Papal tailors are feeling the pinch. Pope Benedict is well-known for his ecclesiastical style and during his reign business was booming. Francis has lectured his priests that if they are to be true shepherds they must smell of the sheep. Priests are listening and business is suffering.
The tailors all say the same: ecclesiastical glamour is out, humility is in (https://cruxnow.com/vatican/2017/06/12/vatican-tailors-cobblers-try-adapt-franciss-papal-athleisure/).
Is Francis right about this? Is it true that fashion cannot teach humility?
A new fashion exhibit in Italy says not. The clothes play off against one another to focus the mind on the ephemeral and brittle in fashion (https://www.businessoffashion.com/articles/opinion/what-olivier-saillards-ephemeral-museum-reveals-about-fashion-fragility-and-decay?utm_source=Subscribers&utm_campaign=480bd69c5d-the-truth-about-ready-to-wear-crisis-at-lanvin-how&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_d2191372b3-480bd69c5d-417297929).
If fashion can teach us about fragility, it must direct our minds to eternal things. Unless fashion is ontologically extremely peculiar, it must be able to convey humility. From Augustine to Przywara, theology has taken music to be revelatory of what is: music takes us to the heart of metaphysics, to the humbling relationship between God and creation. Fashion, like music, is an aesthetics in which order and change, structure and time, form and motion, are put in play. If music can tell us about God, there is no reason why fashion must be mute.
Francis might say that there are glaring differences: one concerns the ear, one the eye. I will try to unpack this more soon, but, minimally, there must be significant continuity: music videos show there is no hard and fast separation between ear and eye, and ballet and opera the same.
Pope Francis is a permanent emphasis within the Church, and Pope Benedict is another. Papal tailors need to sit tight: the flair will be back at some point.