The new pope's new robes
(CBS News) ROME -- Monday brought the first glimpse of a new fashion line, and these garments take "haute couture" to an entirely new level. Three robes have been tailored, and one of them will adorn the new pope when he makes his first public appearance.
The Gammarelli garment firm has been in business for 200 years, and crafting the papal robes for much of that time. It's a challenge, reports CBS News correspondent Allen Pizzey, because no one knows who the robes are supposed to fit until it's time to put them on, and there's no time for pinning up or letting down between the pope being chosen and his first appearance on the balcony of St Peter's Basilica.
Lorenzo Gammarelli hopes the world audience doesn't think it's the best his tailors can do.
"It's not made especially for him. We try to make one that could fit more or less any pope," he explains. "We are making three, because we don't know who the pope will be, so we are, roughly speaking, making on small, one medium, one large. We hope it will fit."
The one for Benedict was a bit too short, and someone accidentally switched the tags on the robes for Pope John XXIII, so he ended up with the wrong size, which was left open at the back for the big appearance.
That, knows Gammarelli, is not the way to win over such an A-list customer. The garment maker says there's never any guarantee that a new pope will chose to continue buying from him.
"The Pope does what he wants, so he chooses. He decides." Asked whether, in the past, pontiffs have primarily chosen his company to do their tailoring, however, Gammarelli concedes that the Vatican has provided relatively loyal customers.
For those who don't need a bespoke tailor, there are dozens of stores in Rome that cater for priests and nuns.
Barbiconi has been in the clerical garments business since the 1800s. Owner Francesco Barbiconi says one reason for that longevity is that men of the cloth aren't into trends.
He says that while popular fashion changes every year, or even twice a year, he might only need to "change the design and the fabric every ten years."
The variety in this business, is in the work involved. Bishop's mitres, for example, range in price from just over $100, to more than $1,000. Communion chalices are favorite items to mark special occasions. A simple brass one goes for about $200, but opt for a silver one with fine engraving and you'll be spilling as much as five times that.
Seminarian Brother Omar Landa came into the shop for a couple shirts, but he's asked his parents to give him a chalice when he's ordained.
"For me, it's a special gift, because with the chalice, I'm gonna celebrate my first mass and also I'm gonna bring the blood of Christ to the Earth, so that's why it has special meaning for me," Landa explains.
Special, but not quite as special as the robes sitting in Gammarelli's shop, perhaps.
The three different sizes will remain on display until the conclave is announced, then they have to be taken to the Sistine Chapel, ready and waiting to dress whomever emerges as pope. The Gammarelli tailors can only hope they fit -- even if only more or less.
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