Sotheby’s Magazine

Camping Out for The Met's New Costume Institute Exhibition

By EDWARD BEHRENS
The Metropolitan Museum of Art's much-anticipated Costume Institute exhibition (9 May–8 September) explores the many facets of camp and its influence on Fashion, taking inspiration from Susan Sontag's seminal 1964 essay.

T he subject of The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s spring show at the Costume Institute won’t surprise anyone who saw Rihanna grace the red carpet at the 2015 Met Gala with a 16ft yellow silk train – curator Andrew Bolton is interrogating the elusive spirit of camp.

Jeremy Scott black and pink dress with bow near hips and printed legs on front
Dress, Jeremy Scott for House of Moschino, spring/summer 2017. Courtesy Moschino. Image courtesy The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Photograph © Johnny Dufort, 2019.
Bertrand Guyon flamingo print coat with pink pants and a feather pink flamingo mask
Ensemble, Bertrand Guyon for House of Schiaparelli, fall/winter 2018–19 haute couture. Courtesy Schiaparelli. Image courtesy The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Photograph © Johnny Dufort, 2019.

Using essayist and critic Susan Sontag’s "Notes on ‘Camp’" as a framework, for Camp: Notes on Fashion he has assembled 175 pieces, from the 17th century to the present, to explore what Sontag called “a certain mode of aestheticism”. The exhibition comes in two parts. The first traces the growth of camp from the court of Louis XIV, through Molière and the Duc d’Orléans, all the way into the devilish world of Christopher Isherwood’s 1930s underground Berlin.

(CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT) COAT, JEAN-CHARLES DE CASTELBAJAC, FALL/WINTER 1988–89; ENSEMBLE, ALESSANDRO MICHELE FOR GUCCI, FALL/WINTER 2016–17; ENSEMBLE, VIRGIL ABLOH FOR OFF-WHITE C/O VIRGIL ABLOH, PRE-FALL 2018; ENSEMBLE, JEREMY SCOTT FOR HOUSE OF MOSCHINO, SPRING/SUMMER 2018, COURTESY OF MOSCHINO. ALL IMAGES COURTESY THE METROPOLITAN MUSEUM OF ART. PHOTOGRAPHS © JOHNNY DUFORT, 2018.

The second part looks at wit, irony, humour and pastiche in fashion, with dresses by designers including Viktor & Rolf and Elsa Schiaparelli, and of course the work of Gucci’s Alessandro Michele, who is hosting the benefit gala on 6 May. It is likely absolute answers will hover at the edge of this show rather than at the centre of it. As Andrew Bolton says, “‘What is camp?’ The only answer is – as the historian Gregory Bredbeck has suggested – a camp one: ‘Only one’s hairdresser knows for sure.’”

Camp: Notes on Fashion, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 9 May–8 September.

Related Video: Preview Camp: Notes on Fashion


Thom Browne trompe l'oeil dresses in green and pink
Ensembles, Thom Browne, spring/summer 2017. Courtesy The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Photograph by Johnny Dufort, 2018.
Moschino trompe l'oeil dress in black and pink with a ballerina leg print on dress skirt in pink
Dress, Franco Moschino for House of Moschino, fall/winter 1989. Courtesy The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Photograph ©
Johnny Dufort, 2018.
Moschino shirt in white with the words "Too Much Irony" written on the back.
Shirt, Franco Moschino for House of Moschino, spring/summer 1991. Image courtesy The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Photograph © Johnny Dufort, 2018.
Gucci trompe l'oeil dress with ruffled cape details
Ensemble, Alessandro Michele for Gucci, fall/winter 2016–17. Courtesy The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Photograph ©
Johnny Dufort, 2018.
Shirt dresses with crayola crayon sleeves in magenta and sky blue
"Rothola” dresses, Christian Francis Roth, 1990. Courtesy The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Photograph ©
Johnny Dufort, 2018.
Ensembles, Marc Jacobs, spring/summer 2016. Courtesy The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Photograph © Johnny Dufort, 2018.

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