Fashion & The Catholic Imagination
House of Dior.Galliano.White Angel
Last week I went to the “Heavenly Bodies” Exhibit at the Cloister’s in Upper Manhattan. My son, his girlfriend, and I visited this Fashion Exhibit of the “Catholic Imagination” on a spur of the moment adventure. Although I have been going to the Cloister’s since I was very young, this was one of the most exciting exhibits I have experienced.
House of Dior. Angelic Evening Ensemble
“Heavenly Bodies” features the work of many Designers’ whose work is based on the own interpretations, imaginations, and relationship to Catholicism. Their designs were influenced by their own imagery and symbolism, using as a reference specific garments worn by the Clergy and Religious Orders, hence “Fashion and the Catholic Imagination”. An example is Versace’s interpretive designs of the various Medieval Religious Orders.
Versace Designs. Fashion reflecting Monastic Nuns
For those who know of the Cloister’s, which overlooks the Hudson River; much of the architecture used in the construction in the early 1930’s. was from many Gothic and Medieval structures, Paintings, Statues, and Tapestries, many of which are over 800 years old. The Cloister’s features various rooms with antiquities from the Romanesque Period (500-1500 `AD); Gothic Era (1500’s); to the Medieval Period of Art and Structures; all of which are reflected throughout the “Heavenly Bodies” Exhibit.
View of the Hudson
Gothic Nun’s Dress. Medieval Gardens
With these images in mind, I will share many of the Designer’s Fashions shown throughout the Monastery, many of which I will compare with the iconic works of art, which are a part of the Cloisters.
One of my favorites, and most popular Exhibit is Alexander McQueen’s Red Velvet gown, entitled “The Annunciation”; inspired by the “Annunciation Triptych” (1427) which is just to the right of the Gown.
Alexander McQueen “The Annunciation” Red Gown
(his interpretation of the Red Gown worn by Mary)
Annunciation Triptych (1427)
Weddings also played an important part during these Monastic periods. Featured are many of the interpretations by these iconic Designers.
Wedding Dress. House of Balenciaga “Holy Sacrament I”
Wedding Dress. House of Balenciaga “Holy Sacrament II”
“Bride” standing at a 14th Century Altar
As one enters the Cloister’s Romanesque rooms, designed using part of a French Benedictine Monastery, including the original Monastic Columns from an 804 AD Benedictine Monastery and Romanesque Cloister’s. All this inspiring Designers from the House of Valentino, using various Black fabrics, Velvet, Silk, based on the Nuns habits worn during this period. One Black Dress & Cape with the Gold Stars is based on the Painting “Black Madonna of Czechoslovakia”.
Romanesque Dress & Cape w Stars. House of Valentino
Black Velvet Dress. House of Valentino
Black Velvet Dress. House of Valentino
**(Note the front of the Dress inspired by the Monastic Columns of the Cloisters
on the front of the Dress – see pic below)
Monastic Columns in the Cloisters from 804AD
In the Early Gothic Hall with its 15th Century Stained Glass Windows, Statues, and Paintings of the Madonna and Child, in the center stands the fashion inspiration by the Designer, Gaultier titled “Lumiere”. Note the Virgin and Child on the shoulder of this colorful Stained-Glass Dress.
Gaultier “Lumiere” Virgin & Child Stained Glass Dress
My earliest memories of the Cloisters’ was the large room of Medieval Tapestries. Obviously, Alexander McQueen was inspired as I was by the beauty and design of these Tapestries, in his “Angels &Demons” Collection. His designs reflect the work found in many of the Tapestries hanging on the Walls.
Alexander McQueen. Tapestry inspired Dresses
The Gothic Chapel is well known for its original 13th Century 7 Sarcophagus’ (tombs) carved in the likeness of the various Counts, Knights, who fought for the Crusades, and the Baroness of Neubourg. The Designer, John Galliano, was inspired with his Design Gown with a Cross resembling the Crosses carried during the Crusades.
Galliano Dress – Woman on Sarcophagus
The Late Gothic Hall is filled with many Medieval Sculpture and Altar pieces. Adorning the entranceway to the Late Gothic Hall is a beautiful Gold Wedding Dress with a Gold Jeweled Crown designed by Dolce & Gabbanna.
Dolce & Gabbanna. Gothic Gold Wedding Dress w Gold Crown
Close up View of Dress & Crown
While this beautifully, artistic work of the Designers whose work is featured in the “Heavenly Bodies” Cloister’s Exhibit, the Metropolitan Museum of Art (MOMA) also presented many more of these Designs of the “Catholic Imagination” of “Heavenly Bodies” among the Art at the Museum. Many of the fashions explored the designer’s “imagination” of the transcendence from earth to the spiritual. One example featured at MOMA is the Designer, Thierry Mugler’s “ Madonna” with its sparkling pale Blue Dress and Crown at the top of an archway, representing Mary’s Ascension into Heaven.
MOMA.White Wedding Dress w Jewelry Crown by Thierry Mugler
Close up of the “Blue Madonna’s Crown
Although many may not understand these fashions in the traditional sense, they illuminate the many ways that one’s imagination can transcend those of the Catholic Church’s view into enchanting “Heavenly Bodies”. What I have shown is just a small example of the many fashions being exhibited at the Cloister’s and the Museum of Modern Art.