Catholic Couture: What to Expect at the Upcoming Costume Institute Exhibit at The Met


As the country becomes less religious (according to Pew Research, there were eight percent fewer Christians in the United States in 2014 than in 2007), fashion is growing more devout. Among the most avid “worshipers” are Dior, Versace, Balenciaga, Valentino, Dolce & Gabbana (pictured above), and Saint Laurent, all of whom presented looks with religious undertones on recent runways. They will also be on display at the Costume Institute’s upcoming Spring 2018 exhibition at The Met, titled, “Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination.”

A Byzantine Processional Cross, circa 1000 and an evening gown by Gianni Versaci. Courtesy of The Met. 

The thematic exhibit will feature a conversation between fashion and religious art, pitting couture creations against papal robes and accessories from the Vatican. “Fashion and religion have long been intertwined, mutually inspiring and informing one another,” says Andrew Bolton, curator in charge of the Costume Institute. “The focus is on a shared hypothesis about what we call the Catholic imagination and the way it has engaged artists and designers and shaped their approach to creativity, as opposed to any kind of theology or sociology,” he told the New York Times. “Beauty has often been a bridge between believers and unbelievers.”

A Valentino couture look inspired by Papal robes.

Believers in fashion won’t want to miss this unprecedented collection, which includes everything from a Chanel wedding gown inspired by a communion dress to couture Valentino gowns influenced by monk’s robes. Opening May 10, it will span three galleries and nearly 60,000 square feet at both The Met and—fittingly—the Cloisters.