now.

  31. I am rather new to the channel but I absolutely adore your outlook and I am so excited about more of your videos.

  32. It’s so hard to explain camp. I’m so happy how you did it. Lady GaGa is my go to when I try to help someone understand it in a more mainstream way.

  33. There's a fine line between "campy" and "corny". Katie Perry is a great example of the latter, and a poor example of the former.

  34. People try to pull off the no make-up look with make-up; you pulled it off beautifully, unless, your skin really is this flawless?! My favorite our fit was yours.

  35. There is a nuance to miley cyrus's outfit which I feel is missed by her current following. This outfit is a direct reflection of out fit from her character on "Hannah Montanna" the series which brought her fame and showed her as an artist. While it may not be an outward reflection of the theme, it's as if shes used this outfit to channel all her accomplishment starting from the her basic form,, a children's show actress. I loved her look, but I know I am biased by the nostalgia.

  36. I always associated camp with gay men, when they are totally flamboyant and very feminine. You would say drag artists are totally camp. Also the saying his walk is so camp (walking in a gay girly way). Thinking on your description I guess it does stem from the same thing.

    While here I want to add that I hope this comment doesn't offend anyone, I was just trying to put into words how I have learnt the word camp from society. I am a totally accepting and open person. X

  37. Hi Justine – are you aware of 'camp' in relation to queer, gay and trans culture? Maybe you could read a bit deeper into that issue 🙂

  38. I only knew the term "being campy" from RuPaul's Drag Race and some Queens that were said to have a "campy aesthetic". I was expecting some real campy outfits and most of the guests didn't really turn it out. Especially the people that just wore normal gowns or black suits.

  39. Drag queens and LGTQIA communities embraced camp and made it a cultural phenomenon in America in the 70s, but we can see camp throughout history and cultures, such as the cabarets of Weimar Germany pre-Nazism. Susan Sontag is one of my favorite American essayists. Enjoyed your video.

  40. Gaga will go down in HISTORY…. it gives me goosebumps getting to witness it. I missed out on Judy Garland, John Lennon, and Michael Jackson. But we have GAGA

  41. I've been to the met in August and saw the exhibition camp. Quite impressing, but I'm still not sure if I get the topic clear xD

  42. If you understand the Illuminati … you will understand the Met Gala, and a lot of what is going on in the fashion and entertainment industry. It's not pretty

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