The first Monday in May is still many moons in the future, but the theme of the Met’s 2018 Costume Institute exhibition and accompanying gaaa-la is already reportedly in place. According to WWD’s multiple sources, next year’s exhibition will reportedly focus on fashion and religion. Hmm.
While the news is not yet official, the idea had been kicking around for quite some time, even before this year’s stunning exhibition“Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons: The Art of the In-Between” came to fruition. Religion is a theme that’s not unfamiliar to the fashion industry; in 2007 Jon Paul Gaultier sent models down the runway in looks that riffed on Catholic iconography and Dolce & Gabbana did a collection in 2013 that saw models wearing what looked to be Byzantine friezes repurposed into garments. There will be a lot to draw from in the Met’s archives and the resulting exhibit itself might be beautiful. The gala that accompanies the exhibit, however, could be another story entirely.
Billed as fashion’s biggest night, the gala is usually an excuse for celebrities, Anna Wintour, André Leon Talley, Lena Dunham, etc. to show up and show out in whatever their generous interpretation of the theme might be. Some themes are easier than others. Recall for a moment, the 2015 exhibition “China: Through the Looking Glass,” which our dearly departed but never forgotten Kara Brown predicted might be an “Asian-themed shit show.” Most celebrities avoided going to the racist, appropriative route and chose to either ignore the theme entirely or wear dresses that looked like they raided a Party City the night before the Lunar New Year. With the exception of Rihanna and Fan Bingbing, who wore insanely beautiful dresses designed by Chinese designers, everyone scraped by just fine.
Religion as a theme feels somehow more worrisome. Imagine, for a moment, the vision of say, Katy Perry in a burqa, on the arm of Jeremy Scott. Taylor Swift, decked out in full as the Virgin Mary, accompanied by a preening, tan Michael Kors. Lady Gaga dressed as La Virgen de Guadalupe dressed as a Russian Orthodox priest cosplaying as a nun. Heidi Klum will be dressed as Kali. Madonna, wearing literally every item of religious garb she can find, or simply wrapped in yards and yards of the red string of Kabbalah. It could be very bad, is what I’m saying. But if this is true, then at least they have quite some time to prepare.