I bought a tee from Camp Collection to get my '70s summer-camp nostalgia fix. Here's what I thought.
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I’m not sure whether I'd like to say that seeing Mamma Mia 2: Here We Go Again last summer changed my life.
But I guess I have to, because that’s what happened. As I left the theater on that hot, fateful day, I found myself thinking, in no uncertain terms: I would kill to be alive in the 1970s. It was not a rational thought. Still, I sequestered myself from my friends, pulled out my phone, and ordered a pair of bell-bottom jeans from Nordstrom.
A few days later, something else happened: My Instagram ads—no doubt buoyed by my near-constant Google searches for things like “Goldie Hawn iconic looks” and “ABBA and Fleetwood Mac mashup”—became populated, almost entirely, by a clothing brand called Camp Collection.
The company, as far as I can tell, was created for the sole purpose of fulfilling my new, physically-impossible-to-achieve standard of existence: to be a person who was alive in the late 1970s, wearing my hair parted down the middle and listening to disco and folk-rock records.
In fact, it was so specific to my new desires, I had to click through to the site and peruse its offerings to ensure it wasn’t a figment of my fevered imagination. But it seemed real enough: The site sells an assortment of tees, shorts, jumpsuits, and dresses, each designed to look like late ‘70s camp gear (as in summer camp, not the most recent Met Gala theme). Every photo was filtered through a grainy, Polaroid-esque filter and the models, naturally, all had center parts. There didn't seem to be a huge fanbase for the brand outside of their Instagram account, which has nearly 80,000 followers (technically only enough to be a "micro-influencer"). But the people who follow the account did so in a dedicated manner, engaging regularly by commenting on the photos and garnering responses from an actual human at Camp Collection.
That was it—I needed to buy something. So, against my better financial judgment, I ordered the $40 Sun Valley T-shirt. (In my defense, the site offers a 15% discount on your first order through an Instagram ad, so my total, with shipping, was more like $35.)
The tee arrived a few days later (so, no, not a figment of my imagination!) and... I fell in love.
The rainbow decal on the front is stitched, not screen-printed, so I wouldn’t have to worry about it fading or cracking with repeated wearing and washing (and it hasn’t, a year later). The shirt also has a small hanging loop on the back, which isn’t necessary—I’ve never used it—but adds a kitschy air of summer camp authenticity. I wear it with ripped straight leg or flare jeans, Birkenstocks or Reeboks, and, yes, a middle part, and feel like the coolest girl at Woodstock. (Or, in modern parlance, a Maggie Rogers gig.)
My sole quality complaint? The fabric is thin, sheer, and white, which means picking a bra to wear with it can be difficult, as even nude bras are visible through the back. (As much as I strive for '70s authenticity, barbecuing my bras isn't a summertime activity I've scheduled on my Google Calendar.)
Then there’s the price. You don’t need to spend $40-ish on a cotton T designed to look as though it was given out as a complimentary favor at a summer camp in 1979. Of this, I am certain. That said, I don’t regret buying it. Perhaps it’s a means of rationalization, but I think of it like this: Ideally, you’d find this shirt for five bucks at the local Goodwill, straight from the depths of a long-forgotten closet and emanating the scents of ‘70s-strength bug spray and baby oil. But I couldn’t achieve that—I lived in Brooklyn, where any thrift-store find like that would've already been snatched up and re-sold for at least $60 on Poshmark or Depop. So for me, Camp Collection is my next best thing.
If you, too, have found yourself forcing bell bottoms and a middle part upon yourself in recent months—whether in the wake of Mamma Mia 2: Here We Go Again or from a desire to live in a simpler time—take yourself to a thrift shop. If you can’t find what you’re looking for there, you can get it at Camp Collection.
Prices are accurate at the time this article was published, but may change over time.