Catholic symbolism including crosses, halos, Marian apparitions, saints, angels, cardinals, clerics, and popes were all on fashion display at the Met Gala in New York Monday evening, provoking adulation from some and consternation or indignation from others.
The red-carpet event, titled “Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination,” showcased the glitterati class decked out in Catholic-themed finery ranging from Katy Perry’s six-foot angle wings to Lena Waithe’s full-length rainbow “gaype” to Rihanna’s crystal-studded mini pope outfit, complete with a tall papal miter.
The Vatican lent an unprecedented collection of 42 items from the Sistine Chapel’s sacristy, including jeweled tiaras, papal cloaks, and embroidered vestments for the exhibit.
While touted as a meeting between faith and fashion culture, the exhibit lent itself to radically different interpretations.
Was the event an instance or Christian inculturation or 50 shades of blasphemy?
Certain costumes seemed to sincerely seek inspiration from centuries of Catholic culture, while others could hardly be seen as anything other than full-on mockery.
From a still darker perspective, mixing overt sensuality and the sacred has always been a mark of satanic rituals, some noted, as in the case of black masses.
Andrew Bolton, curator of the Metropolitan Museum’s Costume Institute, said that “the idea of beauty and aesthetic can bridge the gap between the believer and the non-believer,” while emphasizing the interplay between secular and religious culture over the centuries.
The Gala, which benefits the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute, definitely played more like a Catholic-themed costume ball than a fashion show, with models, singers, and other celebrities taking advantage of the occasion to play dress-up.
On at least two occasions, Pope Francis has decried the modern trend of using crosses and crucifixes as mere “fashion accessories,” rather than objects of devotion.
Looking like the evil queen from a Disney film, provocative pop singer Madonna wore a crown made entirely of crosses, as well as a cross-shaped cut-out in the middle of her torso and a string of crucifixes around her neck.
Cardinals were on display as well, with Victoria’s Secret Angel Taylor Hill and Australian model Ruby Rose strutting outfits inspired by the princes of the church.
Adopting Marian imagery, American singer-songwriter Lana Del Rey appeared as “Our Lady of Sorrows,” complete with a heart pierced with seven swords, while actress Kate Bosworth took on the likeness of a porcelain statue of the Virgin Mary, and actress Lily Collins came as a weeping statue of the Madonna.
Katy Perry converted to the side of light this year, moving from last year’s Met appearance as a Satanic bride to a heavenly angel, complete with six-foot wings.
Seizing the occasion for a bit of lobbying for the LGBT community, Lena Waithe–who identifies as “queer”–wore a full-length rainbow gaype, reportedly because “she wanted to shine a light on the LGBTQ community and the Catholic church’s complicated relationship with it.”
Halos were in abundance Monday night, sported by English model Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Solange Knowles, American R&B singer-songwriter SZA, and Romanian model Andreea Diaconu, among others.
American actress Zendaya appeared as Saint Joan of Arc, while American actor and director Jared Leto came as… Jesus.
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