Did you know that the word “robe” came from the English verb “rob”? Back then it meant spoils of war. The robe is a popular garment during the middle ages and the wearer is usually someone who holds a rank or some special office. It also often interchanges with another word – “gown”. This particular clothing is long, loose, and gives the wearer a billowing form.
Today, the meaning of the word robe has been expanded to other forms of garment. This includes bathrobes, wedding gowns, and female evening attire. The robe or gown is still worn formally by various legal members, scholars, and clergymen. For monks, missionaries, and judges, the formal garment they wear is referred to as a “robe” or “black robe”. On the other hand, the scholars and professors prefer to call their ceremonial attire as “gown”. Here are some examples of the ceremonial or formal robes still worn today.
Robes Worn by Religious Orders
Christian monks prefer to wear robes that are plain and at least ankle-length. It’s a cloth that only the pious would wear since it’s usually made of wool which is coarse to the skin. The garment symbolizes the Christian ideals of remaining humble and renouncing worldly wealth. Meanwhile, Buddhist monks in Japan are only limited to three types of robes. They get to wear a plain robe for everyday wear, another much nicer robe for ceremonies within the monastery. The third one is also known as the “great robe” and worn only during ceremonies held in the outside world.
Judge Robes – US Style
US Supreme Court justices normally wear plain black robes. Chief Justice William Rehnquist, however, decided to abandon tradition and added to gold stripes sewn in each sleeve of his robe. The inspiration hit him while he was watching an opera performance. Unfortunately, the other justices were not so keen to follow his new fashion style and choose to stick with the traditional all-black design.
Royal and Imperial Court Robes
The royal courts in Christian Europe sported numerous formal robes especially during the coronation of Kings, Queens, and Emperors. The coronation bride robes worn by the royals are intricately made and elaborate. English Queen Elizabeth II wore a coronation robe that included a very long cape that required six attendants to carry. She also needed assistance from the Mistress of the Robes to help her wear the royal tunic and belt. Once she was crowned, another cape was added and put on her shoulders. For the English royals, the word “robe” is a combination of garments, all of which have symbolic meaning.
Robes or gowns have a long and interesting story. Initially used in formal or ceremonial occasions, its definition even includes informal wear such as bathrobes. Nevertheless, the robe is still worn as a symbol of office or rank. Monks of various religious orders wear them for everyday and ceremonial use. Judges, also wear robes in the courtroom while scholars wear gowns during special ceremonies. Royals, on the other hand, wear robes which in reality is a combination of clothing items during their coronation.