Before the 2019 Met Gala even began, Lady Gaga gave the event its defining moment. This year’s co-chair turned her arrival into an immersive experience, walking three blocks to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in a flowing Brandon Maxwell cape dress with 25-foot train. A performance complete with audience participation, Gaga and her team managed to make all of New York feel like they were part of the proceedings. Even if you couldn’t snag a ticket, you could pull out your iPhone and see camp in motion as she moved across Fifth Avenue in towering platforms.
While the strut felt spontaneous, it was actually the result of several months of planning by Haus of Gaga. Already familiar with Susan Sontag’s Notes on Camp, Gaga was confident that her team would come up with a concept worthy of the night’s theme. “I know intrinsically that I have a camp soul,” she shares during a pre-Met rehearsal. “I knew because we’re such a family and the way that we work together as a creative collective, that what we would create together would be camp.”
Drawn to the idea of bows and fashion that captured the innocence Sontag felt was integral to pure camp, Gaga looked to longtime friend, Brandon Maxwell, to create a variety of dresses that would be unveiled one after the other, nesting doll style. The first was a sweeping pink cape dress with matching hairbow. Though she was shown multiple sketches by Maxwell, after countless collaborations including trips to the Oscars and Superbowl, the pair didn’t need much time to suss out the details. “I don’t think we ever even talked about it until we had a fitting,” says Maxwell. “I think that speaks to our decade long friendship of working in very high stress scenarios.”
To perfect each outfit while run throughs were underway, Maxwell had to be flexible. “The second fitting we rehearsed every single thing. And that was probably the fitting that gave me the most stress because the outfits weren’t finished yet,” says Maxwell, who understood Gaga’s professionalism and worked around the tight schedule even though a few hems went unfinished until after practice wrapped. “You know, Gaga doesn’t do anything like on a small level so [when] she’s rehearsing, she’s like full on rehearsing.”
The effort paid off: with multiple wardrobe changes, umbrella-wielding dancers making carefully choreographed movements, and the beauty team of makeup artist Tanno and hairstylist Frederic Aspiras jumping in midway to pantomime a “touch up,” Gaga’s Met moment was a full scale performance. Reflective of both the intelligence behind camp and its childlike naiveté, it was exactly what the star envisioned. “What I really love about what we’re doing is that it, it reads like an essay or a poem and it tells a story,” says Gaga. “It’s so in line with Susan Sontag’s notes. I feel that it’s intelligent and I feel it’s also very innocent in a lot of ways.”