This week I learned something new: there is such a thing as the Met Gala. And something else: there was once a cohesive, classic design movement called “the Catholic Imagination.” And something more: there is now incontrovertible, well-documented proof that there is no such thing a shame. As Tuesday made garishly evident, vanity never goes out of style.
Having lived in Manhattan for five years, I am proud to say that I have been to the Met many times, have in fact had a semi-casual acquaintance with it (and its sister up the hill, the Cloisters), and thus know how wonderful a place it is. I have even been there on a Monday (a thing anyone acquainted with the Met will know is a pretty special occasion).
So I am in no way intending to disparage or indict such an indispensable cultural institution. If my beef is with any branch, it is with the Costume Institute, which it seems claims the most responsibility for the elaborate dress-up session. But how can I fault the center responsible for generally pulling off exhibitions as culturally innocuous as “Man and the Horse: An Illustrated History of Equestrian Apparel”? Jockey’s keep mostly to the track, and “the horse” has it pretty good after its prime (my last trip to Kentucky revealed that there are such things as “horse retirement farms” (no seriously)).
Well, it seems that the Institute has finally broken its harmless streak with “Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination.” This year the highest fashionable powers that be happened to land on a subject or theme that was almost guaranteed to offend at least some unimportant Catholics and definitely did offend at least one self-important non-Catholic. Because the event, in my eyes, was nothing less than a scandal to theological decorum (because there is such a thing, according to me).