Let's look it up

Alb, Cincture, and Stole

Notice my stiff, uncomfortable facial expressions. You can see that it’s good I have other skills, because I obviously have no future as a model. I took these pictures myself with a time delay on the shutter.

First, we see a plain alb with a cincture:

Picture of me wearing an alb with a cincture

In this picture, I am wearing a plain alb. Albs are most often worn with a rope cincture. Natural colored cinctures are most common, but they also come in colors to match the church seasons. I’m wearing a green cincture for the contrast so that you can see it.

The word alb is short for tunica alba, which means “white tunic,” and that is exactly what it is. Men and women of the first century wore tunics as part of their everyday clothing. Obviously, white tunics are hard to keep clean, so they weren’t practical as street clothes. However, they were used in the church. Since the Bible depicts the angels who announced Jesus’ resurrection as being dressed in white, as in Matthew 28:3, the church of the first four centuries gave people albs as soon as they emerged from the baptismal waters. The alb is therefore an angelic garment, a baptismal garment, and a resurrection garment.

Albs can be worn by anyone who leads worship, including lay people.

 
Next, we see an alb with a stole:

Picture of me wearing an alb with a stole

You can think of the stole as the first-century equivalent of a modern necktie. In modern ecumenical practice, the stole marks the wearer as ordained clergy.

Originally the stole was a sort of kerchief. In this picture, I am dressed as a slave whose job it is to wash the feet of the masters’ guests.

The stole in the picture is green, which is appropriate for regular services on the Sundays after Epiphany or after Pentecost; actually, most of the year. I would wear different colored stoles for different occasions. Notice that the stole that goes with the alb is larger than the stole that goes with the cassock.

 
Finally, we see an alb with a stole and chasuble:

Picture of me in a chasuble.The chasuble is generally only worn in services in which there is Communion. The chasuble is a circular garment with a hole in the center for the head. If you stretch your arms straight out when you are wearing a chasuble, the chasuble is in the shape of a folded-over semicircle, or an upside-down taco shell, if you will. The chasuble goes over the stole, though lately there are some stoles that are designed to be worn over the chasuble. Chasubles are usually very beautiful and expensive. Most come with matching stoles.

In this picture, the stole is under the chasuble. If you look very close, you can see the ends of the stole hanging below the bottom of the chasuble.

Other colors for the stoles:

I do not have a picture of a Geneva gown, because if you have graduated from school, you know what they look like. I do not wear a gown because I’m presiding at worship, not graduating from school.