A clerical diversion

A clerical diversion

I must beg the indulgence of the majority of this blog’s readers. This is a clerical post, insofar as it won’t be of much interest to laypeople. That’s something I generally avoid, but I’ve made an exception this time.

A few incoming seminarians have asked me for advice on soutanes. Since more than one person has contacted me about this, I thought I might as well post it on my blog.

The soutane or cassock is the default mode of dress for clergy in the Latin Church. It has never been the custom in Australia to use the soutane as street wear. However, it is the default garb (the alb is a popular alternative) for liturgical celebrations outside Mass, and some priests wear the soutane around their parish and school. Seminarians wear the soutane when they are serving at Mass, and when they attend ordinations and similar events in choir.

Where does one get a soutane?

Buying a soutane is a bit like buying a suit. It isn’t something you do lightly. It’s an expensive business, and you want something that fits, and which will last!

Since it’s so expensive, first year seminarians don’t usually buy a soutane. There’s always a lot of hand-me-downs floating around the seminary. Most guys wait until the end of first year, or even later, to buy their own soutane.

The best soutanes are from Barbiconi and Gamirelli in Rome. The only catch is, they’re expensive. $800 or more. Guys don’t normally buy a Roman soutane until they’re preparing for their diaconate ordination.

Cheaper soutanes are available in Vietnam and the Philippines. I have two replicas of my Barbiconi soutane (one black and one white) which cost only $50 each. The only catch is that I had to order them in person, in Saigon.

A happy medium lies in Poland. Much cheaper than Rome, more accessible than Vietnam — ie: available online. They cost about $300.

A final alternative is to source your own tailor and negotiate a price. In that case, it’s worth providing them with the Barbiconi measurement form, which is the most exhaustive. Just don’t take the measurements yourself. You’ll need another person to record accurate figures.