Hey hey Wondering if you could give some examples of the quiet camp you mentioned before?
Yes I can! You’re not the only person who’s asked me so I hope this helps. As a disclaimer, I’m no fashion historian or a particularly fashionable person myself. I am, in fact, camp as fuck, which is in some ways the antithesis of fashionable. I just happen to have a useful combination of social history analysis experience, a keen eye, an arts background and being queer as hell. I’m sure someone with more training in fashion history could iron this out better than I can but here goes.
There is no better example from the Met Gala than Billy Porter who brings it every damn time. Mother Has Arrived INDEED, bless us all we are unworthy. Loud camp yells at everyone who sees it and says feast your eyes on me and witness how little I care for your scorn or your judgement as I exist excessively.
Quiet Camp is a lot harder to pinpoint, because it so often can just be seen as personal style. Quiet camp isn’t golds or sequins or huge headpieces. What you’ll see is that anything that is in more muted colors, or in white or blacks, can be considered quiet camp. Because next to fluorescent neons and sequins up to your eyeballs, they don’t shout out. Quiet camp will always have people saying that it’s not camp because it’s not blinding, but so long as someone who subscribes to high fashion might call it tacky, then it counts.
Synthetic fabrics, doll ruffles and a train, not to mention all that hair. I only wish her shoes had been more fun. This is TACKY, and not high fashion at all, but it’s also cute, and fun, and camp, even if it doesn’t shout at you.
These five wonderful gentlemen are varying degrees of camp but they’re all valid and good. (Sir on the far right? Master of the quiet camp in that tailcoat. I would say least camp is gentleman second to the right. )
On the left, LOUD. on the right, not so loud. Still both very much camp. Flags as fashion make for real easy camp. Trust Tommy Hilfiger and his boner for american flags to be camp.
And okay. I think the best example of quiet camp at the Met Gala is going to have to be Benedict Cumberbatch, as much as I am loathe to say it.
Don’t look at his wife. I actually love her dress because I love period clothes but it’s not camp. But my god, Bandersnoot. White suit. Panama hat. Cravat with a jeweled pin. A watch chain. A FANCY CANE AND EMBROIDERED SLIPPERS. Honestly I’m mad that this is so incredibly on brand Camp because he’s the last person who should have hit it right on the nose as a straight white cis man from a wealthy imperialist background.
It’s every caricature of a plantation owner that an actual plantation owner would have never worn. It’s ridiculous, and it’s ironic that a man whose great grandparents definitely owned slaves is wearing something so camp at a camp event and missing the irony entirely. This is something John Waters would wear with a pink cravat for some extra flair. I’m mad about it, but it is extremely camp without a single sequin.
Okay, now I’m mad about Benedict Cumberbatch, so here’s a palette cleanser:
Lena Motherfucking Waithe. Everything about this is incredible. This is not loud camp, it’s not quiet camp, and it’s not avant garde. I would argue that this is extremely punk, and here’s why:
Camp: Fun, sometimes satirical but rarely an intellectual exercise. Invites you play. It dares you with one question, Why Not? and doesn’t actually want an answer. Avant Garde: always an intellectual exercise, sometimes also fun. Invites you to ask questions but doesn’t answer them. Punk: doesn’t beat around the bush. Is direct, aggressive. Punk deconstructs the pretense of intellectualism. Punk gives you the answer even if you didn’t want to ask the question.
Lena Waithe took the theme of camp and, instead of dressing camp, was punk enough to address the question about camp no one on that red carpet wanted to ask: who put those rhinestones on your back?