Finding the Catholic Faith Amidst Fashion | National Catholic Register


NORWALK, Connecticut – Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone in San Francisco and Father Paul Murphy in Darien, Connecticut have a thread in common. Dressing for the Solemn Pontifical Mass on the Feast of St. Junípero Serra at Mission Dolores in San Francisco on July 1, Bishop Cordileone donned the Pontifical Alb designed and adapted for the occasion by Susan-Jayne Caballero, founder of Sacra Indumenta in Norwalk, Connecticut. Putting new pink clothes on the last Gaudete and Laetare On Sundays, Father Murphy of Darien, the neighboring town of Norwalk, donned the chasuble commissioned from the same designer-tailor.

Caballero designed the alb for Archbishop Cordileone using a new custom pattern with vintage details, complemented by vintage construction techniques and hand-stitched details. For the intricate detailing, she used “pure lightweight Irish linen and matching lace cuffs of special handmade Italian lace, designed with a cruciform and floral design, over the crimson silk moiré lining.” Four acolytes at Mass wore surplices made by Sacra Indumenta.

In Darien, St. Thomas More Church did not have pink vestments for the two Sundays a year when this liturgical color is used. When a family offered to donate it, the church commissioned Sacra Indumenta. The result: a 13-piece mass set, including dalmatics (the tunics worn by deacons) and a chalice veil.

“It was one of the happiest to work on. Joy was infused due to the color and purpose of using them on Gaudete and Laetare on Sundays,” Caballero said.

Just 80 miles separate Norwalk from the world of fashion design in New York, but it’s a world away from the kind of design-couture that Caballero once did for Ralph Lauren, Diane Von Furstenberg and Tommy Hilfiger, where, in vice- presidencies, she eventually led teams of designers and artists. But today, with Sacra Indumenta, she sees a connection – even with how, throughout her fashion journey, she converted to Catholicism.

A graduate of the Fashion Institute of Technology with a BFA in tailoring, which is a specific type of fashion designer, Caballero continued her tailoring training at ESMOD, a private school in Paris. Then came a 15-year stint with Ralph Lauren, “an extremely long time for the fashion industry,” she recalled to the Register. “It gave me everything I use today, from a love of antiques and an eye for detail to perfect tailoring at its finest.”

His work has allowed Caballero to travel the world, “having the advantage of going to vintage flea markets all over Europe, drawing inspiration from the handwork of yesteryear, beautiful embroidery, superb techniques of sewing, fabric construction qualities, woven prints, etc. It was such an education because everything we designed was inspired by the great things of the past, museum pieces.

She continued, “And there is the synergy with the sacred vestments because there is no disconnect between what is classically inspired by the art of the sacred vestments. All the liturgical arts, each one of them, are at the highest point of connection to what we have here on earth, as the best we have, the humblest offering to God, who gives us more than we could ever give him. So the pursuit of beauty – beautiful lines, beautiful fabric, beautiful craftsmanship, enduring modern legacies – is integral to what sacred clothing is. I didn’t know that at the time. But there was a foundation that God gave me in my first job.

Other preparatory work for what would become Sacra Indumenta was also unknowingly laid in Parisian vintage markets, where she recalls seeing many “dilapidated sacred garments.” It always tugged at my heart. I was not Catholic. I was an extremely devout, very traditional Lutheran, where clothing mattered, but not as much as it does in the Catholic Church. Paris also provided another step of faith for this fashion designer: in Europe, she was exposed to “cathedrals beyond my wildest imagination that seemed even bigger and more ornate than St. Patrick’s Cathedral.” I couldn’t even imagine that because I had been in New York for so long. In Paris, she visited the Sacré-Coeur, Notre-Dame and many other great Catholic buildings. “I just got down on my knees and my conversion definitely started in Europe in some of these churches,” she said.

“The revival has begun. It was a long road before I “crossed the Tiber” and became a Catholic. But basically, God drew me to the beauty and the beauty of the liturgical arts in tandem.

Back in New York, she met her future husband, Heitor, the musical director of a Lutheran church.

“We fell in love at church,” Caballero said. “He was Catholic but had fallen from the Church” at the time, before his reversion. Seeing the “beauty of the Church” in shaping their children’s lives in Catholic school and her husband’s life, she “had no more excuses not to cross the Tiber and come to the house in the church.” It was in 2012. Their marriage was then validated in the Catholic Church.

The stage was set for a change. Five years ago, with an unexpected blessed birth later in life, with daughter Cecilia coming to join brother Sebastian and sister Sofia, Caballero recalled his discernment: “Although I have this incredible third chance to raise a child, I will choose my family vocation first.

By then their son had begun serving Mass at St. Augustine’s Cathedral in Bridgeport, Connecticut, where Heitor was now the director of sacred music. Therefore, she made “her son’s cassock and surplice because I loved sacred vestments,” a love that “had grown stronger since I became a Catholic in 2012.”

Simultaneously, Caballero “felt this call to do something beautiful, something that glorifies God”. Praying about it gave him the answer: “I never wanted to make it the second half of my career. But God did it for me. It was then that she set up her own design and tailoring studio, Sacra Indumenta, Latin for “Sacred Vestments”.

And what she does brings beauty to the liturgy with the artistry of contemporary heirloom quality bespoke ecclesiastical vestments. She designs and creates five-piece and solemn mass sets, altar cloths, personalized mass linens, liturgical accessories and robes for the reception of baptism and holy communion.

Each finished piece is remarkable and often one-of-a-kind, such as the St. Thomas Becket-inspired set that was requested by a new priest for his ordination in May. As Caballero explained, “He wanted this martyr for his inspiration on his gothic mass set.” She used vintage 1930s silk trim and gold accents all over the white and blue silk-lined garments.

“And,” she says, “the specific cruciform designs were inspired by the mass ensemble St. Thomas Becket wore on the day his life was taken.”

She receives many such requests for outstanding tributes in Mass Vestments to the Saints, Our Lady and Our Lord, as Sacra Indumenta is a highly specialized design source, adapting works of liturgical art that reflect the beauty worship and the sacraments.

This sacred seam includes server sets like the ones it manufactures for the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest across the country. A favorite development is their blue cassocks which have matching cape and linen surplices with cotton and English crochet lace. She also makes the medallions of the pectoral cross, as the trimmings and textiles are also what she has perfected in the fashion industry. In addition, Sacra Indumenta also carries out specialized works, such as the Ferraioloa traditional cape worn by clergy and a hand-tied fascia for the ends of the sash worn by prelates.

Lay people also turn to Caballero to design unique christening and first communion dresses. Couples and grandparents want to create a family heirloom like a christening dress using, for example, their own vintage lace or the bride’s wedding dress. “There is such joy that we have – especially me, personally – because the sacrament of marriage is directly linked to the sacrament of baptism, which is directly linked to first communion, and directly these textiles tell the story,” said Caballero.

“As a mother and a wife, there is a really special joy in what Sacra Indumenta does with the traditional First Communion dress because of the connection with the sacraments and because it is connected with the family.” She sees this connection with another sacrament: in some countries it is traditional for a son to be called by God to the priesthood for his first mass for ordination to use lace or trimmings from the wedding dress. from his mother. “The fineness of the fabric is one with the beauty,” Caballero explained of his work, adding, “It’s form and function, art and beauty all rolled into one.” Above all, his passion for restoring the beauty of the Mass is at the heart of every detail beautifully tailored to the service of Christ and his Church: “The Catholic Mass and the beauty of the Mass drew my heart to the fullness of grace in Christ . Over time, even my professional career has been imbued with my love for the Mass and has shown me that God has the best plan for our talents.



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