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“Heavenly Bodies Fashion & Catholic imagination.”


The Met Museum announces the theme of the annual Costume Institute exhibition for 2018

“Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination”

D&G catholic




I cannot deny I am eagerly awaiting to see some images of this exhibition and will be very interested to see the creations on the Met Ball red carpet on 7th May, I would imagine there will be some controversy concerning how far some celebrities will go to upstage each other!!

MET hevenly

I’ve always had a curious fascination with The Roman Catholic religion which probably stems from my very early years, growing up in the inner city of Liverpool in the 60’s.

Whether you were a “Proddydog” (Protestant) or a “Catlic” (Catholic) was an important part of your identity then. I cannot say I was privy to any real hostility though, albeit me being in the minority group (I was a “Proddydog” a Protestant, I was baptised in the Church of England, although my father was a Catholic and my Myself 1960'smother C of E, my parents married in a C of E church – this was deemed as a “Mixed Marriage” in those days!) As most are aware a large number of Irish descendants here in Liverpool originate from the city’s port being close to Ireland, which made it in easy reach for all those escaping the potato famine during the 1800s

The majority of the kids in my neighbourhood were Catholic, and went to the local school/church ‘St Anne’s’ – my school/church was a little further and much smaller ‘St Catherine’s’. Most schools were church schools then!

We were all very courteous of religion, as children, our playground was the street, (no gardens or play areas for us, not a tree in sight!) but if there had been a bereavement we were not allowed to play anywhere near the bereaved family’s home, all the houses in the street would respectfully have their curtains closed until after the funeral. Should a funeral cortege go past we would all stop in our tracks and bow our heads, the Catholics would make the sign of the cross or even genuflect, they would do this on passing a Catholic church too. Now, this is where I think my fascination started, it was those rituals those differences!

You see ‘We’ didn’t do ‘that’!!! … On Sundays, the deafening church bells of St Anne’s would seem to ring continuously but I always remember the fear instilled into my friends if they had missed Mass in the morning and then had not rectified the ‘sin’ by attending evening Mass, as God forbid if they could not relay the colour of the robes the priest had worn!!! ‘We’ had Sunday school but it was no big punishment if you had not attended! ‘They’ made their first Holy Communion and wore beautiful white dresses on this special day of which I remember there being lots of fuss over, so although I quite liked the idea of dressing up as a little bride complete with veil, (and don’t even start me on Rosary beads) as for the rest of the “Hoo-ha!” I wasn’t really interested in!

The strongest fascination by far though was the sheer beauty and magnificence I was to behold on entering this mystical kingdom for the first time.


St Annes Catholic Church, Edge Hill, Liverpool – Photo:- Liverpool City Group


I had always gazed adoringly at the Nativity scene lit up outside St Anne’s church at Christmastime, ‘Our Lady’ gazing into the eyes of that little cold and naked newborn baby Jesus (well ‘their’ Lady as they seemed to have claimed her, she was just Mary to us) but never had I entered this holy place.

Then in 1966, I was to be a bridesmaid for my Aunt, and here I was about to, not just enter the place but follow the bride up the aisle toward the altar. I was star struck by the grandeur, the beautiful icons, and the jewelled lanterns the sheer opulence, – the ceremony, the Latin verse, the colour, and the huge gold crucifix…. the whole majestic shebang!!!!! This was another world of which I was not part of – and it fascinated me!

My dad would regularly take me to the wonderful Walker art gallery and again I was always drawn to the religious paintings depicting the bible stories, my favourite painting was Holman Hunt’s ‘Triumph of the innocents’   it was magical, the huge bubbles, the angelic cherubs the fear that King Herod’s soldiers would catch them!!  This is still one of my all-time favourite paintings.

The Triumph of the Innocents 1883-4 by William Holman Hunt 1827-1910

William Holman Hunt ‘Triumph of the Innocent’s’


This enchantment has stayed with me all my life, I have acquired some beautiful religious images and artifacts including a large wooden & brass ecclesiastical crucifix. I am now in the process of embellishing some vintage handbags inspired by Dolce & Gabanna’s beautiful jewelled religious creations.

MLL religious bags 113

Several years ago I ran a small shop selling and importing Mexican furniture and artifacts, which led me to take an interest in Mexican history which once again took me down the road of religion this time with a fusion of Catholicism and Mesoamerican. A colourful and vibrant mix of beliefs to capture anyone’s imagination. ‘Dias de Los Muertos’ (Day of the dead) and it’s beautiful celebratory rituals are very different from the solemn way in which we mark the loss of a loved one here, and is hard for many to understand, just as some may see it as disrespectful or even blasphemous to use religious images in fashion.

A contentious issue ….so we’ll leave it there!!!

Day of dead



One comment on ““Heavenly Bodies Fashion & Catholic imagination.”

  1. Ronnie Hughes
    May 7, 2018

    Beautifully observed. I too grew up in the religious Irish Liverpool of the 60s, though I was born on the Catholic side of what I too experienced as a fairly gentle divide. I’ll be interested in the effects this exhibition has on your shop window?


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This entry was posted on May 7, 2018 by in History of Fashion, media and tagged , , , , , , , .

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