To say the latest MET Costume Institute exhibition, “Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination,” is up there, as gorgeous, generous, and sumptuous as these yearly shows get, is to flirt with the ethereal. The Catholic imagination, as His Eminence Timothy Michael Cardinal Dolan, Archbishop of New York, stated in his remarks at the MET’s Temple of Dendur, where divine cookies and coffee approached the sacrament, is testament to Christ’s art. The church is about truth, good, and beauty in praise of God, he said. One part Vatican, and another Versace, with gem-stones and jewels, capes threaded in gold juxtaposed with modest peplum monk-styled couture and almost no skin-revealing gowns and wedding dresses, the fashion inspired by Catholicism is a revelation.
Andrew Bolton, the Costume Institute’s Wendy Yu Curator in Charge, as is customary, provided the intellectual backbone of the exhibit, quoting Andrew Greeley on metaphor and storytelling as tropes of the Catholic imagination. So that, when you see the Pope’s smart Italian leather red shoes, Prada, the red signifies the blood of Christ’s passion and that of the martyrs too. Of course a Versace bejeweled black leather bomber jacket is on display as well.
Returning, traveling down Fifth Avenue, passing the Versace boutique windows, you can see the same bomber jacket. The divine meets commerce, no doubt, God’s plan.