One of the tenets of “Heavenly Bodies” is that fashion shares with the Catholic imagination a rich and highly visual narrative thread. There are plenty of plotlines to follow within the faith and over the years couturiers from Cristóbal Balenciaga to the Versaces have explored them. Generally speaking, designers can be divided into two camps: those who worship at the altar of excess, and those who are attracted by the black-and-white austerity of religious habits. Both are collected here.
Seemingly unafraid of blasphemy, Jean Paul Gaultier and John Galliano teased us with naughty nuns in latex in 1990 and 2000, respectively. Rick Owens has sent both female and male models down the runway in nun’s veils. And Alexander McQueen, Riccardo Tisci, and Undercover’s Jun Takahashi have reimagined Jesus’s crown of thorns as a cruelty-free accessory. While it’s unsurprising that Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana would be attracted to the glittering mosaics and intricately worked vestments designed to pay glory to God, we have to confess to being more than a little surprised by Helmut Lang’s use of rosary rings, crosses, and the sacred heart motif for his Spring 1993 collection. Holy smokes, indeed.