The pope’s resignation not only shocked Catholic believers all over the world but also disappointed fashion lovers. Benedict XVI was indeed the most stylish pope in quite a while. Especially if compared with pope Paul VI (1963-1978) who represented the trough, with his love for purple, grey and beige ordinary clothes, Ratzinger stood out for his unique mix of hyper-classic and modern taste. In any case he had his own style and a fashion signature that landed him in 2007 in the pages of the US magazine Esquire as the “Accessorizer of the year.”
The question for fashion buffs is now what happens with the new pope, will he try to leave his fashion mark or will just wear a plain, simple outfit?
PAPAL FASHION WAR
The first ones to try to address this question are Rome’s top pope clothing boutiques: Gammarelli and Euroclero.
The former was established in 1793 and has had dozens of popes as clients. In their ancient shop near the Pantheon with the portraits of many pontiffs hanging from the wooden walls, they hope they’ll be making the first robe of the next pope as it was the case in 1978 with John Paul II in 1978 and Benedict XVI in 2005.
But many criticized Ratzinger’s very first dress, saying it was way too short, and the pope changed its boutique, choosing Euroclero.
Strategically located near St. Peter’s and in front of Ratzinger’s office before he became pope, Euroclero is also crossing fingers to win the mandate to tailor 3 white robes for the next pope: small, medium and large, to be sure that at least one will fit the newly elected pontiff who is supposed to cheer the crowds right after his election.
RATZINGER’S FASHION LEGACY
But let’s go back to Benedict XVI’s fashion legacy. What was he famous for?
First of all for his hats. Red and very old-looking they also had very weird names.
The first one is the camaur, which has been part of the papal wardrobe since the 12th century. It is a winter hat, made of (red) velvet with an ermine edge.
The other one is the Saturn, also red, very large and old-fashioned.
Another red accessory and probably the most famous are the pope’s cherry red loafers. A hand-made product that was wrongly attributed to Prada, but it was actually made by an Italian shoe artisan who also supplies Bush and Berlusconi.
Why all this love for the red color? Probably because it’s the color of martyrs, those who gave their life for God and the Catholic church.
But Ratzinger also enjoyed wearing contemporary stuff, also to avoid charges of pre-Vatican II fashion statement. In 2007, for the 8th centenary of St. Francis, he was pictured wearing innovative clothes by the Roman fashion house Gattinoni.
Last but not least the pope also commissioned his own eau de cologne, a scent that only he may have, created by one of Italy’s best nose. A perfume maker who also created personalized scents for US and British VIPs such as Madonna and Sting.
WHY A FASHION STYLE?
What’s the point of creating a papal fashion style, you might ask?
The reason is not vanity, of course. If you know Ratzinger, you can bet he was a very simple man with a lot of theological and intellectual issues on his mind, not futile stuff.
Well the rationale for this is actually very important. Elegance is meant to highlight the role of the pope and mark a clear distinction, for example, from jeans-wearing priests. No role confusion, please, the outgoing pope must have thought.
It is a form of respect for the figure of the pope but for believers, too. It’s a way to make liturgy easier to grasp and enjoy.