• Purple or blue – Advent
  • Purple – Lent
  • White – Christmas and Easter, Major Feast Days, Weddings and funerals
  • Green – the Seasons after the Epiphany and after Pentecost
  • Red – the Day of Pentecost, saint’s days, confirmations, ordinations

There are several vestments in the church in accordance with the role individuals play in the church. The highly ranked people have their particular garments as well as those without ranks. These ranks are obtained through the process called Ordination. It is through ordination that we get Episcopal polity, which is the hierarchy of power in the church.  All the vestments in the church go with a specific identity of the people using them.


The following are the common Church vestments for different stratas.

  1. Laity

Though they are not ordained, members of the laity, known as lay people, serve the church in various members. According to Romulus Stefnut, the librarian for the school of theology, members of laity may teach groups of youth, read sculptures, or be the altar servants like the altar boys. They can also be in choir and do other activities like church volunteering.  It is through that service that lay people can put on their liturgical vestments, which are Albs–also known as the cassock, and they can add a surplice which is a fabric that goes above the alb. An alb has a long and interesting history because it is originally from the first century introduced by Romans, and it was first used as an undergarment (Corston, 2016). The alb is not a garment for laypersons only because priests other ordained people wear at as the base before adding on other special clothing.


A surplice above an alb the University Choir in albs and surplices.

  1. Deacons

Unlike laypersons, deacons are ordained and are aspiring to be priests (The Episcopal Church). As their identity is different from other church members, deacons have their own dressing style even if they wear almost the same vestments as the rest of the church. Deacons put on a cassock (or alb) and a stole but the stole has to be laid on the left shoulder and tied under the right arm.

Two deacons in their liturgical vestments.

III. Priests

The priesthood is the next rank in the church after deaconhood. Priests have more liturgical duties than deacons. They offer sacraments and lead parishes. Their garments are not different from those of deacons, but they wear them differently and add more ceremonial garments. Priests wear cassock–alb, surplice, depending on the time and situation, and a stole. However, unlike deacons, stoles of priests pass across all shoulders and their ends hang down on the left and right side. While celebrating the Eucharist, the priest adds a chasuble. Like an alb, chasuble is rooted in Romans. According to the Episcopal church website, chasuble “Derived from the ‘Casula’ of ancient Rome which was an outer traveling garment, similar to a poncho” (Corston, 2016). Does it happen that priests can celebrate Eucharist without a chasuble? St. Margaret’s Episcopal Church Mentions that “chasubles are optional on “green Sundays” during the months of June through September” (2017).

This picture (two priests from the left and a deacon on the right) was taken while celebrating 40 years for women priesthood in the Episcopal church.

Apart from the bishop (the second from the left) others are priests out of the Chasuble.

  1. Bishops

In Episcopal polity, bishop comes at the top. Bishops govern regions, known as dioceses, that are composed of several parishes. Bishops are the ones who ordain priests and deacons. With their enormous power, bishops have some similar vestments with priests and deacons, but they have extra vestments that are designed for them.

The first one is the mitre. A miter is a hat or a headdress designed for bishops. They wear it while celebrating Eucharist. Like other vestments, Mitre also originated from the Romans.

The picture retrieved from

Other vestments for the bishops are Rochet and Chimere. Rochette is nearly like an alb but it has long sleeves that are more tight on the wrists. A rochet is worn over a cassock.


Bishop-General Leonidas Polk in the above picture is in the rochet (the white robe with long sleeves: photo retrieved from the Sewanee Purple 2016.


Like rochet, chimere is another special garment for bishops. Interestingly, Corston says that “the Chimere, is the evolution of the medieval riding cloak”. He also adds that both rochet and chimera are ceremonial garments for the Anglican bishops including Episcopal too.

Chancellor of the University of the South, on the right side, has a Rochet and a Chimere on. Photo retrieved from

Vestments for special occasions


As shown in the history section of this blog, the Episcopal Church began in 1585. It has been around for awhile. Undoubtedly, there might be some changes in the vestments of the church over the history. Though it may seem surprising, there has not been a lot of changes in the fashion of the church. Only the quality of the garments has changed. In a conversation and a tour with Kasey Taylor, the office coordinator in the All Saints Chapel, we found out that the old garments were thin, light and cheap while the new ones are thick, heavy, and expensive. We also found out that the materials in which the vestments are made in are different though we could not tell what kind of materials they are.

On the left, that is the old chasuble (light, thin, and more transparent). On the right side, that is the current chasuble that is thick, heavy, and not transparent. Photo was taken from the All Saints Sacristie room.

Pictured above is a clergy wearing a tippet which is a large black scarf and is usually worn at funerals.

The cope is a large cape worn by bishops, deans and can be worn by all ranks of clergy when appropriate. Copes are very formal and are worn for Holy Communions. There is no connection with the cope, only that if the Bishop is wearing it then the clergy can too. However, if the bishop is not wearing it, then the clergy cannot.


Clericals are other clothes that clergies wear in streets or while doing other daily routines. The most common clericals are the tab collar shirts and neckband shirts. Clericals carry clergy identity off the church to the secular world. With a tab collar or a neckband shirt, a clergy can be identified from the rest of the people around him.

A neckband shirt for clergies.

Gender and the vestments in the Church

It is worth noticing that in 1963 the Episcopal Church made a tremendous improvement by allowing women to be ordained. While this change happened in the church, the vestments did not church. All laypeople, deacons, priests, and bishops wear the same liturgical garments.

Both men and women bishops in the same vestments. The Episcopal Church: Holy Trinity Fayetteville.

The bishop would wear different colors based on the season:

  • Purple or blue – Advent
  • Purple – Lent
  • White – Christmas and Easter, Major Feast Days, Weddings and funerals
  • Green – the Seasons after the Epiphany and after Pentecost
  • Red – the Day of Pentecost, saint’s days, confirmations, ordinations

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