Christmas Is The Perfect Time To Embrace Your Campiest Fashion

It’s unclear when “tacky” became such a violent, jarring, withering pejorative.

Maybe it was sometime in the 19th century, when the word, per the Wall Street Journal, was used to describe cheap, shabby, ill-kept horses and later to describe cheap, shabby, ill-kept people. Maybe it began amid the chaos of the 1970s, when no one could distinguish good taste from bad taste and, as Jo Weldon at Literary Hub notes, “even venerable Vogue magazine threw up its hands and declared that there were no longer any rules.

Do any of the rules still apply? Plenty of people are intimidated by fashion because of such menacing, spectral guidelines: the assumption that everyone around them is, somehow, Joan Rivers incarnate. But fashion is supposed to be fun, and sometimes fun means leaning right into those tacky, kitschy, campy impulses that lay dormant at the core of your being — especially around the holiday season.

Camp is a self-aware, purposeful, affectionate tackiness, and Christmas — with its bright lights and gold ribbons and fake indoor pine trees — is designed for it. The holidays are not about having “good taste” or looking “elegant.” They’re about being on theme.

It’s about Santa Claus hats and ugly sweaters. It’s about weird suits, sleigh-bell earrings, garlands as belts. It’s about colours that absolutely should not be paired, but who cares, it’s Christmas. The holiday season is fertile ground for outfits that, on any other occasion, might be worthy of scrutiny. But Christmas is a hall pass.

So in honour of the coming weeks, when the invites start pouring in from friends and family to attend their various parties, here are some campy celebrity fashion moments that might inspire you to shed your fear and leap right in. Your Facebook albums will thank you in the future.

The Mean Girls, But As [Four] Santa Clauses

You don't always think of "Mean Girls" as a Christmas movie. Functionally, it's not. But there *is* this unforgettable talent show scene, in which the four titular mean girls are dressed in matching Santa Claus looks. It's perfect for any friend group, especially if you're mean.

Lady Gaga, All Of The Time

The thing about Lady Gaga is that her entire existence — every breath, every eyelash batting in the breeze — exudes camp. Look no further than her Instagram, unless you're looking at her outfit changes at the Met Gala. This accessorizing is a Christmas miracle, if you've ever seen one.

Harry Styles (Having Fun) In A Harlequin Suit

Harry Styles is always having fun. This you can tell by his choice in suits, which all seem to yell and scream in their boldness, like they're encouraging you to partake in his party spirit. 

Grace Jones In A Mask

There's something about the idea of wearing a glittering mask to a Christmas party that does not ask you to wear a mask that feels fitting. You don't really need to have a reason to. You can just pretend you're going to a masquerade ball (but it's just a regular holiday event). 

Melissa McCarthy Dressed As A Tree

Camp offends. Camp shows up to your Christmas party dressed like a tree, shamelessly drinks all the wine, calls themself "the gift," then throws on a Santa hat and starts caroling without any music. More is always more.

Lady Gaga With Not One, But Two Dog Santas

It's not about her outfit — not really. What steals the shine here is not Gaga, who almost always captivates, but this dog, who is decked out as a proxy for her Christmas spirit. And if you look in the background, you'll see *another* dog, equally festive. Gaga and two reindeer (the perfect party accessory). Three's company. 

Céline Dion At The Met Gala, And Everywhere Else

It's Céline Dion. At the Met Gala. She is the eternal inspiration, the forever muse. It's not like you can recreate this look exactly, but you can always vie for the spirit of the performance.

Yes, That's Hillary Clinton In A Christmas Cardigan

It's Hillary Clinton in a Christmas cardigan. And Christmas earrings. And a Christmas necklace. What more is there to say?

Rita Ora Cosplaying As A Gift

There's something about dressing as the bow that goes on top of the present that feels ... satisfying. It's like, "Yes, I am the gift, and I'm here at your party, showing that my presence is the present." 

John Waters Wearing Your Grandmother's Bedspread

John Waters is often called the "King of Camp," both because of his taste for strange suits — hence this pink number, which might have been yanked from your grandmother's bedspread — and his love of "freaks." He even hosted a camp once. An actual sleep-away camp. (Anyway, weird suits are the way to go. It's the only opportunity you have.)

Divine In John Waters' "Pink Flamingos"

It follows that John Waters, King of Camp, once made a movie called "Pink Flamingos," in which the legendary drag queen Divine, who would inspire the character of Ursula in "The Little Mermaid," gives a masterclass in camp. The dress itself is "an exercise in poor taste." It's perfect.

Destiny's Child, Or A Winter Wonderland

Dress as the snow. Dress as a winter wonderland. Dress as the wicked winter witch, or the blizzard that knocks out the power and leaves everyone at the party swallowed up in a darkness that can only be lit by candlelight. Just remember to keep away from the red wine. That could be disastrous.

Ava Gardner In 1955

Ava Gardner was a star of classic Hollywood cinema, so it's fitting that her fashion was always classic, too. This could have been a Christmas card, or an advertisement for a fireplace — who knows. What matters is that this skirt, bedecked with bejewelled trees, is perfect. 

RuPaul In Interview Magazine's September 2019 Issue

This, obviously, isn't expressly holiday themed. But any list that tries to capture the essence of camp and leaves out RuPaul feels incomplete. The red pumps and the coat, the gloves with the ring on top, the big hair, the dangly earrings — doesn't it feel like Christmas?

Mariah Carey

Once December hits, it's over. Mariah Carey, the Queen of Christmas, practically invented the holiday with her objectively perfect song "All I Want For Christmas Is You." Her outfit might not be camp, but the point is that she is: her Instagram page transforms during the holidays into an extended lesson in how to get it right.

Mariah Carey, Again

Just for good measure, here's Mariah once again, wearing actual feathered wings. (Feathers are a great choice for the holidays, in case you were wondering.) Oh, and of course the whole outfit lights up, just as a Christmas tree lights up.

Okay, That's The Last Mariah

It can't be considered a cardinal sin to include Mariah Carey on a list about campy Christmas fashion three times because she is, clearly, the reining queen. Here she's a bit pared down, but something about it just feels fun.

Oh, and if you still feel uninspired, completely at a loss for what on earth you’re going to wear to that party  — which stage of freakout have you reached? — here are some more translatable looks you can try out. No catch. They just look really great:


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This article originally appeared on HuffPost.