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Eloise BlondiauNovember 08, 2017
Images: AP, Unsplash, Wikimedia Commons/Composite: America Media

On Monday, May 7th, the long-awaited Met Gala will take place, taking Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination” as its theme.

For the uninitiated, the Met Gala is one of fashion’s biggest events of the year (often called, tongue-in-cheek, “Fashion Prom”), which demands the most elaborate attire its high profile guests can muster, in accordance with an annual theme.

In conjunction with the gala, each year the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York opens an exhibition, showcasing garments and objects on the same theme. Past themes include “China: Through the Looking-Glass” (2015); “Jacqueline Kennedy: The White House Years” (2001); and “Punk: Chaos to Couture” (2012). This year's collection, “Heavenly Bodies,” is divided in two. One section comprises items belonging to the Vatican, including papal vestments. The second part of the collection includes 150 ensembles, which showcase the sartorial influence of Catholic themes on designers such as Raf Simons, Dolce & Gabbana and the late Azzedine Alaïa.

Prior clothing choices at the Met Gala have been met with celebration and conversation (see: Rihanna’s yellow dress by Chinese designer Guo Pei in 2015), in addition to allegations of irrelevance, insensitivity and cultural appropriation (see: Sarah Jessica Parker’s vaguely “oriental” red headpiece, also in 2015).

For this reason, the recent announcement that celebrities will be taking inspiration from Catholic culture has been met with trepidation and excitement. “I cannot wait for the excellent, terrible and heretical outfits,” one person tweeted in response.

The Vatican has been consulted by Met Gala organizers, and Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi joined curator Andrew Bolton and Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour at a preview of the exhibit in Rome in February.

HBO’s “The Young Pope,” (reviewed by Americahere) has been widely cited as a possible inspiration for the this year’s theme. Elle published a piece headlined “The 2018 Met Gala is Catholic-Themed Because Everyone Loves The Young Pope.”

In that article, the author noted: “Catholicism is a really having a moment. Or, like, a millennium. Everything old is new again. Forget dadbods and boyfriend shirts; this year everyone is a Holy Father.”

In any event, it’s more likely that gala attendees will be taking inspiration from the lavish outfits favored by Pope Benedict than the sartorially understated Pope Francis.

To read more about how the Catholic imagination has inspired artists through the centuries, read David Tracy’s new essay for America, “Heavenly Bodies: From Michelangelo to Dolce & Gabbana.”

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
John Walton
4 years 8 months ago

I don't think Phillipe de Montebello, Thomas Hoving or James Rorimer would have countenanced anything remotely resembling this. Met's got new wipers at the carwash.

Dan Acosta
4 years 8 months ago

Can't wait for next year's Islam-themed soiree!

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