New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art—famed for its collection of 2 million works of art from across the globe—is also well-known for the Anna Wintour Costume Center. Beyond The Met’s Fifth Avenue location on Central Park lives over 35,000 costumes and accessories. The Center’s website states that the collection “represents five continents and seven centuries of fashionable dress, regional costumes, and accessories for men, women, and children, from the 15th century to the present.”
Each year, the Center presents one or two fashion exhibits open to the public. 2017’s presentation was the avant-garde Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between. No less spectacular, this year’s exhibit features fashion’s intersection with and inspiration from the Catholic Church, titled Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination. The Center’s largest exhibition—the heavenly display spans two locations, The Met Fifth Avenue and The Met Cloisters—runs until October 8, 2018.
Several of the pieces showcased in Heavenly Bodies have not been seen outside of the Vatican, including papal robes. From the moment one enters the exhibit at the Fifth Avenue museum, the visitor must choose between double hallways featuring angelic mannequins wearing Dolce & Gabbana or Versace. A looping soundtrack sets a reverent and dramatic tone as one moves from piece to piece in a cathedral-like setting.
Showstoppers include a red taffeta gown from Valentino’s 2017 fall-winter haute couture collection and an almost-Victorian wedding look from Christian Lacroix’s 2009 line. A silent—some might say eerie—mannequin choir overlooks the main exhibit room, donned in Balenciaga robes circa 1964. Ensembles from American designers, including Rodarte and Thom Browne, are also a part of the display.
Each piece’s tie to Catholicism is apparent on labels throughout the galleries; the exhibit also includes stunning statuary vestments from several famed European houses. Heavenly bodies, indeed!