On a recent trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, I chanced across the Ecclesiastical Fashion Show. A particularly fascinating exhibition and an inspired choice to rejuvenate a Medieval Sculpture Hall.
(A room I probably would have walked through in minutes, feigning interest, briefly acknowledging the hall’s layout and its resemblance to the longitudinal plan of western churches, before skipping right on through to the Modigliani-nudey art paintings).
Federico Fellini explored these connections in his Ecclesiastical Fashion Show, a scene from his movie Roma (1972).
You’ll forgive the poor quality of the pics, taken on an iPhone. All descriptions lifted and transposed from the copyrighting in the museums’ descriptions.
My top picks from the Ecclesiastical Fashion Show
YVES SAINT LAURENT – AW77-78
Ivory silk crepe, Chantilly lace and organza; white cotton organdy, embroidered silver metal thread, pearls and paillettes. (Sequins essentially).
CHRISTIAN LACROIX AW09-10
Ivory silk satin and tulle (a lightweight, very fine, stiff netting) ivory and gold silk-meta lace, embroidered polychrome organdy flowers, iridescent paillettes, gold metal thread, clear crystals and seed beads.
MUGLER – AW84-85
Silver painted feathers; ivory silk taffeta. (A twisted woven extensively used in ball gowns, wedding dresses, and in interior decoration for curtains or wallcoverings). A very figure hugging, strapless dress that clings to the body like wet drapery.
Black silk taffeta, white duchesse satin, white cotton lace, white silk organza and black leather. In true classic Alexander McQueen style (creative director at the time) he layered this reference over another to flamenco dancer costumes, seen in the waterfall of tiered white lace ruffles lining the skirt of the dress.
VALENTINO – AW17-18
Red silk taffeta, designed by Pierpaolo Piccioli for Valentino. This silk moire great cape, or cappa magna, was worn as a choir dress by cardinals and bishops for particular special and solemn liturgical occasions.
The Madonna Wedding ensemble. White silk tulle, embroidered white silk and metal thread. The angelic reference of this dress is made explicit in its “wings” which echo those of the Yves Saint Laurent wedding ensemble.
ALEXANDER MCQUEEN SS99
Birch plywood and ivory leather; ivory wool twill and ivory silk lace. Featured in the no.13 collection which was inspired by the arts and craft movement and explored the tension between man and machine. Those opposites are at once revealed and resolved in this piece.
Made from machine-cut, hand-punched strips of plywood that have been shaped by hand. In this way, McQueen’s “angel” examines the distance between the preindustrial age and the industrial age.
How much is the entrance fee?
Price of admission in the Metropolitan Museum of Art is $25 for adults. Tourists pay, native New Yorkers enter museums for free out here. Can we please implement that system into the UK please? If Jonny tourist started paying their way our museums could start to look a little like this.