Clergy Apparel Trends
By: Jason Gaspard
Clergy apparel and religious vestments have a long history in the church, dating back thousands of years. Over the centuries, designs have vacillated from ornate, elaborately detailed pieces to simple, plain garments, depending on a variety of influences. Besides the traditions they represent, vestments are meant to symbolize the glory of Christ and remind the congregation that clergy are not acting on their own personal authority, but on that of the church.
While the basic styles and shapes of clergy and choir apparel have not changed much in recent years, there are always fresh designs that incorporate different fabrics, trims, embroidery, and adornments. The inspirations for new ideas may come from ancient symbols, church leaders, architectural details, special material and trims, or even nature.
If you are looking for new options, there are many resources online, and most clergy apparel manufacturers also produce catalogs that may help you find ideas. And, if you are working with a custom vestment maker, you can even design your own pieces.
Symbolic Traditions, Environment, and Tastes Guide Choices
Of course, each religion has its own doctrines and policies for clergy apparel; these are usually guided by church officials. Naturally, those standards shape the choices of clergy.
In addition, each church has its own process that influences choices as well. For example, sometimes an alter guild or other committee is responsible for selecting, purchasing, and maintaining vestments; in other cases, the pastor or priest will select the garments.
Personal tastes and comfort also come into play. Some prefer traditional styles, while others gravitate more toward the contemporary, and still others enjoy a mix.
Another trend affecting religious apparel is that deacons are playing a more active role in many churches. Deacons and their spouses are usually responsible for purchasing their own vestments. Many of the guidelines that apply to priests or pastors also apply to deacons.
Colors Are Meaningful
White symbolizes virtue, holiness, purity, respect, and reverence and is used for all Holy Days and festival days of the Church Year, including Christmas and Easter. It's also used for weddings, baptisms, dedications, and for funerals as a symbol of the resurrection.
Gold is often used with white during the seasons of Christmas and Easter as it symbolizes preciousness, value, majesty, and joy. Because of its brightness, it also symbolizes the presence of God.
Blue signifies royalty and represents the night sky in which a star appeared to announce the birth of Jesus. It is increasingly used for Advent in Protestant churches to distinguish it from Lent, which is traditionally represented with purple.
Purple is used during the Season of Lent, because it can symbolize pain, suffering, and penitence. It is also a color of royalty and is used for Advent in Catholic churches.
Red is the liturgical color for Pentecost. It represents fire and the presence of God. Considered as the color of the church, it can also be a symbol for the blood of martyrs. It is used in the Roman Catholic Church for Palm Sunday, in some traditions to commemorate special days for martyrs or saints, and for the ordination of ministers or priests.
Rose represents happiness and joy and is an alternate color for the Third and Fourth Sunday of Advent.
Green is used for the Season of Epiphany between Transfiguration Sunday and the beginning of Lent as well as for Ordinary Time between Trinity Sunday (first Sunday after Pentecost) and the beginning of Advent. It connotes renewal of vegetation and the promise of new life.
Old Styles Are New Again
In many Christian faiths, wardrobe basics for clergy conducting worship include a basic white alb, which is a floor-length, long-sleeved robe (you might want to have two, in case one is being cleaned). Over the alb, a stole and sometimes a chasuble are worn. While there are many different styles from which to choose, there are four important colors that are worn to coincide with the liturgical calendar: white, green, red, and purple.
Tips for Maximizing Your Investment
Here are a few tips to help you with the vestment selection process:
* Use supplier catalogs and websites as a planning resource to generate ideas.
To offset the cost of acquiring religious apparel, churches often use special donations or fundraisers. Parishioners may choose to purchase a vestment to honor or memorialize a family member or friend. A special label can be sewn into the vestment to celebrate the gift. This opportunity could be made known through a church bulletin or during announcement readings.
How to Ensure Quality
Keep in mind that changes in the overall garment industry are making it more difficult to find high-quality fabrics and re-order specific colors. If you'd like several coordinating pieces, you may want to order them at the same time to make certain that the fabric color matches.
Also consider whether your church may be interested in coordinating pieces, such as banners, alter cloths, and Bible markers. Many vestment makers offer these, and they will provide a consistent look that adds a special touch to ceremonies and celebrations at your church.
New Technologies Enhance Tradition
Protecting Your Vestments
Storage is equally important. Whether it is a choir robe, alb, cassock or chasuble, keep it out of direct sunlight to avoid fading. To protect it from dust, store it in a garment bag.
Finally, the way you hang your vestment may also affect how well it keeps its shape. Use a hanger that is sturdy enough to support your garment without sagging.
With so many choices available in style, fabric, color, trim, and embroidery, enjoy the opportunity to apply your creativity and traditions to the celebration of worship through your clergy and choir apparel.
Jason Gaspard is president of Gaspard, Inc., a Wisconsin-based custom vestment manufacturer, www.gaspardinc.com.