A History of Clerical Clothing Colors

Posted by Jordan Reiss on Jun 18th 2015

A History of Clerical Clothing Colors

You know that our clerical shirts and robes are available in a wide variety of colors, but did you also know that many of these hues carry important meanings? Besides helping you to express yourself as well as look and feel your best, choosing the right color to wear on holidays and special occasions can impart an even deeper meaning to your congregation and community.

Colors are generally used to mark occasions and/or seasons in the church calendar, and to pay tribute to tradition. The meaning of each color varies according to religious denomination, but some themes are common throughout. Use this guide to help select your outfit to suit the occasion in an appropriate and attractive manner!


Black has traditionally been the standard color for Catholic and Protestant religious clothing alike, as it symbolizes formality and imparts a sense of seriousness. It is thus the color most commonly associated with religious garments. Black also represents servitude to God, as well as simplicity, humbleness and a willingness to give up the comforts and privileges of the world.

However, did you know that Catholic priests working in the tropics have traditionally worn white instead? Black cloth absorbs more heat than lighter colors, so in order to beat the heat and humidity, traveling priests adapted their wardrobes to better teach and serve in these locales.


White (often alongside gold) is worn on a variety of different occasions, including non-religious holidays, baptisms, confirmations, ordinations and weddings. Generally, it is worn on days of celebration and happiness, although white garments are occasionally worn at funerals as well.

White represents joy and victory, as well as the purity and virtuousness of the clergy.


Red is most often worn to commemorate a martyred saint, as well as during installation of new pastors and ordinations. Because the color represents the blood of Christ, it is sometimes worn on Good Friday and Palm Sunday; similarly, it is worn on the birthdays and feast days of the apostles who walked with Jesus and later died for Him.

Purple is typically used in situations of reflection, or in preparation for major holidays. It can also take the place of (or be worn alongside) black in some funeral services.

Purple or violet garments are a relatively new addition to the clerical wardrobe, having only been adapted in 1988 as the official color worn during Advent and Lent. While Advent is a happy occasion, celebrating the anticipation of the birth of Christ on Christmas, Lent is the season of penance, where Catholics perform good works and abstain from vices in repentance of their sins.


Rose has a limited but special place on the pulpit; on the 3rd Sunday of Advent and the 4th Sunday of Lent, the Catholic Church allows for the wearing of Rose garments. Worn in the middle of what is usually “purple season,” rose is used to literally represent a “lightening” of the fasting seasons by blending purple with white.


Representing hope, growth and new life, green is the wildcard of clerical clothing colors; it can be worn at any point outside of “Ordinary Time,” which refers to any calendar week that falls outside of the outlined Christmas and Easter seasons.

No matter what the occasion or your own personal style and color preferences, Divinity Clergy Wear supplies clergy wear and church wear for men and women who want to express themselves and their faith in professional, attractive and appropriate ways. Look to Divinity Clergy Wear for all your clothing needs! To learn more, browse our website or call 800-838-7489.