This is Queer Fashion
how dapperQ succeeded where Camp failed
CAMP: Notes on Fashion, the exhibit at the MET that mined a traditionally queer aspect of culture just closed. I only saw it at the end of its run – mere days before PURSUIT sponsored by TomboyX – dapperQ’s annual queer fashion extravaganza at –and in partnership with–the Brooklyn Museum. So I couldn’t help but make a comparison between the two.
Camp at the Met Museum
Let’s start with the exhibit. Held at New York City’s most visited museum, it started as a history lesson informing the viewer about things like the origin of the word Camp and the connection to early dandies and cross dressers. Overlapping audio of people defining Camp served as a didactic soundtrack. The exhibit led the viewer through a few smaller rooms before ending up in the main gallery.
Here the mannequins were put in pairs or trios into separate cubicles on two tiers circling the room. You’re not allowed inside these cubes and have to back up to better see things on the higher level. Of course the clothes were exquisitely made but this setting sucked the life out of them. Worse, this boxed division reminded me of insects and butterflies pinned to a board.
Despite the MET’s good intentions and their thorough use of Sontag’s essay to tell us that all of this added up to CAMP, it felt like an appropriation of not just a word, but an authenticity to create a “theme”. The only thing that felt remotely real was an old video playing on an absurdly small screen of voguer’s from the ’80s.
dapperq at the Brooklyn Museum
Let’s contrast this to dapperQ’s show on Thursday night. Held for the 6th year in the soaring atrium of the Brooklyn Museum it calls itself New York Fashion Weeks largest queer style event. And what an event it was. Raucous. Lively. And joyful. It was a full out celebration of queer designers on queer and very real bodies. Unlike staring into the sterile boxes at the Met, there was virtually no separation between the performers/models and the audience. Yes, there was a runway but the crowd was fully engaged. We clapped and cheered and snapped as the looks came down the runway – all the while standing elbow to elbow in looks of our own that were just as fierce.
In a very real way dapperQ’s fashion week show was everything Camp, the exhibit, purported to be but was not. Excessive, sometimes outrageous, life affirming and authentic. And not to be overlooked there was some serious fashion going on: from Shane Ave’s sharply tailored suits to the wonderful use of textures of Landeros and prints of Devonation to Claire Fleury’s architectural construction.
As I mentioned in the beginning, at Camp there was a soundtrack in the rooms of people quoting various definitions of the word “camp” – I suspect because the clothes could not express these ideas of queer fashion on their own. No quotes are needed to explain the event at the Brooklyn Museum yet I can’t help but borrow these ideas from the MET because they work so much more perfectly here. Camp (and for this I would substitute dapperQ’s show) contains:
- the heroism of people not called upon to be heroes
- a mode of enjoyment, of appreciation––not judgment
- a theatricalized piece of come-on
photos from dapperQ show by Emily Chan Photography
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