A: This question comes up with almost every order placed and the following is a general answer (please call or e-mail for specific questions). The basic colors a priest should have are “bright” for most Sundays (this is a wide category and can include white/gold, white/gold/red, gold/gold/red or light-colored embroidered vestments), “dark” for Lent (purple is still most commonly used in the US, but burgundy or black are beginning to be used as well), white for Pascha, blue for feasts of the Theotokos and Akathist services in Lent, red for feasts of the cross and martyrs, and green for Pentecost season. If you travel frequently, I would suggest lightweight, embroidered vestments as many of the patterns have multiple-color combinations that are very versatile. Please keep in mind that these are general recommendations—you only need one set of vestments to serve, so if you’re on a limited budget, I would recommend “bright” vestments and then add a “dark” set as you are able.Q: I'm being ordained a deacon and will be ordained a priest soon (6 months to 1 year). What should I purchase?
You may already have an Zostikon (cassock) but you will need an Exorason.
You will also need a set of deacon’s vestments. I have three options I recommend:
Q: I really like the photo of the gray Zostikon (cassock), but do clergy really wear them?
- Borrow vestments and then save your pennies for your priest's vestments.
- Purchase one gold/white or gold/red deacon's set which can be worn every Sunday.
- Purchase one gold/white or gold/red deacon's set and then cuffs and orarion (no sticharion) in a burgundy/gold brocade (or burgundy velveteen). When the rubrics specify "light" vestments, you wear the gold set, when they specify "dark" wear the gold sticharion with the burgundy/gold cuffs and orarion.
Yes! Most clergy are delighted to wear something other than black and the lighter color is nice and cool in summer. The most common colors of zostika are black, blue, and gray (in that order). Other colors I’ve sewn include burgundy, taupe, forest green, and ivory.Q: Why do I have to e-mail you for swatches? Why can't you just send a generic packet of swatches?
I like to know your budget, your needs, and your color and pattern preferences. Corresponding with you via e-mail allows me to narrow down my choices of what to send you. However, I have hundreds of fabrics available and if you don't like what is in the first swatch packet, let me know and I'll keep sending swatches until you find that "just-right" fabric/galloon combination.Q: Should I purchase a performance, tropical-weight wool, or silk Zostikon?
While the performance fabric is “dressy” enough for Sunday use, it is designed for daily, hard- wear use. It is also excellent for those who perspire heavily as it wicks perspiration away from the body. And if you’re looking for a machine-washable garment, then it’s definitely the way to go. The tropical-weight wool is a dressier garment, suitable for both daily and Sunday wear. It is ideal for those who prefer natural fibers or want a classic garment. The silk crepe is primarily a “special occasion” garment because it is a bit higher-maintenance than the other two fabrics.Q: I am going to be ordained a priest soon and while I really want to purchase quality vestments, I am on a limited budget. What do you suggest?
I am trying to offer a wider price range of vestments and to this end, I am always searching for new fabrics that will be high-quality, traditional, and affordable. The woven vestments in the Priest’s Vestments section are one of the best options. One suggestion: when you purchase your ordination set, request that I use an all-gold galloon on the sticharion so that you can wear it with multiple sets of vestments. While this doesn’t save you money on your first set, it will save you $225 on all subsequent vestment sets. Please keep in mind that this is for those on a limited budget—having a sticharion with each set keeps the sticharion from wearing out. One other money- saving option is to leave off the epigonation. If you are awarded it at a later date, you can purchase one all-purpose embroidered-style epigonation that would be worn with all of your vestments.Q: I perspire heavily and am too warm and uncomfortable in my vestments--what should I do?
The lightest-weight vestments you can purchase are the lightweight, embroidered vestments--the entire set weighs just over 5 lbs. The phelonion is unlined and will keep you as cool as is possible. Also, this is a tough fabric and perspiration won't damage it as quickly as liturgical brocades. The embroidered fabric is available in many beautiful patterns and multiple background colors, so you could wear only lightweight vestments year-round (this is what my perspiration- challenged clients do). You should avoid real-metal brocades with metallic galloon because they are the "hottest" of all vestments. If you like the look of an Zostikon under vestments, but find this just too uncomfortable, I offer a “micro-anterri”, which is like an old-fashioned shirt dicky. It is a cassock collar sewn to a “bib” and costs $45. To use it, you wear a white shirt, then the “micro” over the white shirt, and then vest as usual.Q: I’ve found other vestments cheaper elsewhere. Why are your garments so expensive?
When it comes to making any garment, there are two factors reflected in the price: materials and labor. I am very particular about materials and will only work with fabrics, galloons, crosses, fringes, buttons, etc. that I know will make not only beautiful vestments, but long- lasting ones. Whenever possible, I make up sample garments of any new fabric so I can have one of my clergy- testers test it for durability. In this age of throw-away garments, few people are educated about quality materials, so this is definitely a case of knowing how to compare “apples to apples”. If vestments are cheaper, it’s nearly always because the materials are lower-quality.
As for labor, the simple answer is: I don’t outsource overseas and I don’t cut corners! Unlike big-box retailers who have garments made by sweatshops in China, paying seamstresses pennies per hour, I do all cutting and fitting work myself and then contract with American finish seamstresses to complete the garments. My contract seamstresses are all highly-trained and I pay at the top of the wage-bracket for this kind of work since I believe that “the workman is worthy of his hire”. My contract seamstresses are very dedicated to this work and take great pride in the quality of their workmanship. Simply put, we don’t cut corners.
If you compare my prices with a comparable, high-quality ecclesiastical tailor in Greece, you will find on average that I am about 25% cheaper. I have not raised prices in five years and in order to cover my increased material and labor costs, I have worked hard to run a “leaner” business so that I do not have to raise prices.Q: Where can I find patterns to make Orthodox vestments?
Sewing vestments is completely different from standard sewing. Not only are the fabrics and trims different, but there is a whole host of techniques for dealing with these materials in a traditional fashion. It is a common misconception by those who don't sew that anyone who has the ability to sew can sew anything, but there is a wide variety of skills and techniques used in various types of sewing (upholstery, swimwear, couture, etc.). For example, I know vestments, but I don’t do upholstery.
As far as books or patterns, there aren't any available. This is because each vestment maker drafts his own "slopers" or master patterns that are then manipulated to each client's measurements. Personally, I direct draft onto the fabric using both my master patterns and my client's measurements, so I'm not able to provide "patterns" like those used in home sewing. Vestment making is a craft with many different facets and techniques that takes years to learn and it's not easy to distill it into a few, brief steps for one or two garments. The equivalent would be to ask for paint-by-number icons: the finished product might look vaguely icon-like, but it wouldn't be an Orthodox icon following the established tradition of the craft. I know this answer may seem discouraging, but it's the reality of an aesthetic tradition built up over many centuries of refinement and use.