Camp: Notes on Fashion

The Costume Institute exhibition at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York explores 'camp' in fashion.

Camp: Notes On Fashion is the theme for the Costume Institute’s 2019 summer exhibition at the Met in New York and will be the theme for the 71st Gala fashion event taking place on Monday.

The annual Costume Institute exhibition, curated by Andrew Bolton is usually centred around a body of cultural, political or historical themes – last year’s exhibition explored ‘Fashion and the Catholic Imagination‘. This year, Bolton draws inspiration from Susan Sontag’s 1964 essay Notes on “Camp” where for the first time, this seemingly simple word is examined for the cultural complexity it encompasses.

….the essence of Camp is its love of the unnatural: of artifice and exaggeration.

Susan Sontag from Notes on Camp

More than 250 objects dating from the seventeenth century to the present will explore the “…irony, humour, parody, pastiche, artifice, theatricality, and exaggeration” in fashion.

Lately, ‘Camp’ has reduced to a singular meaning – think queer frivolity – but as Sontag explains, the reality is far more complex, extending way beyond pose and performance. Camp is equal parts darkness and light, comedy and crisis; it is the high and low of taste.

Camp has become increasingly more mainstream in its pluralities — political camp, queer camp, pop camp, the conflation of high and low, the idea that there is no such thing as originality.”

Andrew Bolton in an interview with Vogue.

Notwithstanding its trivialities, Camp requires intelligent and contextual interpretation to be fully understood. Camp is often a dialogue of change, shifting traditional ideas outward into new forms of expression. Camp never become the norm. In contrast, it exists to unhinge our tolerances and expose our often-times slavish creative streams. It is always on the outer reaches of our sensibility fleeing from normalcy.

camp notes on fashion 01 - Camp: Notes on Fashion
Marc Jacobs (American, born New York, 1964). Ensembles, spring/summer 2016. Courtesy of Marc Jacobs. Photo © Johnny Dufort, 2018

The Costume Institute’s catalogue features some of the garments that will be displayed throughout the exhibition with Schläppi Aloof and 2200 mannequins used to present the material. The Met has a longstanding tradition of using Schläppi Mannequins for their key exhibitions. In 2015 they used bespoke Schläppi 2200 mannequins for ‘China Through The Looking Glass‘ and again a year later for ‘Fairy Tale Fashion‘. In 2011, The Met used a series of bespoke Bonaveri mannequins for the Alexander McQueen tribute, ‘Savage Beauty‘.

Every exhibition staged by the Costume Institute requires vastly differing requirements and Schläppi and Bonaveri mannequins are always able to satisfy the requirements. We delighted to see that once again, they have chosen these very special characters for this year’s exhibition.

CAMP: Notes On Fashion
The Met. 5th Avenue, New York
9th of May to 8th of September 2019

Ian Thompson
03 May 2019

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