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Yarn & The City: Notes on Notes on Camp

I feel like I’m in a period of mourning for summer. It’s not so much the change in the weather. It’s more so about the freedom and possibilities that summer stands for. I’ve never been very good at living in the moment. During the summer I find myself waiting for fall leaves, lattes, and layering. In the fall I miss the long summer nights. I spend the spring putting memories of past holidays on a pedestal. Winter seems to come and go all while I think about the past year and what the next one holds. That’s something that I should probably work on… but that’s a problem for another day. Today I want to indulge this bad habit and let my mind drift back to the fifth of May. Let’s talk about a little place called The Met.

Every May I look forward to venturing uptown to see the newest exhibition at The Met. The level of theatricality is always over the top in the most visually tantalizing ways. I went into this year’s exhibition with extremely high expectations. The last few years have been amazing, with China: Through the Looking Glass (2015) and Heavenly Bodies (2018) being my favorites of all time. But at the same time, I had no idea what to expect, because this year’s theme was Camp.

What is Camp? I was lucky enough to go to this exhibition twice and I still can’t wrap up a definition of Camp into a tidy bow. In Susan Sontag’s 1964 essay, “Notes on ‘Camp”, which was an inspiration behind the exhibit, she wrote that Camp is a sensibility marked by “performance, excess, and a kind of winking bad taste”. The exhibition walked you through the ways Camp has shown up in fashion over the years with the largest of the rooms being devoted to the most over the top pieces. My take away from the exhibition was that Camp is about wearing whatever you want, without crossing over into costume.

I think that five-year-olds are the best at this. I used to do a lot of babysitting and five-year-olds are some of the freest people on the planet. Somewhere along the way most of us lose a little bit of that freedom. We might get it back as we get older, but our five-year-old selves will still have us beat. They don’t care that a tutu isn’t appropriate to wear to school on a Tuesday in November. It makes them happy and so they want to wear it, even if it’s a little ridiculous to the outside world, and without trying to be trendy. I think that’s pretty campy.

I was planning to write about the exhibition and all of the over the top knits that I was going to see. The show was wonderful but I do have a note for Notes on Camp. There was not enough knitwear in this show, which was kind of shocking to me since there is a lot of knitwear that I think could fall under the camp umbrella. So I wanted to take this opportunity to pull together my favorite campy knitted moments from this show and fashion archives. Most of these are sweaters that weren’t included in the exhibition, but I wish that they had been. The only two knits that were in the show and on this list are the Moschino Mcdonalds (Fall 2014) sweater and the Virgil Abloh (pre-fall 2018) sweater dress. Maybe next year we’ll get luckier with the knitwear on display. I’m still keeping my fingers crossed that one day we will get a full knitwear exhibition at The Met! Until then, here are fifteen campy knits to inspire your next WIP.

1. Machine knit sweater dress Virgil Abloh (pre-fall 2018)

2. Machine knit, wool sweater Calvin Klein (autumn/winter 2018) … (minute 2.27, but there are a lot of other great knits in this show)

3. Machine knit, wool sweater and shorts. Jeremy Scott (Fall 2019)

4. Hand knit, mohair jumper. TheKnitter (The Bubblegum 2019)

5. Machine and hand-knitted, cotton and Acrylic sweater. Ýr Jóhannsdóttir (2019)

6. Hand knit 100% jumbo merino wool Jacket Hope Macaulay (2019)

7. Machine knit sweater dress Jeremy Scott (Fall 2014 Ready-To-Wear)

8. Machine knit, wool sweater, scarf, and shorts Moschino (Fall 2014 Ready-To-Wear)

10. Machine knit, wool, sweater. Moschino (Fall 2014 Ready-To-Wear)

11. Hand-knitted, wool, kids shoes. Laura Dalgaard (2018)

12. Machine knit sweater, shorts, and hat. All Knitwear, Annie Larson

13. Knitted Sweater dresses with trench coat print. Xiao Li (2015)

15. Hand-knitted woolen sweater. Elsa Schiaparelli (1927)

Original images credited to the designers, with the exception of Schiaparelli that source image comes from The V&A's online catalogue.


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