The Slatest

The Best Photos We Didn’t Use This Week: The Pope’s Many, Many Wardrobe Malfunctions

Pope Francis with his white cape billowing in a perfect circle around his head and shoulders
A blustery day. Filippo Monteforte/Getty Images

Slate’s homepage editors spend a lot of time looking for editorial photos to put on our site. Those searches sometimes yield unexpected results: random, perplexing, and mesmerizing photos that don’t belong on the homepage, but that are too good not to share. Every week, we’ll share the weirdest photo from the wires.

Last week, this photo of Pope Francis’ cape blowing in the wind went viral on Twitter courtesy of the AFP news agency, prompting a cascade of comparisons to Marilyn Monroe’s iconic billowy white dress, frilled lizards, and the Dilophosaurus scene from Jurassic Park.

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Poking around in the Getty archives, there are all sorts of lively snapshots of the pope’s cape, known as a pellegrina, being swept out of place by strong gusts. Pope Francis regularly contends with his pellegrina flapping up around his face and his skullcap getting blown off his head. Is this really the best the Vatican can do?

Pope Francis' cape blows straight up in the air as he speaks at a podium.
Charles McQuillan/Getty Images
Pope Francis' reaches his hand up as the corner of his cape pellegrina covers his face while he sits in a chair.
Filippo Monteforte/Getty Images

Papal vestments have, historically, been quite ostentatious. In recent years, Pope Benedict XVI was nicknamed the Prada Pope for his penchant for all things baroque and his eye-catching looks, including most (in)famously a pair of bright red leather loafers. Practicality is not really the Vatican’s thing, but the dramatic flair of a billowing cape definitely is.

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In contrast, Pope Francis is known for his humble wardrobe, typically opting for a basic white cassock and pellegrina, unadorned cross, and black leather shoes. He was named the “Best Dressed Man of 2013” by Esquire because his style expressed a more down-to-earth vision of the Catholic Church. Perhaps Francis, a pontiff who leads with a frugal, no-nonsense ethos, is just the man to do away with glamorous things and usher in a new era in papal fashion.

Pope Francis, seen from behind with his cape billowing in the wind, greets a large group of uniformed Carabinieri.
Tiziana Fabi/Getty Images
Pope Francis grabs his cape, which drapes over his head.
Andreas Solaro/Getty Images
Three people stand around Pope Francis and reach out to pull down his cape, which has blown onto his head.
Vincenzo Pinto/Getty Images
Pope Francis reaches his hands to his head as his zucchetto (skullcap) blows away in the wind.
Vincenzo Pinto/Getty Images

In March, after Francis was upstaged by his cape on his history-making trip to Iraq, Religion News Service spoke with several Vatican tailors and employees who serve clergy about their thoughts on potential fixes for the pellegrina’s tendency to turn into a kite around its wearer’s neck. “Maybe we could put a pin or Velcro,” one suggested, admitting that “the issue has never been raised before.”

There’s an opportunity here for Francis to experiment with some sleeker silhouettes or modern alterations to his look. On the other hand, the rest of us would miss out on the joys of his constant wardrobe malfunctions.

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