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Addison Rae for Praying, the 2018 Met Gala, and the Kravis Wedding: Christianity in Fashion

It’s 1999. A brunette Sarah Michelle Gellar plays bitchy villainess Kathryn in Cruel Intentions; she picks up the rosary around her neck, and pulls the cross apart, to reveal a small spoon filled with cocaine. She raises it to her nose and breathes in... In the 2010s, singer Lana Del Rey releases a rosary-inspired necklace, that opens to reveal a small spoon, just like Kathryn's.

It’s 2007. Jean Paul Gaultier’s Spring collection takes inspiration from the Renaissance, specifically its imagery of Catholicism. To this day, this collection is one of the brand’s most iconic lines.

It's 2018. The Met Gala's annual costume exhibition is titled 'Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination.' Celebrities and guests wear an array of Christianity-inspired looks, including dressing like a chic Pope in Rihanna's case.

It's 2022. Kourtney Kardashian and Blink-182's Travis Barker wed in Italy, their wedding dripping in Christian imagery.

And now, the fashion brand Praying has found itself in unholy waters due to its collaboration with Addison Rae. The TikTok star wore their Holy Trinity bikini, an item that has been famous amongst fashion girls for the past year — however, in Addison Rae wearing it, a new audience has discovered. An audience that finds the bikini irreparably offensive.

Praying is the love child of Alexander Haddad and Skylar Newman, who used their experience in graphic design and designing Netflix merchandise to create tongue-in-cheek slogan products. They have Brangelina memorial shoulder bags, sweatshirts of Princess Diana’s Beanie Baby, a shoulder bag with Twilight’s Bella and Edward saying ‘Always Forgotten/Remembered Never.’ It’s safe to say that their designs aren’t to be taken seriously, and these ironic designs have soared to popularity the past year. Their Instagram has their products badly Photoshopped onto celebrities, and their product shoots invoke 2010s soft-grunge Tumblr. Think those flash images about Wonderland being dead, or Sky Ferreira’s early aesthetic.

White sweatshirt with purple bear. White shoulder bag with man and woman. Woman with white shoulder bag to her side.
'Diana (Forever in Our Hearts)' sweatshirt via Orion Carloto (@orionvanessa on Instagram), 'Vampire Love' shoulder bag via Olivia Rodrigo (@oliviarodrigo on Instagram), and 'Brangelina' shoulder bag via Devon Lee Carlson (@devonleecarlson on Instagram)

Their ‘Holy Trinity’ bikini is one of their bestsellers. ‘Father’, ‘Son’, and ‘Holy Spirit’ are printed across the bikini cups and crotch, echoing another fan-favourite of theirs, the ‘God’s Favourite’ t-shirt. But last week, Addison Rae posed in this bikini on her Instagram, and has since had to take the post down due to the amount of backlash. Fans of Rae are calling her ‘blasphemous’ — whilst this is certainly true, it is questionable that the bikini has only now received controversy, when it has been on the market for a year. Praying’s own Instagram has been flooded with comments demanding they close their entire business, but they are yet to make an actual statement. (They have, however, posted several pictures since — one of a Facebook Mum-esque Bible quote, reading, ‘Father, forgive them, for they know what they do,’ and another of a model in the outrageous bikini, captioned, ‘Now I know how Joan of Arc felt.’ Even the indirect responses scream the brand’s cheekiness.)

Christina Aguilera in a white bikini with French text. Vic de Angelis lying on sofa wearing a white bikini.
Christina Aguilera and Vic de Angelis of Mäneskin, both in the Praying bikini
Blonde girl stands in front of portrait of Mary, mother of Jesus.
Writer Dakota Warren, @fairy_bl00d on Instagram, in front. of a portrait of the Virgin Mary.

What’s particularly interesting is that all of this comes weeks after the newest fashion aesthetic on TikTok, ‘Catholic Girl Summer,’ where girls wear gold cross necklaces alongside flowing summer dresses, trying to emulate the innocence often perceived with religion. Before this, countless fashion aesthetics have borrowed imagery from Catholicism. ‘Dark Academia,’ for example, is not religious in nature, however many of its followers take inspiration from literature and the Renaissance. Dark Academia, in its attempt to emulate a well-versed student spending their free time in art galleries, inadvertently references religion.

And there is nothing wrong with this. Since the dawn of time, humans have been influenced by religion, and by artworks inspired by religion. In fact, countless works of literature to this day are inspired by the Bible. The same can be said for art. Renaissance artists took heavy inspiration from Catholicism, just like any other era in history, and many of their greatest pieces were commissions for churches.

An important thing to consider is that religion is not just one’s personal beliefs, but also, the tradition surrounding it. For many centuries, Europe was reigned by not just monarchies, but Catholicism, and laws reflected this. We joke about it now, but the Church of England was established because the Catholic Church didn’t allow divorce. Something that has nothing to do with one’s beliefs is, in fact, influenced by the Church. And as a result, many creatives are going to feel drawn to create pieces reflecting their beliefs, and their upbringing within Christianity.

Having been raised Catholic, I am naturally drawn to art and literature with religious connotations. In fact, it was the 2018 Met Gala, ‘Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination’ that made me realise fashion was an extension of art. So when I discovered Praying last year, I loved the playful mockery of their designs. I thought the Twilight and Brangelina bags were funny, and when they released the Holy Trinity bikini, I thought it was clever. But, of course, the bikini has been met with criticism now that Addison Rae has worn it.

Bizarrely, other celebrities have worn the bikini, however it is only Addison Rae that has received controversy. Most notably, Christina Aguilera wore the same bikini the same week as Rae, however with the text in French. The difference between the two is public perception. In the 00s, Christina Aguilera was heavily sexualised and seen as Britney Spears' controversial counterpart, whereas Addison Rae is not perceived this way. Did Aguilera get away with no backlash, because her fans don’t care about the design?

The Polyester Podcast highlighted people’s desire to subvert religion into their aesthetic, especially when Christianity often links to conservatism. Since the establishment of Christianity, people have used the religion within their art and self-expression. Although Praying did not intend to make any statement with this piece, wearers may feel differently. After the past few months with Roe vs Wade, where Christianity is a big reason why people can no longer receive safe abortions, why not plaster the Holy Trinity across the body parts being dictated by others?

Written and edited by Lucy Eaton


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