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Religion in VogueChristianity and Fashion in America$
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Lynn S. Neal

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9781479892709

Published to NYU Press Scholarship Online: September 2020

DOI: 10.18574/nyu/9781479892709.001.0001

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Innovating Religious Dress

Innovating Religious Dress

(p.119) 4 Innovating Religious Dress
Religion in Vogue

Lynn S. Neal

NYU Press

This chapter examines how fashion designers used Catholic religious dress—the attire of priests, monks, and nuns—to inspire and innovate their designs. This ecclesiastical trend expanded fashion’s use and materialization of religion, constituting another step in placing the divine on designer garments. The chapter first addresses how the uniform of Catholic religious became fashionable in the mid-twentieth century. It then investigates the work of specific designers, such as the Fontana sisters, Rudi Gernreich, Cristóbal Balenciaga, and Walter Holmes, who catapulted this trend to popularity in the late 1960s amid a changing American religious landscape. The chapter examines the re-emergence of this trend in the late 1980s and early 1990s. In both time periods, the construction of the designers’ personal biographies and their fashion aesthetics fostered the celebration of some collections and the criticism of others. The chapter concludes with an emphasis on how fashion focused people’s attention on the visual and material experience of religion.

Keywords:   priests, monks, nuns, fashion, Catholicism, religion, Fontana sisters, Rudi Gernreich, Cristobal Balenciaga, Walter Holmes

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