Desginers talk about dressing the pope

8:20 PM, Mar 11, 2013   |    comments
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By Dan Rivers

ROME (CNN) - No matter who is chosen as the next pope, he will be scrutinized for his theology and his governance of the church. But the world will also keep a close watch on his wardrobe.

Dressing the pope is obviously a major honor for any designer.

You might think dressing a pope is easy; the mitre, the mantle, the cape, the papal skullcap and those long white robes. But while the outline is carefully controlled by the Vatican, there are subtle variations, allowing each pope his own sartorial expression.

Benedict XVI famously sported smart red shoes, initially wrongly identified as Prada, which of course only the devil wears.

In fact the shoes were made in a back street shoemaker's near the Vatican by Peruvian cobbler Antonio Arellano.

He says he's incredibly proud to have provided shoes to the pope and hopes the next pontiff will order his footwear here too.

Some of the pope's robes are made at family firm Gamarelli. In the shop window, three outfits ready to take to the Vatican.

"They are in three different sizes one medium one small and one large because we don't know who the next pope will be," said clothing shop owner Lorenzo Gamarelli.

Gullelmo Mariotto is fashion director at Gattinoni, a top Italian couture house. He shows me the workshop where they have made garments for previous popes, including this green mantle embroidered with threads of sack cloth, to represent the humility of St. Francis.

And controversially where they made papal costumes for women, so called popessas, who took part in irreverent fashion show.

But his most serious work was dressing the likes of Pope Benedict XVI, who was harder to design for than John Paul II, whose charisma was easy to reflect.

"In the case of Benedict, it is a different charm, it is more like the priest and the school, the theologist. Not kidding about, plus the German accent, plus he is not the tallest in the world, come on... what can you do," said Mariotto.

He doesn't know who will be the next pope but says in this case the clothes do not maketh the man

"I don't wish a pope that I can dress, I wish a Pope that can fix the problems, that can make me feel I have a pope. Then whatever he is we will dress him with pleasure, with love, with everything, but we need a pope," said Mariotto.

Deciding what to wear is the least of the pope's problems, but for the designers who have to put their own spin on the papal outfit there is no greater challenge than making clothes for the pope.


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