How Will You Dress for The Rapture?
Not this time. On a Monday afternoon, one might assume there’d be a lag in museum traffic — not at all. Tourists were pouring into the museum to gawk at the pieces of high fashion sourced from Catholic themes, interspersed among the museum’s permanent collection, enhancing and commenting on the chapels, arches, and wondrously dreamy castle-like architecture. To add to the experience, speakers are hidden throughout the galleries playing soft opera music — something religious, I’m wont to assume — making it more like a real fashion show, or a real monastery, or both.
There were moments of department store realness, since the clothes sit stale upon a mannequin, and you look at them with a consideration that inevitably goes back to whether the piece fills you with desire. But the setting asks you to consider the real power of clothing, and what it is capable of communicating. The clothes range from the cryptically austere to the most lavish things possible, with experimental haute couture peppered in for good measure.
Other moments are vaguely creepy. The mannequins floating above the garden, mounted on polls approximately ten feet in the air and dressed in stately black Valentino robes, reminded me of the final scene of The Craft, where the Catholic school girls-cum-witches turn on the main character, sinisterly floating in her living room and chanting, “Now is the end, let her go in peace.” But then, the Catholic Church has never shied away from the paranormal, or from using fear as a motivational tool (ever heard of ‘Catholic guilt’? It’s very real).
The glorious and sumptuous loans from the Vatican are obviously the rarest gems on view — literally, since many of the pieces are adorned in an array of jewels. These you will have to visit at The Met on Fifth Avenue, if you dare face the inevitable crowds. These are clothes for the highest occasions — but do we even have those anymore? They recall both the somberness of a funeral and the decorum of a wedding: the two occasions our secular society still returns to church for, but the level of these pieces reminds one of the terrifying and beautiful promise of The Rapture — the end of the world, the end of fashion, the end of art, all wrapped into a combination of grandeur and horror.
What will you be wearing on Judgment Day?
Heavenly Bodies will be on view through October 7th at The Met Fifth Avenue and The Cloisters.