Art & Culture

Deepika Padukone needs lessons in fashion that it isn’t about looking pretty

Chinki Sinha
Chinki SinhaMay 09, 2018 | 14:00

Deepika Padukone needs lessons in fashion that it isn’t about looking pretty

As the “pagan” along with Renaissance angels and Rihanna dressed as the Pope walked the Met Gala 2018 red carpet, the sartorial symbolism was lost on Deepika Padukone who looked “pretty” in her Prabal Gurung gown with a high slit but she failed to take a leap of faith again.

Consider the mavericks and the daredevils like actor Lena Waithe, who wore a rainbow flag cape as a comment on the troubled and complicated relationship of the LGBTQ community with the Catholic Church. She said to the New York Times: “You were made in God’s image, right?”


lena-waith_050918015955.jpgLena Waithe: the daredevil. Photo: Reuters

An intelligent take on the theme Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination, which took the curator many years to get approval from the Vatican, Katy Perry’s Versace gold dress and boots paired with a six-foot white feathered wingspan was the representation of the archangel Gabriel. Then, there was Frances McDormand who wore a Valentino butterfly headdress and said she had come as a “pagan”.

reu-t_050918015317.jpgPagan wonder. Photo: Reuters

Unlike most fashion events, the Met Gala red carpet is all about metaphors and interpretation. It takes its themes seriously and even at the Met Gala red carpet last year, Padukone, who is one of the reigning actors in India, failed to impress with her customary dainty and delicate look that she has been sporting for years, opting for looks that are safe and sexy but clearly not adventurous.

Her stylist could use some essential reading on fashion and metaphors and inspirations. A stylist’s job is not only to make clients look beautiful but also to make them look intelligent with their choices.

And while Padukone strutted in her orange high-slit gown with pulled-back hair, Priyanka Chopra in her Ralph Lauren strapless gown — paired with an embellished gold chain mail coif inspired by the image of a medieval knight that was crafted in India with Swarovski crystals and beadwork, and took over 250 hours of embroidery — was hailed as one of the best-dressed that included the high and the mighty like Rihanna in her embroidered jacquard John Galliano outfit with a headdress similar to that worn by the Pope.



priyanka-reuters_050918014131.jpgAt Met Gala red carpet 2018. Photo: Reuters

Designer Sreejith Jeevan, who is based out of Kochi, wrote on his Facebook page that he felt that “this years #metgala is a wonderful example of how inspiration and religion can co-exist. The fact that fashion, art, literature or design can be inspired by religion and that it can be seen as pure inspiration without the need to take offence by its followers is the hope we need today. (Of course its debatable if the clothes were tasteful or not :P but that's not the point here)” and in a way encapsulated the efforts by the curators to push the boundaries of fashion.

But senior designer Wendell Rodricks wrote that he found the theme offensive to his religious sentiments.

“Is that Sarah Jessica Parker? Or her Grandmom at The Met Gala co-hosted by Rihanna with Anna Wintour? I guess carrying the Nativity scene on your head can age you to Bibilical proportions,” he wrote on his Facebook page, dismissing Parker’s take on the theme.

And the post points out to an old problem of patriarchy and the dismissal of older women on the basis of stereotypical notions of beauty. In a way, Rodricks’ scathing comment about Parker’s look points out to a deeper problem of how designers who consider themselves progressive and showcase collections with plus size models and even transgender models are themselves the perpetrators of the conformist notions of beauty. This amounts to enough evidence on why India’s cosmetic surgery industry is booming. I can understand the “religious sentiment” bit but that can’t absolve Rodricks of the crime of perpetuating the notion that aging is not beautiful.


rihanna_050918014742.jpgRihanna was dressed as Pope. Photo: Reuters

In another post, Rodricks wrote: “As a Christian, I am disgusted at this year’s Met Gala. This event has become an ego massage for Anna Wintour at Vogue to abuse any and every theme they take up each year. But this year it has gone too far. Every Christian Church, including the Vatican, should sue them for defamation and blasphemy for making the crucifix a sex object, DISGRACEFUL and DISGUSTING insult to religious sentiment. Please try this with Islam, Hinduism or Buddhism and face the backlash Ms Wintour.”

At a time when we are going through an identity crisis as a nation and secularism is threatened, this points to the deep-rooted contempt and a shallow understanding of the concept of inspiration. And by the way, the Vatican gave the permission to the curator Andrew Bolton in case Rodricks missed out on that bit of information as he searched Google to dismiss how “Rihanna was channelling being the first woman Pope at the Met Gala” by saying “there was a female Pope Joan in the Middle Ages for a short span in the 850s? But by the 15th century, the church removed her presence altogether and consigned her to being a myth. She was apparently caught out when she gave birth in public and was stoned to death by a furious mob, Yup! Google search”.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s biggest Costume Institute collection Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination features couture from Dolce & Gabbana, Versace, and Schiaparelli alongside 41 pieces of “ecclesiastical dress on loan from the Vatican” and aims to see how the sacred and the profane merge with fashion taking inspiration from Catholicism like Gucci’s interpretation of the role the dress plays within the Catholic Church in musician Lana Del Ray’s quirky and elaborate outfit with the headgear made of blue feathers inspired by Our Lady of Sorrows.

Seven silver and gold daggers pierced the sacred heart with her initials embroidered on her chest.

Bolton said that this was to “raise deeper — and even more provocative — contemplations about the role dress plays within the Roman Catholic Church and the role the Roman Catholic Church plays within the fashionable imagination” and although ambitious, the red carpet was not disappointing, with the designers and celebrities trying to dig deep into the context and come up with interpretations of the characters they encounter within the Church’s religious teachings.

The Met Gala is the annual fundraising event for the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute in New York City and is an invite-only do hosted by Vogue’s Anna Wintour along with others, who are co-hosts handpicked from the guest list.

The "Heavenly Bodies" exhibition features more than 150 designer pieces along with 50 garments and accessories loaned from the Vatican.

And regarding the religious undertones and the showcasing of 14th-century reliquary crosses and 19th-century papal miters, I wonder what Rodricks has to say about Waithe’s rainbow cape, which pointed to the church’s paradoxical views of sex and sexuality.

reut-madonna_050918014928.jpgMadonna. Photo: Reuters

And as the exhibition traces the catholic aesthetic from the “sacred world to the secular”, it features a cross-striated Versace evening dress from 2007 that turns the body into an icon while hugging it tightly among others like a shapeless dress by Viktor & Rolf modelled on the shroud of Turin that hints at death and rebirth.

And with so much that is out there — open to interpretation and expression — an orange sexy gown that Padukone wore and which had nothing to do with the theme, except you could say and only by means of colour that it was almost an allegiance to the reigning Hindutva identity that seemed to have usurped the colour to the point that it leads to absurd associations, points to a lack of understanding of fashion as only meant for decorative purpose and to make the wearer look desirable or pristine or beautiful or sexy.

And while she is all of the above, I wish she was more intelligent with her fashion and more adventurous. In fact, most of Bollywood betrays this limitation, as is evident from the garish and over-the-top lehenga-cholis and daring gowns that the wearers feel make them “fashionistas”.

And for the sake of fashion and art and everything that celebrates expression, I wish Rodricks would have a little more respect for older women and a more expansive and inclusive idea of beauty and less rage. And I wish this with all due respect as he is a senior designer, and as a woman, who will be 40 soon, I would like to say that natural aging is beautiful and if it makes me look my mother or grandmother, it is a beautiful thing.

Aren’t we all our mother’s daughters? And aren’t the wrinkles and fine lines folders that contain memories and experiences — and what is more beautiful than a face with such rivers of stories?

Last updated: May 10, 2018 | 13:50
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