It’s always said that there are certain things you shouldn’t talk about. Politics, money, family, and religion to name a few. Perhaps because these are highly personal decisions, that when revealed can draw a striking line between people. Although opinions always differ by who is viewing that topic and who interprets it. That is exactly what the exhibition Heavenly Bodies is, an interpretation on religion through the translation of fashion. It is also an exclusive view into Papal dress and ceremonial items with the blessing of the Vatican. Many of the designers that contributed pieces to the exhibition, were raised in the Roman Catholic church or similar religions. Of which they used the physical symbolism, garments, and the religious orders to inspire their work.
The exhibition spans the Met on Fifth and the Met Cloisters. The Met on Fifth hosts the papal portion of the exhibition and designer items spread out among the Anna Wintour Costume Center, The Medieval and Byzantine Art Wing and the Robert Lehman Wing, while the Cloisters hosts designer items showcased near artworks, architecture or similar pieces that directly inspired them. Some corresponding categories were split between both museums, so to understand the order you should visit both. The Cloisters was a perfect place to hold this exhibition as the building itself is reminiscent of a medieval castle or antique church. I talk about the Cloisters and how you can visit all three Met Museums in this post! (Click images to enlarge, press esc to go back)
The Cloisters part of the exhibition:
The Dressed Madonna II
This Viktor & Rolf dress references the Madonna and Child symbolism popular in the Middle Ages in Western Europe. To translate this symbol the designers created the ” Russian Doll Collection”, in which they took inspiration from the Madonna nesting a child in her lap as well as the traditional Russian Nesting Doll.
Holy Sacraments I
The designers in this portion of the exhibit were inspired by the act of Baptism. Karl Lagerfeld by the dresses worn by girls in France and Cristobal Balenciaga by the figures of the Virgin he saw in church processions.
Holy Sacraments II
This Marc Bohan dress was part of his debut collection for Dior. It is named the ” Hymenee” after the Hellenistic god of marriage. Although there are also inspirations from the nun and monk habit.
Cult of the Virgin
The dresses displayed here are from the Jean Paul Gaultier S/S 2007 Haute Couture collection ” Les Vierges” ( The Virgins). Inspired by the Blessed Virgin Mary. Each detail of the dress representing Mary, the blue, halo, veil and heart all an iconography depicting stages of her life.
I couldn’t get close to all of these pieces, which included designers Rick Owens, Madame Gres, Valentina, Geoffrey Beene, Claire McCardell, and Pierpaolo Piccioli. These designers were largely inspired by simplicity and specifically for these pieces, the monastery.
The Crusades II
Craig Greene is continually inspired by Christian figures such as King Arthur. He mixes religious and military inspirations, practically the Orthodox Church with Islamic carpets for these pieces. Mixing both military and different religions.
Inspired by the tapestry “The Unicorn in Captivity”. A piece of art that has been interpreted by Christianity and Secular groups to represent different meanings. This Thom Browne wedding dress mixes both meanings, Christ (Christian meaning) and a happy groom bonded by marriage (secular meaning).
Mary Mother of God
Inspiration for these pieces come from Mary, Mother of God. Chanel was inspired by stain glass windows found in a church in Germany. The windows depict Mary in a blue gown with wheat. Grain is a representation of the nourishment Mary gave and God’s bounty.
Inspired by the Annunciation Triptych a Netherlandish painting. Mainly the subjects of the red robe of the virgin and the wings of an angel. The volume of both of these subjects is depicted by the feather outlines of the dress. It was also inspired by the painting Hans Memling’s Virgin and Child Enthroned with Two Angels.
Gothic Art and Fashion:
This part of the exhibition held designs by Alexander McQueen that were not allowed to be photographed. Alexander McQueen was inspired by religion, specifically the religions found in Netherland inspired paintings. On display in this section of the exhibition are pieces from his A/W 2010/11 collection that was showed after his death in Feb of 2010. Specific inspiration came from altar pieces and religious paintings and McQueen’s constant pursue of translating death and the after-life.
The Garden of Eden
These pieces were inspired by paintings that depicted Adam and Eve and the garden in which they resided.
The Crusades I
Inspired by armored giant of the d’Aluye family in France who crusaded across Europe preaching the gospel. This practice lasted three generations.
Treasures For Heaven II
This part of the exhibition focused on the objects or treasures churches held. Such as carved wood, silver, gold reliquaries, and ceremonial vessels. Pieces made by medieval artists found within these treasures and more inspired these designers.
I’ll have a separate post on the items found at the Met on Fifth included in this exhibition. Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination will be open until October 8th.- T. S.