Catholicism takes centre stage at this year’s Met Gala

The annual Met Gala, which is often called ‘fashion’s biggest night of the year,’  and which has been described as the Oscars of the fashion world, has turned to the Catholic Church for its inspiration.

The annual event, which attracts a who’s who of celebrities and designers alike, is held at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. This year’s gala is tied to an exhibition with the theme Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination - aimed at celebrating the connection between religion and fashion.

Heavenly bodies at this year’s Met Gala

Organised by the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute in collaboration with the Vatican, the exhibition - to be held in New York - explores how the Catholic church’s imagery and symbolism has impacted haute-couture and ready-to-wear designs.

“The exhibition situates costumes alongside religious artworks to provide an interpretive context for fashion’s engagement in Catholicism,” said Chief Curator Andrew Bolton ahead of the much anticipated Met Gala.

“Most of the designers featured in the exhibition were raised Catholic and most acknowledge its significant influence over their imaginations.”

This year’s theme is designed to create dialogue between fashion and the masterworks of religious art in the museum’s holdings.

Central to the conversation will be some of the Vatican’s most precious treasures from the Sistine Chapel sacristy which are being exhibited for the first time. These can be viewed here.

A link between Catholicism and fashion

According Vogue Magazine, the display of these extraordinary ecclesiastical pieces will highlight the enduring influence of religion and liturgical vestments on fashion.

Among the 150 or so ensembles that will be on display are pieces by Coco Chanel, who was educated by nuns, and John Galliano, whose Fall 2000 Couture collection for Christian Dior opened with a mitred, incense-swinging pope-like figure who proceeded down the runway to a voice intoning: “Understand the concept of love.”

Andrew Bolton went on to say, "fashion and religion have long been intertwined, mutually inspiring and informing one another."

"Although this relationship has been complex and sometimes contested, it has produced some of the most inventive and innovative creations in the history of fashion.

“Some might consider fashion to be an unfitting or unseemly medium by which to engage with ideas about the sacred or the divine,” curator Andrew Bolton told a crowd of Roman fashionistas and journalists at the launch of the exhibition.

“But dress is central to any discussion about religion. It affirms religious allegiances and, by extension, it asserts religious differences,” he said.

“Part of the power of the church has been how they look, and how they dress, they have this extraordinary presence,” Anna Wintour, Editor of Vogue magazine and sponsor of the Met Gala added.

The exhibition, “Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination,” runs from 10 May 8 October.

Highlights from the Met Gala and exhibition:

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