Fashion and Religion – Centuries Long Affair – BookF27

Fashion and Religion – Centuries Long Affair


The Met Gala might have been last Monday, but we’re not done talking about it just yet! Besides the red carpet looks that we’ve already reviewed, we wanted to dig deeper into this year’s theme. One that sparked quite some controversy when announced, and you should know by now; we love a good debate!  Following the Gala, Anna Wintour discussed with Stephen Colbert why they chose this specific topic and how they worked very closely with the Vatican. In case you didn’t know, this year’s Met had a lot of pleasant surprises; some members of the Catholic church were in attendance, a priest, and a cardinal who by the way lent his papal to Rihanna! If this is not a sign of how blessed this girl is we don’t know what is. Right after dinner, Madonna gave an exceptional performance in the great hall, and took us back to one of her 80’s hit with a convoy of monks (yeah…we think they were just stage actors)! The music legend singing at a religion inspired party made perfect sense, and so did her choice of songs.  She started by performing “Alleluia” followed by “Like A Virgin,” knowing all the lyrics of that song, and as provocative or controversial as they can be for the Church, so is fashion mixing their idea of beauty and sexy with Catholic ideology. That said, those two worlds coming together has been going on for centuries! It’s in fact what we like to call “ The long going affair in fashion.”

Whether we want to admit it or not, clothing plays an essential role in religion, no matter the faith. Putting a piece of clothing or accessory on can send a message without you having to say anything, it allows society to put you in a specific category. Take, for instance, the cross for Catholics, the hijab for Muslims or even the kippah for Jewish men. In fact, Andrew Bolton pointed out, that he did want to explore the five predominant religions(Islam, Judaism, Christianity, Hinduism, Judaism), for the exhibition, as they each have different ways of dressing. But after much research and deliberation, he understood that Catholicism inspired 80% of his material. Once that was clear, not only did he and Anna get the Vatican’s approval and on board, but they also were advised throughout the process by a priest. Which leads us to our initial point, clothing in Catholicism has always been important! And although the church would never admit it, just like fashion they adorn themselves in beautiful, expensive jewelry, one of a kind clothing items that have been embroidered, pearled and so on. Given the fact that the two have so much in common, yet a somewhat complicated relationship, it explains why it took Bolton almost five years to get this exhibition going, as faux pas would not be allowed. It had to be done right!

Knowing the above, got us to understand even more why this year’s Met was their biggest exhibition yet! Just with the Vatican, they were able to obtain 40 pieces from the Sistine Chapel (rings, tiaras from the 18th to 21st century, and even Pope John Paul II shoes). All these pieces were placed side by side with fashion pieces (from Christopher Kane, John Galliano and Gareth Pugh to name a few), to explain the liaison between the two better but most importantly where the inspiration came from. All of these lent items, allowed them to have a total of 26 galleries with 100 artefacts. We also believe that the reason Bolton was capable of linking today’s fashion with Catholicism, is just because he was only looking into modern western fashion artefacts. It doesn’t come as a surprise as most Italian, French and British designers were raised Catholics. We’ve all seen Dolce & Gabbana deep Sicilian roots with their fascination with their religion by embroidering on garments images of Jesus, the Madonna, and the rosary beads. Riccardo Tisci had done the same in the past, with Givenchy’s menswear collection when he was the creative director. Fashion and Religion are now more than ever becoming one, at least in the western world. Back in 2016, Alessandro Michele chose the Westminster Abbey church for his Gucci’s cruise collection, and Alexander Wang opts for a similar venue the same year in NY.  But as we mentioned before, that link is nothing new, think about that Chanel 94 Quran dress or Versace’s gold chainmail and cross couture dress in 1997! So although the theme can be controversial, the exhibition was much needed since it has never been done before, and it’s important for people to go and see it for themselves.

Which got us thinking that the Met Gala is probably the most efficient way to get the most visibility and profit for an exhibition of that calibre. The idea came to life in 1948 to raise fund for the Costume Institute, and no other crowd besides celebrities can do it better, people in Hollywood love a good cause! Not only does the Met Ball officially marks the opening of the annual fashion exhibit that runs for several months. The Ball has now become the party you want to be invited to while giving you a Vogue-approved stamp of being an “A-List Celebrity” but their most fundamental goal until today is to raise funds for the Metropolitan Museum in New Year. Last year alone they were able to raise 13.13 US dollars.

This Year red carpet has been the most successful and possibly the most talked about because celebrities indeed interpreted their idea of what it means to be religious into clothes. They expressed themselves and showed who they are by wearing a symbol which is what both religion and fashion stand for in a way because clothing as we said can have profound significance. Kim K wore gold has a representation of ritual iconography in Catholicism, Lana Del Rey’s look was appreciated by most because of her reference to Saint Lucy and our Lady of Sorrows. However, what could have been the best message was Solange look inspired by the black Madonna contradicting the idea of heaven being white but also destroying the concept that is to be predominated by white figures.

By Anne-Isabelle Saint-Pierre