Crosses to Bare at the Met
Heavenly Bodies Is The Gala Theme This Year
The undertaking to capture the influence of the dramatic visual aspects of Catholicism is monumental. Andrew Bolton dreamed up the show for the 2018 Met Gala, Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination. “As the curator, you are always interested in what lies behind creativity and the creative impulse,” says Bolton. The show itself is stellar without a doubt. There are designs range from Coco Chanel—inspired by Catholic school girl uniforms—to the Vatican itself, which lent 40, dare we say, “looks and accessories.” Then we have the usual suspects, too. Christian Lacroix, Givenchy, Christian Dior, Alexander McQueen, Versace, Balenciaga, and Dolce & Gabbana are well represented.
The majority of the collection comes from Catholic raised designers and artists. New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd in Vogue comments, “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.” Most of the designers are not now practicing Catholics, many repelled by the church’s “fear messaging” and over-the-top ritual woven into the religion. But it does make for a lovely and “enchanting” show.
We can’t help but hear—loudly—the background music and see the pop culture imagery that also heavily influenced the designers. The organizers of the show may be distancing themselves from those influences, but you really can’t. It is, after all, difficult to balance the desires and comfort level of the Vatican with the punk band The Damned.
The first artists to rebel against fashion and incorporate Catholicism into their look really were the early punk bands, their fans, and of course, Madonna. We always think of Anna Wintour as a punk rocker herself but not this time. Some of the designers in the show loved the rebellion of the punk scene and what Madonna dared to do. And some of the designers—like the punk bands and Madonna—did it to shock, and to be bad and rebel and in some cases to pick up on a trend. We feel Madonna is owed a huge nod here. She, more than anyone, executed a flawless use of Catholic imagery in her look and in her art. The Damned and The Dead Boys and the punk scene no doubt stepped over the then forbidden line first and used Catholic imagery to get our attention. And they did.
As The Dead Boys sang, “Ain’t It Fun?” It truly is.