Catholic-Inspired Fashion to Come to NY's Metropolitan Museum of Art

'Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination,' is set to run May 10-Oct. 8, 2018, was organized through the Met’s Costume Institute.

Article main image

NEW YORK — Can the Catholic imagination dream up beautiful and compelling attire?

That’s one of the questions behind an exhibit collection set to open next year through New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art.

“The Roman Catholic Church has been producing and promoting beautiful works of art for centuries,” Greg Burke, director of the Holy See’s press office, told The New York Times. “Most people have experienced that through religious paintings and architecture. This is another way of sharing some of that beauty that rarely gets seen.”

Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination,” is scheduled to run May 10-Oct. 8, 2018, was organized through the Met’s Costume Institute. The exhibit brings together Church garments borrowed from the Vatican, religious art from the Met collection, and 150 designer fashion pieces that were intended to pay homage to Catholicism, taking inspiration from Catholic iconography, the liturgy, or other parts of the faith tradition.

The church garments, many of which are still in use for liturgies, will be displayed separately from the fashion exhibit out of respect, The New York Times reported. There will be about 50 items in this separate exhibit. They come from the Sistine Chapel sacristy’s Office for the Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff and range in age from the mid-1700s to the pontificate of Saint John Paul II.

The exhibits will be hosted at the Anna Wintour Costume Center, the medieval rooms at the Met on Fifth Avenue, and the Met Cloisters in uptown New York City. The three exhibit spaces total 58,600 square feet. It will be the Costume Institute’s largest show yet.

Andrew Bolton, the curator in charge at the institute, suggested the exhibit may have more potential than any other previous exhibit.

Explaining the exhibit’s vision, he said: “the focus is on a shared hypothesis about what we call the Catholic imagination and the way it has engaged artists and designers and shaped their approach to creativity, as opposed to any kind of theology or sociology. Beauty has often been a bridge between believers and unbelievers.”

Bolton had consulted with several Catholic groups and Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York to avoid any controversy in the fashion selections. The Church was receptive to the idea, but he had to travel to Rome eight times to discuss the show.

Bolton, who is Catholic, said he had initially intended to include the five world religions that are represented in the museum’s collections, but narrowed his focus after realizing that most Western designers were interacting artistically with Catholicism. He suggested this was because so many designers were raised Catholic.