He may never make the best-dressed lists, but Pope Benedict XVI is nothing short of a religious-fashion icon, riding in the Popemobile with red Prada loafers under his cassock and Gucci shades. But his penchant for designer wear and a move to ditch the papal tailors who have dressed popes for more than 200 years are causing new wrinkles in the Vatican.
Benedict has favored his tailor from his days as cardinal, Alessandro Cattaneo, and the 20-year-old religious-fashion house of Raniero Mancinelli, which has provided the pope with dazzling new vestments (some with shimmering, sequinlike details). At risk of losing the papal-dress contract are the Annibale Gammarelli tailors, who have made papal wear since 1792. But they blundered when Benedict had to make his debut blessing in a cassock that was too short, ending just above his ankles. Subsequent celebratory vestments made by Gammarelli are reported to have made the pope uncomfortable.
The Vatican won't comment on papal attire, and Gammarelli denies it is getting the ax: "We are still in contact with the Holy Father. Perhaps there was only an occasional gift by some friend of the pontiff," the tailor says.