Picture from The Costume Institute's exhibit with a mannequin outfitted in clothing with a golden hue and angelic wings via Mad Hatters NYC Blog.

Heaven, Hell and A Heist: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination at The Met

The Met Museum is so iconic and so synonymous with New York City that every time I approach the steps, a little highlight reel plays in my head. The scene from When Harry Met Sally where Billy Crystal says in a funny voice, “Waiter, there is too much pepper on my paprikash, but I would love to partake in your pecan pie.” Blair and Serena’s power lunches from Gossip Girl. Toulouse-Lautrec’s The Sofa. The Psycho Barn reproduction on the roof a couple of years ago. It’s where my New York City fantasy and reality worlds collide, and it never gets old. But nothing gets me more excited than trekking to the annual Costume Institute Exhibit every summer.

Yves Saint Laurent Statuary Vestment on display at Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art via Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Yves Saint Laurent, tiara in collaboration with Goossens, 1985
Jean Paul Gaultier evening ensemble on display at Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art via Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Jean Paul Gaultier, 2007

The season kicks off every year with the Met Gala, and it always proves to be the perfect primer for the exhibit. This year’s theme, Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination, presented us with celebrities in halos and bedazzled papal headgear (officially called mitre, in case it pops up in a trivia session someday!). But there are a couple of things about this year’s exhibit that make it a particularly fun one to attend.

When you drop by The Anna Wintour Costume Center, you’ll find some amazing papal robes and accessories on display. But this year, the Costume Institute Exhibit at The Met Fifth Avenue is also displayed in the Byzantine and Medieval galleries and continues into part of the Robert Lehman Wing. Additional pieces can also be found on display at the Met Cloisters, the museum’s branch dedicated to art from medieval Europe. It’s a simple, but genius, move. Having fashion interspersed with art allows you to draw parallels between the two, seeing where points of inspiration overlap. For me, fashion isn’t about cute outfits, but about seeing how designers go beyond the utility of clothing. This exhibit makes that so much more tangible.

Gianni Versace evening top on display at Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art via Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Gianni Versace, 1991-1992
Alexander McQueen ensemble on display at Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art via Mad Hatters NYC Blog
Alexander McQueen for House of Givenchy, 1999

John Galliano Madonna Wedding Ensemble on display at Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art via Mad Hatters NYC Blog
John Galliano for House of Dior, 2005-2006

The other unique thing about the Costume Institute Exhibit this year isn’t found in The Met, but in the movie theaters: the delightfully entertaining Ocean’s 8. The movie is a spin-off of the Ocean’s trilogy (which was in turn based on the 1960 Rat Pack original), and features a stellar all-female cast planning a heist that takes place… at the Met Gala. The movie takes you inside the glitzy affair, with cameos from many celebrities and fashion designers to seal the deal. You get to see real and fake celebrities dine at the Temple of Dendur, which is where the real Met Gala dinner takes place. I hate to admit it: having a meal at the Temple of Dendur is a fantasy I never knew I had up until that moment.

So whether you’re a fan of fashion, art, The Met, heist movies, or Mindy Kaling, make your way to The Met for the Costume Institute Exhibit. And then grab some popcorn and settle in at Ocean’s 8. I promise you, it’s a fun ride.

Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination is on display at Met Fifth Avenue and Met Cloisters through October 8.

Note: For a glimpse of what’s on display at the Met Cloisters, check out this post by our NYC blogger buddy Rendezvous in New York. And if this is your first Costume Institute exhibit, I encourage you to explore these from the prior years: Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between and Manus X Machina.

1000 Fifth Ave

Sun-Thu 10:00 am–5:30 pm
Fri and Sat 10:00 am–9:00 pm

Pair it with:

A meal at Veselka

There’s a scene in the Ocean’s 8 where two of the characters are plotting and…(gasp!) eating. And it takes place in Veselka. Veselka is an iconic Ukrainian diner in the East Village, and we’re big fans (so much so that we featured it in this brunch post). But Veselka isn’t just for brunch. It’s open 24 hours a day and seems highly suitable for planning a heist, a party, or a weekend trip–diner’s choice. So why not let your fantasy and reality worlds collide over some pierogies or stuffed cabbage?

144 2nd Ave

Open 24 hours


A post shared by The Halal Guys (@thehalalguys) on

Grab some Halal Cart. While our favorite Halal Guys food truck isn’t featured in the movie, there’s definitely a Halal Food Truck tie-in. But you’ll have to watch the movie to find out why 🙂

– L.


17 thoughts on “Heaven, Hell and A Heist: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination at The Met”

    1. Thanks for reading, JAM! The Costume Institute really knows how to put on a show, and it’s the kind of exhibit I try to sneak to more than once. While last year’s exhibit was a little more fashion-centric, I feel that the religious theme this year really appeals to a broader audience. I’d love to hear your thoughts!

  1. Hey Lynn! Your pictures are wonderful and you say that you aren’t a photographer! I still haven’t been to Veselka., I know, I know there is no excuse. Thank you for mentioning me in your post. I still have to go to Fifth Avenue to see these designs and this was the incentive that i needed.

    1. You’re too kind, Trudy! I think the theme really allowed them to curate items across so many periods, which was really enjoyable. I’m sure it’ll be fun for you to take in all the other pieces, having visited the Met Cloisters already.

      And Veselka is a must! I know you tend to choose more vegetarian/vegan options when you eat out, and they have some really delicious ones there 🙂

      1. I do try to minimize how much meat I take in but I will make a point to get there before winter. I’ve been kind of hermit-like this Summer. So I need to turn that around. Veselka had been on my list ever since I saw Nick and Nora’s Infinite Playlist and I wanted to trace their path for that night, although a lot of the places no longer exist.

        1. I love that movie too! It’s tragic how many places no longer exist, but the ones that are still around are survivors for a reason 🙂 Veselka is perfect for colder weather too, maybe we’ve found the spot for our next meetup!

  2. This was lovely! You guys really captured the feel of the works on display – I almost felt like the pictures you took of the objects were more like portraits of the objects. Really well done!

    I also love the discussion about the juxtaposition of “clothes” with art – not sure how familiar you are with the subject, but there is a HUGE debate in art history between “art” – i.e. painting, sculpture, and architecture (considered ‘high culture’) and “material culture” – i.e. prints, drawings, objects, clothes, ceramics, etc. (considered ‘low culture’ by those who think art is exclusively painting, sculpture, and architecture). The two rarely mix and often look down upon one another for various reasons. So it’s great to see an institution like the Met presenting the two together in one unified space. Thanks for a great post – and of course Veselka is a favorite for me, too 🙂

    1. I wasn’t aware of that debate, but I’ve always had a problem with elitism in art! I think that’s at the core of why we love street art. I didn’t realize what The Met was doing was so controversial, but I’m much more appreciative now that you’ve enlightened me 😉

      I’m such a sucker for movies and TV shows set in New York City, and I get abnormally excited over seeing my favorite restaurants featured. I was craving stuffed cabbage during the movie!

  3. Dining in the Temple of Dendur? Now that would be something. I’ve been meaning to see Ocean’s 8 and you’ve given me a little push. Funnily enough, I just read a murder mystery where the action was set in the Met during the gala, and a fashion show was held in the Temple of Dendur.

    I’d love to see the Costume Institute Exhibit. This one sounds especially wonderful with the costumes interspersed with the art. Similar concept to something they do at the MIA here, Art in Bloom, where flower arrangements are displayed by the piece of artwork that inspired them. As always, you’ve inspired me with more love for the Met and for NYC. 🙂

    1. Thanks so much, Cynthia, but I’m not sure I can take credit for inspiring more Met love 😉 Art in Bloom sounds right up our alley, we’re actually huge fans of the New York Botanical Garden. Might have to plan a trip out your way one of these days to catch it!

      And I’d love to know the name of that book! It sounds like the Met Gala is an irresistible backdrop for many a writer. And why wouldn’t it be?

  4. Must make it to the MET, looking at your pics, makes me want to go more.
    But we went to the Cloisters for the same exhibit and it was AMAZING!!!
    I really think you would enjoy the outfits there as well.
    I have book marked Veselka– Good to know they have a bunch of vegan options.

    1. Hey, Tara! I really would love to make it out to the Cloisters to see the rest of the exhibit. We love Fort Tryon Park and the amazing views, so I’ve been dying to go back! 🙂

      I personally love the vegetarian stuffed cabbage at Veselka, it’s my go-to dish! Would love to hear what you think.

      1. Will write back when I do make it to Veselka. 🙂
        And yes– views from the cloisters are amazing.
        But this visit was very special. The exhibit has perfect music playing for the costume exhibit. Hope you make it.

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