Clerical clothing is non-liturgical clothing worn exclusively by clergy. It is distinct from vestments in that it is not reserved specifically for services. Practices vary: clerical clothing is sometimes worn under vestments, and sometimes as the everyday clothing or street wear of a priest, minister, or other clergy member. In some cases, it can be similar or identical to the habit of a monk or nun.
In Eastern Orthodoxy and Eastern Catholicism, a useful distinction between liturgical vestments and clerical clothing is that vestments are required to be blessed before being worn. Conversely, clerical clothing is not, and is regarded as daily wear.
In 1215, a church council made it mandatory for all the Christian clergy to wear a distinctive dress. Its purpose was not necessarily to elevate the status of the Christian clerics; it was intended that they would catch the public eye if any member of the clergy is seen on the street.
In Rome, Roman Catholic clergy are permitted to wear black, grey, and blue clerical shirts, while in the United States they are permitted to wear only black, quite likely because of long-standing custom.
Anglicanism began to shed its self-conscious adherence to Protestant ideals in the nineteenth century. During that period it was the fashion among gentlemen to wear a detachable collar which was washed and starched separately from the shirt. Initially, Anglican clergy wore a black waistcoat with a white collar affixed to the shirt underneath. Sometime during the middle of the century Anglican ministers began turning the collar around backwards, creating the first versions of the "dog collar". This form of distinctive dress was seen as a controversial affectation of the high church party, but as time progressed the collar-turned-backwards became more common, and even survived the demise of detachable collars among the general public. Though black waistcoat has given way to black shirt, the collar has become a daily part of clerical costume for most Anglican ministers. It should be noted that while the clerical collar has become nearly ubiquitous, there are a growing number of Anglican clergy who perceive that the collar reinforces a poor theology of church leadership and disempowers lay people. These ministers join with the more reformed members of the presbyterate in eschewing distinctive clerical costume entirely.
In the middle of the 20th century Anglican bishops began wearing purple (officially violet) shirts as a sign of their office. Along with the pectoral cross and episcopal ring, this marks them off from other clergy in appearance. While there is no law among the churches of the Anglican Communion that prevents other members of the clergy from wearing a purple shirt, to do so is generally considered an act of abominable self aggrandizement.
Traditionally, Anglican clergy regularly wore the cassock in public. Although this is now rare, some clergy still elect to wear a cassock when within the precincts of their parish church. The cassock might be joined by a Canterbury cap. Bishops and archdeacons traditionally wore a shortened version of the cassock, called an apron (which hung just above the knee), along with gaiters. The gaiters, buttoned up the side, would cover the trouser leg to a point just below the knee. This form of everyday vesture, common up until the 1960s, is now almost extinct.
Unlike their Roman Catholic counterparts, Anglican clergy typically favour the double-breasted over the single-breasted cassock, often with an external button at chest level on which to hook an academic hood (which is worn as part of the choir habit). Like Roman Catholic clergy, some Anglican clergy wear the fascia around the waist, while others prefer a belt.
Clergy of the royal peculiars, senior chaplains to the forces, members of the Chapels Royal and Honorary Chaplains to the Queen may wear a scarlet cassock and a special badge (Queen's cypher surmounted by St Edward's crown surrounded in oak and laurel leafs) on their stole.
and a Lutheran bishop might wear