The "Ugly Vestments War"

Vestments are not supposed to be just pretty clothes, they have liturgical functions.

Here’s a funny, yet sadly poignant video of how our vestments have gone from the sacred and the beautiful to the banal and the ugly.

Your thoughts?

What’s ugly to one person is beautiful to another, though I will admit I’ve seen some rather tacky ones.

I couldn’t get the video to play.

Yes, there are some very ugly vestments there. I guess someone thought they were beautiful and put some effort into them though.

THere is a lot of bad religious art too, so I guess vestments should be no surprise.

The “vestments” are beyond hideous but the video is a hoot :smiley: I love the end with PP Benedict XVI apparently having an “Excedin headache.” :cool:

We need some nice vesments like this…

Not those scary ones in the You tube video!

One thing about beautiful vestments, is that they can be very expensive.

I tend to think that where money is tight, the best thing is to use a very good fabric but with as little ornamentation as possible. Polyester just doesn’t look good, no matter what you do. And if you use a good fabric and make the garment well, more ornamentation could be added later.

The embroidery and pattern of the fabric are good, but the colour is just hideous, it’s almost fluorescent and is burning my eyeballs out as we speak. See, taste is far from universal.

And I’ve seen some hideous ‘old-school’ religious art and statuary as well. Way too bland and saccharine. Not having seen a ton of old vestments, I can’t imagine I’d like all of them either.

In fact I increasingly prefer the Eastern style of iconic depiction of Jesus. In Eastern icons He generally looks strong, as the God-man should, and not like a weak emaciated pallid little thing who wouldn’t say ‘boo’ to a goose as much Western religious art depicts Him.

It is difficult to say whether it is more difficult to do elegant vestments well than baroque ones. I’ve seen horrific and beautiful examples of both.

In either event, vestments with real goldwork and high-quality fabrics are horrifically expensive, while imitations tend to be tacky. Actually, it is shocking to find what plain polyester vestments cost. The only way to get these for a reasonable price is to have people in convents, monasteries, or altar guilds who are willing to put in long hours learning the necessary skills and doing the actual work. Top-quality goldwork, for example, cannot be done by machine and cannot be rushed, even by an expert.

The only consolation in the Youtube video is that the high number of women in it shows that the filmmakers had to go outside the Catholic church to find some of the worst examples. Nevertheless, some of the really bad examples were the textile equivalent of church guitarists that only know how to strum three chords: more earnest, willing, and ambitious than talented or skilled.

That’s the problem. It is the same as the music. So few the people are willing to do it that parishes are willing to accept any level of skill willing to make a commitment, while too many of the people who bellyache about the quality don’t want to pay in time, talent or money to allow the parish to be so picky. High standards don’t come cheap.

You want to see your pastor in nice vestments? Then buy them or make them yourself. Otherwise, you don’t have room to complain, because at least the people who donate the horrible stuff had the gumption to contribute something.

For those who want to start learnng, know that vestment-making is a different skill than dressmaking. This is a really nice website to start with. I think the woman who runs it is Episcopalian.

Beautiful vestments are expensive–for the quality fabrics, the time-consuming embroidery or gold-work, and the detailed tailoring. And then there is the expensive care and upkeep of those fabrics. If we want our priests to have those beautiful things we must put up the money and the time to have them made and cared for properly.

I certainly don’t see fiddleback chasubles as something that is pleasing to the eye:

Vestments got so ornate and heavy for a time that they were ultimately whittled into what I think is the downright ugly fiddleback design. They remind me of those shields they lay on you when taking x-rays at the dentist.

I like the styles that predate the fiddleback which are in common use today.

I took notice of my pastor wearing an extremely plain alb, stole and chasuble one day. They were the very sort that some would judge as not being fancy enough. This was during the summer and he really perspired a great deal during Mass. He had two more Masses to celebrate that day. I’m fairly sure all 3 went in the wash at the end of the day.

It would have been foolish for him to wear an expensive cassock/alb/stole and chasuble that required dry cleaning.

I’m with you, but I have some sympathy with those who think some Gothic chasubles look like a bad cross between a poncho and a horse blanket. There’s not a design in all the textile arts that can’t be done badly.

I like the Gothic chasubles with the exquisite handwork confined to the central panel, and then the rest of the chasuble done in a fabric with a beautiful lustre and drape, and a well-chosen piping on the edge. Even those don’t have to be so wide, though.

I’ve also seen a very simple linen chasuble (maybe linen-silk blend) in white-white with an elegant motif done in gold. Very nice, and not so hot.

It’s like wedding gowns. Simple can be beautiful, if the fabric is right and the details are done with attention.

Those are just bad examples. How is this not beautiful?

or this?

Or this?

I saw the youtube clip and I have a few problems with it, mainly that it included non-Catholics as examples of ugly vestments, including the current head of the Episcopal church. I think that’s unfair and misleading. I also saw a pair of what looked like Eastern vestments. If those are meant as examples of “ugly vestments” then I disagree.

I think we should have beautiful and well-made vestments but they can be expensive and take some work. I think there is a lot to be said for relatively simple (without being plain) and well-made if you can’t afford something more expensive and elaborate. Like others have written, if we want beautiful vestments we need to pay for them or make them ourselves.

I think that people can disagree on which style they prefer. Some people prefer Gothic. Some people prefer Fiddleback. I like both. Sometimes we are more used to one style or another. Sometimes we see associations that others don’t. For instance nobody in the 18th century would associate the Fiddleback style with X-ray aprons because X-rays didn’t exist back then.

If you like Gothic-style vestments you might enjoy some of the work of The Holy Rood Guild.

I didn’t see anything there that appealed to me at all. The vestments are just plain, with some abstract, meaningless ornamentation thrown in.

How about ornamentation that actually means something?

Well, Lepanto, a lot of those designs are inspired by Medieval vestments, which is why so many have names like York, Agincourt, Canterbury, etc. And I disagree that they are “just plain, with some abstract, meaningless ornamentation thrown in.” A quick glance at the Chasuble & Copes Page shows some beautiful designs with damask, brocade, etc. like the Beauvais chasuble, the Aurora Lucis chasuble, or the Cana chasuble. etc. What do you mean by “meaningless ornamentation”? Their vestments have galloons and orphreys like vestments from any other house.

Lepanto, could you give me an example of “ornamentation that actually means something”?

IMO, what is misleading is your intimation that ugly vestments are more likely to crop-up among the Episcopalians, Lutherans, etc, than among Catholics. Post-conciliar Catholic priests are just as likely as anyone else to burlap, felt, polyester, etc, “vestments” that are just plain hideous as are any of the others.

Here are a few Medieval chasubles similar to the ones from the Holy Rood Guild:

From Fr. Longenecker’s blog a Medieval painting: Bishop serving Mass

From the Extant Clothing of the Middle Ages page: Chasuble of St. Bernarnd

From this page dedicated to the “Canterbury Tales”: St. Thomas Becket’s Chasuble

I think you misunderstood. Where did I imply or write that ugly vestments are more likely to pop up with Episcopalian, Lutherans, etc.?

What I did write was to point out that Episcopalians ( and possibly others churches) were included in that youtube clip. I think it’s misleading because the clip was posted to a Catholic forum, and the clip itself starts near the beginning with a picture of a statue of St. Peter dressed as Pope. That and the images at the beginning of traditional style liturgy ( some of which might very well be from Anglicans, although I recognize at least one Catholic church) imply that the so-called “ugly vestments” are also being worn by Catholics. I was pointing out that it wasn’t necessarily so.

If anything, not to point this out would be misleading because it creates the impression that Catholics are worse than others when it comes to “ugly vestments”. Maybe we are but If Episcopal bishop Schori and other Episcopal priests are being used for examples of “ugly vestments” on a Catholic forum then obviously we Catholics are not alone in using “ugly vestments”.

What I think is funny is that the first half of the clip, the “good” half, includes this picture at about 0:11 seconds, taken straight from this history page from the Holy Rood Guild site to which I linked earlier and for whose work Lepanto, who posted the clip in the OP, expressed displeasure.

It was the wording.

Anyway, the fact remains that the reason “liturgical Protestants” (as I call them) wear vestments at all is because of their “roots” so-to-speak. It’s interesting that the famous fiddleback (of which I have never been a fan) was not particularly popular with them. They tended to retain a modified conical (using traditional fabrics and ornamentation) style, or the Gothic style. It was really only after the post-conciliar liturgical free-for-all in the RCC that the others began adopting the “modern” style. Sure, some of the “modern” stuff is conical (or medieval, as you put it) in cut, but the fabrics and decoration are something else again. It’s the combination of bad fabric, loud colors, and “abstract” (for lack of a better word that I can use here) ornamentation that I really find hideous. The cut is totally secondary.

In Western vestments, I personally prefer the full Gothic style. The medieval conical style was very heavy and unwieldy which is why it gave way to the much lighter and more flowing Gothic in the first place. How the Gothic somehow morphed into the Boromean, which was also heavy and unwieldy (and, I’m told, stiff) is beyond me. The fiddleback is a development of the Boromean and I suppose it became popular because it allowed for more unrestricted movement. I find it interesting, though, that the Gothic style experienced a renaissance of sorts in the 20th century.

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