An Exhibit of "Fashion and the Catholic Imagination" but First, the Met Gala

“If you’re going to wield power, you need to dress the part — and it seems few have understood that better than the leaders of the Roman Catholic Church through the centuries.” That is the Associated Press’s take on the latest mega-exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute, a look at the influence of Catholicism on fashion.

Entitled, “Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination,” the Met’s exhibit is the largest one to date. From Thursday until October 8th, a total of 25 galleries – stretching from the Metropolitan on Fifth Avenue to its Cloisters branch in upper Manhattan – will play host to the exhibition, including the 42 items that curator Andrew Bolton brought back from the Sistine Chapel’s sacristy at the Vatican.

Mr. Bolton, who has become known for his blockbuster Met exhibits, “made 12 trips over two years to secure the items, many which had never been outside the Vatican,” according to the AP.  “I asked for six [items],” Bolton told the AP. “I ended up with 42.” The Vatican’s only condition was that its works be exhibited on their own, separate from the fashion part of the show. The Vatican collection even has its own separate volume in the show’s huge catalog.

Almost all the designers included in the show have some relationship to Roman Catholicism, even if they were just born into Catholic families, Bolton says. They include names like Gianni Versace, Dolce & Gabbana, Christian Lacroix, Valentino, Jean Paul Gaultier, and Cristobal Balenciaga, the iconic Spanish designer who, Bolton says, was deeply religious.

Some designers initially told Bolton that their work wasn’t influenced by religion, but later emailed upon realizing that, in fact, it played a role in their creative imaginations. “I never thought one’s religious upbringing could have such an influence,” he says.

As always, the annual Costume Institute exhibit makes its debut at the star-studded Met Gala on Monday night.