Religious garments (kākahu hāhi) distinguish the cleric from the congregation – hence the expression ‘man of the cloth’. They indicate the wearer’s devotion, role, and level of authority.
Plain to opulent
Church robes date from the 4th century. They were originally based on plain, practical Roman clothing, such as the tunic. As the Church prospered, vestments became more elaborate and costly, and came to signify status, authority, and power.
Extravagance and modesty
During the 16th-century Protestant Reformation, many new churches adopted plain dress in reaction against opulent Roman Catholic finery. Ministers wore simple gowns in dark colours devoid of decoration and embellishment. Extravagance and modesty became opposing strands in the history of all subsequent Christian garments.