New Vestments

The story behind the New Vestments which appeared over Easter.

Those of you who were at the services from the Saturday Vigil onwards will have been aware of the new vestments worn. I was asked to make a special set for high days and holidays, particularly as we don’t have a Chasuble and Dalmatic that match each other, and those are the occasions when we are most likely to need them.

For those who are interested, the High Mass set consists of a Chasuble, worn by the celebrant, and a Dalmatic, which is worn by the assisting Deacon. Also included are two stoles, one of which is worn under the Chasuble. The other can be used by the Deacon when the Dalmatic – which is usually reserved for feast days – is not worn. These are now identical, but originally, the Priest’s stole was a scarf to fill in the neckline, and the Deacon’s began as a towel worn over the shoulder, but over the years both have simplified in shape, size and use, the only difference now being the way they are worn.The Priest’s is worn round the neck and the Deacon’s is still laid over the left shoulder, crossed and tied on the right hand side.
Added to this is an Apparel – the decorative band attached to the Amice, a linen cloth worn round the neck over the Alb. If a cassock-alb is worn, the Amice is usually dispensed with.

Fabric for church vestments is usually obtained from one of several firms specialising in church furnishings. I have been fortunate to have dealt with M Perkins & Sons – originally in London, but now in Hampshire – for almost 50 years, as many of their fabrics are useful for Mediaeval and Tudor costumes, and they are invariably helpful and obliging when asked for samples. They supplied the fabric, braids and tassels for the current garments – and the various Altar curtains – and Goldhawk Rd provided the silk linings. I have made church vestments before – not very often – and one advantage is that, with their origins as very early garments, their shape is fairly simple, so bar a few basic measurements, no pattern is needed. The construction, however is not so easy, and takes some time to work out the best way to cut the large pieces to ensure that the pattern matches where it should, from fabrics often with quite a large pattern repeat, and matching the wide Orphrey braid used on both garments representing the clavi of Roman clothing. One advantage of the simple geometric cut is that it leaves quite substantial pieces of spare fabric – now transformed into matching collecting bags.

The new altar curtains also filled some gaps in the stock of furnishings. The curtain reflects the liturgical colour of the day [white/gold for festive occasions [Easter, Christmas etc], red – martyred saints, apostles – purple for Lent, Advent , Rogation days, and green for Trinity], and some of them had seen better days. We have replaced the green, added a white one, and made the new Roman purple one, which is now the same colour as the vestments. Apart from matching the pattern on the seams [each curtain consists of 3 lengths of fabric – about 4 metres wide altogether] they are not hard to make – but they do take up a lot of space.