Met Gala 2018: Who Showed Us Catholic Imagination?

Credits: Photo - Anonymous, Styling - Sarah G. Schmidt, Location - Sacred Heart Church, 14 Street SW


The first Monday in May may have come and went but it did not disappoint. I’m not Catholic but thank god for the richness of the theme: Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination. I was yelling at the pictures and videos on my phone Monday night in a way that perhaps only a sports fan would on the most titillating final game of the season. It was glorious.

From the Metropolitan's website I learned that,

“The Costume Institute Spring 2018 exhibition of “Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination” will feature a dialogue between fashion and masterworks of religious art in The Met collection to examine fashion's ongoing engagement with the devotional practices and traditions of Catholicism. A group of papal robes and accessories from the Vatican will travel to the United States to serve as the cornerstone of the exhibition, highlighting the enduring influence of liturgical vestments on designers.”

“Fashion and religion have long been intertwined, mutually inspiring and informing one another," said Andrew Bolton, Curator in Charge of The Costume Institute. "Although this relationship has been complex and sometimes contested, it has produced some of the most inventive and innovative creations in the history of fashion."

In my usual anticipation of the the big night I got thinking about what I thought may come down that divine carpet. My upbringing and art history university class came in handy as I easily imagined crosses, robes, and crowns. I thought about likely seeing tonnes of white, black, red, and florals. I too, thought about the inevitable jewelled naked dresses – but understood – that for this year “heavenly bodies” was on theme. Free the nipple.

I expected, too, some provocation of some kind as I have cringed over the “virgin vs whore” narrative that the church often leans on. Any curious eyes can find the storied history of the Catholic Church and find juicy inspiration from either it's naughty or nicer bits. The now - to me - archaic notions of the ideals of the church and how people actually live today create tension. It has for centuries. Hence the cleverness of this theme. My expectations were high; cue the sartorial drama.

Met Gala partnerships between celebrities and fashion houses are made well in advance of the big night. This is not a pick a look at the mall the week before type of situation. No, all parties prepare for this night. The serious ones use this event as a cornerstone in their brand expression. Thus, come Monday I wanted to find the standouts that not only were on-theme, but also took the “imagination” part of the dress code seriously.

More clearly stated, just wearing a cross, crown, or a medieval-ish gown was not enough to warm my loins. I wanted once-in-a-year-Met-Gala-style-porn that blew my mind. Here are my standouts

Best Met Gala “It” Women*

Putting up great efforts included Lena Waithe in her pride flag Caroline Hereara cape; Cara Delevingne in that confessional inspired black Dior sheath and face covering crown; and the DGAF that is Frances McDormand’s Valentino headpiece. All these women showed their personal taste and imagination with the theme. It wasn’t simply put a dress and some jewels on, no, they took time to consider what they could express with the theme. This is paramount to my "best dressed" as I wanted to see an idea or message spring forth. Perhaps that was the idea of defiance for Waithe; the idea of soul sucking guilt for Delevingne; and perhaps, the idea of unadulterated joy from McDormand.

But my favourite of the night was the custom Joan of Arc inspired Versace metal clink gown that Zendaya graced us with. Come on! This warrior won my heart. This type of look is what it means to have imagination with a theme. To not only get the theme nailed but to elevate to a level where you make it personal. Sorry, if your version of personal is a boring-ass dress. That's what we ask of models: look beautiful. For everyone else - and I would encourage models to lean into their personality, too - I want you to tell me something deeper. This is what it means when costume and fashion co-exist. This is what it means to be my Met Gala everything.

Best “It” Met Gala Men

Hands down, my best male dressed was Chadwick Boseman. No one else came close with their now insignificant bedazzled jackets or crosses. That may have been enough in the past. That is no longer true. Boseman upped the game with his sparkle gelled hair all the way down to his gold shoe toes showing the boys what it means to not only participate in fashion’s biggest night, but how to get it done.

My hope is that Boseman's showing starts a wave of men stepping up and declaring that they, too, can enjoy it and thrive while using fashion as a tool for expression.

(Please do not yell at me to consider Jared Leto. Hard pass.) Wakanda Forever.

Remember, it’s the biggest fashion night of the year. This is time to take the biggest risk. To be the best in my books, you have to push. You have to stretch out of what can simply pass for on-theme and strive for style excellence. If you want to see all the looks from the Met Gala, Vogue has ever expanding – including all the beige to my kind of baller - coverage.

*Note: Of course, Rihanna. Though the dress was the most breathtakingly amazing, and she – and only she – can pull it off, I’m heartbroken that Rihanna would choose to wear a dress by a documented and criminally charged racist and abuser. It’s on the record. That’s why he got fired from Dior years back. How does he have a thriving career? Why have people forgot about John Galliano’s unforgivable history? I have not. Has Rihanna?

Want more MET Gala coverage? Check out previous 'More to It' posts from 2017, 2016, and 2015