Camp style is a type of style that is over-the-top, tacky, exaggerated, effeminate, and all things related. Defining this extravagant and gaudy style is difficult and even Susan Sontag, in her essay Notes on Camp, couldn’t come up with a clear definition for the ironic style. In general, camp is a style where your outfit is so ugly that it’s considered fashion.
A Subjective Art Statement
Since camp style can mean anything because of its open-endedness, people can interpret it based on their subjective idea of what it means. Take, for example, the 2019 MET Gala that chose camp style as its theme this year. Celebrities came in their ideas of ironic fashion. Long trains, superfluous collars, and too much of one color walked along the red carpet for everyone at home to admire.
The important thing to remember about camp style is that the “tackiness” or exaggerations is done deliberately. Camp is meant to cross aesthetically comfortable lines just enough to make a statement. When camp style is done badly, it’s because the attempt wasn’t done badly enough. This is where the line blurs between fashion or art and pure strangeness.
The Origins of Camp Style
Although Susan Sontag’s essay is usually referred to when mentioning camp style, she was not the first one to come up with the term or idea. Camp style origins go all the way back to France during Louis XIV’s rule. Derived from the French term “se camper,” which translates to strike an “exaggerated pose,” camp style was fostered from the outlandish French court. The king’s brother, Philippe I, duc d’Orleans, grew up in a way not to outshine his brother and resulted in his well-known effeminate nature.
Sontag dedicated her essay to Oscar Wilde for his flair for aesthetics. He wrote, “one should either be a work of art, or wear a work of art,” in Phrases and Philosophies for the Use of the Young. He emphasizes the deliberateness of camp and its way of being the right amount of too much.
Camp Style and the Queer Community
Camp style has had ties with homosexuality and its stereotypical characteristics. Drag queen culture especially exhibits the style with the over exaggeration of feminine qualities. Their goal is not to look like women, but to bring the extreme version of a woman to life.
In the past, camp was the secret of the queer underground and dd camp culture in their own way. Now, camp style has entered the mainstream with models on the runway with severed heads or platform crocs. It’s all about the level of outrageousness and pushing the line further and further to see just how over-the-top the style can be without going overboard.
Camp Style Is More Than Just Fashion
Pushing the line of the extreme doesn’t stop on the runway, but applies to other parts of culture. From movies with characters who overact to make a point in the plot or Andy Warhol’s soup cans, camp style is so unbelievable that it makes a statement.