Dressing the next pope

As cardinals preen themselves for their big moment at next month’s conclave, an equally intense rivalry is playing out behind the scenes. For some Italians, just as important as who becomes Pope is who dresses him.

Two distinguished ecclesiastic outfitters are vying to make the ivory-white tunics that the new head of the Roman Catholic Church will wear as he preaches to his flock around the world.

The historic tailor’s shop Gammarelli, near the Pantheon, which has dressed the Roman curia since 1798, is up against the upstart Euroclero, picked by Benedict himself.

The Vatican insisted that, despite claims, the pontiff was “not dressed by Prada but by Christ”. But the bookish German-born theologian did take a close interest in clothes, unlike his predecessor.

Benedict, a diehard traditionalist, has been accused by Church progressives of “turning back the clock” on the papal wardrobe.

He is apt to sport an extra-tall bejewelled mitre in the 19th-century style. He revived the mozzetta, a waist-length cape, and the red velvet fur-trimmed cap known as the camauro, which had fallen out of fashion since the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s. But he also raised eyebrows by wearing sunglasses.

For the 800th anniversary of the conversion of St Francis in 2007, he dressed in a costume by the fashion house Gattinoni, by stylist Guillermo Mariotto. That year Esquire magazine saluted his combination of an “ornate papal habit” with red shoes by naming him the “Accessoriser of the Year”.

Benedict, however, leaves a legacy of sartorial discord that sets the scene for a battle of the new Pope’s wardrobe. Continue reading

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