Service Garments

Clergy clothes

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Vestments are liturgical garments, worn only by clergy when they are taking services and they are worn over everyday clothes or clericals. They are often festive and the colours vary according to the liturgical season: white or gold during Christmas, Epiphany, Easter and for major Saints Days; red at Pentecost and principal feast days for martyrs, and days which emphasise the cross of Jesus; purple during Advent and Lent; green when there are no festivals or special days.

The clerical shirt and dog collarExplanations and examples of these colours can be found on the page Colours of the Christian Year. Vestments include the alb, amice, chasuble, and surplice.


Clericals are the every day street clothes that clergy wear when they are working or 'on duty'. They are only worn by clergy and so makes it evident that they are clergy. Clericals are different from vestments in that they are not worn just for services but sometimes they are worn under vestments. Clerical clothing generally consists of a clerical collar, clergy shirt, and, on some occasions, a cassock.

Clergy Shirt and Collar 
A clergy shirt is black or dark grey with white tabs or a white detachable collar, nicknamed the dog collar. The collar has no particular religious meaning, it just indentifies the person wearing it as a member of the clergy.

A hoodSurplice, cassock and scarfCassock
The word cassock comes from the French casaque, meaning a long coat. Cassocks are worn by both clergy and lay worship leaders, with or without a surplice. They are usually black and sometimes worn with a cincture, a cloth sash, or a simple rope girdle or leather belt. The pictures on the left show a black cassock being worn under a white surplice. In the far left picture an academic hood is also being worn. 

Bishops wear purple cassocks. St James's choir members wear blue cassocks and the servers wear red cassocks both being worn under white surplices (both shown below). Nowadays the cassock is not worn much by members of the clergy, apart from religious services, as it has been replaced by a conventional suit, distinguished from lay dress by being black and by incorporating a clerical collar. 

A surplice is a liturgical vestment which is worn over the cassock. The word surplice comes from the Latin super, meaning over and pellis meaning fur. It is a loose tunic of white cotton or linen material with wide sleeves and reaches to the knees or ankles. It is worn by choir members and by priests who are in official attendance, but not actually leading Holy Communion. A surplice is shown above left.

Alb, amice and girdleAlb
For Holy Communion the priest wears an alb instead of the surplice over the cassock. This is the oldest liturgical vestment and is a plain, white, lightweight tunic with long sleeves, coming down to the ankles. The word alb is short for the Latin tunica alba, meaning white tunic. Laypersons, like our servers, also wear an alb over their red cassocks at communion. An amice is a liturgical vestment and is a cloth with two long ribbon attachments to fasten around the shoulders. White amices are sometimes worn by priests but our servers' amices are one of four colours depending on the time in the Christian Year (shown right). A girdle, a cloth sash or cicture, is a liturgical vestment, worn going right round the body, around or above the waist, outside the alb. It is a long, rope-like cord with tassled ends and is usually white. Each server in the picture on the right is wearing an alb, amice and girdle over their red cassock.

A cotta and choir robesCotta
The Roman-style surplice is called a cotta which comes from a Italian term cotta meaning cut-off, as it is derived from the cut-off alb. Sometimes our servers wear cottas instead of albs over their red cassocks. The picture on the left shows this, together with choir members in their blue cassocks and white surplices.

Over the alb the priest wears a long, narrow scarf-like cloth called a stole, a liturgical vestment, draped around the neck. Only ordained clergy can wear a stole (shown above). Deacons wear the stole over the left shoulder tied at the waist on the right side, so that the stole drapes diagonally across the chest. A stole can be worn over a robe, an alb, or a cassock and can be one of four colours depending on the time in the Christian Year

A chasuble is the outermost liturgical vestment worn by the celebrant for the celebration of the Eucharist, on top of the alb, and always worn with a stole. The name comes from the Latin casula or little house. It is a circular garment with a hole in the center for the head.

A chasuble and a dalmaticWhen worn, it reaches to the wearer’s wrists, so that if the wearer holds both arms straight out, the chasuble forms a semi-circle when viewed from the front or the back. It can be simple or ornate, plain or decorated. The chasuble can be one of four colours depending on the time in the Christian Year.

A dalmatic, a liturgical vestment, is a long, wide sleeved tunic, and like many church vestments, derives from the dress of the Eastern Roman Empire. It can be worn by a minister exercising the role of 'deacon' at a celebration of the Holy Communion. The stole is worn diagonally across the body under the dalmatic. Like the chasuble, the dalmatic is an outer vestment. It can be one of four colours depending on the time in the Christian Year.

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