Choir dress

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Bishop in choir dress with train Bischof Leo Mergel 1905.jpg
Bishop in choir dress with train
Choir dress of a Cistercian nun: a long white cowl Marie Alexandrine Snoy, abbess of la Cambre abbey.jpg
Choir dress of a Cistercian nun: a long white cowl
Norbertine abbot in white prelate choir dress, 18th century Weissenau Chor Abt Leopold Mauch.jpg
Norbertine abbot in white prelate choir dress, 18th century
Monsingnor Herrincx in Franciscan brown prelate choir dress Retrato de Guillaume Herincx.jpg
Monsingnor Herrincx in Franciscan brown prelate choir dress
Benedictine Abbot Schober in black prelate choir dress and black fur cappa magna Erzabt Ildefons Schober OSB.JPG
Benedictine Abbot Schober in black prelate choir dress and black fur cappa magna
Roman Catholic secular canons in choir dress: cassock, rochet, mozzetta, and pectoral cross on chain. Sint-Salvatorskapittel Bruges Precious Blood 2008.JPG
Roman Catholic secular canons in choir dress: cassock, rochet, mozzetta, and pectoral cross on chain.
Monsignor Gilles Wach in the blue choir dress of the ICKSP Msgr Wach.jpg
Monsignor Gilles Wach in the blue choir dress of the ICKSP

Choir dress is the traditional vesture of the clerics, seminarians and religious of Christian churches worn for public prayer and the administration of the sacraments except when celebrating or concelebrating the Eucharist. It differs from the vestments worn by the celebrants of the Eucharist, being normally made of fabrics such as wool, cotton or silk, as opposed to the fine brocades used in vestments. It may also be worn by lay assistants such as acolytes and choirs. It was abandoned by most of the Protestant churches that developed from the sixteenth-century Reformation. [1]


Like Eucharistic vestments, choir dress derived originally from the formal secular dress of the Roman Empire in the first centuries of the Christian era. This survived in church usage after fashion had changed. [1] Choir dress differs from "house dress," which is worn outside of a liturgical context (whether in the house or on the street). House dress may be either formal or informal.

Roman Catholic choir dress

Choir dress in the Catholic Church is worn by deacons, priests, regular prelates, bishops and cardinals when presiding at or celebrating a liturgy that is not the Mass, especially the Liturgy of the Hours. Before the Second Vatican Council, the dress was more elaborate. It had dozens of varieties and colours. After The Second Vatican Council, it was reduced; however, exceptions are sometimes granted for cathedral chapters.

The current dress is worn when attending Mass without celebrating or observing the Eucharist. It is worn by seminarians, instituted lectors and acolytes, and altar servers and choir members at Mass or other liturgical events.

The basic components of choir dress are:

For seminarians, deacons, and priests the cassock is exactly the same as their normal cassock: a black cassock with black buttons, girded with a black fascia.

Priests who hold additional honors may wear a different cassock: Chaplains of His Holiness wear a black cassock with purple piping, buttons, and fascia; while Honorary Prelates and Protonotaries apostolic wear a purple cassock with scarlet piping and buttons, with a purple fascia. A black cassock with amaranth piping and buttons, girded with a purple fascia, serves as pian dress (academic dress) for an honorary prelate or protonotary apostolic. Canons may wear the rochet (if the chapter has been granted usus rochetti by papal indult) with a distinctive mozzetta, the particular colors of which are determined by the chapter.

Bishops wear the above-mentioned purple cassock with scarlet piping, and add a pectoral cross suspended from a green and gold cord, a mozzetta over the rochet, and a purple zucchetto under the biretta. A cardinal wears a scarlet cassock with scarlet trim, pectoral cross on a red and gold cord, and a red mozzetta over the rochet, with a red zucchetto. The Pope's choir dress includes a white cassock, rochet, red silk mozetta, and red brocade stole; his pectoral cross hangs from a golden cord. Some canons wear their cross on a ribbon, but only a bishop may wear the cross on a cord. Under new regulations, neither bishops nor canons wear fur-trimmed cappas.

The cope and/or stole may be worn over choir dress when a cleric presides over a sacrament (for instance, at matrimony, if not celebrated during Mass), or by the cleric presiding over prayers. (For instance, the priest presiding at a solemn celebration of Vespers in the Liturgy of the Hours might wear cope and stole over choir dress, while other clergy present would wear simple choir dress of cassock and surplice).

Monks who are neither deacons nor priests also have a form of choir dress: the full monastic habit with the monastic cowl is their formal wear for attending the Liturgy of the Hours or Mass.

Pope - choir dress.svg
Cardinal - choir dress.svg
Bishop - choir dress.svg
Higher Prelates of the Roman Curia and Protonotary Apostolic de numero - choir dress.svg
Honorary Prelate and Apostolic Protonotary Supernumerary - choir dress.svg
Chaplain of His Holiness - choir dress.svg
Higher prelates of the Roman Curia and
protonotaries apostolic de numero
Supernumerary protonotaries apostolic and
honorary prelates
Chaplains of His Holiness
Priest - choir dress.svg
Canons - choir dresses.svg
Priests, deacons, seminarians and acolytesCanons (designs vary)

Since 2006, priests of the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest have had their own choir dress, given to them by the Cardinal Archbishop of Florence. Their choir dress includes a rochet, a mozzetta, the cross of St. Francis de Sales on a blue and white ribbon, and a biretta with a blue pom. According to the Institute,

The blue stands for our complete dedication to the Blessed Mother and is traditionally the color shown on St. Francis de Sales in most paintings of him," and "The choir dress expresses the strong unity, spiritually, and identity of the Institute and adds solemnity to the liturgy."

"Frequently Asked Questions". Archived from the original on 8 September 2018. Retrieved 17 September 2018.
Choir Dress (Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest).svg
Priests, superiors and prior general of the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest

Eastern choir dress

Saint John (Maximovich) wearing choir dress of an Orthodox bishop: klobuk, outer riassa, Panagia, and episcopal mandyas; holding his paterissa (crozier). Stjohn shanghai.png
Saint John (Maximovich) wearing choir dress of an Orthodox bishop: klobuk, outer riassa, Panagia, and episcopal mandyas; holding his paterissa (crozier).
Syriac Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch, Ignatius Zakka I Iwas (in red cassock) and a priest (in black). By Grace of God, Ignatius Zakka I Iwas.jpg
Syriac Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch, Ignatius Zakka I Iwas (in red cassock) and a priest (in black).

The choir dress of clergy in the Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox and Eastern Catholic churches are relatively similar. Over the inner cassock (rasson or podrasnik), a deep-sleeved exorason (riassa), which is often black, is worn. In the Russian Orthodox Church, married clergy often wear grey, while monastic clergy wear black. During the paschal season, both monastic and married clergy will often wear a white inner cassock. Some Russian Metropolitans wear a white inner cassock and a blue outer when formally arriving to celebrate the Divine Liturgy.

Byzantine Rite

In Eastern Orthodoxy and Byzantine Catholicism, monks wear a black cloak, the mandyas over the outer cassock. The mandyas completely covers the monastic below the chin and reaches to the floor. In the Greek usage, the mandyas is usually worn only when performing certain liturgical roles; in the Slavic usage, all monks and nuns of the rank of Stavrophore or above wear the mandyas at every service, so long as they are in their own monastery. The mandyas of an hegumen (abbot) is of black silk, that of an archimandrite or bishop is of colored silk (specific usages will differ by jurisdiction), and has four square "tablets" on it: two at the neck and two at the feet. A bishop's mandyas additionally has "rivers" on it: three horizontal stripes either of gold (Greek practice) or red and white (Slavic practice).

Monastic clergy wear different headcoverings than married clergy. Married clergy wear either a colored kalimaukion or skufia ; monastic clergy wear a black kalimaukion and veil (together known as the klobuk ). For monastics, the skufia is reserved for house dress, and the klobuk is worn in church. Russian archbishops have a jewelled cross attached to the front of their klobuks; Russian Metropolitans wear a white klobuk with jewelled cross. Several Orthodox Patriarchs wear a rounded headcovering called a koukoulion.

Priests who have been awarded a pectoral cross wear it with their choir dress (these pectoral crosses are of several degrees: silver, gold, or jewelled). Bishops wear a panagia (icon of the Theotokos) in place of the pectoral cross. Archbishops may wear a pectoral cross and a panagia. All primates and some bishops below primatial rank have the dignity of wearing an enkolpion (icon of Christ), a pectoral cross, and a panagia.

A ruling Igumen (so long as he is inside his own monastery) and a bishop may carry his paterissa (crozier) when he is in church. However, the paterissa is never to be carried inside the sanctuary; instead, when the priest goes into the altar, the paterissa is either handed to an altar server or left leaning against the iconostasis outside the Holy Doors.

In North America and Great Britain, some Orthodox clergy have begun to wear a Roman collar (clergy shirt). This practice is discouraged among the more traditional Orthodox.


There exist color and design variations in each autocephalous Church, but these diagrams give some examples of Eastern Orthodox choir dress vestments:

Slavic Orthodox Patriarch - choir dress.svg
Slavic Orthodox Metropolitan - choir dress.svg
Slavic Orthodox Bishop - choir dress.svg
Greek Orthodox Bishop - choir dress.svg
Patriarch (Slavic)Metropolitan (Slavic)Bishop (Slavic)Bishop (Greek)
Eastern Orthodox Priest - vestments.svg
Eastern Orthodox Hieromonk - vestments.svg
Slavic Orthodox Schemamonk - vestments.svg
Eastern Orthodox Monk - vestments.svg
Eastern Orthodox Reader - vestments.svg

Oriental Orthodox

Syriac Orthodox Patriarch.png
Syriac Orthodox Bishop.png
Coptic Orthodox Priest.png
Syriac Orthodox Priest.png
Syriac Orthodox Priest-Monk.png
Syriac PatriarchSyriac BishopCoptic PriestSyriac PriestSyriac Priest

In the Syriac Orthodox Church, married priests wear a black skullcap, or phiro, while monastic priests wear the schema, eskimo. For certain sacramental functions, a priest or bishop wears the epitrachelion (stole).

Anglican choir dress or choir habit

An Anglican priest delivers a homily, dressed in choir habit with Canterbury cap Canterbury Cap.jpg
An Anglican priest delivers a homily, dressed in choir habit with Canterbury cap
An Anglican priest in choir dress: cassock, surplice and tippet. The dark red of his academic hood can be seen on his shoulders. Choirhabit.jpg
An Anglican priest in choir dress: cassock, surplice and tippet. The dark red of his academic hood can be seen on his shoulders.
An Anglican bishop in choir dress: purple cassock, rochet, red chimere and cuffs, tippet, and pectoral cross. Bishop Trevor Williams.jpg
An Anglican bishop in choir dress: purple cassock, rochet, red chimere and cuffs, tippet, and pectoral cross.

Choir dress in Anglicanism traditionally consists of cassock, surplice and scarf (or tippet). [n 1] An academic hood may also be worn. Since 1964 in the Church of England, a cope may be worn at the discretion of the minister. [2]

But, the basic garment was, and is, the surplice, which by the fourteenth century had become the essential choir vestment everywhere. [3] The surplice was the only vesture permitted to the clergy in the 1552 Prayer Book, except for bishops, who should use a rochet (both wore cassocks as the standard undergarment). [4] The Elizabethan Prayer Book of 1559 included the so-called Ornaments Rubric. Its legal interpretation was disputed in the nineteenth century; [5] it was claimed that its inclusion in the 1662 Book of Common Prayer commanded the pre-Reformation Eucharistic vestments (chasuble, dalmatic, tunicle, alb, amice, and maniple) that had been in use during the reign of Edward VI. [4] However, the Elizabethan bishops struggled to enforce the use of the surplice. [4] The use of Eucharistic vestments was discontinued until after the Oxford Movement, in the middle of the nineteenth century, when it was restored in many cathedrals and parish churches. [3] In many low-church dioceses and parishes, the choir dress continued to be the norm, even at the Eucharist. The cope continued in use for coronations and in certain cathedrals, but this may be considered an extension of "choir dress" and was sanctioned by the canons of 1603/4. [6]

The cassock is almost invariably black for priests and deacons. A traditional Anglican cassock is double-breasted, being buttoned on the shoulder rather than up the front (there may be a single button sewn to the center of the chest used to fasten the academic hood if worn). Many Anglican clergy, especially (though not exclusively) those within the Catholic tradition of Anglicanism, prefer to wear the Latin single-breasted cassock. The cassock is worn with a cincture, which may take the form of a cloth sash resembling a fascia, or a simple rope girdle or leather belt. Over this is worn the surplice, which is longer and fuller than that worn by Roman Catholic clergy, sometimes reaching well below the knees. Traditionally, an academic hood is worn around the shoulders and down the back, along with a black tippet or scarf worn around the nape and hanging straight down in front. The hood and tippet were once a single garment called an almuce. (The tippet is not to be confused with the stole, which is also worn in a similar manner, but is not part of choir dress. It is worn at the Eucharist and other sacramental services.) Some clergy also wear Geneva bands (or "preaching tabs") from their collars. Though not worn at service time, the Canterbury cap is the traditional headgear of Church of England clergy; some prefer the biretta (see below) or mortar board. Neither is widely worn. A square cap, with cassock, gown and tippet, was specified in English canon law as part of the "outdoor habit" or "house dress" of the clergy until the promulgation of new canons in the 1960s. [7] At some periods of history a black gown, either academic or 'Genevan', was worn for Morning and Evening Prayer instead of the surplice, which was reserved for use at the Holy Communion. The cassock, bands, gown, academic hood and tippet are still the normal liturgical costume for an ordained minister of the Church of Scotland and other Reformed and Presbyterian churches.

Chaplains in the Armed Forces wear tippets with officially sanctioned badges and any medals they have achieved. A bishop or priest may wear a tippet with the arms of the seminary from which he or she received their degree. In England some cathedral clergy wear tippets on which is embroidered the distinctive symbol or cathedral coat of arms. Members of the high church, or Anglo-Catholic parts of the church, sometimes wear choir dress of a more Roman Catholic style, including a shorter surplice (or cotta), a stole (and sometimes a biretta), excluding hood and tippet.

Readers when officiating often wear a blue tippet, or, in the United States, a black tippet displaying the arms of the diocese. At the Eucharist, readers of Scripture may wear street clothing to emphasize the role of the laity, as expressed in recent versions of the Prayer Book. But, in some parishes readers wear the traditional vestments of the subdeacon at High Mass: alb fastened with a white cincture and a tunicle. In other parishes they wear the cassock and surplice, as do members of the choir.

Anglican bishops usually wear a purple cassock. Over this they wear the rochet with red or black chimere and matching cuffs, black tippet, and sometimes an academic hood.

Anglican Bishop - choir dress.svg
Anglican Canon - choir dress.svg
Anglican Priest - choir dress.svg
Anglican Reader - choir dress with hood.svg
Anglican Layperson - choir dress.svg
BishopCanon (cassock colors vary)Priest or DeaconReaderLayperson

Related Research Articles


A surplice is a liturgical vestment of the Western Christian Church. The surplice is in the form of a tunic of white linen or cotton fabric, reaching to the knees, with wide or moderately wide sleeves.

Cassock Christian clerical coat

The cassock or soutane is a Christian clerical clothing coat used by the clergy of the Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church, in addition to certain Protestant denominations such as Anglicans and Lutherans. "Ankle-length garment" is the literal meaning of the corresponding Latin term, vestis talaris. It is related to the habit, which is traditionally worn by nuns, monks, and friars.

Vestment Clothing prescribed for clergy performing specific roles

Vestments are liturgical garments and articles associated primarily with the Christian religion, especially among the Eastern Orthodox, Catholics, Anglicans, and Lutherans. Many other groups also make use of liturgical garments; this was a point of controversy in the Protestant Reformation and sometimes since, in particular during the Ritualist controversies in England in the 19th century.

Stole (vestment) Long narrow cloth band worn around the neck and falling from the shoulders as part of ecclesiastical dress

The stole is a liturgical vestment of various Christian denominations. It consists of a band of colored cloth, formerly usually of silk, about seven and a half to nine feet long and three to four inches wide, whose ends may be straight or may broaden out. The center of the stole is worn around the back of the neck and the two ends hang down parallel to each other in front, either attached to each other or hanging loose. The stole is almost always decorated in some way, usually with a cross or some other significant religious design. It is often decorated with contrasting galloons and fringe is usually applied to the ends of the stole following Numbers 15:38–39. A piece of white linen or lace may be stitched onto the back of the collar as a sweat guard, which can be replaced more cheaply than the stole itself.

Alb Long, full, close-sleeved garments worn by Christian clergy

The alb, one of the liturgical vestments of the Roman Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, and Methodist churches, is an ample white garment coming down to the ankles and is usually girdled with a cincture. It is simply the long, white linen tunic used by the ancient Romans.

Biretta Square cap with three or four peaks or horns

The biretta is a square cap with three or four peaks or horns, sometimes surmounted by a tuft. Traditionally the three-peaked biretta is worn by Catholic clergy and some Anglican and Lutheran clergy. A four-peaked biretta is worn as academic dress by those holding a doctoral degree from a pontifical faculty or pontifical university or faculty. Occasionally the biretta is worn by advocates in law courts, for instance the advocates in the Channel Islands.

Cope Religious garment

The cope is a liturgical vestment, more precisely a long mantle or cloak, open in front and fastened at the breast with a band or clasp. It may be of any liturgical colour.

Geneva gown Ecclesiastical garment

The Geneva gown, also called a pulpit gown, pulpit robe, or preaching robe, is an ecclesiastical garment customarily worn by ordained ministers and Accredited Lay Preachers in the Christian churches that arose out of the historic Protestant Reformation. It is particularly associated with Protestant churches of the Reformed, Methodist, Unitarian and Free Christian traditions.

Rochet Vestment generally worn by a Roman Catholic or Anglican bishop

A rochet is a white vestment generally worn by a Roman Catholic or Anglican bishop in choir dress. It is unknown in the Eastern churches. The rochet in its Roman form is similar to a surplice, except that the sleeves are narrower. In its Anglican form it is a descendant of the traditional albs worn by deacons and priests. In the Roman Catholic tradition, the rochet comes below the knee and its sleeves and hem are sometimes made of lace; in the Anglican tradition, the rochet comes down almost to the hem of the cassock and its sleeves are gathered at the wrist.


A chimere is a garment worn by Anglican bishops in choir dress, and, formally as part of academic dress.

Papal regalia and insignia Official items of attire and decoration proper to the Pope

Papal regalia and insignia are the official items of attire and decoration proper to the Pope in his capacity as the head of the Roman Catholic Church and sovereign of the Vatican City State.

Almuce Hood-like shoulder cape worn as a choir vestment in the Middle Ages

An almuce was a hood-like shoulder cape worn as a choir vestment in the Middle Ages, especially in England. Initially, it was worn by the general population. It found lasting use by certain canons regular, such as the white almutium worn on the arm by Premonstratensian canons. Use of fur-lined almuce was against the rules of the canons, leading to requests for dispensations from the rule, as described by Alison Fizzard. It also survives in the tippet and hood worn by some Anglican priests.

Clerical clothing is non-liturgical clothing worn exclusively by clergy. It is distinct from vestments in that it is not reserved specifically for services. Practices vary: is sometimes worn under vestments, and sometimes as the everyday clothing or street wear of a priest, minister, or other clergy member. In some cases, it can be similar or identical to the habit of a monk or nun.

Pectoral cross

A pectoral cross or pectorale is a cross that is worn on the chest, usually suspended from the neck by a cord or chain. In ancient and medieval times pectoral crosses were worn by both clergy and laity, but by the end of the Middle Ages the pectoral cross came to be a special indicator of position worn by bishops. In the Roman Catholic Church, the wearing of a pectoral cross remains restricted to popes, cardinals, bishops and abbots. In Eastern Orthodox Church Orthodox and Byzantine Catholic Churches that follow a Slavic Tradition, priests also wear pectoral crosses, while deacons and minor orders do not. The modern pectoral cross is relatively large, and is different from the small crosses worn on necklaces by many Christians. Most pectoral crosses are made of precious metals and some contain precious or semi-precious gems. Some contain a corpus like a crucifix while others use stylized designs and religious symbols.

Mozzetta Type of cape worn by some Roman Catholic clergy

The mozzetta is a short elbow-length sartorial vestment, a cape that covers the shoulders and is buttoned over the frontal breast area. It is worn over the rochet or cotta as part of choir dress by some of the clergy of the Catholic Church, among them the pope, cardinals, bishops, abbots, canons and religious superiors. There used to be a small hood on the back of the mozzetta of bishops and cardinals, but this was discontinued by Pope Paul VI. The hood, however, was retained in the mozzette of certain canons and abbots, and in that of the popes, often trimmed in satin, silk or ermine material.


A tippet is a scarf-like narrow piece of clothing, worn over the shoulders. It may also be likened to a stole in the secular rather than ecclesiastic sense of this word. Tippets evolved in the fourteenth century from long sleeves and typically had one end hanging down to the knees. A tippet could also be the long, narrow, streamer-like strips of fabric worn as an armband just above the elbow, that hung gracefully to the knee or even the ground. In later fashion, a tippet is often any scarf-like wrap, usually made of fur, such as the sixteenth-century zibellino or the fur-lined capelets worn in the mid-18th century.

Religious habit Distinctive set of garments worn by members of a religious order

A religious habit is a distinctive set of religious clothing worn by members of a religious order. Traditionally some plain garb recognizable as a religious habit has also been worn by those leading the religious eremitic and anchoritic life, although in their case without conformity to a particular uniform style.

Anglican ministry

The Anglican ministry is both the leadership and agency of Christian service in the Anglican Communion. "Ministry" commonly refers to the office of ordained clergy: the threefold order of bishops, priests and deacons. More accurately, Anglican ministry includes many laypeople who devote themselves to the ministry of the church, either individually or in lower/assisting offices such as lector, acolyte, sub-deacon, Eucharistic minister, cantor, musicians, parish secretary or assistant, warden, vestry member, etc. Ultimately, all baptized members of the church are considered to partake in the ministry of the Body of Christ.

Ferraiolo Cape of Catholic priests

The ferraiolo is a type of cape traditionally worn by clergy in the Roman Catholic Church on formal, non-liturgical occasions. It can be worn over the shoulders, or behind them, extends in length to the ankles, is tied in a bow by narrow strips of cloth at the front, and does not have any 'trim' or piping on it.

Entrance prayers

The entrance prayers are the prayers recited by the deacon and priest upon entering the temple before celebrating the Divine Liturgy in the Eastern Orthodox Church and those Eastern Catholic Churches which follow the Byzantine Rite.



  1. Tippet is often used as a synonym of "scarf", but historically it may also have been used in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries for a type of non-academic hood that extended forward down over the chest.( Cross & Livingstone 1974 , "Tippet")


  1. 1 2 Grisebrooke 1978, p. 489, Vestments.
  2. Canons of 1964 and following years: B.8.3
  3. 1 2 Simpson, John A. arts "Surplice" & "Vestments" in The New International Dictionary of the Christian Church J.D. Douglas(ed.) Exeter: Paternoster (1974)
  4. 1 2 3 Procter & Frere. A New History of the Book of Common Prayer, MacMillan (1902), pp.82; 362ff & 110, respectively
  5. Cross & Livingstone 1974, "Ornaments Rubric, The".
  6. Davis 1869, p. 25, Canon 24.
  7. Davis 1869, p. 73, Canon 74 of 1603/04 replaced by C.27


  • Cross, F.L.; Livingstone, E.A., eds. (1974). The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church (2nd ed.). Oxford: University Press.