Divine Fashion: What does Couture have to do with Church?

It’s a long way from St. Patrick’s square in Vatican to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. However, the first Monday of May will be devoted to exploring the links between Catholic symbolism and couture design. That’s right, this year the Met Gala will celebrate ecclesiastical art, Byzantine influence, church interiors and medieval monasteries— all in connection with fashion. The fashionable Met will be decorated with designs inspired by monastic orders and the show will include more than fifty vestments borrowed from the Sistine Chapel collection, many of which never previously left the Vatican. They will, naturally, be on display in a separate space from the fashion, stated Andrew Bolton—  the curator in chief of the Costume Institute—, in order to preserve the sense of sacred, since some are still used during services.

Today, in the gloom of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, in New York’s divine nexus, Saks Fifth Avenue, in collaboration with Vogue, unveiled a series of windows to celebrate the upcoming exhibition “Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination”. Store displays honoring the church? Now, that’s a first! With the powerful use of color, as seen in historic religious art, the project drew on the spiritually uplifting aesthetic. All of the windows portray a curated collection of iconic pieces from design archives of Versace, Chanel, Valentino, Dior and Dolce & Gabbana. “The one universal element was the connection the designers felt choosing a piece that was symbolic to how they viewed their collections in the space of modern-day religion. It was very powerful. The archival pieces inside our windows truly show the designers’ interpretation of how fashion relates to Catholicism . . . we wanted to show how the church’s iconography was translated into fashion, as seen in Versace’s ethereal references, Dolce & Gabbana’s baroque embellishment, and Valentino’s cardinal red.”, stated Roopal Patel, Saks’ senior vice president and fashion director.

This proves to show that a picture is indeed worth a thousand words. The vitrines hold many heavenly bodies and earthly delights, among them, a golden Dior, glowing as stained glass; a hooded Versace haute couture gown; and a choir of ruby Valentinos. “Seeing the influence of the Catholic faith in fashion over centuries, including modern-day fashion, was very profound,” Patel says. “Even today, designers continue to be inspired by the divine.”

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Photo credit: Vogue, Saks Fifth Avenue