Camp, the celebration of extravagance with an element of gender-play (sort of “extra” meeting drag and androgyny) is the raison d’être of "Camp: Notes on Fashion" at the Metropolitan Museum of Art from May 9-Sept 8, 2019.
The French origins of camp
The very word "camp" comes from the French term se camper, meaning to strut or stand out.
Like so many genre defining phenomena in culture and counter culture, camp has French roots and French influence. Versailles, ever the epicenter of trends, found camp patrons in Philippe I, Chevalier de Lorraine, and King Louis XIV himself, who valued pomp and extravagence over nearly anything. The association between camp and the LGBT community can also trace origins to Versailles, as Philippe and the Chevalier were well-known lovers known for cultivating a gay society at court, and Philippe explored drag since childhood.
Camp flourished long after the Sun King’s reign in France: the decadent court of Marie-Antoinette, 19th century Parisian dandies, the life of Chevalier d’Eon (a soldier-spy famous for gender noncomformity) and the fetishation of French sailor style are only a few camp examples.
Modern French camp
The 20th and 21st centuries proved equally campy in France. Designers like Christian Dior and Jean Paul Gaultier or icons like Edith Piaf further contributed to and inspired the camp scene.
The Met exhibition features paintings, sculptures, costumes, designs, bric-a-brac, and other testimonials to the power of extravagence, the power of expression, the power of camp.