This years Met Gala will be the largest ever, featuring over 40 pieces borrowed from the Vatican. “As a curator you’re always interested in what lies behind creativity and the creative impulse,” says Andrew Bolton, who dreamed up the exhibition. “And what struck me is how religion—Catholicism in particular—has really shaped the mind of these designers with a richness of imagery, a storytelling tradition, and seeing the world through metaphor. I hope, no matter what your faith, this will cause you to reflect on whether your religion has had an influence on your creative development.”
Tiara of Pius IX
Tiara of Pius IX (r. 1846–78), 1854. German and Spanish. Courtesy of the Collection of the Office of Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff, Papal Sacristy, Vatican City. Digital composite scan by Katerina Jebb
The majority of fashion designers on display in “Heavenly Bodies” were raised or educated Catholic. Cristóbal Balenciaga, for example, created choral gowns for a Spanish choir called Orfeón Donostiarra that was established in the late nineteenth century. He was the devout son of a seamstress in Spain (he designed the cassock worn by the priest who gave Christian Dior’s eulogy). In the mid-1980s, Yves Saint Laurent, also a Catholic, designed a gold dress and mantle for the sixteenth-century Virgin of El Rocío in a Parisian church.
As the late priest and writer Andrew Greeley wrote in The Catholic Imagination, “Catholics live in God-haunted houses and an enchanted world. In a world where grace is everywhere, the haunting and enchanting go on constantly. Clearly, the world of the great Catholic artists and writers is enchanted . . . they see reality the way they do because they either grew up Catholic or were attracted to Catholicism as adults by virtue of its enchanting aspects.”
The Vatican has lent the Met more than 40 liturgical vestments and accessories, which will be displayed in the Anna Wintour Costume Center. The treasures include an astonishing egg-shaped tiara composed of three crowns that was a gift from Queen Isabella II of Spain to Pope Pius IX, covered in some 19,000 precious stones, most of them diamonds. There is a very tall and heavy miter that was a gift to Pope Pius XI from Benito Mussolini to commemorate the signing of the Lateran Treaty on February 11, 1929, and a pair of red slippers by an Italian cobbler named Loredano Apolloni, worn by Saint John Paul II; the tradition of popes’ wearing red shoes goes back centuries.
It may read as sacrilegious to some—putting a woman in a dress printed with an image like the Madonna and Child taken from a religious painting, or a stained-glass window, or hanging jeweled crosses around her neck. But it makes sense that— just as Federico Fellini fetishized the Church’s style in the fabulous, satirical Vatican fashion show in his 1972 movie Roma—designers would find inspiration in the over-the-top carnivalesque style of Catholic art and fashion.
“From the first pages of the Bible, God enters the scene certainly as a creator, but also as a tailor,’’ the cardinal said, offering a passage from Genesis about God fashioning garments of skin for Adam and Eve. “God Himself worries about clothing His creatures, and this represents the genesis of the significance of clothing.’’
From a Vogue article written by Maureen Dowd on April 11th 2018
Follow us on Instagram & Facebook for our favorite looks from this years Met Gala on May 7th 2018.
Check out the documentary “First Monday in May” for a behind scenes look at a previous Met Gala.