Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination

& others. Metropolitan Museum of Art. 2 vols. May 2018. 336p. illus. notes. bibliog. ISBN 9781588396457. $65. DEC ARTS
This slipcovered two-volume set accompanies the year's big costume exhibition at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art. Organized the way the objects are displayed—both in the medieval galleries at the Met's main museum and at the Cloisters—the first volume is dedicated to the loans of ecclesiastical vestments and accessories from the Vatican, the second to the 20th-century fashions inspired by Catholicism. Met Costume Institute head Bolton, other Met curators, scholars, and a Vatican cardinal contribute excellent essays on symbolism and uses of religious vestments; others discuss how art, fashion, and religious vestments relate to the beauty and theatricality of the Catholic faith. Brief discussions of Catholic-inspired clothing by designers such as John Galliano, Valentino, Dolce and Gabbana, Chanel, and Madame Grès comprise the most important part of the second volume. However, the descriptions are printed in tiny, light-colored type alongside small, black-and-white photos of spaces housing these fashions. Also, the scanned composite images of clothing by artist Katerina Jebb do a great disservice to her beautiful designs.
VERDICT Recommended for its original ideas and concepts, but its images and design fail to convey the splendor of the exquisite garments.
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