Readers know that Irenebrination developed its own fashion and religion discourse way before The Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute jumped on the holy bandwagon with the exhibition "Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and The Catholic Imagination".
Though grand, the exhibition commits a cultural faux pas since it includes precious vestments on loan from the Holy See, garments created by famous fashion designers (who based them on traditional designs, so they didn't really invent anything...) for statues and Haute Couture creations, in a nutshell, there seems to be a missing link with more humble pieces and designs, maybe more linked with traditions (even though there is a section dedicated to looks inspired by monastic life).
Religious vestments do take a less grand but equally intriguing twist when they are combined with local traditions: the episcopal mitre illustrating this post for example belonged to Monsignor Giovanni Tonucci who used it when he was Apostolic Nuncio in Nairobi, Kenya, in the '90s (the mitre is dated 1996). After he went back to Italy and became archbishop of Loreto, he donated the mitre to the Museum of Malacology in Cupra Marittima.
The mitre, in plain white cotton, is an example of liturgical headgear decorated with local techniques and materials: cowry shells of the Monetaria moneta species also known as "money cowry" since this shell was historically used as a medium of exchange in many Pacific and Indian Ocean countries, were applied on the front and on the back. The decorative motifs are formed by rows of three shells (a symbolical number hinting at the Trinity), and by other motifs made employing 5 shells forming a cross. Yellow pearls from the Pinctada margaritifera, or black-lip pearl oyster, a saltwater clam, were also employed to create ray-like elements, symbolically embroidered from the centre of the mitre. As a whole the design is extremely simple and obviously very different from the richest headgear employed in liturgical ceremonies, yet it is a perfect example of how local traditions and materials can be employed to create a unique piece endowed with religious symbolism and spiritual meaning.