Holy inspiration: the Met’s Costume Institute finds a divine connection between religion and fashion

The Art Newspaper | Maurizio Francesconi Alessandro Martini with additional reporting by Federico Castelli Gattinara

Fashion has always drawn inspiration from many sources, including things we can see every day, such as the natural world and paintings, but also from more remote fields, such as the exotic and technological. Even the esoteric realm of relig­ion—and Catholicism in particular—has long influenced designers. Dolce & Gabbana created a line of clothing based on the mosaics in Monreale Cathedral, near Palermo, Sicily, where Domenico Dolce was born, and Cristóbal Balenciaga made garments and evening capes similar in style to clerical copes, informed by his own Spanish Catholicism. These designs will soon go on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in the Costume Institute spring blockbuster show Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination (10 May-8 October).

“Some might consider fashion to be an unfitting or unseemly medium by which to engage with ideas about the sacred or the divine. But dress is central to any discussion about religion – it affirms religious allegiances and, by extension, it asserts religious differences,” says Andrew Bolton, the exhibition’s curator and head of the Costume Institute. “While religious dress and fashion are two distinct entities governed by different systems of knowledge, both operate as a visual language, relying on subtle visual codes to perform specific functions and to express complex ideas about identity. In the Catholic Church, dress not only distinguishes hierarchies but also gender distinctions in much the same way as it does in society in general.”…read more

Image: From left: Donatella Versace, Anna Wintour, Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, Christine Schwarzman, Stephen A. Schwarzman, Carrie Rebora Barratt, and Andrew Bolton at The Met’s Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination press preview in RomeCourtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art/@sgpitalia