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.
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?
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.
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.
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.