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2019 Met Gala: Styles that embodied camp, ones that failed to meet the mark

By Anushka Jain, Kristin Snyder, and Raunak Devjani

May 7, 2019 4:55 p.m.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art opened its doors to actors, musicians and athletes under one condition: the celebrities must dress to fit the theme of “Camp: Notes on Fashion,” as in unnatural, exaggerated ensembles. Stars aimed to reach camp as described by Susan Sontag’s 1964 essay that inspired the theme, and some missed the mark while others dazzled in anything-but-ordinary suits and gowns.


Last year, Zendaya’s Joan of Arc-inspired look was breathtaking. And while her Cinderella ball gown wasn’t quite as awe-inspiring, it certainly brought the magic to this year’s gala. Layers of dark gray, bright blue and cobalt made up elaborate and her structured bodice supported large, pillowy sleeves. But what made the look truly whimsical was her fairy godmother – her stylist Law Roach – utilizing a “magic wand” and smoke to light up her dress. Pale blue eyeshadow, pink lipstick and a pumpkin carriage purse added the final details to the enchanting, though slightly mundane ensemble.

Lupita Nyong’o

From the waist-down, Lupita Nyong’o’s Met Gala Versace gown initially disappointed as the actress strived to channel Marie Antoinette. The kaleidoscope-resembling pink-and-orange pattern goes against the grain of Nyong’o’s usually impressive appearances walking down a carpet. But the shoulder details and hairstyle welcomed a flair that made up for the otherwise commonplace ends of the dress, overall deeming her one of the night’s best dressed. Nyong’o’s gown dramatically rose off her upper body, stemming from her shoulders in hot pink and flaring out as a purple hue, followed by a light blue and highlighter green. The “Us” star topped off her camp look with a dark, glossy lip and candy-colored, metallic eye makeup, joined by gold picks in her Afro to highlight the power of natural hair texture, according to Vogue.

Harry Styles

Harry Styles is no stranger to flashy Gucci looks. On his world tour, he rocked everything from shimmering baby blue suits to diamond-printed looks to glittering gold pussycat bows. Needless to say, the Met Gala co-chair was expected to deliver for his latest Gucci collaboration. But Styles’ crisp black jumpsuit, featuring a sheer top, dramatic pussycat bow and lace edges, was fairly underwhelming compared to his previous, flamboyant suits. A dramatic pearl earing, painted nails and signature gold rings complemented the tattoos peeking through the sheer top but lacked the pizazz expected of the gala. The understated look hardly held up to the theme. Perhaps striking makeup or an elaborate headpiece could’ve guided the outfit toward camp, but overall it felt run-of-the-mill. On its own, it was an excellent ensemble. But we all know Styles can – and has – done better.

[RELATED: Concert review: Harry Styles at The Forum]

Lady Gaga

From her infamous meat dress to pink feathers, Lady Gaga has run the gamut of all fashion has to offer. The singer took to the pink carpet in an obnoxious, billowing pink dress flocked by suited men carrying black umbrellas. Her performance certainly embodied camp, as she was quick to discard the magenta ensemble, revealing a sleek black dress underneath. And like a nesting doll, underneath that dress was another neon pink look, which she paired with an old-fashioned phone and large black sunglasses. And underneath? Lingerie featuring a studded bustier, black panties, studded fishnets and sequined, mile-high heels.

The looks themselves were rather lackluster, but Lady Gaga’s outfit changes were ambitious and risque – everything camp is meant to be.

Darren Criss

With theatrical makeup and a multicolored blazer, Darren Criss was the very personification of camp on this year’s carpet. The Balmain piece – note, both checkered and bejeweled – came with a similarly adorned coattail. Criss also wore an oversized ascot bow, golden rings and electric blue nail polish. But the stand-out feature of his ensemble was the burgundy line along his lower lip, paired with dramatic strokes of cobalt eyeshadow, extended to his forehead in a way that aptly evoked imagery of Comedia dell’ Arte.

Lily Collins

Delicate accessories meant to represent flower petals grazed Lily Collins’ voluminous hairstyle as her tresses flowed down to her waist. Collins matched her monumental hairdo with lilac eyeshadow and an equally majestic outfit as she recreated Priscilla Presley’s wedding-day wardrobe. The actress’s creamy, white dress cascaded into a ruffled V-neck, which lay just below her Cartier necklace bejeweled with green. The gown boasted a high-low length, with an elegant, lengthy train trailing Collins’ black platform heels while she made her way down the pink carpet sporting one of the night’s most fitting and luxurious looks. Collins is known for her elegant taste, and once again managed to match her chic flair to the Met Gala’s expectations.

[RELATED: Movie review: ‘Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile,’ vindicates oft-forgotten female figures]

Billy Porter

Shirtless men in gold pants delivered Billy Porter to the pink carpet – and the drama didn’t end there. The “Pose” star transformed into a gold bird, donning a black jumpsuit covered in golden fringe. With arms spread wide, intricately patterned wings perfected the captivating look. He topped it off with a glittering headpiece reminiscent of a crown, and shimmering, exaggerated eye makeup paired with a deep purple lipstick. Porter’s look shined amid attendees who didn’t quite understand the theme. Overdramatic? Yes. But perfectly campy? Most certainly.

Hamish Bowles

Look no further than Hamish Bowles for an embodiment of this year’s Met Gala theme: The exaggerated and extreme nature of camp can be easily found in the Vogue editor’s suit, skirt and majestic cape. Varying shades of purple nudged their way into Bowles’ look, whether it be through his sheer tights, patterned bow tie or slightly raised heels. Around his lavender, lilac and plum silhouette, a line of feathers flowed into a trailing cape coated in patchwork. Bowles not only balanced masculine and feminine shapes but also capped off his look with the grandiose cloak, all while committing to a nearly monochrome wardrobe, effortlessly embracing camp.

Serena Williams

Serena Williams slightly lifted up her gown to show off her yellow designer sneakers as she strutted down the pink carpet at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. The tennis star and Met Gala co-host embraced the theme’s extravagance, donning a neon yellow Versace dress that folded into elegant puffs around her shoulders and flowed down into a train. Her dress was adorned with airy pink butterflies, adding light-yet-striking details to an already bold gown that did justice to Susan Sontag’s “Notes on ‘Camp.’”

Gemma Chan

Actress Gemma Chan walked the carpet in a sleek, silver gown by Tom Ford, shrouded in a glittery, floor-length cape. The most eye-catching element of her look, however, was the jeweled headdress that elegantly delivered this year’s theme. With simple but shimmering eyeshadow and silver bracelets to match, the “Crazy Rich Asians” star was sure to turn heads.

Danai Gurira

Under the Met Gala’s infamous “more is more” dictum, trite extravagance sometimes falls flat, and simpler looks demand greater attention. Danai Gurira’s monochromatic get-up comprised a black, plunge-neck jumpsuit, paired with Jimmy Choo heels, a top hat and a cane. Her Gabriela Hearst one-piece boasted a relatively short train – at least in comparison to other dresses on the carpet. The “Black Panther” actress did little to accessorize, sporting dainty pieces of diamond jewelry that served to accentuate, rather than distract from the overall sleek cabaret-inspired look.

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Anushka Jain | Alumna
Jain was the PRIME director for the 2020-2021 school year. She was previously the PRIME content editor during the 2019-2020 school year and an assistant Arts editor for the Lifestyle beat during the 2018-2019 school year.
Jain was the PRIME director for the 2020-2021 school year. She was previously the PRIME content editor during the 2019-2020 school year and an assistant Arts editor for the Lifestyle beat during the 2018-2019 school year.
Snyder was previously the 2019-2020 Arts editor as well as the 2018-2019 Theater | Film | Television editor.
Devjani is the top editor of the Arts and Entertainment section. She was previously the assistant editor for the Theater Film and Television beat.
Devjani is the top editor of the Arts and Entertainment section. She was previously the assistant editor for the Theater Film and Television beat.
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