Friday, November 5, 2010

Vatican fashions

An excellent article by Diane La Phung in the French Internet daily Rue 89 examines a fascinating subject: the new style of papal wear introduced by Joseph Ratzinger.

The journalist draws our attention to something we might not have noticed, particularly those of us who don't necessarily devote much time to the adoration of Ratzi's image and the scrutiny of his sartorial habits. Fashions have changed at the Vatican since the death of John-Paul II. Like his thinking, the dress style of Benedict XVI is resolutely turned towards the past. His appearance is reactionary, in harmony with his theology and his worldview. Consider, for example, this golden image of Ratzi wrapped up like a chocolate. The author of the article goes so far as to suggest that Benedict XVI is reintroducing archaic papal fashions that were cast into Purgatory after Vatican II.

Right down to the level of his splendid crimson leather slippers, Ratzi is bedecked in exotic gear that seems to date from the epoch of the Teddy Boy culture, Mods and Rockers, or Greaser culture in the US.

John-Paul II had more rustic tastes in clothing, such as this hand-embroidered chasuble. Today, many of the elegant old-fashioned items of apparel being brought back into fashion by Benedict XVI have simply been taken out of mothballs in the vast Vatican wardrobes. Sometimes this leads to Ratzi wearing stuff that is no longer tolerated by environmentally-aware youth: for example, borders of natural fur, and collars in swan down.

In general, as a good catholic, Benny is fond of the color of blood. My favorite image is that of the pope pulling a dainty red bonnet called the Camauro down over his ears [photo Alessia Pierdomenico/Reuters].

One imagines Ratzi, dressed up like this, jumping into his popemobile and going out to deliver Christmas gifts to the children of Rome.

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