Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination

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The first Monday in May is arguably the biggest night in Fashion. Doubling as both a way to raise money for the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute in New York and as a glamourous night out for Hollywood’s biggest stars, the annual Met Gala fuses elaborate themes with extraordinary fashion. Drawing celebrities such as Rihanna, Beyoncé, and Taylor Swift, the event marks the opening of the Costume Institute’s annual exhibition through a celebration of that year’s theme, with the gala’s attendees wearing garment’s inspired by the exhibition.

On Monday, the biggest designers, models, and celebrities in the fashion industry gathered to celebrate this year’s exhibition, Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination. Celebrating the interaction between religious artwork and fashion, the lucky guests are expected to embrace this theme and arrive in fashion worthy of being named a work of art. Whilst the attendees are all present due to their influence in the fashion industry, the internet became riled after the event took place due to there being numerous outfits which paid little attention to the event’s theme.

Rihanna is the undisputed Queen of the Met Gala. The Guo Pei coat Rihanna wore to the 2015 ball, China: Through the Looking Glass, took the internet by storm. Weighing 55 pounds and having a train over 40 feet long, the bright yellow number perfectly suited the theme and became a prime example of how to successfully style a ground-breaking look, one worthy of being worn to the biggest night in fashion. For this year’s event, Rihanna wore a look designed by John Galliano comprised of a hand-sewn coat and bustier dress, covered in stones. The look was finished off with Christian Louboutin Pigalle shoes and a Cardinal’s hat, lent to her by Cardinal Timothy Dolan.

In both of these looks, clear attention is paid to the Gala’s theme, showing an appreciation for the Gala which is arguably not matched by all attendees. Appearing in a jumpsuit designed by Off-White along with Tiffany & Co jewellery, Kendall Jenner’s look on Monday was criticised by social media for not following the theme, with there being no reference to Catholic imagery in her outfit. Kylie Jenner’s outfit was similarly called in to question, with it being pointed out how her black Alexander Wang number was not following the evening’s theme.

Whilst the evening is more than just the clothes the celebrities in attendance wear, with it being important to remember that the Gala functions primarily as a fundraising event, the evening is supposed to be a celebration of the dialogue between fashion and art, and significantly fashion’s connection to a specific theme. By not following the dress code, attendees are minimising the statement made by the opening of the annual exhibition and undermining the incredibly important declaration that fashion is art.

The intense media scrutiny guests receive on their arrival offers an accessibility not typically offered by fashion week, allowing the public access to the exclusive realm of high fashion. The Met Gala may not be open to members of the public, but the public do have access to seeing what is worn by the guests, with the spotlight placed on the Gala’s attendees offering a further opportunity to celebrate the evening’s theme. Although some may argue against the criticism those who do not follow the theme receive, if an attendee is not going to even attempt to recognise the theme- what is the point in going?

The exhibition Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination will be running at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute in New York from 10th May- 8th October.

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