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What Is Camp Fashion? Here Is Everything You Should Know About This Fashion Theme

If you ever wonder what is camp fashion and what does it mean? Then you have come to the right place. Today, we’re gonna talk about camp fashion and why this year Met Gala 2019 theme was also camp. 

What Is Camp Fashion?

A lot of people get confused with “camp” fashion. So, let’s jump into the definition of camp. According to Wikipedia – “Camp is an aesthetic style and sensibility that regards something as appealing because of its bad taste and ironic value. Camp aesthetics disrupt many of modernism’s notions of what art is and what can be classified as high art by inverting aesthetic attributes such as Beauty, value, and taste through the invitation of a different kind of apprehension and consumption. “ Also as soon as you visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s new costume exhibit, it all becomes clear. It has nothing to do with tie-dying t-shirts at summer camp but everything to do with basking in the fabulousness, irony, and humor of being extra. 

History of Camp Fashion?

This concept has been inspired by American writer Susan Sontag’s essay on “Notes on Camp” in 1964 which emphasized its key elements as – artifice, frivolity, naīve middle-class pretentiousness and ‘shocking’ excess. The camp aesthetic has been popular from the 1960s to the present. For popularizing this culture, credit also goes to filmmakers George and Mike Kuchar, Jack Smith and his film Flaming Creatures and later John Waters including the latter’s Pink Flamingos, Hairspray and Polyester. Many celebrities also associated with camp personas such as drag queen and performers such as Dame Edna Everage, RuPaul, Paul Lynde, and Liberace. 

Although Susan took camp fashion in the mainstream the aesthetic originally stems from queer culture and dates back to the 17th century. And still, the art of camp remains hard to define to this day. 

Camp Is More Timelier Now Than Ever 

If we look into current situations then, it is a divisive political landscape that is filled with polarizing Internet opinions and never-ending news cycle. It is now more trending than ever. Andrew Bolton, Curator of The Costume Exhibit said at the exhibition’s preview that, “We’re experiencing a resurgence of camp not only in fashion, button culture in general. Camp tends to come during times of cultural instability.”

Why is that, exactly? Well, what better way to process times of chaos and instability than through extreme fashion that serves as a fun form of escapism? It can be theatrical, it can be ironic, it can even be humorous, but no matter what, the camp is a crucial way of capturing and expressing the zeitgeist of any period in culture. 

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The LGBTQ community says, “In an age of toxic masculinity in Trump’s America, it’s now more important than ever to hold onto and highlight camp’s original roots: the LGBTQ community. ”

The first part of the exhibit looks back to the queer subculture of Europe and America which defined and explored homosexuality through camp in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. There are many nude portraits of male bodies by photographers like Robert Mapplethorpe and Thomas Eakins as well as a statue of the Greek God Antinous, Hadrian’s lover, which Bolton refers to as the “archetypical camp pose.” Today’s camp movement can be largely defined by drag culture. 

Difference Between kitsch And Camp 

People also get confused between the words “camp” and “kitsch” because they often used interchangeably. Both may relate to art, literature, music or any object that carries an aesthetic value. Whereas, kitsch refers specifically to work itself and camp is more of performance. Thus, a person may consume kitsch intentionally or unintentionally. Camp, is always a way of consuming a performing culture. 

Camp In Music 

The camp is widely famous in the music industry too. American Singer and actress Cher is also known as “Queen of Camp” due to her outrageous fashion and live performance. She gained popularity in the 1970s when she was presented on American prime time television with her variety shows on which she has collaborated with the famous costume designer Bob Mackie

Dusty Springfield is a camp icon too. Due to her public and on-stage performances, Springfield developed a joyful image supported by her peroxide blonde beehive hairstyle, evening gowns and heavy make-up that included her much-copied panda eye mascara. Her glamorous look made her a camp icon and which later lead to won her a powerful and enduring following in the gay community. 

Lady Gaga is a contemporary exemplar of camp. She uses musical expression and the body motions of dance to make social commentary on pop culture which you can see in her Judas video. Her clothes, makeup, and accessories created by high-end fashion designers which is integral to the narrative structure of her performances. 

Lady Gaga
Lady Gaga in Met Gala 2019 Photo Credit : Getty Images

Analysis of Camp 

According to sociologist Andrew Ross, camp engages in a redefinition of cultural meaning through a juxtaposition of an outmoded past alongside that which is technologically, stylistically and sartorially contemporary. It is often characterized by the re appropriation of a “throwaway Pop aesthetic” camp works to intermingle the categories of high and low culture. In Ross’s analysis, camp aesthetics become the site of personal liberation from the stranglehold of corporate, capitalism state. 

Now, we can say that you’re familiar with the concept of Camp. We you’re still confused about camp. Don’t feel bad, Bolton himself says the term is “nearly impossible to define or summaries.” Perhaps that’s the point of it all. Either way, the style is a reminder that fashion is at its most fun when it’s not taking itself too seriously. 

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