High Camp On The Red Carpet: Inside The Met Gala 2019 Dress Code
At this year’s Met Gala, the dress code made for drama, theatrics and fabulous fun. Charlie Gowans-Eglinton and Caroline Leaper report
The key question on the (aptly pink-dyed) red carpet: on a scale of nought to Abba, how camp are you? From the boy with the pearl earring (Harry Styles) to the woman dressed as a fully functioning chandelier (Katy Perry), there were endless fabulous interpretations of the dress code at this year’s Met Gala.
The excuse for all the diamonds and marabou was to celebrate the opening of the blockbuster exhibition, Camp: Notes on Fashion, at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. Annually, the subject of the exhibition dictates the theme of its star-studded launch party.
This year’s theme seemed, on the surface, like a more straightforward one to navigate than last year’s controversial Fashion and the Catholic Imagination, at which Rihanna saw fit to arrive as a “sexy pope”. Of course Lady Gaga, who whirled through four outfits in the first 15 minutes of the event, should nail it.
But what of Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, who gave it her best by adding a white feather train to her classic slick halter-dress by Oscar de la Renta? Or Emma Stone, in a fully sequinned jumpsuit by Louis Vuitton that ultimately looked polished and sharp? They may have thrown the boa at the situation, but somehow Cher managed to outdo the lot of them in a pair of jeans.
Here, we chart the spectrum of camp, starting with those delivering it in spades. — Caroline Leaper
The Kitchen Sinkers
At every children’s fancy dress party, there is the child whose parents papier-mâchéd and hand-painted a costume from scratch, showing up anyone who dared buy theirs in a supermarket. At this year’s Met Gala, Lady Gaga was that child, outfitted by American designer Brandon Maxwell and performing three quick changes on the red carpet like a Matryoshka doll with a couture shopping habit. First, a fuchsia pink parachute that covered the width of the pink carpet, fluffed by her black-umbrella-wielding cortège. One stepped forward to unzip her, revealing a black gown, before she shed that in favour of a slinky fuchsia pink sheath dress, which was in turn unzipped, leaving her in blingy bra and pants, fishnet tights and platform shoes. It wasn’t just a little much: it was A Lot Much, but as Gaga was one of the Met’s five hosts this year it’s her party, and she’ll show you up if she wants to.
After Gaga’s antics, even Cardi B’s blood-red dress with XXXXXL train seemed restrained (social media was quick to compare it to a platelet, though I read it as the sartorial embodiment of Game of Thrones’ red wedding). Special mention goes to Lupita Nyong’o and her rainbow-ruffled Versace dress, which was Priscilla, Queen of the Desert meets Sydney Opera House (see those sculpted shoulders). — Charlie Gowans-Eglinton
Feathers! Sequins! Crystals! Opulence was the goal for those who chose to channel a showgirl for the night — see sisters Kendall and Kylie Jenner, in marabou-fluffed Versace, and Gigi Hadid in head-to-toe Michael Kors sequins for the looks that sparkled hardest on Instagram. Emily Blunt’s impressive Kors gown was encrusted with 510,000 gold sequins, while Emily Ratajkowski’s approach was to say that less clothing, physically, was more.
It was, however, real-life Las Vegas residents Celine Dion and Jennifer Lopez who did justice to the trend. Dion’s Oscar de la Renta beaded dress was inspired by the Twenties-set Judy Garland film Ziegfeld Girl and came complete with a silver headpiece for peacocking. Lopez, meanwhile, was a flapper-diva hybrid, throwing on 150 carats of Harry Winston diamonds with her crystal Versace dress and Gatsby cap. — Caroline Leaper
The Surrealist Artworks
Why steal the spotlight when you can bring your own? That seemed to be the mantra for Katy Perry, who became a Moschino chandelier, complete with two hidden battery packs in her corset and a pull-switch to turn her off and on. Other theatrics came from Janelle Monae, who turned to Christian Siriano for an exaggerated Picasso look with a motorised blinking-eye bra, and Tracee Ellis Ross, who was a work of art in a Jeremy Scott picture frame. Diane von Furstenberg’s take was perhaps the most sentimental; the designer channelled Lady Liberty, 75 years to the day after her mother was arrested and sent to Auschwitz. — Caroline Leaper
The Icons of Camp
What would Alexis Carrington, the woman who launched a thousand camp ships, wear to the Met Gala? We need not wonder, since Joan Collins walked the red carpet in full Dynasty regalia, courtesy of Valentino haute couture. Her tiered white feather gown was topped with an amount of diamonds befitting the ultimate soap opera villain (read: a lot). At the other end of the spectrum was Cher, perhaps the only woman who could rival Collins’s camp crown. She dealt her death blow in blue jeans, flat shoes and a black cardi-coat, taking to the stage to perform her camp anthems Believe and Turn Back Time, plus Abba’s Waterloo. The message? When you embody camp, you don’t have to dress camp. — Charlie Gowans-Eglinton
What to wear when you don’t really understand camp culture, and you’re more the ballgown type? Don a Disney Princess dress. Zendaya carried a miniature pumpkin coach, and even dropped a glass slipper from beneath her Tommy Hilfiger Cinderella frock. Emma Roberts accessorised her Sleeping Beauty pink Giambattista Valli dress with flowers in her hair, perhaps arranged by a darling troop of little singing robins: the look will no doubt become bridal hair #inspo. Elizabeth Debicki and Carey Mulligan came tied up in bows, and while Katie Holmes did the Disney ball gown, at least she had the vision to come as a baddy — Maleficent would have been in raptures over her frock. — Charlie Gowans-Eglinton
No matter the dress code, Anna Wintour will always be resplendent in Chanel at the Met. It’s not a matter of her misjudging the dress code — after all, she’s presided over the Gala since 1995, and famously okays every single dress that is worn on the red carpet. No one knows the nuances better than Dame Anna: she’s just found Her Look, and she’s sticking to it. But this time she added an ombré feather cape. Was it camp enough? If not, no one would dare tell her otherwise, myself included. Also balancing on the camp/not camp knife-edge was Kim Kardashian, who offered up yet another riff on her signature “naked dress”, this time dripping with crystals that made it looked as though she’d just stepped out of the shower — or a martini glass. — Charlie Gowans-Eglinton
Some people, it turns out, are just not very camp. If campiness is inherent, as a nature or an attitude, then throwing a sequin at it won’t help a lost cause. Karlie Kloss in a Gucci minidress, Penelope Cruz in monochrome Chanel and Gisele Bündchen in pink Dior pleats were among those who seemed to accept that this year’s dress code wasn’t very “them” and that even adding an abundance of ruffle flourishes wouldn’t have turned them. Gwyneth Paltrow, in sunshine yellow Chloé, looked lovely, certainly. But not camp. — Caroline Leaper
Missed The Memo
And then there were the ones who tried to be on-theme, but took an accidental U-turn towards a whole other mood. Solange Knowles in a snakeskin shirt and boots by Ferragamo. What was that all about? Jennifer Connelly and Alicia Vikander, both in Louis Vuitton, had shown up at the wrong party. Elle Fanning, in coral Miu Miu trousers and crop top, merely wore a necklace with the letters C-A-M-P splashed across it. Why say it if you don’t mean it, Elle? — Caroline Leaper
A Surprise Comeback
With all those feathers, trains and entourages, you might have missed this talking point of the night — Georgina Chapman made a quiet return to the Met red carpet. The founder of label Marchesa had taken a break from the spotlight after allegations of sexual assault were levelled at her then-husband Harvey Weinstein, sparking the MeToo and Time’s Up movements. Chapman’s fashion label Marchesa, which Weinstein is rumoured to have coerced actresses in his employ to wear, was tainted in the process — but will the stain come out? — Charlie Gowans-Eglinton
— The Daily Telegraph