Clergy Apparel & Vestments

Harcourts Clerical attire is custom made according to the most exacting standards as required by the Clergy.  168 years of Harcourts tradition brings the finest craftsmanship and expert tailoring to each individually made garment.  As Vestments are such personal items, our sales people are happy to assist you with design and colour recommendations for your needs.  We have a variety of stole and scarf embroidery patterns available; however it is also an option to have your custom design digitized for embroidery on your stole.  Contact us for more information.

Contemporary Clergy members tend to adopt vestments based upon the historical traditions of their faith, their personal preferences and also the attitudes of the congregation they serve.  Vestments are highly symbolic, and are used to convey a personal message.  Some members of the Clergy wear their academic gown and hood for services, or wear their academic hood on their cassock in place of a stole.  Others choose to wear a Traditional Cassock, Alb or Preaching gown.

History of Clerical Vestments

Vestments are ceremonial garments worn by religious functionaries while performing sacred rites. In many religious traditions, priests wear clothing that distinguishes them from the nonreligious. Vestments, however, are associated with specific rituals and were traditionally given symbolic meanings.

Among Christians, for example, the stole, a scarf adopted as the distinctive sign of the ordained minister, was traditionally viewed as a yoke, symbolizing that the wearer was a servant of God. The Eucharistic vestments worn by Roman Catholics, Episcopalians, and Lutherans include the alb, a white floor-length tunic (symbolizing purity) tied at the waist with a rope cincture, over which is worn the chasuble, a full cloak put on over the head. The amice, often made in the form of a collar or hood (symbolizing the helmet of salvation), is wrapped around the neck under the alb. The maniple, a length of material worn over the left arm, was originally a napkin and symbolizes the role of the minister as servant of the people of God.

All of these garments are of early Christian origin (the stole, alb, and chasuble were derived from 4th-century Roman dress) and had become the liturgical norm by the 10th century. Later, other originally nonliturgical garments entered liturgical use. The black, full-length cassock, originally the outdoor dress of clergymen, was retained under the liturgical vestments.

The cassock is often worn with a white surplice, a full garment originally designed to cover the fur vests needed in cold churches. The Geneva or pulpit gown is worn for church services by many Protestant clergy.

Although the priests of ancient Judaism had elaborate sacerdotal vestments, prescribed in Exodus 28, these disappeared, along with the priestly function, after the destruction of the Temple in AD 70. Modern rabbis generally wear black gowns of the Protestant type during synagogue services.

The process by which ordinary clothing of earlier eras becomes the religious vestments of a later time is also seen in other religious traditions, such as Buddhism and Shinto.