I mentioned a while back that on one of the Confidential Mailing Lists I’m On the question of clericals and vestments came up. I offered this.
- The “coverall”/uniform effect shouldn’t be overlooked. It puts the minister in a state of dignified neutrality. As in “this is appropriate to wear for your funeral whether you’re a pauper or monarch.”
- Bad tailoring is a bad bargain. Vesture can cover your civies, though.
- “Clever” vesture ages badly and is the worst value of all.
- Commercially available North American vesture is geared to the semi-portly man of middling height. If you’re not one of these, view gifts with a hairy eye, and consider biting the bullet and getting custom-made.
- Live with the fact it’ll all be 100% polyester, unless you have a Martha-esque view towards ironing. Any washable vesture is a godsend, but don’t buy anything black that isn’t mostly polyester. Black cotton cloth greys very fast.
- Don’t plan on getting your gear cleaned; plan on keeping it all clean. (After 11 years, I’ve never had my gowns cleaned; I do spot-clean.) A lint roller and steamer are your friends.
- Despite “academic gown” references and Dissenter history, English priest and ecclesiologist Percy Dearmer places the black gown in the line of (medieval) ecclesiastic garb. Don’t apologize for it.
- As a sign of being a learned cleric, I wear bands. Under a Moravian (all-around) collar in my case; this is the “lowest” of the collars. A tall collar “scans” low church, too, btw; mine are 4 cm high.
- I’m convinced albs propagate a form of doecetism. (What’s under that shapeless thing, anyway? Pure pneuma?)
- That said, if I had it to all over again, I would wear the black gown for “preaching services” and a white garment with stole for the sacraments. The usual white garments options are the cassock-alb (ugh); cotta over cassock (tres Roman, prone to frilliness); or surplice over cassock the one I’d go with, even though it reads Anglican. (But worn by Charles Travis, the minister of the Mill Hill Unitarian Chapel, Leeds.) I suppose the white version of the black gown is an option, but I’ve always though they make a person look the Michelin Man.
- Unless you intend to finish your ensemble with a tonsure, sandals, and a sparrow, any white garments you wear should be white, not off-white or oatmeal.
Excellent! Thank you for the practical advice. In between all the theological reflection, history of liberal religious movements, social justice notes, blah blah blah, basic practical advice. I suspect I’ll do the black gown + stole (even if it mixes traditions, but then so do I). I may even break the Scott Wells sartorial advice and get an off-white or oatmeal alb. And I’ll accessorize with a long brown hooded cloak and a lightsaber.
Jim, this last look would be perfect. Just a wave of the hand.
“These are not the parishoners.”
Stormtrooper: “These are not the parishoners.”
I love Eddie Izzard’s routine about monks in brown robes. He says they weren’t chanting, just murming, “Brown… still brown. Spring fashion… brown. F&*(%ing brown…”
“You’ve got two looks. Hood up, very mysterious, or … hood down, SURPRISE! It’s ME!”
I wish I had a hooded robe for bad hair days.