By Benedicta Cipolla
Catholic News Service
ROME (CNS) — When “Habemus papam!” (We have a pope!) rings out from the balcony overlooking St. Peter’s Square, most of the faithful will be waiting for the name of the 265th leader of the Catholic Church, their upturned gazes fixed on his face.
As papal tailor, Gammarelli will be more concerned with measurements and mental calculations for the outfits the new pope will need in the days following the election.
While it is not certain the next pope will call upon his services, Gammarelli’s shop — founded in 1798 by his forebear, Antonio Gammarelli — served every 20th-century pontiff except for Pope Pius XII, who stuck with his family’s tailor.
Two or three days before the April 18 start of the conclave, Gammarelli will deliver three sets of outfits to the Vatican, identical except for size: small, medium and large.
About 10 tailors and seamstresses were racing to finish the order just 48 hours before the deadline. One woman worked only on hand-sewn buttonholes, 30 per cassock, while another employee focused his attention on more than 200 silk-covered buttons.
Each set consists of a white wool cassock with attached capelet, a white silk cassock and matching red capelet with buttons up the front, a skullcap, a sash and red leather shoes.
After the election and before the new pope’s presentation to the public, he will quickly don the outfit that best approximates his size and sartorial taste.
“We hope one of them will fit, more or less,” Gammarelli said in an interview with Catholic News Service in his store, located on a tiny street behind the Pantheon in an area chock full of stores selling clerical garb.
Pope John XXIII, one of the more rotund pontiffs in recent memory, almost burst the buttons of his first cassock, while the slender and short Pope John Paul I found even the smallest outfit too long.
When Pope John Paul II stepped onto the balcony, clad in one of the shop’s white cassocks, Gammarelli breathed a sigh of relief.
“He carried himself beautifully. Before the last few years, when he began to be stooped over, he was a handsome man,” Gammarelli told CNS. “He was easy to work with, very simple.”