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Genre goes 'camp' at the 2019 Met Gala

By Emma Fraser
Lupita Nyong'o

“The hallmark of Camp is the spirit of extravagance.”

Defining exactly what "camp" is, even after reading Susan Sontag’s seminal 1964 essay “Notes on ‘Camp’”, is no easy feat. Extravagance and a “love of the exaggerated” are both referenced in Sontag’s work, which provided the inspiration and theme of this year’s Met Gala, "Camp: Notes on Fashion." The Met Gala is no ordinary red carpet event. While it's often referred to as "the Oscars of the fashion world," it's not an award show, rather an annual fundraising gala for the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Attracting the biggest names in entertainment and fashion, it's a night dedicated to frivolity and sartorial decadence. 

Last year, the casts of Black Panther, Star Wars and Westworld indulged in some Heavenly ensembles and while Chadwick Boseman sadly couldn't attend the 2019 soirée (due to work reasons), there were plenty of MCU stars on hand, as well as other genre favorites to indulge in this fun and hard to define theme.  

Here are some of SYFY WIRE FANGRRLS' highlights from the theatrical night of fashion.

Ezra Miller

In the past, Ezra Miller has dressed as a Dalek who went to Uniqlo and cosplayed as Hedwig the owl, so it was a safe bet that he would lean in hard with this theme. Lean he did and then some, wearing custom pinstripe Burberry. Miller has already played a superhero in Justice League, but where is the hero wearing a jewel-encrusted corset and cape we deserve? Not only did he serve up camp with his clothes, but the mask and multiple eyes ticked the “theatricalization of experience” box, which Sontag mentions in her essay.

Lady Gaga
The four stages of Lady Gaga in Brandon Maxwell was a show within itself and as one of the co-chairs of this year’s gala, she knew one dress would not suffice. Instead, she went with four different outfit reveals. Camp is in Lady Gaga’s blood, including her award-winning turn as the murder glove wielding Countess on American Crime Story: Hotel.


Bookending the red carpet was Zendaya with a Tommy Hilfiger look that drew on her Disney roots. She was accompanied by stylist Law Roach who turned her “drab” Cinderella gown into an illuminated dream, as if by magic. This performative aspect continued when Zendaya lost her glass slipper as she ascended the staircase. It was a big day for the Spider-Man: Far From Home, star as the new trailer revealed some exciting details.

Billy Porter
Billy Porter could have become a member of the Best Dressed Deities Club if this out-of-this-world custom ensemble by the Blonds had arrived a month earlier. Porter sat at creator Ryan Murphy’s table, which was stacked with cast members from Pose and American Horror Story. It is unlikely, but considering the latter is taking things back in time to the 1980s, maybe there could be a crossover of these two projects.
Sarah Paulson, Ryan Murphy and Darren Criss

While we're on the subject of Ryan Murphy, he paid tribute to camp icon Liberace in a 100-pound pearl and sequin embroidered cape by Christian Siriano, looking like he could play a version of Dracula on a future AHS season. Not to be outdone, regular Murphy collaborator Darren Criss went back to the artificial roots of camp with a custom Balmain take on the harlequin jacket. The exaggerated makeup showed Criss’ dedication to theme.

Sarah Paulson is known for going big on the red carpet so this big bowed Moschino gown felt a little on the demure side, but the champagne bag played on the art nouveau aspect, which is intrinsic to Sontag’s discussion of camp.

Celine Dion and Gemma Chan
Celine Dion in Oscar de la Renta with this extraordinary headpiece drew comparisons to Cate Blanchett as Hela in Thor: Ragnarok, and maybe it is time for the MCU to have a little Vegas glitz thrown into the mix. After all, Dion has already performed a song on the Deadpool 2 soundtrack. Flapper attire from the 1920s is mentioned as part of the canon of camp in Sontag’s essay and this look was an homage to Ziegfeld Follies.

Also on that list are old Flash Gordon comics, which sadly no one took notice of, but Gemma Chan’s silver custom Tom Ford is otherworldly (inspired by the Elizabeth Taylor movie Boom). She has been a standout on the red carpet this season, from Captain Marvel premieres to the Oscars

Lupita Nyong'o
Lupita Nyong’o is someone we can always count on to go big from Star Wars junkets to Black Panther red carpets. She can also make a red boiler suit look like high fashion. She did not disappoint in rainbow-winged and woven pink star Atelier Versace. Gold afro combs, licorice color lips, and so much eye sparkle elevated what was already a stunner of a play on camp.

Oscar Wilde is referenced quite heavily in "Notes on ‘Camp’" and he provided dandy inspiration for a couple of MCU actors. As Michonne and Okoye, Danai Gurira is constantly slaying, but she did it again in a custom Gabriela Hearst black jumpsuit. Sontag is dismissive of Christopher Isherwood, but this look also delivered full Cabaret.

Benedict Cumberbatch
Also going for a dandy Wilde aesthetic was Benedict Cumberbatch in Labassa Woolfe, accompanied by wife Sophie Hunter in bespoke Roksanda. This was full dapper with a dash of Indiana Jones villain. Observant red carpet watchers also noted he has maybe not let go of one of the Infinity Stones, as that green jewel pinned to his suit looked very reminiscent of the Time Stone.  

Tessa Thompson

Have we found Valkyrie's leading lady look? A riding crop coupled with those boots and a hair that doubles a whip ensured Tessa Thompson was taking theatricality to the next level in corseted Chanel.

Lena Waithe
Recent Westworld cast addition Lena Waithe looked like an LGBTQ+ superhero at the Met Gala last year, for 2019 she used her ensemble to honor the black drag queens who pioneered camp. Walking the carpet with Pyer Moss designer Kerby Jean-Raymond, she spoke to E! about the meaning behind the message on their pinstripe suits, “We collaborated on really bringing a message. To me, I really wanted to make sure my outfit represented the black drag queens who started this camp thing about being over the top and all that jazz.”

Natasha Lyonne
Russian Doll had us salivating over Natasha Lyonne’s suits, and the same can be said for this fantastic Jean Paul Gaultier jumpsuit. Dramatic shoulder silhouettes were a recurring trend at the 2019 Gala, but Lyonne also served up all the face and attitude to go with this incredible look. 

Elle Fanning

If they ever do an I Dream of Jeannie reboot, then Elle Fanning in this super retro Miu Miu winged two-piece is making her case to be the lead.

Selfies are a Met Gala no-no, but having faced (and lost to) The Mountain, Pedro Pascal wasn't worried about the consequences. Plus he had an excellent pair of serial killer specs to complete his camp-y outfit. Click through the arrows above to see who Pascal hung out with.

Florence Welch and Saoirse Ronan

Florence Welch has one song play over the Game of Thrones credits and she served up a look that suggested Iron Throne combined with Targaryen attire (but make it camp). Both Welch and Saoirse Ronan were in Gucci and the Mother of Dragons vibes were strong. Another pair might be coming for that Seven Kingdoms crown.


Speaking of Game of Thrones, Sophie Turner’s geometric ‘80s Louis Vuitton definitely avoided any Winterfell comparisons. However, her hair and makeup had a touch of the Night King.

And one Jonas Brother was going all in on the Thrones comparison.


Team Riverdale went little fairy tale camp with a dash of Beauty and the Beast and Cinderella on the menu. What's really good about this particular theme is that no matter how you interpret camp, if you make an effort to go big then you are already half the way there — much like the actual show Riverdale. Half the fun is in the swings they make.

Hailee Steinfeld and Cara Delevigne

Sontag recognizes how important queer culture is to the sensibility of camp, which was reflected in former Suicide Squad villain Cara Delevingne's Pride-inspired Dior rainbow sensation. “Camp is generous. It wants to enjoy” and this entire ensemble from plastic headwear to stacked rainbow platforms is doing just that.

Hailee Steinfeld also got this playful memo as she camped it up in a statement tulle Viktor & Rolf Haute Couture gown complete with a camera accessory. 

Jared Leto and Janelle Monae

For a strong sci-fi aesthetic, Janelle Monáe’s Christian Siriano ensemble had a blinking eye. This is high camp at its finest.   

Artifice and excess both featured heavily on this carpet, including Jared Leto walking around with a lifelike version of his own head. Leto often does the most (see every Suicide Squad behind-the-scenes story) so he was born to excel at this theme. The Gucci severed heads first appeared on fall 2018 runway, which played on science-fiction elements (including dragon babies) and once again showed that fashion and genre are entwined. 

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