Thursday, May 10, 2018


Singer Rihanna arrives at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York May 7 for the exhibit "Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination." (CNS/Carlo Allegri, Reuters)

You can read the whole article at the NCR aka National Chismatic Reporter by pressing here.

But here are some excerpts:
Given the Met Gala's theme this year, the mingled excitement and dread its advent provoked in certain corners of the internet was perhaps inevitable. "Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination" as the guiding dress code for Anna Wintour's annual handpicked sampling of the rich and famous at first seems like an ill-judged marriage. In such an uneasy truce between sacred and profane, the sacred seems doomed to come out the loser.

There were genuinely sacrilegious costumes. The seven swords protruding from Lana del Rey's dress were both overt references to Our Lady of Sorrows, and an offensive bit of brand consistency for pop music's resident Beautiful Sad Girl. But for the most part, high fashion and high church came together eerily well. Partially that's because, as Vox notes, Catholicism has long had an aesthetic of sensuality and extremism. But partially it's because, in the wake of both #MeToo and the never-ending clerical abuse scandal, it's hard not to see certain similarities between the two parties.

The nation's tastemakers have seen predatory behavior by their movers and shakers come to light after decades of silence and deliberate complicity. And more than one, more than a few, bishops enjoyed the pomp and the pageantry of the office, the gorgeous trappings of authority, while preying on those entrusted to their care in the most cynical and monstrous ways imaginable. A knife's edge, it seems, separates beauty from corruption....

... Everything that the Met Gala aspired to has been done already, and better, by Francisco Fellini. His 1972 film "Roma" features an absurdist clerical fashion show that captured all the nonsense, the claustrophobia, the morbid splendor, the Mafioso self-sufficiency, the extravagant glory of the Vatican. In comparison, the Met Gala failed on every front. Its participants lacked the moral center to critique the church, the erudition to understand it, and the taste to emulate it.

...If the fashion industry cannot effectively critique the church, perhaps the church can save fashion from itself. After all, it was St. Francis de Sales who said, "For my own part I should like my devout man or woman to be the best dressed person in the company, but the least fine or splendid," which remains one of the best everyday standards to shoot for.

Unfortunately, it seems unlikely. In recent years, the most visible Christian critique of fashion has been a tepid modesty-blogger cottage industry. The modesty movement for the most part accepts the current mode of production as a given. Its main contributions are demeaning advice for young women on how to prevent men from lusting after them, and free advertisement for J. Crew and Anthropologie.

What is needed is a root-and-branch examination of the entire fashion industry. The abuses of women and children in sweatshops; the ecological destruction caused by fashion's inherent planned obsolescence; the visible stratification of class by clothing; the destabilizing effect on culture when the norms around dress change every few years; the identity-as-consumption relentlessly marketed to women; the humiliating, demoralizing lack of functional, flattering clothing that many people experience: all these evils are connected. None can be remedied without addressing the others.


John Nolan said...

Fashion is ephemeral by definition. There is no such thing as 'high fashion' although fashionistas may command high salaries.

Rather than waste time and ink on an unworthy subject, we might be better employed in asking why the Vatican and the present papacy are so dysfunctional.

Anonymous said...

I guess we're really kind of obsessed with this fashion thing, eh?

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

No not an obsession but the whole fiasco is symptomatic of the horrible polarization and dysfunction in the Church today but on steroids under Pope Francis. I can't image something like this occurring under Pope Benedict. I lived through the 1960's and 70's dysfunction and today's version of it is stomach churning.

rcg said...

Actually this focus on the facade, the ephemeral, is key to advancing the analysis of this event and some of its causes.

Is it not ironic that this mascarade and pantomime parallels the actual events of the still ongoing clerical sex abuse scandal? The participants are, perhaps, bartering for reciprocal tolerance and understanding. By surrendering the standards we can’t be held to it so, voila!, no rules violation. And the secular powers can take care of the secular laws. Perhaps the now tender eyes of the boys choir were being desensitized so the coming initiation will not be so frightening.

Does this map back to Vatican II and the revised (prostituted) Liturgy? If this is Satanic (it is) then notice that there is not a single lime green polyester, or clear plastic, vestment. No one, not even Satan, associates those things with the Church or Her Liturgy.

Anonymous said...

"the ecological destruction caused by fashion's inherent planned obsolescence"

Because worn-out or out of style clothing ends up in the trash heap?
There are solutions for that sort of thing you know.

"the visible stratification of class by clothing"

So now everyone is supposed to go about in a Mao suit?

TJM said...

Hillary LOVED Mao suits!

Joseph Johnson said...

Last night, I came by to excellent article on this (one picking up where the other left off). See Ross Douthat's NY Times op ed, "Make Catholicism Weird Again" and the New Liturgical Movement article (which contains an excerpt of the Douthat op ed) entitled, "Catholic Imagination and Catholic Dementia". Both well worth the read!