The Ecclesiastical Catwalk

So here’s something: a fashion show held as part of the SACROEXPO, which is apparently Poland’s largest trade show for church construction etc. If Google translate is to be trusted, this collection was assembled to celebrate the 30th anniversary of ordination of a priest with an interest in fashion. You can watch a video here.

It somewhat recalls the famous Vatican fashion show from Fellini’s Roma.

It is perhaps easy to forget that vestments are supposed to be clothes—sacred clothes, to be sure, but recognizably clothing all the same. I’m not sure that these fulfill that criterion; I’m also pretty convinced that many of the fiddle-back chasubles that seem to be making a comeback these days do not.

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21 comments

  1. “It is perhaps easy to forget that vestments are supposed to be clothes—sacred clothes, to be sure, but recognizably clothing all the same.”
    Now, I’m not a frequenter of fashion shows; but from the pictures shown now and then on TV or in newspapers, could we say that all the items there are “recognizably clothing”?

  2. Spain and other hispanic nations have the privilege of using blue at the Inmaculate Conception Feast. The aesthetic appropriateness of this specific colour tone is another question.

  3. Karl Liam Saur: That is the best comment I’ve ever seen on the World Wide Web!

    I think Totie wore the blue number on the Merv Griffin Show.

  4. Their deportment leaves a lot to be desired. Like Russian princesses, perhaps, they could improve their carriage by walking around with copies of Bellarmine’s heavier tomes on their heads.

  5. I feel like I just time warped back to the 70’s & 80’s. I also flashed back to the time I provided music for a children’s liturgy and the presider entered wearing Peanuts themed vestments. “Happiness is concelebrating in pretty colors… Spreading the joy.”

  6. I went to Sacro Expo a few years ago, in search of vestments for our priests to wear at Diocesan occasions. We did well out of it, but what we had was recognisably a vestment.

    Some modern vestments seem to have been designed by bright young things with little real sense of what distinguishes a liturgical vestment from a ‘robe’ or the contents of the dressing-up box. The outcome is often something that looks more fit for pantomime than for the sacred liturgy. A set of copes recently commissioned for the Chapter of Winchester Cathedral UK is a case in point.

    Rome has been very (too) prescriptive about this, particularly in the days of the Sacred Congregation of Rites, and disputes about ‘correctness’ are nothing new (cf. Dom Roulin’s hilariously opinionated book on the subject), but at least liturgical garb had certain conventional ‘marks’ about it. The shape of the orphrey, for example, retained the look it had in its original function which was (apparently) to cover seams resulting from narrow cloth widths, as well as to decorate.

    What I see at Sacro Expo is a different approach for which the term ‘catwalk’ seems appropriate. Vestments are there to hide, not to draw attention to the wearer. That’s the reverse of ‘fashion’ surely!

    This is not the end of the story, though. When I went to Sacro Expo I saw some really good design, and also some of the finest hand embroidery I have seen since the Sisters of Bethany days.

    AG.

  7. I thought many of the vestments were lovely and practical looking as well. It’s high time for the Latin Rite to loosen up on colors. I have a lovely Stadelmaier blue vestment that I wear on all Marian Feasts. I bought it back in the late 70’s when it appeared that blue would become an acceptable alternative for Advent purple. A number of bishops adopted it for a while…until, of course, the Temple Police began the crackdown. Does anyone really think that the faithful are so attached to conventional colors that they would be scandalized by some variations? The Trads might, but other than them?

    1. @Fr. Jack Feehily:
      There are plenty of liturgical progressives who cast a gimlet eye (or eye roll, or discreet glance to one another) about vestment, um, “variations”. Plenty plenty plenty. They just less likely to say anything directly to the priest who self-indulges (rather than out of simple and inculpable ignorance – we all know, for example, that visiting priests may be handed X Y or Z without any fault on their own part…) nor to tattle, but I can assure you I’ve witnessed plenty over the decades. I knows my own people.

      1. @Karl Liam Saur:
        It is hardly an act of self indulgence to wear a beautifully crafted vestment on Marian feasts rather than let in languish in a closet. The comments I have heard include “what a beautiful vestment” and “Blessed Mother blue seems so fitting for a Marian feast.” Perhaps New England cultural Catholics are an exception. I am related by blood to a lot of them…..I also knows my people.

      2. @Jack Feehily:
        My comment was not specifically directed at blue vestments as such, but the broader, vaguer “some variations”, given the catwalk illustration that is the subject of the thread. There are priests who treat vestments as a canvas for a more than usual yet still rationalized self-expression – and it’s not always modern. Cappae magnae, buskins, gauntlets, too. What’s bad for the goose is bad for the gander.

  8. Where can I get the neon green for Ordinary Time just to put a bit of pizzaz in my presiding….with a side of fishermans’s net, perhaps? Too much?

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