Two Unique Examples of Reversible Vestments

I am going to start at the outset by saying that reversible vestments are not something I generally promote. This isn't to say that they do not have their place.. Mainly, they can be useful options for military chaplains, chaplains of smaller missions -- situations, generally, in other words where there simply isn't the practical space or the option for carrying a full slate of vestments.

Add to that, apparently, the private chapels of certain nobles -- which, I suppose might somehow meet that definition insofar as it would be a small house chapel type of circumstance and thus limited in terms of any type of equivalent to sacristy storage space -- which is where this violet / white chasuble set comes from; from the private chapel of the Duchess of Parma, Louise Marie Thérèse d'Artois. 

In point of fact the set jumped out at me because usually these reversible types of vestments are extremely simple in their design and materials -- matching the extremely modest surroundings they usually would find themselves in. Evidently the chapel of a duchess would be a little less modest  than a mission chapel or circumstances of a military chaplain, which explains the level of embroidered ornamentation we can find on these by comparison. 

This particular set is dated to the late 17th or very early 18th century, and you can see the finer embroidery and smaller galloons that were stylistically more typical to that period of time and earlier. What struck me as well about this particular chasuble was the bright purple combined with the colourful embroideries which include flowers and vines and also Eucharistic symbols such as grapes and wheat.  For our readers interested in regional variations, the orphrey at the neck includes a curved "V" shape which is a characteristic design of vestments from the region of Venezia suggesting that location as that of its possible place of manufacture.

Flip the chasuble over and we can see the white side. The designs are identifical -- at least as identical as can be expected from hand embroidery:

The second example in this genre is equally impressive. I would personally guess it to also be from the 17th century or very early 18th in its origins due to the very wide orphreys and in particular the extremely fine embroidery. This particular set combines white on one side and a very dark blue (which was likely intended to represent purple) on the other. 

Some details of the fabric and its embroidery:

Our readers tend to be attentive and some of you may have noticed the small papal stemma on the base of the chasuble:

Both of these sets present rather unique approaches the matter of reversible vestments. Of greater interest, I believe, than their reversibility, is their design and the embroidered work of the vestments themselves as well as the colouring. 

Credits: Images and some of the information via Plaisirs Textiles. Photos courtesy Alain Rousseau, Daniel H. Fruman. 

Join in the conversation on our Facebook page.