Religious Clothing – An Overview

Clothing is not merely about covering the body or following the latest in fashion trends. Over the years, clothing has evolved based on many factors such as gender, authority and religious requirements.

So far as gender is considered, clothing traditionally has followed a few set norms. For example it is seen that pants and shirts are more associated with men and skirts and tops with women. It is another matter that the dividing line between the two is now blurred and almost non-existent. Then there has been a question of displaying power and authority through clothes with that worn by noblemen and emperors differing greatly from that worn by commoners.

However, nowhere is this distinction more apparent than in specific religious clothing. It is very easy to know a person’s religion from his clothes. This is of course mainly true for those who conduct religious services and not the common man.

What then are some of the dresses worn by people of different faiths?

Christianity – Those who are Roman Catholic, Anglicans, and followers of Eastern Orthodox and Lutheran churches wear vestments which are liturgical garments. Other groups also wear vestments but this has given rise to controversies. A case in point is the debate raised in England in the 19th century in the Protestant Reformation movement regarding wearing of vestments. Adherents of LDS church and Latter Day Saints Movement wear special garments from the time they are 18. It is believed that it protects them from spiritual and physical hazards and threats. Then there is Amish that is a sub sect of Christianity with Swiss Anabaptist origins. Men and boys wear straight-cut suits of dark colours without lapels and broad fall trousers with suspenders. Women do not wear any jewellery.

Islam – Dress code as decreed in Islam varies between countries. In Saudi Arabia it is the niqab, in Afghanistan and most Muslim countries including Pakistan it is the burqa. Islam lays down strict rules of modesty in clothing for women. The difference with Christianity is that while religious figures and priests wear special clothing like vestments and ordinary followers of the faith wear everyday clothes, it is not so in Islam. The burqa or the niqab or the head scarf has to be worn at all times when women venture outdoors.

Judaism – Jewish males wear the kippah or a head cloth during prayers or at other religious rituals. This is why most synagogues keep a stock of them for worshippers. This is also prevalent in other religions like Sikhism where entrance to the Gurdwara, their religious place is only after the head is covered with a cloth by both men and women. The tichel is a headscarf worn by Jewish women during religious rituals and prayers while gartel is worn by the men at those times.

Hinduism – A dhoti has to be worn during visits to temples by Hindu men while women usually do not have any such restrictions. Colour of the clothes plays a big part in Hinduism. While that of the dhoti is usually white, saffron is considered to be the colour of the religion with Hindu monks and priests compulsory wearing saffron hued clothes.

There are many other religions in this world too each having their own distinctive style of dress code.