A priest may wear a white collar when not presiding over a religious service.
A priest may wear a white collar when not presiding over a religious service.

The clothes, or vestments, of a Christian priest depend largely on his denomination and congregation. While Roman Catholics and Orthodox Christians call their clergymen priests, some Protestant denominations may use the words "pastor" or "minister." Lutherans, Anglicans and some other Protestants may wear traditional vestments, as well.

The Orthodox Church

Priests of the Eastern Orthodox faith perform religious services wearing a variety of liturgical layers. The inner layer is called an inner rason and can be compared to a tunic. It extends from the wearer's neck to his knees with buttons at the neck and waist. Some styles require a belt and have interior or exterior pockets. The outer rason is a long, flowing garment that fastens at the neck and has wide, billowing sleeves. A special sash, known as an orarion, may be worn over the left shoulder and held up in the air to garner the attention of the congregation during prayers or while making the sign of the cross. A cap, called a kamilavka can also be worn by the priest. The outer rason may have detachable sleeves and can be dark for penitential seasons or brightly colored. All vestments may be highly decorative and vary between the different branches of the denomination.

The Roman Catholic Church

Roman Catholic priests also wear a series of layers, which have special significance and can be highly decorated. The undergarment is called the alb and should always be white to represent purity of the soul and body. This vestment is not to be confused with the black cassock, or soutane, which was the daily wear of priests in the past. The alb is belted by a cincture, which is often braided linen or wool. The stole is a narrow band of fabric that wraps around the back of the priest's neck and hangs down the front of his alb. It is often decorated with symbols of the liturgical season. The chasuble is a poncho-type vestment worn over the shoulders. The back is often illustrated with a golden cross. The Catholic priest may also wear a veil during outdoor processions or when blessing the sacraments.

Lutherans, Anglicans and Some Other Protestants

Because the Lutherans and Anglicans were the first Protestant denominations to break away from the Catholic Church, many of the liturgical traditions remain the same. Some synods allow for the ordination of women as pastors, so women also wear the traditional alb, cincture, stole and chasuble. The style of the attire largely depends on the congregation. Some other Protestant denominations prefer that their clergy wear liturgical vestments during the service, and some Lutheran and Anglican churches do not.

Remaining Protestant Denominations

Those denominations or individual Lutheran or Anglican churches that decide not to incorporate traditional vestments into their worship service dress in a variety of different ways. The presiding minister may wear plain street clothes, or he may identify himself with a white band at his collar.