It was a rainy Saturday afternoon in New York City and, like any weekend tourist in the Big Apple, I did what I do to pass the time when the weather sucks: go to the museum. The Metropolitan Museum to be exact.
Only one thing truly interested me: the new “Heavenly Bodies” exhibition.
The exhibition began on the right side of the Met. It would have been like any other religious exhibition of spiritual objects– crosses, crucifixes, armor, and other religious iconographies– if it wasn’t for the Gianni Versace dresses, lifted high on pedestals (because Versace should only be on pedestals of course) watching us passing by.
I understood one thing: God isn’t some bearded guy. He is obviously someone dressed head to toe in Versace.
Who would have thought that ancient carved stone would mix so well with a Chanel pearled bustier? Here and there sat a Dolce & Gabbana cape and vest with a huge golden cross embroidered on it next to an array of Byzantine objects and ancient books.
We proceeded to another room, where a huge altar beckoned, and underneath stood a blue Riccardo Tisci cape embroidered with gold threads. Just next to it, people gathered around a mannequin wearing Yves Saint Laurent– sun shaped jewelry surrounding the entire face, a golden dress with a golden cape and golden stole completing the look.
All the visitors were slowly turning into Catholics, including me, the most atheistic person in the world. A sign on the wall explained that most of the designers were raised under Roman Catholic traditions and all now have a different relationship with the religion.
An actual church served as the venue for the next part of the exhibition. There I was, stepping into a church, complete with everything indicative of a traditional cathedral: stained glass windows, Madonna statues, crosses, and, of course, a silk black dress by the House of Givenchy to welcome me. There was classical music in the air– and, of course, Shazam isn’t picking it up– as well as paintings and tapestries of Jesus.
Further, on the left, seven mannequins presented their interpretation of the soutane, a type of cassock worn by Roman Catholic priests, by Raf Simons, Dolce & Gabbana, Jean Paul Gaultier, Sorelle Fontana, Yves Saint Laurent, and Balenciaga.
Forgive me, father, because I have sinned. I desire to steal…
On the other side, seven other mannequins did the same with Dominican Habits, focusing on designs by Thom Browne, Cimone, Dolce & Gabbana, and Balenciaga.
Although my love will be forever held by Jean Paul Gaultier, some designers were particularly emphasized such as Dior, with his white silk tulle, embroidered white silk, and metal thread angel from 2005 and his pope silk dress from 2001. Valentino’s red gown stood out as well, inspired by the cappa magna, the red dress of the Cardinals. Christian Lacroix presented his interpretation of the Madonna. And Gaultier presented his interpretation of Joan of Arc with his signature corset-girdle.
In every room, there was jewelry, mixed with antique artifacts. Whatever religion allows a Givenchy breastplate and an Alexander McQueen headdress to be beside the reliquary arm of Saint Valentine sign me up, please.
The cherry on top of the cake was undoubtedly Rodarte’s collection of dresses, inspired by Gian Lorenzo Bernini’s sculpture, The Ecstasy of Saint Teresa. Wherever you are in heaven, Ms. Saint Teresa, I hope you are wearing a Rodarte dress.
The exhibition will be on display until Monday, October 8, 2018.
Written by Scarlett Ruggiero
Photography by Ryan Williams