The Fashion Magpie Heavenly Bodies

Weekend Vibes, Edition No. 69: The One on The Met’s Heavenly Bodies Exhibit.

My Latest Snag: The Acupressure Mat.

OK, full disclosure: this was one of Mr. Magpie’s father’s day gifts, along with a small kitchen utensil and a super fancy bottle of Brunello wine for his collection — but I’ve quietly appropriated it as my own, too.  I’m hooked.  Both he and I take turns laying on it before bed, and it is a miracle.  It makes my body feel stretched out, relaxed — almost as if I’ve just had a massage!  I think there’s also something to the fact that it’s forced quiet time: you’re just laying there silently, listening to your body.  Highly recommend.  Possibly the best $20 I’ve spent in a long while….

You’re Sooooo Popular: Maj Dress.

The most popular items on Le Blog this week:

+Major dress for a minor price.

+An easy, flattering summer dress.  (Spaghetti straps FTW!)

+Lovely blouse — the print!  The dainty straps!

+Heavily discounted Prada!

+Darling summer top for white jeans.

+Still a few sizes left!!!

+Absolutely adorable monogrammed pillow.

+A trick for preoccupying your mini on your next trip

+Seriously chic toy storage.

#Turbothot: The Met Heavenly Bodies Exhibit.

While my sister was in town earlier this week, we stopped by The Met to take in its Heavenly Bodies exhibit, which purports to “examine fashion’s ongoing engagement with the devotional practices and traditions of Catholicism.”  While I found the garments absolutely breathtaking, I found the curation underwhelming and borderline fetishistic.  I had already been puzzled by the Met Gala, where celebrities like Rihanna appeared in papal mitres and Cardi B in a headpiece reminiscent of the ones often shown in portraits of Saint Mary.  As a practicing Catholic, there was a part of me that tugged with offense — was this blasphemous?  appropriative?  or just in poor taste?  Or was I being hypersensitive?  After all, for years and years (and the exhibit does make this point), alternative cultures have borrowed from the regalia of the Church — I’m thinking specifically of Madonna and other musicians in the 80s wearing the crucifix and rosary beads.  Those seem mild, inoffensive by now, so engrained in the culture of my childhood that I barely think twice about them.  But the pope’s hat?  On Rihanna?  I sat in discomfort as I clicked through the images, pondering what the celebrities themselves had thought as they donned these garments: was it pure costume?  did they see it as art?  was it in jest?  was it ironic?  was it a statement?  Some of the celebrities seemed so obviously garish, sacrilegious, in their outfits: a halo alongside a slit up-to-there.  (Meanwhile, my mother still insists we cover our shoulders in Church.)  A part of me also felt that if another religious faith had been the centerpiece of the exhibit — say, Islam — and celebrities like Cara Delevigne and Sza had arrived in hijab, there would have been more of a politicization, a conversation about appropriation and cultural sensitivity.  But then again: fashion has always been influenced by religious traditions, and far be it for me to draw lines around when and how such cultural borrowings take place.  It seems like a slippery slope to arbitrarily take offense at and hold people accountable for certain presentations but nod impassively at others.  Further, the Vatican had approved the exhibit and even lent many items to the museum, and I’m inclined to follow the pope’s lead on this one.

The exhibit itself bore other problems, though.  Even if I looked beyond some of my initial quibbling over the appropriateness of the exhibit writ large, I felt as though the curation notes were loose and unfocused.  It was almost as if the curators said: “Catholic church…clothes with a Catholic element to them…you do the math in between.  Here’s a cross, there’s a cross…crosses.”  There was simply nothing summative or illuminating about the exhibit.  I felt, at a certain point, as though the exhibit could have been about ANYTHING — say, the influence of the sea on fashion designers who grew up on the water.  “Here’s water.  There’s a water reference.  Water.”

And then there were the fetishistic notes on some of the pieces that seemed angled at “othering” the Catholic faith, rendering it some sort of bizarre medieval practice rather than the living, modern faith so many of us claim as our own.  One such note said something along the lines of a veil “gesturing at the ancient rituals of the cult of Saint Mary.”  The wording alone sent shivers down my spine, momentarily making the viewer feel as though praying to a saint was tantamount to worshiping at the shrine of some dark  and extremist religious sect.  What?

All in, I found the exhibit confusing.  The clothing was beautiful, and we lingered for some time over their ornate details, but the tenor was baffling, especially in today’s age of hyper-sensitivity to such things.

Have you been?  Have you clicked through the photos?  Am I off base? Please share your thoughts!

#Shopaholic: The Rebecca Taylor Sale.

+FINALLY ON SALE!!!

+I don’t normally buy from this bargain bin online retailer, but this top is so darling!

+I need these pjs!!!

+Easy summer breeziness.

+Get the Aquazzura look for way less!

+The kind of dress I live in during the summer.

+In a dream world, my home office would be organized with lucite accessories by Russell + Hazel.

+My go-to gift for one-year-olds: a pull-along toy and a coordinating book.  (Or this and this.)

P.S.  That time a Kennedy changed my life.

P.P.S.  Gifts for teens and motherhood musings.

P.P.P.S.  An ode to the em-dash.

 

10 Comments

  1. Have you watched “The First Monday in May?” The documentary was filmed the year of the “China: Through the Looking Glass” exhibition, and discusses appropriation/fetishism alongside celebration of cultural influence and commentary on the pastiche so common in haute couture (and art, to be a bit pedantic).
    I think the Met routinely runs into these issues re: the Gala and the Costume Institute summer exhibitions, and often dodges them with a pat “it’s fashion, it’s art, it’s inspiration” company line. It also calls to mind the “Kimono Wednesdays” uproar at the Boston MFA in 2015. There’s clearly not an easy one-size-fits-all solution, but I think you’re right in expecting a higher standard of consideration, education and, at the very least, clear awareness of the dialogue.

    1. Hi Liz — I haven’t seen that, but would love to tune in now. I have to think a little bit about the notion of the Met hiding behind — or at least staking claims that — they are presenting art, and the notion that artfulness = carte blanche to anything under the sun. (Is that true?)

      xo

  2. I can empathize a bit on the cultural appropriation front. I feel so torn anytime I see anything with an Indian influence – Gwen Stefani rocking a bindi, Selena Gomez’s Come And Get It, even Apu – be mainstream. Most of the times, I don’t take offense. As a kid, Apu was the only representation i had in pop culture, and I resigned myself to “well, it’s better than nothing.”
    I do see the clear differences in our situations. Catholicism feels more mainstream than Indian culture, and with that a flippancy when it’s the key focus of an exhibit like this. With Indian or another “exotic” (failing to find a better word for this) culture being such a focus, it does become immediately politicized. It’s just expected.
    Just my two cents. Also, delighted that you’re loving the acupressure mat!

    1. Hi Hitha — I think you’re totally right in pointing out the dichotomy between treatment of the “mainstream” versus “exotic” or “othered” or “alternative” or “nontraditional” (or whatever other “marginalized” categorization you can think of). I hadn’t thought of it that way, but I think that’s what I was groping for when trying to explain my perception that Catholicism as a theme might have been treated differently than other religions would have. (There’s also the grim and disturbing fact of the cases of sexual abuse and pedophilia within the Church that may have afforded the Met a feeling of more latitude in this exhibit.)

      Accupressure mat is a major win!!!

  3. I’ve been eyeing those acupressure mats but haven’t bitten the bullet yet – good to know they work!

    Those PJs are so cute – and it seems to be harder to find options with shorts (preferred) rather than pants.

  4. I haven’t seen Heavenly Bodies in person, but I’m quite curious to — especially after reading your thoughts. I did click through a couple of slideshows about guests at the Gala and their attire, and I didn’t feel offended or shocked. Then again, I’m not a practicing Catholic, and I imagine if I were, it would change the lens through which I’d view both the exhibition and the attendees. I was intrigued by your critique of the lack of curatorial muscle, too — that’s one of my pet peeves in ANY exhibition.

    Love that button-front LOFT dress and the SZ Blockprints PJ set! Can’t decide which color I like best … they’re all good!

    1. Exactly — setting aside appropriateness of the exhibit, it was still lacking in some major ways. Too bad, too, since the garments were OUTRAGEOUS.

      xo

    1. Wow — thanks for sending that along. Looks like the author and I were on the same page. I especially appreciate when she wrote: “This show is all about fleeting impressions, fashionable feminism (the female bishop’s dress by John Galliano), celebrity culture, facile shock value, and commodification of Catholic forms and iconography (you too can buy a stylised nun outfit by a star designer).” YES YES.

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