Clerical Clothing - Catholicism

Catholicism

In 1215, a church council made it mandatory for all the Christian clergy to wear a distinctive dress. Its purpose was not necessarily to elevate the status of the Christian clerics; it was intended that they would catch the public eye if any member of the clergy is seen on the street.

  • Cassock: A long-sleeved, hoodless garment most often made of lightweight black fabric. Cassocks are generally ankle-length.
  • Clerical collar: There are a variety of options for daily clerical attire, all involving the use of a clerical collar:
  • Collarino: This is probably the most common type of shirt and collar among Roman Catholic clergy. It resembles a standard dress shirt, but has a standing black collar that is sewn to accommodate a white cloth or soft plastic insert, leaving a small white square at the base of the throat.
  • Neckband: A collarless shirt (similar to a banded collar shirt) tailored to accommodate a strip of linen or plastic that, when worn over the shirt, creates a standing white collar that rings the neck. This detachable collar is fastened with collar stays or buttons. These shirts and detachable collars were originally intended to be worn underneath a waistcoat, rabat, or cassock. Today these shirts are almost invariably black poly-cotton, but when worn under a waistcoat or rabat are usually white and made of a higher quality oxford cotton weave.
  • Clerical waistcoat or rabat: Clerical waistcoats or rabats are the most traditional and formal item of clerical costume. They are almost always black and are made of worsted wool. Clerical waistcoats generally sport silk backing. They are worn over a neckband shirt and a detachable collar to create a cassock-like appearance about the neck. Unlike the waistcoats that accompany suits, they button all the way to the collar. The rabat is a late innovation, and exactly mirrors the clerical waistcoat, except that it is backless.

In Rome, Roman Catholic clergy are permitted to wear black, grey, and blue clerical shirts, while in the United States they are permitted to wear only black, quite likely because of long-standing custom.

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