The current traditional clergy apparel

We’ve all seen the priest outside of Mass wearing a cassock or plain black clothing with a white square tab at his neck.  We’ve also all seen the priest walk in for Mass wearing a lot of vestments—and we may not know exactly what these are.  The priest wears several different vestments at Mass, and each has a history and a prayer that is said as the priest puts it on. 

First off, let’s look at the meaning of priest vestments. The word "vestment" comes from the Latin word for clothing, although now the word is usually associated with religious clothing used during the liturgy.

As a priest gets vested he prays what are called the vesting prayers.  Each of these prayers is associated with a particular piece of the vestments.  Each prayer, in some way, describes the symbolism of the piece and can help the priest prepare for Mass by turning his thoughts to what is about to happen and connect him to the history of the liturgy.

The first vesting prayer is actually not associated with a piece of clothing but is said while the priest washes his hands.  A priest does this so that the hands that hold the Blessed Sacrament will be clean and not transfer any dirt onto the host itself.  The priest prays “Give virtue to my hands, O Lord, that being cleansed from all stain I might serve you with purity of mind and body.”

The current traditional clergy apparel worn includes the amice, alb, cincture, stole, and the chasuble.


The Amice

This optional piece, worn under the alb, is a rectangular cloth placed over the shoulders. The cloth is tucked in around the neck, over the priest’s street clothing and secured around the waist using two cloth ribbons. Although it is not a mandatory piece, it does have practical uses. It can be used as a scarf to keep the priest’s neck warm in the cold and can also protect expensive embroidered pieces from sweat and body oils.


The Alb

Worn over the amice, the alb symbolizes the garment of the newly baptized, also the purity of soul required for Mass, and the garment in which Pilate clothed Christ.


The Cincture

This cord is used as a belt to gather the alb at the waist. It is most often white, but can be the colour of the day or liturgical season. White, violet or black is permitted to be worn at funerals.


The Stole

A long narrow strip of cloth, worn about the neck and down the front of the priest, usually over the alb. The stole is an article of enormous importance as it indicates the state of ordained office. Like the cincture, the stole can be the colour of the day, or liturgical season.


The Chasuble

This is the outer and the last piece of the vesture, and is the colour of the day or the liturgical season. The traditional symbolism of the chasuble is that it represents charity covering a multitude of sins.


Over time, the liturgical garments used during Mass have developed. Nonetheless, priests have donned liturgical vestments during the performance of the Mass from the early days of the Church. Even while Old Testament priests used vestments in their liturgical rituals, "Christian" garments are not adaptations of them; rather, Christian vestments emerged from Graeco-Roman clothing, including religious culture.


For a collection of priest vestments, please visit