Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Heavenly Bodies

from Thom Browne's 2011-12 collection at The Met (photograph: Hallie Cohen)
Fellini’s “ecclesiastical fashion show” from Roma (1972) defines "Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination"which is just completing a run at the Met (a clip from the movie is presented on a monitor). In Roma the ordering of the Catholic hierarchy is presented in the vestments emblematic of each model’s position in the food chain—for instance a nun’s habit is described “as starched cap with flexible wings.” Was Fellini tipping his hat to Bresson when he presented the “country priest” get up? The curators themselves juxtapose the idea of the fashion runway and liturgical procession in comparing the longitudinal architecture of the Met’s Medieval Sculpture Hall to a catwalk. The show is introduced with this quote from Andrew Greeley’s The Catholic Imagination: “Catholics live in enchanted world, a world of statues and holy water, stained glass and votive candles, saints and religious medals, rosary beads and holy pictures. But these Catholic paraphernalia are merely hints of a deeper and more pervasive religious sensibility that inclines Catholics to see the Holy lurking in creation.” Significantly Danilo Donati who did the costumes for Roma also was responsible for the The Gospel According to St. Matthewthe deeply religious (and political) work by the director of Salo. Oscar Wilde once said, “It is only shallow people who do not judge by appearances.” “Heavenly Bodies” underscores the idea that the truth of beauty may lie in its iconography.

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