A choir robe is a loosefitting long-sleeved gown worn over the clothing, and sometimes draped with a stole. Today's choir robes are descended from the regalia worn by academics at medieval colleges.
The Greek Tunic
Greek pottery dating to 425 B.C. shows members of a choir wearing long, loose gowns. Such gowns likely had their origin in the ancient tunic, which was also the model for clerical vestments.
The early Christian church had no special religious garb, but as time went on, the clergy began to wear special vestments made of costly materials. According to AcademicApparel.com, a company specialising in academic and choir robes, it is likely that choirs of the time began wearing similar garments.
Choirs became a common feature of the great medieval cathedrals. When the cassock (a plain black tunic) draped with a surplice (a white blouselike shirt) became the official garb of the clergy, choirs adopted the style as well.
When Protestant churches broke from Rome, a new style of clerical garb, called the Geneva style, appeared. Based on academic regalia, clerical and choir robes now took on the appearance of graduation gowns.
19th Century to the Present
By the 19th century, it became common for amateur singing clubs to perform secular music, wearing robes and stoles of elaborate design. The 20th century saw the mass-marketing of choir robes for church and school groups. Originally only available in white, black or blue, today there are many styles and colours of robes available.
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