Jemima Kirke and Lena Dunham have been friends for 20 years—three of which happened to overlap with them attending the Met Gala at the same time. And, as they reminisced on Monday in the hours before they hit the Met red carpet, they haven’t always been the happiest of occasions: "One year you helped me to the car because I fainted," Dunham said to Kirke. "And one year we didn’t even see each other, and you got really mad that I didn’t work harder to find you."
No such worries this year. Kirke and Dunham would be walking the red carpet together while wearing utterly unmissable matching outfits in the form of screen-printed, duchess satin dresses designed by Christopher Kane. To help out with the finishing touches—including rubbing their arms up in lube, to better ease them into their matching latex gloves—the designer joined them at the Carlyle Hotel near the Met, where they were prepping in between bites of tomato soup and Dunham's favorite food, muesli. ("You’re like a horse," Kirke told her in between bites of bread, much to Dunham's approval: "I love a person who revenge eats before the affair.")
Dunham also loves the Met Gala, but this year, she said, "I was like, You know what? I need a buddy who I know is really gonna hold down." That's where Kirke—and their matching outfits—came in. “And when we found out we were going to be working with Christopher Kane, it was like, Let’s do it together. Didn’t it seem like we were going to do it together?" Kirke laughed and said, "Honestly, I didn’t know there was a choice."
Still, she was happy be along for the ride—even if it meant covering up not just her arms in latex but also her head. "I think that everyone’s wisely noticed that Jemima’s the kind of person that can really wear a swim cap, whereas I…" Dunham trailed off. "It reminds me of when she was nine months pregnant, and I wasn’t pregnant, and everyone would still catcall her instead."
Kirke was the one who first introduced Dunham to the concept of camp, this year’s Met Gala theme. “I think this one is a way to make sure that everyone fucking does the theme, because you can’t really do this one half-assed,” Kirke said passionately. “I mean, you can, but if you do, we’re all gonna know.” Dunham quickly agreed: “I hate it when people are jerks about the theme, which is supposed to celebrate the exhibition, anyway. I mean, what are you doing if you’re just coming in a nude column dress?"
Her favorite attendees are those whose commitment to the theme never wavers—exhibit A being Sarah Jessica Parker. "Every year, SJP walks in, it’s like she's the Meghan Markle of the Met Ball." Dunham paused, struck by inspiration. "What if Meghan Markle came with her baby as a purse?"
Kirke gasped. "That would be amazing."
Jokes aside, they understand if there's a bit of confusion: "There are some people who haven’t been introduced to the concept, and it's very hard to define to someone verbally," Dunham said of camp. "It is—I mean, I know what it is, but I still googled it for the definition," Kirke added. After all, there are variations of camp, particularly in England, where it has little to do with Susan Sontag. Kirke only needed a single word to sum it up: "Gay!"
"I think what Jemima’s trying to say is there’s an irreverence that exists in the world of drag that is really inspiring," Dunham clarified. In any case, here is what both of them can agree on as camp: Blue Velvet; some Todd Haynes films; and Divine, who worked closely with John Waters on films like Hairspray. "I was obsessed with Hairspray—I had a Hairspray-themed birthday party in fourth grade. My mom gave us balloon boobs and teased our hair," Dunham recalled. "And then I met John Waters at an art opening in like fifth grade and told him about it, and he said, 'You’re a fucked up little kid.' "
Plus, they agree on at least one expert in camp: Christopher Kane, whose designs are also on display in the Met exhibition that the gala was (ostensibly, anyway) celebrating, "Camp: Notes on Fashion." Kane, for his part, had long appreciated the campiness of Girls, as well as Dunham, who he described as "a total camp pin-up in some respects," particularly for her "intellectual but fun" comedy. He also took the same approach when it came to their red carpet looks, which reflect the playful eroticism in his fall/winter 2019 collection.
Unsurprisingly, he was immediately on board with incorporating the latex gloves suggested by the pair's stylist, Chris Horan. With the help of the lube, they slipped on surprisingly easily, though once Kane smoothed out the bubbles, they encountered another difficulty: Latex, it turns out, isn't touchscreen compatible. Dunham was pleasantly surprised: "Isn't it fun that I can’t text?" she said. Kirke was less delighted, but made do.
"Jem, are you smoking?" Dunham called over to her from the other room.
"Well," Kirke replied, "there’s nothing else I can do with my hands."