​The Met – At heaven’s doorstep

“If I had to choose a single destination where I’d be held captive for the rest of my time in New York, I’d choose the Metropolitan Museum of Art.”

Tim Gunn, fashion consultant , television personality, actor, author, and also a former mentor on Project Runway​, isn’t far from the truth. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, or The Met, is an exhilarating place to be. It took me an entire day to go through just one of its museums in New York City and yet I couldn’t cover the entirety of it. It is MASSIVE and needs probably days and weeks to be able to relish the historic pieces with time and understanding. If I had more time, and by gawd I wish I did, I would just scribble away in my notebook, making quick sketches and marveling at the many slices of history displayed.

The stunning facade of The Metropolitan Museum of Art on Fifth Avenue

Located at 1000 Fifth Avenue, The Met is one of the largest art museums in the US and is home to collections of art and history over the 5,000 years. That is quite something, isn’t it? There are three main sites in the city, The Met Fifth Avenue (which I had the pleasure to visit), The Met Breuer and The Met Cloisters. Founded in 1870, The Met is a must-visit spot in the city, not just for kids to gawk at artifacts from the Egyptian Civilisation (my heart jumped with joy) or amble through the plethora of paintings that left me mystified, or even more by the ancient Chinese and Japanese sculpture, paintings, and a thousand different things to beguile me. I was nothing short of mesmerised at this museum.

This year, the key exhibition, among the many on display was the new Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute exhibition, ‘Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination’ that opened in May. Most of you will remember this thanks to the annual Met Gala which is a fundraising event for the museum, hitting all the main headlines that day. And this year, the dress code was Sunday Best, in line with the launch of this special exhibition.

I did not know what hit me when I walked down those majestic, pristine marble stairs and entered an underground space that sparkled. Since photography was prohibited here, I have no pictorial representation to explain just how the papal robes and vestments glittered and shone under those focus lights.

There is no way I can merely describe how their clothes were stitched with hands of the divine, the textures and variety of materials used, the rubies, sapphires, diamonds and emeralds that adorned them probably gave them a natural halo. Imagine the finest of clothes made of silk and silken thread, gold tinsel and studs, opulent robes befitting the king or queen of England. It was ethereal, and shocking. This exhibit​​ion was on loan from the Vatican, I think that would be a correct term, and it gives the world a peek into the plush life they probably lead/led.

I could digress into a monologue on the Catholic Church but that is not what I wish to focus on. I want to focus strictly on these earthly riches. But this is exactly what fashion or art is meant to do; it is meant to get us talking more openly, discussing issues that makes us uncomfortable, and try to draw connections between two not-so-seemingly mutually exclusive aspects.

Catholic icons and symbols have always inspired designers. The collection at ground level showcases the designs by Coco Chanel, Valentino, Versace, Cristóbal Balenciaga, Dior and countless others.

Religion has shaped the world in a remarkable way, be it for good or bad, and fashion through the ages is testament to how much we have been influenced by the Catholic Church and its icons. Be it the silhouettes or the opulent over-the-top adornments, fashion has been heavily inspired by the celestial.

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