What Does Camp Mean in Fashion?

what does camp mean in fashion

Camp is an aesthetic style and sensibility that valorizes artifice, frivolity, and exaggeration rather than simplicity or naturalness. In fashion, camp style is characterized by irony, humor, parody, artifice, extravagance, playfulness, and theatricality.

Origins of Camp Style

Camp originated as a style in the late 19th and early 20th century, adopted by groups outside the mainstream like bohemians and homosexuals. It was a reaction against the seriousness and pretentiousness of high art and dominant culture. Camp became more widely known after Susan Sontag’s 1964 essay “Notes on Camp” which identified key elements of the camp sensibility.

Defining Aspects of Camp Fashion

Some of the defining qualities of camp fashion include:

Artifice and Exaggeration

Camp fashion revels in extreme artifice, exaggeration, extravagance, and caricature. Instead of aiming for naturalness or understatement, camp seeks to amuse and shock through stylized flamboyance.

Androgyny and Gender Bending

Camp style often plays with gender norms, balancing masculinity and femininity. Androgynous looks and cross-dressing are signatures of camp fashion.

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Humor and Theatricality

Camp is always infused with humor, irony, parody and playfulness. Outfits showcase a theatrical spirit, playing up drama and fun.

Pop Culture References

Camp fashion frequently refers back to iconic pop culture images, characters and slogans, remixing them in an irreverent style. References are exaggerated and deployed with irony.

Examples of Camp Style

Some classic examples of camp fashion include:

– The flamboyant costumes worn by drag queens and kings

– Zandra Rhodes’ exaggerated, editorial style evening gowns

– Elton John’s boa feathers and sparkling glasses

– Lady Gaga’s meat dress

– Cardi B’s high camp red carpet outfits

Camp in Contemporary Fashion

Camp continues to influence mainstream fashion today. Recent runways shows for brands like Moschino, Viktor & Rolf and Gucci have sent extremely campy styles down the catwalk. Elements of camp can also be seen in fast fashion retailers like Forever21 and websites like DollsKill. Camp style provides a fun escape from everyday wear in a fast-paced world.


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