Where to buy surplice
  • I'm looking to buy a waist-length white surplice, but I don't want to have to borrow against my mortgage to get one. I've found a few sites that have some for reasonable prices, but these sites suspiciously don't have any reviews on the item. I'm curious if anyone has purchased from any of these sellers and can vouch for them, or if you have any other suggestions for where to find reasonably-priced surplices.



  • Richard MixRichard Mix
    Posts: 2,685
    waste-length... for reasonable prices
    Is it really April already?
  • Toomey is an old and reliable firm. I doubt that you could better their $39.95 price.
    Almy would be another.
    Wippells would be another.
    There are many firms that supply ecclesiastical vesture.
    Also, I've heard of people purchasing kits and making their own.
    It seems to me that the one you've found from Toomey would fit your needs and price.

    I've never heard of Ivy, who are on your above list.

    And some un-asked for commentary -
    As for length - waist length hardly qualifies as a surplice.
    It's hardly longer than a so-called cotta, which is actually a chopped-off surplice.

    A surplice that's really a surplice would be at the very least below calf length, and preferably ankle length.
  • The picture of the Toomey you've picked seems to have a very nice length and is nicely priced. They do, as mentioned by MJO, have a good reputation. Having advised, we now expect a picture of you in it when you get it!image
  • MarkS
    Posts: 279
    I would second Almy. I have used them for years, and their stuff is made to spec/order (so takes a bit) but is beautifully constructed and will look good forever.

    In my neck of the American Episcopalian woods, a waist-length surplice is known as a 'Roman cotta.' I wear the organist's version (split sleeves—and the shorter length is useful in terms of pedaling) and have been (as opportunity allows) slowly switching my choir folks over to waist length (right now we're half and half) because in this neck of of the woods that seems to be the norm. I've just realized that I actually have no idea what the history/significance that the two styles of surplice have, if any. Anyone?
  • Well, Mark -
    THE garment to have 'in choir' is a surplice, which, worn over a cassock is 'choir habit'.
    A surplice is a full white garment that reaches to approximate ankle length, though the faint of heart wear them at least to somewhere below calf length. This is what a surplice is. Anything shorter than this is to a surplice what our tail bone is to a tail. The sleeves may be slit for free arm movement by choirmasters and organists. My own surplice (from Wippells) reaches to about six inches above the floor. When playing the organ I simply gather it up around my lap. I wouldn't have it any other way.

    Things that aren't surplices at all, but are vestigial remnants of surplices - One of these items is the so-called cotta, which is nothing more than a chopped off surplice. Cottas generally reach anywhere from above the waist to near the nipples. Some people seem really to like putting these piteously vestigial things on very little boys. I don't know the history of the cotta, but its history is not a very lengthy one. One finds these ridiculous looking rags on little boy altar servers at churches which apparently believe that they are more Catholic and more traditional. They aren't. Anything above the calf, no matter how many people wear them, is not a real surplice. The so-called cotta (some of them are so short that they look like flouncy brassieres with funny little bitty sleeves) is something that shouldn't exist, and historically didn't. More amusing than one of these cottas on little boys is one on a grown man.

    It is interesting that after the council all the 'progressive' parishes began to put their altar servers and acolytes in albs. This, oddly, is the historical vesture for acolytes and servers, preferably worn with an amice, preferably appareled. Ironically the 'traditional' parishes hung onto cassock and surplice as sanctuary vesture, thinking it more historic and traditional. It isn't at all! Its tradition as sanctuary vesture is quite short. Cassock and surplice are choir habit, not sanctuary vesture. So, the joke is on the 'traditionalists'. But, traditionalists and contemporaryists have one thing in common - nobody can tell them anything.

    My heart aches to have our instituted acolytes and servers at Walsingham in appareled albs and amices, as seen in many representations of Sarum usage. Maybe in a few years this will happen.
  • Thanks for all of the input. I ended up ordering the Toomey surplice.

    I don't know about posting a picture, but I can certainly post back with a review.
  • tomjaw
    Posts: 2,574

    'progressive' parishes began to put their altar servers and acolytes in albs

    Hmm, Albs that look like a piece of sacking material and almost always look awful. If we were conservatives we would use Albs, but we are Traditionalists, we appreciate the past and value it but not at the expense of never improving it.

    N.B. I quite agree that some Cottas look ridiculous.
  • ClergetKubiszClergetKubisz
    Posts: 1,912
    Any place I could get a reasonably-priced, or discounted cassock?
    Thanked by 1stulte
  • tomjaw -

    My point was, and it's irrefutable, that albs and amices are from of old the proper vesture for acolytes and servers, deacons, sub-deacons, and priests, and anyone else ministering at the altar. Those who wear chasubles, dalmatics, and tunicles wear them over their albs and amices. It is a special touch if they are appareled. Cassock and surplice are choir habit, not sanctuary vesture. Their usage in the sanctuary is, historically, of relatively recent origin. The irony, of course is that 'progressives', or 'modernists', or whatever you want to call them adopted the correct sanctuary vesture whilst the 'conservative' or 'Traditionalists' continued to vest themselves in choir habit.
    Now, if one's objection to albs is that the 'their' albs looks like 'sacking material', then one should take care that his own albs do not look like sacking material. There is no way out of this.

    You say that 'we appreciate the past... but not at the expense of never improving it'. Just in what way have you improved it? Cassock and surplice as mass vesture is not an improvement. It is continuing a faulty practice under the delusion that it has an historical precedent or pedegree that it doesn't begin to have. The historical record in letters, archaeology, and art will bear this out. I suspect that 'at root' here we are dealing with what is simply a subjective preference based on 'what I like the looks of', as well as 'they' are wearing 'that', so 'we' must wear 'this'.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,891
    My heart aches to have our instituted acolytes and servers at Walsingham in appareled albs and amices, as seen in many representations of Sarum usage. Maybe in a few years this will happen.

    I suppose one could be grateful they are not wearing cut-offs or torn jeans, and are not naked. :-) There has to be a bright side to this somewhere.
    Thanked by 1M. Jackson Osborn
  • ClergetKubisz,

    I haven't received it yet, but I ordered mine online from Leaflet. My size cost $60, which was one of the more reasonable prices I found anywhere.
  • FWIW, here's a painting dated just over 150 years ago where the altar servers are wearing surplices (or cottas) not unlike what is commonly seen today.


    I apologize that my simple inquiry lead to a rather inconsequential disagreement about the liturgical merit of a ubiquitous vestment. Perhaps next we can debate the legitimacy of the fiddle-back chasuble.
  • CradleRevert -

    150 years?
    Is that all??
    That's recent in the Church's reckoning.
    I notice, too, that the garment pictured is dripping with fish net lace.
    Due to that and its paltry length one could hardly call it a surplice.

    As for fiddle back chasubles,
    I think that we don't need that debate at this time.

    I'm glad that you found the surplice you needed.
    You needn't apologise for a perfectly reasonable question which, as often happens here, led to related matters. Thank you.
    And the matter of correct sanctuary vesture is hardly 'inconsequential'.
  • Reval
    Posts: 175
    Well, then we find this portrait of a bishop from 1774.

    Thanked by 1M. Jackson Osborn
  • Reval -

    Thanks for the portrait.
    We notice that the good bishop is in choir habit
    posing for a portrait
    and not celebrating mass.

    I really don't know when cassock and surplice invaded the sanctuary and (in many but not all places) replaced historic mass vesture. I suspect that it would be no earlier than sometime into the XVIIIth century if not later. No doubt someone will find a picture of this or that date, but, in the Church's reckoning it will be a relatively 'recent' date.

    Now, we need for someone to provide pictures of apparaled albs and amices on properly vested men, so that all can see what servers and acolytes, torch bearers and crucifers and all are supposed to look like at mass. I would do it but don't know how. (In the Sarum rite, of course, the crucifer wears a tunicle [over his alb and amice!], which he does at Walsingham on solemnities.)

    This gets more interesting.
    Thanked by 1Reval
  • BenBen
    Posts: 3,114
    I own several surplices, all of which I'm fairly happy with.

    1, 2) http://www.thehouseofhansen.com/surplices.shtml (corectwlac and plnsurp)
    3) http://www.catholiccompany.com/latin-cross-and-ihs-lace-surplice-i79329/

    The $50 Toomeys are also good, if you want cheaper option with no lace. It's 'the standard' most places.

    No matter which one you buy, I'd suggest not going for waist height, but instead shoot closer to the thighs. That's where they're typically worn, and much more visually pleasing/

    Also, if you're an organist and plan to wear it as one, be very aware of lace - I'd avoid it if at all possible. It can catch things very easily.

  • bhcordovabhcordova
    Posts: 1,142
    Don't know where you are, but Sacco in Houston, TX sells religious items, including vestments.
  • ClergetKubiszClergetKubisz
    Posts: 1,912
    I'm closer to Ben than I am to TX.
  • OlivierOlivier
    Posts: 58
    If you're OK with used, a much more economical option might be found at your local Army surplice store.
  • Hmmm.... we seem to have a surplice of wit!
    (If not a surfeit of lampreys surplices).
  • ClergetKubiszClergetKubisz
    Posts: 1,912
    Olivier, I'm totally ok with used. Thank you for the suggestion.
  • SalieriSalieri
    Posts: 3,173
    I got my organist's surplice from Almy's: it comes to about just below the knee. I like my surplices long, and this was the best I could find on a tight budget--had I the money, I'd go to Watts and Co., London.
    Thanked by 1KyleM18
  • KyleM18
    Posts: 150
    Same as Salieri, although I would add that Almy's has an easier to navigate ordering system on their website that Watts.
  • Protasius
    Posts: 468
    I can trace cassock and surplice as prescribed vesture for the servers to at least the Caeremoniale episcoporum in its first edition (1600). It features even earlier in illuminated manuscripts (eg the baculifer in the depiction of bishop Wilhelm of Reichenau in the Pontificale Gundekarianum of Eichstätt, painted sometime in the 15th/16th century, and very often in images of Low Mass). The surplice is a descendant of the alb, which was a winter replacement of the alb used in choir (with wide sleeves to fit over the fur coat necessary for long matins in unheated churches, hence superpelliceum [over the fur] = surplice), and both for servers and for the choir. The Dominicans have – at least in some provinces – retained the custom to dress the servers in albs on feast days and in surplice on ordinary days.
  • Almy's are good.
    So are Watts'.
    For the best superpellicum, though, go to Wippell's.
    Wippell's are really Nonesuch.

    Very enlightening, Protasius!

    Still - there is nothing quite so historic and ecclesiastically smart as appareled albs and amices.