This year the theme for the 2018 Met Gala was unleashed upon the world: “Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination.” Oh, boy.
Several ways this could go horribly awry immediately spring to mind, most of them involving clueless celebrities being either appropriative or just plain lazy. Or both! But if done properly, with attendees sampling from a wide cross-section of history, delving into extremely high medieval shit instead of shrugging and grabbing some Dolce and Gabbana, this could be the most visually stunning gala in recent memory.
And so, for all the stylists out there who are scrambling to present some ideas to their celebrity clients, please steal from this brief cheat sheet. Don’t make us watch three dozen people wearing Catholic schoolgirl shit.
Hapsburgs The dynasty that dominated the Holy Roman Empire for hundreds of years has in fact already gotten the Costume Institute treatment, during the Diana Vreeland years. Specifically though I’m picturing the extremely zealous 16th and 17th century Spanish branch of the family, whom I associate with frothy lace, satin, velvet, and very large hair.
Saints—ecstatic/orgasmic I.e., Bernini’s Saint Teresa.
Saints—incorruptible But make it fashion!
Not simply the Virgin Mary or saint, but specifically a small medieval statue of the Virgin Mary or saint I mean:
Vatican fashion The highlight of the Costume Institute exhibit that lends the party its theme will be “papal robes and accessories from the Sistine Chapel sacristy.” And truly, it is hard to beat the vestments of the Catholic Church at every level for sheer swag. The Swiss Guard uniforms, the cardinal ensembles, my God (uh, sorry) the ceremonial papal getups. Vatican City on a big religious holiday looks like the most bonkers haute couture fashion show you’ll ever see in your life. Pretty sure Pope Benedict XVI and I could not agree on even so much as the time of day, but his shoes? Incredible.
Reliquaries and ossuaries: These are the boxes where they keep bits and pieces of saints. They are stunning. This is a look:
If you need something a touch more representative to work from, you could take as your inspiration this Reliquary Bust of Saint Balbina, part of the Met’s own holdings.
According to the description: “This head, while of the type associated with Saint Ursula and her many martyred companions, contains the skull of Saint Balbina, an early virgin martyr of Rome. The label on the little door on top identifies the relic inside. She is richly dressed in a fashionable gown and with jewelry and an elaborate coiffure.”
If you INSIST on doing the rosary thing Definitely opt for this early 16th century German one:
“Each bead of the rosary represents the bust of a well-fed burgher or maiden on one side, and a skeleton on the other,” according to the Met. “The terminals, even more graphically, show the head of a deceased man, with half the image eaten away from decay. Such images served as reminders that life is fleeting and that leading a virtuous life as a faithful Christian is key to salvation.” Let’s party!
The entire contents of the Wittelsbach treasury and nothing else That would be the royal family of Bavaria, which managed to sneak a Holy Roman Emperor into the mix with the Hapsburgs once or twice, and powerful Catholics who were players in the Counter-Reformation. Their absolutely sick treasury, currently on display at the palace known as the Munich Residenz, is heavy on the religiously inflected pieces, from crowns to reliquaries to royal insignia to jeweled badges of various holy orders. Maybe they’d loan the whole kit and caboodle out—you won’t know until you ask.