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Your First Look Inside 'Heavenly Bodies' Where Versace Meets the Vatican

Picture of Jill Di Donato
Fashion Editor
Updated: 12 March 2018
Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination, the Costume Institute’s spring 2018 exhibition, is just two months out from opening to the public. Here is an inside look at what to expect including looks by Chanel, Valentino, Versace, and the Vatican.

What do fashion and religion have in common?

Says Andrew Bolton, the Costume Institute at The Metropolitan Museum of Art‘s head curator, “Religious dress and fashion — at least in terms of their presentation — are both inherently performative.” Bolton continues in an article for The New York Times, “Dress is central to any discussion about religion.”

Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art:@spgitalia
Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art/@spgitalia

Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, the Vatican’s de facto culture minister, adds that clothing makes an appearance in the first pages of the New Testament. Indeed, in Genesis, during the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden, God fashions clothing for Adam and Eve, and in doing so, establishes the significance of garments:

“And the LORD God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.” — Genesis, 3:21.

Regarding this piece of scripture, Cardinal Ravasi explains that “God himself worries about clothing his creatures,” which elevates the notion of fashion to the Divine.

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Gold Gotha Ensemble, Christian Lacroix, Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art

“Fashion and religion have long been intertwined, mutually inspiring and informing one another,” says Bolton in a press statement. “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.”

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Evening Ensemble, John Galliano for Dior, Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art

In addition to clothing that has been inspired by the Catholic Church, papal robes and accessories such as rings and tiaras from the 18th to the early 21st century will be on view in the Anna Wintour Costume Center. Forty ecclesiastical garments and accessories on loan from the Vatican Museum’s collection of modern religious art will be also be showcased in the exhibit. So yes, expect to see Versace and the Vatican in one show.

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Evening Dress, Gianni Versace Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art

More than 150 religiously-inspired ensembles from the early 20th century to the present will be installed in The Met’s Medieval and Byzantine galleries, as well as at The Met Cloisters.

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Evening Dress, Valentino, Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art

The relationship between artistry and the landscape of the Catholic imagination is one of dynamic synergy. Indeed, much of Catholicism finds roots in the plush world of creativity and the arts, which underpin the craft of fashion. As for the world of fashion, its inhabitants draw on sacred iconography, imagery, and objects, many of which are native to Catholicism as the link between fashion and religion continues to evolve.

In celebration of the opening, the Museum’s Costume Institute Benefit, also known as The Met Gala, will take place on Monday, May 7, 2018. The evening’s co-chairs will be Amal Clooney, Rihanna, Donatella Versace, and Anna Wintour. Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination, will be open to the public on May 10.