The divorce is going to be brutal, but if Katie Holmes manages to wrench her daughter away from Scientology, that’s when things will really get ugly.
Literally, ugly: Holmes and 6-year-old Suri brought some much-needed style to the sartorially challenged church, whose core adherents are bound by a strict dress code and whose leader, David Miscavige, is a clothing obsessive, who has a spending a fortune on custom-tailored shirts and trotting around headquarters dressed as a naval commander, according to several former Scientologists who spoke to The Daily Beast.
Holmes and her daughter are undisputed fashion icons. After her surprise divorce filing last week, the future ex-Mrs. Tom Cruise, walking tall in $795 YSL wedges, massed her bodyguards one hot afternoon and went on an ice-cream run with her daughter, whom she dressed in a $175 Milly shift. For another outing, Suri wore Missoni. The little fashionista already has a shoe collection reportedly worth $150,000, including her own custom-made Louboutins. Her mother, who taped an episode of Project Runway last week, will hold a presentation for her fashion line Holmes & Yang this September, during New York Fashion Week.
Scientology will look a lot worse without them. The world’s fastest growing religion is a “slow-motion fashion train wreck,” says Steve Hall, who became a Scientologist in 1979 and served as the church’s senior writer for 17 years before leaving in 2004. When Hall joined up, he says Scientologists were expected to look nice but weren’t required to wear any particular style of dress. That all changed when Miscavige took over and began imposing his increasingly strict and eccentric fashion tastes on members of the Sea Org, Scientology’s central managerial body of adherents, who sign up to work for the church for one billion years.
When Hall worked at the church’s international headquarters under Miscavige, he says he and his fellow Sea Orgs were expected to wear what they called “Uniform K” six days a week. Uniform K was a makeshift naval uniform, fitting enough because the top level of initiation in Scientology’s elaborate hierarchy can only happen at sea, on the church’s cruise ship, Freewinds. The uniform consisted of navy blue polyester pants, a blue polyester and cotton shirt, and “navy black” colored shoes. For special events, some wore white gloves and white naval caps and carried swords. On the seventh day, they wore “civvies,” typically trousers and a polo shirt. (The church didn’t respond to a request for comment Thursday.)
Miscavige, whom ex-Scientologists have accused of being physically and emotionally abusive, extended his domain to his closet, Hall says. On days his staff wore “civvies,” Hall says Miscavige would roam headquarters dressed as a navy general, wearing “commander bars” and a gold braid, as well as other natty duds. On days his staff dressed up, he was out of uniform, wearing $500 custom-tailored Egyptian cotton shirts and slim-cut suits, Hall says.
Several ex-Scientologists say Miscavige dictates every aspect of the church’s aesthetic. Jefferson Hawkins, a longtime member of the Sea Org who left the church in 2005, says Miscavige personally oversaw the outfitting of the Sea Org. “Appearances to him are primary,” Hawkins says. “He was totally involved in the day-to-day decisions.” Uniforms were created by staff designers who worked out of Scientology’s International Landlord office. The goal was less to look sharp than to look the same. “It’s more a matter of conformity than style,” Hawkins said.
In 2009, Miscavige commissioned uniforms for the “Ideal Org,” the name given to new churches being built around the world, from Australian fashion designer Richard Tyler. Tyler, known for his sharp tailoring, had been a Hollywood darling in the 1980s and 1990s, dressing Anjelica Huston, Diane Keaton, Julia Roberts, and virtually every other starlet with a red carpet to walk. A run of bad financial and personal luck lead Tyler to accept a commission from Delta in 2004 to design new uniforms for flight attendants. His slim-fitting creations infuriated Delta’s plus-size flight attendants when they debuted in 2006, but they were enough to win Tyler a contract with Scientology.
The result featured satin-lined four-button blazers for men, bucket hats for women featuring contrast stitching and “a timeless design,” and “the centerpiece of the outerwear collection, [a] 100 percent wool, all-weather single-breasted swing coat” lined in silk.”
“It looks like a cross between a vampire and an airline stewardess,” Hall says.
Miscavige has always had a weakness for the theatrical, giving speeches to giant auditoriums, behind ornate podiums, with CGI-laden promotional videos and Mission: Impossible theme music playing in the background. Even the bodyguards look like they’re straight from central casting.
Losing Holmes and Suri means losing some serious fashion world bona fides and some legitimate Hollywood glamour. Holmes could have been Scientology’s muse. Suri could have been the Shirley Temple of Thetans. “I don’t think [Holmes’] disagreement with Scientology was primarily aesthetic,” Hawkins says. No, but that all-weather swing coat probably didn’t help.