The annual opportunity for celebrities to bring their zaniest best to the red carpet – the fund-raising gala for the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute, better known as the Met Gala – was held in New York City on Monday. One of the biggest fashion events of the year, the Met Gala always makes headlines for its over-the-top costumes, but this year’s theme allowed attendees to dial up the extravagance to the maximum.
The aesthetic for 2019 was “Camp: Notes on Fashion”, based on American writer Susan Sontag’s 1964 essay Notes On “Camp”. As various publications have pointed out, “camp” is notoriously hard to define. Sontag describes it as a “love of the unnatural: of artifice and exaggeration” and something that “proposes itself seriously, but cannot be taken altogether seriously because it is ‘too much’”. Overtime, the word “campy” has come to be used in pop-culture as something dramatic, over-the-top and ironic.
Given the wide ambit for interpretation, actors, musicians, Hollywood A-listers and more opted for fashion choices that ranged from the glorious to the bizarre. There were decapitated heads, walking chandeliers and of course, elaborate headgear, as each star offered their own interpretation of camp.
The Met Gala’s dramatic flair has also made it an annual opportunity for memes and jokes on social media. It’s a simple formula: the more outrageous an outfit, the more attention it gets on Twitter, which means lots of praise as well as lots of humour.
For Indian social media users, the Met Gala in recent years has been of increased interest because actresses Deepika Padukone and Priyanka Chopra have become regulars there.
Chopra, who has made head turns with her Met Gala looks since she debuted at the event in 2017, upped the ante this year with a silver Christian Dior gown. She was there with husband Nick Jonas.
On social media, the praise for Chopra was interspersed with some unflattering comparisons. Some surmised that her hairstyle was the consequence of taking Mumbai’s infamously crowded local trains, while others wondered if she was endorsing Centre Shock, the hair-raisingly sour chewing gum that was popular in the early 2000s.
Deepika Padukone, who has made arguably safer choices since she first attended the event in 2017, also took a bolder route this year, with a dramatic pink gown by Zack Posen. Some social media users placed themselves firmly on Team Deepika and the unanimous opinion was that she looked like an Indian Barbie doll.
A social media user pointed out that Padukone’s husband and actor Ranveer Singh, known for his eccentric fashion choices, was an all-year-round embodiment of the Met Gala.
In the international media, among the more talked about looks was of pop star Katy Perry, who came dressed as a chandelier. Naturally, Twitter too lit up with jokes.
Rapper Cardi B’s Thom Browne-designed red gown, with a long and quilted train, invited many comparisons to the female reproductive system.
The recent Twitter trend of comparing celebrity looks to inanimate objects continued for the Met Gala as well, with one popular thread likening the night’s outfits to minerals.
Other Twitter users too played variations of the spot-the-difference game.
Models and relativity television stars Kylie and Kendall Jenner, always social media favourites, inspired multiple comparisons on Twitter. The two appeared in synchronised feathered gowns and many concurred that they were the evil stepsisters to actress Zendaya’s Cinderella.
Musician-actress Lady Gaga also grabbed attention for putting together a record four outfits for the night.
For social and traditional media, the winner of the night was Pose actor Billy Porter, who dressed up as an Egyptian Sun God. As one astute Twitter user pointed out, the actor also looked a bit like the prized snitch in a Quidditch game from the Harry Potter universe.
Another eye-ball grabbing look, quite literally, was that of actor Ezra Miller. Rivalling him in the macabre department was Jared Leto, who, after playing the villainous Joker in Suicide Squad (2016), continued to keep the scares coming.