HEAVENLY BODIES: FASHION AND THE CATHOLIC IMAGINATION

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Everybody has its own belief. I believe in myself and fashion. Despite the fact I am not  very religious, the presentation of the relationship between fashion and religion caught my attention a lot. The Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and The Catholic Imagination exhibition offers something special - something spiritual.
 As you could already read here, my trip to NYC was one of the best experiences I ever had. I want to go back so badly! Obviously, one of the places where I wanted to go was The Metropolitan Museum Of Art where the mentioned exhibition has been already presented - it was great timing!




I do not know where to start because when you enter the MET building, you become speechless, the same way as I am still now.  It is not only because of the spectacular current exhibitions - it is because of the building itself, as well. I cannot find the best description of this museum due to its magical atmosphere (in addition to its location - right next to the Central Park and  the 5th Avenue - oh boy!).


Heavenly Bodies exhibition is divided into many sections and is located in two sites - The Met Fifth Ave and The Met Cloisters. It is the largest show that the Costume Institute is staged! In general, the whole exhibition depicts the influence of the catholic imagery on designers, by reason of the fact the majority of them were raised in the Roman Catholic tradition. This influence is apparent in their use of the Christian symbolism such as the cross or the crown, and in a deeper way it expresses historical storytelling (for example, The Garden of Eden or the cult of the Virgin Mary). 

Left: Valentino evening dress , S/S 2014 haute couture, Right: L. C. the Elder's  Adam and Eve oil painting , Photo credit: MET official site
If I describe every section and every model of this extraordinary exhibition, it will be probably very long article. I have decided to point out my the most favourite models. Enjoy this journey as I did!

Our first stop: Byzantium

If you ask me to name the most typical fashion designer whose signature is the deep relationship with religion, I will definitely say: "Dolce & Gabbana!" Their Alta Moda, Italian roots (I love the way they respect and admire the woman in a role of a mother) and even that Italian energy is something you must fall in love with.
D&G was inspired by Byzantium - the first golden age of the Empire, combination of the Roman and Byzantine elements, with influences reaching back as far as the Bronze Age and the Celts.

Left: Fragment of a floor mosaic with a personification of Ktisis, Byzantine 500-550; Right: D&G ensemble, A/W 2013-14, Photo credit: MET official site
Dolce & Gabbana  evening dress, A/W 2013-14; polychrome printed sill jacquard, embroidered polychrome crystals, gold and bronze paillettes, and gold metal thread, Photo credit: Eva Cavojcova

Do you remember Anna Wintour's first cover of American Vogue in 1988? The Israeli model Michaela Bercu worn a black jacket with a jewelled cross full of brightly coloured crystals (more than one hundred of them!) by Christian Lacroix with jeans by Guess. The same jacket you can see here! Lacroix was inspired by the cross - symbol of Christ's Passion and sign of the Christian faith - this symbol was found everywhere in the Byzantine world. He has embellished and emboldened this jacket with an extravagant version.


"GOLD GOTHA" ensemble A/W 1988-1989, haute couture by Christian Lacroix, Photo credit: Eva Cavojcova
What was the inspiration for Jean Paul Gaultier? The answer is - Catholic examples of the practise of placing a votive offering - or ex-voto (from the Latin ex-voto suscepto = the vow made) - in a church or shrine. Gaultier has focused his attention on aluminum plaques of people and body parts, which are sewn onto the crocheted bodice of the dress.

"EX-VOTO" evening ensemble, S/S 2007 haute couture by Jean Paul Gaultier; Photo credit: Eva Cavojcova

Lovely detail; Photo credit: Eva Cavojcova

The next stop: MOSAICS

The center of public religious life in the Byzantine world, churches made the heavenly paradise visible to devout. Monumental figures of Christ, the Virgin Mary, and saints worked in richly coloured mosaic and fresco covered many of their interiors wall. Here comes Gianni Versace whose inspiration became the striking mosaics of Ravenna's Byzantine monuments.

Jacket - green silk tulle, embroidered polychrome silk thread, gold silk and metal thread, polychrome faceted crystals, green seed beads, and gold metal hardware, A/W 1991-92 by Versace; Photo credit: Eva Cavojcova

Stunning detail of rich embroidery; Photo credit: Eva Cavojcova

Evening top - black silk georgette and charmeuse, embroidered polychrome crystals, gold silk and metal thread, A/W 1991-92 by Versace; Photo credit: Eva Cavojcova

The last stop: Medieval Art

We are now in the section where garments reference the hierarchies and gendered distinctions of the Roman Catholic Church, as well as the cult of the Virgin Mary, reflected in the remarkable sculptures. Speaking about the cult of the Virgin Mary, Riccardo Tisci created following ensemble for the statue of Our Lady of Graces in Palagianello, Italy. He worked closely with the textile manufacturer Lorma and the embroiderer Jato to re-create and refine the earlier design. The resulting hand-dyed and hand-embroidered garments required three thousand hours (!) of labour to complete.

STATUARY VESTMENT FOR THE MADONNA DELLE GRAZIE, 2015 (original design 1950) by Riccardo Tisci - blue silk jacquard and gold metal passementerie, embroidered Swarovski crystals and gold metal thread and beads, ivory silk faille, embroidered polychrome crystals, gold paillettes and metal studs; Photo credit: Eva Cavojcova

Detail of an extraordinary embroidery; Photo credit: Eva Cavojcova
We continue with Yves Saint Laurent who created an ensemble for a statue of the Virgin in the Chapel of Notre Dame de Compassion in Paris. It includes a gold silk brocade dress and cape made  in the workrooms of YSL and a tiara and accessories created in collaboration with the jeweler Goossens. Generally, these impressive sculptures make the exposed clothes alive; and the music which helped to create spiritual atmosphere, was terrific.


STATUARY VESTMENT FOR THE VIRGIN OF EL ROCIO, Spain (the original),  Courtesy Chapelle Notre Dame in Paris, 1985, Yves Saint Laurent. Gold silk brocade with white and pink silk satin, gold silk and metal Chantilly lace, gold metal with polychrome crystals and pearls; Photo credit: Eva Cavojcova

Photo credit: Eva Cavojcova
Photo credit: Eva Cavojcova
Another interpretation of the Virgin Mary we can find in Thierry Mugler's design called Madonna. The colour of the dress refers to the belief that Virgin Mary was born free from the stain of original sin. In artistic representations she often wears a white tunic with a blue mantle. Another dogma we could find in its placement here at the exhibition - it  asserts that her body and soul were assumed into heavenly glory at her life's end.

"MADONNA" evening ensemble - ivory and pale blue dip-dyed silk chiffon, embroidered blue and clear faceted crystals, A/W 1984-85 by Thierry Mugler; Photo credit: Eva Cavojcova 

It is generally known that designers like Coco Chanel found their inspiration in nuns clothing. The habit is the ensemble of clothing and accessories that compose female religious dress, including the tunic, scapular, and veil. Typically, the tunic (sometimes itself referred to as the habit) is belted at the waist with a broad sash or cincture, to which is attached a rosary (worn to the side). The scapular is worn over the tunic and the veil is always falling over the neck and covering the hair. Here are my two favourite looks inspired by nuns - the first one by Moschino and the second one by Thom Browne.

Inspirations by nuns you cand find everywhere. Photo credit: Eva Cavojcova

Ensemble - black and white synthetic crepe and white cotton canvas, S/S 2014 by Moschino; Photo credit: Eva Cavojcova

Evening ensemble - black mink with white astrakhan intarsia, black wool flannel, black and white silk charmeuse, and black silk wool and white silk faille, A/W 2014-15 by Thom Browne; Photo credit: Eva Cavojcova
We could not speak about the connection between fashion and religion and do not mention the influence of bishop's clothing, especially the unique headdresses and vestments. I love the way designer John Galliano incorporated this elements and designed outstanding look for Dior. His creation evokes the baroque splendor of the liturgical vestments on view in the Anna Wintour Costume Center (they are from the Sistine Chapel, Apostolic Palace and Vatican city).

Evening ensemble - white silk gros de Tours, embroidered gold paillettes and bugle beads, gold, orange, brown and clear crystals, gold silk and metal thread, and gold metal passementerie, A/W 2000-2001 haute couture by John Galliano for Dior; Photo credit: Eva Cavojcova

Photo credit: Eva Cavojcova
Photo credit: Eva Cavojcova

The last model I will present you is something special. No doubt, John Galliano is a very talented designer. When I saw his model called "Madonna" inspired by Piero di Giovanni Tedesco's wall statue Adoring Angel and transferred into the wedding dress, I was amazed. What a wonderful idea!

"MADONNA" wedding ensemble - white silk tulle, embroidered white silk and metal thread,  A/W 2005-2006 haute couture by John Galliano for Dior; Photo credit: Eva Cavojcova

Photo credit: Eva Cavojcova

Photo credit: Eva Cavojcova

If you are going to New York, do not miss this incredible exhibition (until October 8, 2018)! Check the Met website for more information and enjoy the following video.




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