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Malacology Meets Mode

Shells, but make it fashion

Malacology Meets Mode Janelle Monet

It’s said that art imitates nature as well as it can. Dr. Jann Vendetti, NHM’s Associate Curator of Malacology, has proof. Meticulously pairing some of her favorite species with haute couture, our resident snail specialist presents Lady Gaga as shells! 

DK: What inspired the idea of making these pairings and with Lady Gaga of all fashion icons?

JV: There is an amazing Tumblr called Bowiebranchia in which photos of David Bowie, wearing various ensembles throughout his career, are compared to real photos of sea slugs. It is breathtaking! In a series of emails discussing it, Luis Chiappe, Curator of the Dinosaur Institute and Senior Vice President of Research and Collections, asked if I could do something similar with shells. With David Bowie in mind, I thought about modern musicians and singer-songwriters who embody an experimental and avant-garde spirit of fashion. There are quite a few! Lady Gaga and Janelle Monae topped my list.

DK: In your Science of Slime spotlight, your advice to STEM youth is to maintain curiosity. What spurred your curiosity to become a malacologist?

JV: As a kid I spent a week or two every summer in close proximity to tide pools, which I explored a lot. Once I got acquainted with the wonderful creatures that lived there, many of which were snails, I was hooked. The rest of the year, I read and re-read the books my local library had on natural history and marine invertebrates. 

Now, the fun part. 

lady gaga Nerita tesselata

Photo Credit: Getty Images/Jamie McCarthy (L),James St. John (R)

Nerita tesselata Known as “the checkered nerite,” there’s no doubt this tropical mollusk’s pattern has been adapted in many a couture. Gaga was seen sporting similar classic black and white stripes at the 2015 Met Gala courtesy of famed luxury fashion house Balenciaga.

Gaga tigress

Photo Credit: Getty Images/Jamie McCarthy (L),James St. John (R)

Cypraea tigris Despite its name, this “tiger”-like cowrie bears spots instead of stripes. Its exterior strikes a strong resemblance to animal patterns across the fashion sphere, as seen in Gaga’s leopard print suit designed by Gareth Pugh.

Gaga 3 Thatcheria mirabilis

Photo Credit: WireImage/Jon Furniss (L), James St. John (R)

Thatcheria mirabilis What’s in a name? "Mirabilis” is Latin for “remarkable” or “amazing,” and, unsurprisingly, this marine snail is known as the “Japanese wonder snail.” From apex to toe (or siphonal canal), its cascading form wonder-fully translates into Gaga’s multilayered Francesco Scognamiglio dress at the 2010 Brit Awards.

Malacology Meets Mode Lady Gaga Calliostoma annulatum

Photo Credit: Getty Images/Jason Merritt (L), Steve Lonhart (R)

Calliostoma annulatum With its colorful whorls of gold, magenta, and violet, it’s possible this Pacific coast-dwelling sea snail influenced Gaga’s 2010 Grammy’s space orbit dress designed by Giorgio Armani.

Lady Gaga Cittarium pica Malacology Meets Mode

Photo Credit: AAR/Fame Pictures (L), Seashell Supply (R)

Cittarium pica A pattern dating back to between 360 and 100 BC, the iconic “houndstooth” and its abstract four-pointed shapes is prominent in both Gaga’s Salvatore Ferragamo suit and this marine snail.

Lady Gaga Mitra mitra Malacology Meets Mode

Photo Credit: Getty Images/SAV (L), Worth Point (R)

Mitra mitra is known for preying and feeding on gastropods and bivalves. Carnivorous attributes aside, the sea snail’s vibrant exterior matches well with Gaga’s Tanya Taylor pinwheel sweater skirt set.

Lady Gaga Janthina janthina Malacology Meets Mode

Photo Credit: Getty Images/Frazer Harrison (L), Mike Kelly (R)

Janthina janthina Who could forget this glamorous Golden Globe Awards dress? Designed by none other than Valentino, Dr. Vendetti’s favorite species of sea snail perfectly compliments Gaga’s elegant 2019 red carpet look.

Lady Gaga Haliotis glabra

Photo Credit: Getty Images/Kevin Winter (L), OSA Publishing/T. L. Tan, D. Wong, P. Lee (R)

Haliotis glabra Shining, shimmering, glistening. With a mix of its emerald and olive hues, Haliotis glabra may have found its match in Gaga’s 2020 MTV VMA gown by designer Christoper John Rogers.

Lady Gaga Murex pecten Malacology Meets Mode

Murex pecten Another predatory sea snail, Murex pecten—also known as Venus combs—can grow between 4 to 6 inches in length, spines and all. Could designer Iris van Herpen have looked to its fragile and stunning structure for Gaga’s multi-colored 2020 MTV VMA ensemble? Dr. Vendetti votes yes!

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Nerita tesselata Known as “the checkered nerite,” there’s no doubt this tropical mollusk’s pattern has been adapted in many a couture. Gaga was seen sporting similar classic black and white stripes at the 2015 Met Gala courtesy of famed luxury fashion house Balenciaga.

Photo Credit: Getty Images/Jamie McCarthy (L),James St. John (R)

Cypraea tigris Despite its name, this “tiger”-like cowrie bears spots instead of stripes. Its exterior strikes a strong resemblance to animal patterns across the fashion sphere, as seen in Gaga’s leopard print suit designed by Gareth Pugh.

Photo Credit: Getty Images/Jamie McCarthy (L),James St. John (R)

Thatcheria mirabilis What’s in a name? "Mirabilis” is Latin for “remarkable” or “amazing,” and, unsurprisingly, this marine snail is known as the “Japanese wonder snail.” From apex to toe (or siphonal canal), its cascading form wonder-fully translates into Gaga’s multilayered Francesco Scognamiglio dress at the 2010 Brit Awards.

Photo Credit: WireImage/Jon Furniss (L), James St. John (R)

Calliostoma annulatum With its colorful whorls of gold, magenta, and violet, it’s possible this Pacific coast-dwelling sea snail influenced Gaga’s 2010 Grammy’s space orbit dress designed by Giorgio Armani.

Photo Credit: Getty Images/Jason Merritt (L), Steve Lonhart (R)

Cittarium pica A pattern dating back to between 360 and 100 BC, the iconic “houndstooth” and its abstract four-pointed shapes is prominent in both Gaga’s Salvatore Ferragamo suit and this marine snail.

Photo Credit: AAR/Fame Pictures (L), Seashell Supply (R)

Mitra mitra is known for preying and feeding on gastropods and bivalves. Carnivorous attributes aside, the sea snail’s vibrant exterior matches well with Gaga’s Tanya Taylor pinwheel sweater skirt set.

Photo Credit: Getty Images/SAV (L), Worth Point (R)

Janthina janthina Who could forget this glamorous Golden Globe Awards dress? Designed by none other than Valentino, Dr. Vendetti’s favorite species of sea snail perfectly compliments Gaga’s elegant 2019 red carpet look.

Photo Credit: Getty Images/Frazer Harrison (L), Mike Kelly (R)

Haliotis glabra Shining, shimmering, glistening. With a mix of its emerald and olive hues, Haliotis glabra may have found its match in Gaga’s 2020 MTV VMA gown by designer Christoper John Rogers.

Photo Credit: Getty Images/Kevin Winter (L), OSA Publishing/T. L. Tan, D. Wong, P. Lee (R)

Murex pecten Another predatory sea snail, Murex pecten—also known as Venus combs—can grow between 4 to 6 inches in length, spines and all. Could designer Iris van Herpen have looked to its fragile and stunning structure for Gaga’s multi-colored 2020 MTV VMA ensemble? Dr. Vendetti votes yes!

 

Interested in more malacology? Tune in to Dr. Vendetti’s Meet a Scientist session here on NHM’s official YouTube Channel, and be sure to see more of her malacology matches below.

Janelle Monae as Cryptospira elegans

Photo Credit: Getty Images (L), ViaNetConchology (R)

Janelle Monae as Cryptospira elegans

Cynthia Erivo as Babelomurex habui

Photo Credit: Shutterstock/Matt Baron (L), George Sangiouloglou, Guido Poppe (R)

Cynthia Erivo as Babelomurex habui 

Frances McDormand as Oliva dactyliola

Photo Credit: Kevin Winter/Getty Images (L), George Sangiouloglou, Guido Poppe (R)

Frances McDormand as Oliva dactyliola 

Lupita Nyong’o as Turbo imperialis

Photo Credit: Getty Images (L), H. Zell (R)

Lupita Nyong’o as Turbo imperialis 

Julia Roberts as Cribrarula cribraria

Photo Credit: Buena Vista Pictures (L), De Donder Shells (R)

Julia Roberts as Cribrarula cribraria

Taylor Swift as Engina mendicaria

Photo Credit: Getty Images for iHeartMedia (L), H. Zell (R)

Taylor Swift as Engina mendicaria

Zendaya as Arcidens confragosus

Photo Credit: Andres Otero (L), Martin Kohl (R)

Zendaya as Arcidens confragosus

Marilyn Monroe as Callistocypraea aurantium

Photo Credit: AF archive / Alamy Stock Photo (L), eBay (R)

Marilyn Monroe as Callistocypraea aurantium

And finally, is this Tonna sulcosa shell white and gold, or black and blue?

Photo Credit: Tumblr/swiked (L), eBay (R)

And finally, is this Tonna sulcosa shell white and gold, or black and blue?

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Janelle Monae as Cryptospira elegans

Photo Credit: Getty Images (L), ViaNetConchology (R)

Cynthia Erivo as Babelomurex habui 

Photo Credit: Shutterstock/Matt Baron (L), George Sangiouloglou, Guido Poppe (R)

Frances McDormand as Oliva dactyliola 

Photo Credit: Kevin Winter/Getty Images (L), George Sangiouloglou, Guido Poppe (R)

Lupita Nyong’o as Turbo imperialis 

Photo Credit: Getty Images (L), H. Zell (R)

Julia Roberts as Cribrarula cribraria

Photo Credit: Buena Vista Pictures (L), De Donder Shells (R)

Taylor Swift as Engina mendicaria

Photo Credit: Getty Images for iHeartMedia (L), H. Zell (R)

Zendaya as Arcidens confragosus

Photo Credit: Andres Otero (L), Martin Kohl (R)

Marilyn Monroe as Callistocypraea aurantium

Photo Credit: AF archive / Alamy Stock Photo (L), eBay (R)

And finally, is this Tonna sulcosa shell white and gold, or black and blue?

Photo Credit: Tumblr/swiked (L), eBay (R)

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