From the Met Ball to Twitter, the renewed interest in faith is more than just a fashion momentby Stephanie Boland / May 8, 2018 / Leave a comment
Rihanna wore a mitre, Sarah Jessica Parker an entire nativity balanced on her head and Ariana Grande a dress printed with a fresco from the Sistine Chapel. This year, the theme of the Met Ball—the yearly fundraising Gala for the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute, overseen by Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour—was “Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination,” and the outfits referenced everything from Joan of Arc to angel’s wings.
Although the event has received censure from some, others are excited to see Catholicism explored in such a high-profile setting. “I’m not sure religion ever left the cultural agenda, but in recent times its more problematic sides have (often quite rightly) been put centre-stage in cultural debate,” Stephanie MacGillivray, who works with the Church, told me. “I love the theme of this year’s Met Ball because I think it offers an opportunity for a genuine dialogue not just between the world of fashion and the Catholic imagination, but in society more widely regarding an exploration of the many different aspects of religion, good and bad.”
“I am sure that some will use it as an opportunity to be critical of faith and religion, but I also hope that it will be used as a way of celebrating what religion is all about: peace, hope, and love, as well as exploring its more mystical side.”
The Met Ball theme isn’t just a reflection of a fashion moment, enshrined in television programs like The Young Pope. It also speaks to a wider cultural moment characterised by an interest in mysticism as much as in irony, the resurgence of faith as much as the loss of certainty. In this sense, it links to several apparently disparate ideas that have recently made their way in to the mainstream—including an interest in other, more out-there forms of spirituality.
In 2015, Alex Mar published her book Witches of America, an investigation into the beliefs and practises of various pagan and new-age groups in the United States. (Although praised by reviewers, her book attracted ire from some pagans, who characterised it as dismissive and “florid.”) Mar was not the only writer who noticed a renewed interest in magic and mysticism. In March of 2016, the Week ran an article asking: “Why is tarot crazy popular all of a sudden?” “New York,” the Village Voice said, “is in the middle of a tarot revival.” More recently, ideas like mindfulness, and even the Shinto-inspired intentionality of Marie Kondo’s popular decluttering guide, The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up, have brought other, diluted forms of spiritualism into the limelight. The app Headspace, with guided meditations rooted in its creator’s Buddhist faith, is a $250 million business.