What, you may ask, is Catholic imagination? On the first Monday of May 2018, celebrities proved that it was something more than just daydreaming during church.
The decadent evening filled the Met museum with celebrities dressed around the theme of “Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination” creating more shock-value than usual. I could tell by the way my dad, who is, in fact, 55, and loves his trusty cargo-pant/New Balance combo, texted me the next morning: “Very racy with Christian outfits… I thought they looked funny… some female had a pseudo pope outfit— it was on the news last night.”
The gala garnered more attention than usual due to its enticing thesis, causing a more significant amount of celebrities to follow the dress code (on the invite it read “SUNDAY BEST.”)
But what does all this mean? At surface value, it’s just a bunch of really rich people dressing up for what my dad, aforementioned fashion icon, called a “Halloween party”.
But the Met Gala can also be acknowledged as a cultural marker for where we are in society today. Here are the three most prominent fashion statements made on the red carpet Monday night.
Zendaya dressed as Joan of Arc
Out of the four galas Zendaya has attended, this was by far the most impactful. Emulating Joan of Arc, her look went viral online – scrolling through Twitter, I found picture after picture of her photoshopped in front of a battleground, a fiery landscape and other compelling backdrops. We are blessed to live in a time where now women don’t have to look conventionally “pretty,” read as: nice dress, nice makeup, nice hair. Women can also choose to appear as quirky, serious, or in this case, fierce. Zendaya also sets a great example for girls who grow up watching events like these. Now they can garner a keen understanding of beauty, and also power and bravery: because, after all, we’re talking about Joan of Arc.
Rihanna dressed as the pope
Cultural appropriation is when a still-struggling minority group’s long-standing traditions are taken by non-minorities, while the minority group still faces backlash for wearing or doing those same things. In Rih’s case, this cannot be called cultural appropriation because Christianity has never been a significant minority on the global scale. Thus, this cannot be appropriation. Sure, it looks funky and is intimidating because Rihanna is the most powerful human being on planet Earth, but sorry, there’s nothing wrong with it. I digress.
The museum exhibition is an excellent example of appreciating Christianity. It has been used as inspiration many times in fashion and is used again here on a beautiful woman. The more we talk about cultural appropriation and its boundaries, the clearer they become. This is why Rihanna’s dress is impactful in cultural understanding today.
Lena Waithe wears the pride flag
It’s no surprise that the Catholic church is facing skepticism and allegations of corruption due to its exclusivity. Often the Bible is used as a weapon to forbid the validity, and even existence of LGBTQ+ members, as well as other minorities. In America, where Christianity is the primary faith of choosing, this can be harmful. Thus, Waithe chose to acknowledge this, by draping an LGBTQ+ floor-length cape across her shoulders, designed by Wes Gordon. It was a graceful reminder that Catholicism isn’t always all that glitters, especially to minorities.