Other Literary Concepts That Should Be Met Gala Themes

After this year's "camp" ensembles, we're ready for the event to go full English major

“Many things in the world have not been named; and many things, even if they have been named, have never been described. One of these is the sensibility––unmistakably modern, a variant of sophistication but hardly identical with it––that goes by the cult name of Camp,” wrote Susan Sontag in 1964, in her now-famous essay “Notes on Camp.” Camp, of course, existed long before Sontag ever put pen to paper, as Lena Waithe’s brilliant outfit pointed out on Monday night, but the concept itself is so evasive, so difficult to grasp for those not already part of the “private code” of camp, that an attempt at elucidating it took Sontag the length of an entire essay. By way of Sontag, camp has become a term used (and often misused) in literary analysis—and now, to align with the new Met exhibition “Camp: Notes on Fashion,” it has also become a Met Gala theme. In other words, a bunch of celebrities had to turn a concept so nebulous that people build whole cultural criticism essays and art exhibits around it into a single outfit. This mostly didn’t work. Not least because Rihanna, who usually nails every Met Gala theme no matter how oblique, was nowhere to be seen.

The hilariously impossible assignment of matching a black-tie getup to the concept of camp made us wonder what some other Met Galas might look like if they continued to be themed to literary concepts. Here are just a few examples.


Magical Realism: Florence Welch wears a lady-wizard outfit just like she wears every year. Sarah Jessica Parker wears a dress by a South American designer that in no other way references magical realism. Rihanna wears a costume of the Met the size of the Met itself, a la Borges’ “On Exactitude in Science.”

Illustration of the Met with tiny legs coming out the bottom
Illustrations by Jared Pechacek

Plato’s Cave: Kim Kardashian wears a Grecian-draped goddess dress made out of latex. Gisele Bundchen and about seventy-two other female celebrities wear Grecian-draped dresses made of normal Grecian-draped dress material. A bunch of men all wear suits because, um, philosophy? Rihanna somehow constructs an effect in which she herself does not actually physically appear at the gala, but her shadow is projected onto its walls.

Postcolonialism: Benedict Cumberbatch wears a Thom Browne take on a 19th century British officer’s uniform and is subsequently cancelled by Twitter. Lena Dunham wears a suit embroidered entirely with quotes from Edward Said. Rihanna, understanding that it isn’t possible for the Met or anything involved with the Met to be post-colonialist, does not attend.

Fashion illustration of a thin white man who could very plausibly be Benedict Cumberbatch wearing an ornate 19th-century military uniform
Illustrations by Jared Pechacek

Deus Ex Machina: Kylie Jenner wears a naked dress studded with steampunk machinery. Lana Del Rey wears Gucci’s take on the Old Testament god (full beard, white satin ballgown). Beyonce wears something that isn’t on theme at all but she looks so beautiful, like an angel. Rihanna simply arrives at the last minute, as she usually does.

Orientalism: Oh wait, sorry, the Met Gala already did this one in 2015.

The Death of the Author: Lady Gaga wears a slinky dress with an illusion that makes her middle appear cut-out a la Goldie Hawn in Death Becomes Her. Lizzo wears a couture Grim Reaper cape and scythe with custom La Perla lingerie under it, and continues to wear it for the next two days, running around New York in it and scaring people on the subway. Cara Delevingne wears a latex bodysuit covered in fake blood. Jared Leto wears his same costume from this year. Rihanna wears a ballgown on which the “personal life” section of the Wikipedia entry for the designer has been printed, with all of the text struck through in red editing pen.

A fashion drawing of Lizzo wearing lacy lingerie, a robe, and a necklace of skulls, and carrying a scythe
Illustrations by Jared Pechacek

Free Indirect Discourse: Hailey Baldwin wears a Jane Austen costume. Harry Styles wears a Jane Austen costume. Ezra Miller wears a Jane Austen costume. Awkwafina wears a Jane Austen costume. Rihanna wears a better Jane Austen costume than everyone else.

Pathetic Fallacy: Billy Porter wears a beautiful golden Christian Siriano tuxedo gown that maybe represents the sun shining. Taylor Swift wears a blue dress. Rihanna wears a hat that automatically pours rain every time Anna Wintour frowns.

The Panopticon: Janelle Monae wears a dress covered in eyes that seem to follow you wherever you go. Lady Gaga wears a gigantic hat in the shape of a swivelling camera. Karlie Kloss wears a sexy mini-dress, but in grey, because the carceral state is serious. Kendall Jenner wears a couture sexy-cop costume. Anna Wintour, as herself, is the only person who is truly on theme.

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