QUAERITUR: Size of the amice.

amiceFrom a deacon about to be ordained priest:

What would you consider an ideal size for an amice? If it helps, I use
46 L suits.

PS I will be ordained to the priesthood this upcoming Saturday 28th.
Would you remember me in your prayers?

Congratulations for your next step.

Ideal size for an amice?

To paraphrase an old saying, an amice, like a paragraph, is a bit like a lady’s skirt.  It has to be long enough to cover the essentials and short enough to be interesting.

Seriously, the purpose of the amice is two-fold.

First, there is the spiritual significance.  The vesting prayers traditionally recited by sacred ministers when vesting view the amice as a helmet, guarding against attacks of the Enemy.  Therefore, it is draped over the head before it is lowered around the next.

Second, there is the practical purpose.  Our “street clothes” (cassock included) are to be covered from view when we wear sacred vestments.  This means that even our Roman, or “military” clerical collars must be hidden from view when we vest for Mass.  The amice covers our street clothes.  The amice also serves to keep our vestments clean.

I think the size of the amice in the graphic I included at the top is just about right for the size of the rectangular cloth.  If the amice, when placed around the next, goes down to about your solar plexus, even if there is a gap in the neck of your alb, your cassock should be covered.

NB: be sure that the attached ribbons are long enough to pass, crossed, over your chest, around your back, to the front again and still have enough of the ribbons left to be able to tie them in a box knot.

So, the amice has to be large enough, the ribbons long enough, to cover the essentials.

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15 Responses to QUAERITUR: Size of the amice.

  1. Father S. says:

    It has been my experience that it is important to shop around. An ill-fitting amice is a nuisance. There are a few outfitters who will make amices to custom sizes. If a man orders a couple, he will have enough to last for some time. Amices–and cinctures, too–are something that it is nice to have many of. If you can find one, it is my experience that the finest amices are sold by the episcopal conference of Costa Rica (CECOR). They are large and durable.

  2. Gail F says:

    That’s very interesting. I used to be heavily involved in medieval historical reenactment, and clothing was a special interest of mine. I am aware of a medieval woman’s garment (actually several — different times and places) very much like this. It was quite normal throughout European history to use simple rectangles of fabric, sometimes with ties and sometimes simply pinned, underneath other garments. These always served a practical purpose, and if you wear them you discover what it is! People also extra parts of garments — false skirt fronts, false sets of sleeves under real ones, etc .– to get a certain look. This was mostly decorative, although sometimes it was also practical. Even armor worked this way. Plate armor ties on to undergarments (these are padded undergarments, sometimes so stiff that they also function as a layer of armor).

    Today we pretty much wear entire garments — a shirt, a vest, a jacket — and the idea is foreign. But many vestments and habits have designs that are centuries old. I enjoy seeing them.

  3. Andy Milam says:

    It becomes a matter of preference (and it really doesn’t have much to do with the original intent of this thread), but working as a master of ceremonies and rarely serving as a straw subdeacon, I can tell you NOT to over starch the amice. It fits better and it folds better around your neck if it isn’t starched. A little starch is ok, to hold shape, but by and large don’t make it like a dress shirt.

    Some priests like the creases in the amice, but since nobody really sees it, so…

    When I was a sacristan/MC/resident at St. Agnes, the Monsignor used to make an amice last a week. Unless you’re a heavy sweater, that is about right…so when purchasing them, take that into account. Obviously, if you’re “a leaker” then you’ll need more…

    They can be a little hard to find, so if you can reclaim them, do so…the older one’s tend to work better anyhow. Just some friendly amice advice from a sacristan/MC…take it or leave it.

  4. AnAmericanMother says:

    Funny – a beekeeper’s veil fastens in the same way (unless you have one of the new fancy coveralls with the zip-on veil!) – cross in front, round the back, back to the front, tie in a box knot. It keeps the bees out.

  5. Centristian says:

    C.M. Almy offers a “clerical dickey amice” that is very unlike the traditional amice but has the same purpose: to cover the collar of the cassock. It provides a crisper look than a traditional amice, but I’m not sure I prefer that crisper look to the traditional look:

    http://www.almy.com/Product/36177/category/AlbsForMen/parent/ClergyApparel-Man

  6. Nan says:

    Consider sequestering your amices in a mesh laundry bag so their strings may tangle amongst themselves instead of involving everything else. I don’t starch them. Most of the ones I see are linen, with a few cotton ones in the mix.

    The field guide to liturgical laundry that Fr. Z recommends is quite helpful.
    http://wdtprs.com/blog/2008/08/review-handbook-for-laundering-liturgical-linens/

  7. Haec Dies says:

    The Sisters of the SSPX make very nice Amices which measure between 20″ X 32″ to 24″X 36″. Not sure if this helps as I have seen quite small amices to the larger ones.

  8. nanetteclaret says:

    On a side note, the thread about laundering liturgical linens had a discussion about what type of starch to use. When I was on the (Episcopal) Altar Guild, we were taught never to use starch (a huge no-no), since starch can flake off. Linens, when ironed while still wet, will become quite stiff on their own. While sopping wet, they should be rolled in a towel, then ironed on a fresh, fluffy (white) towel so that the embroidery doesn’t get flat, using a clean iron (no steam). Start on the wrong side first, getting the corners perfectly straight, then iron the embroidery, then iron the rest, then turn over and iron the front. When the item is perfectly dry, it will be quite stiff and can then be folded properly, while still warm. Press the creases with the fingers, never the iron, since it will break down the fibers.

    I will be forever grateful for my time on the Altar Guild and all of the instructions I received on the proper care of holy things. The front page of our Altar Guild Manual reminded us that we are never to begin our work without first going to the Altar rail to pray in thanksgiving for the privilege of service to Our Lord. “Ora et Labora”

  9. Bthompson says:

    I make amices and other vestments (I am a large man and my college seminary did not have albs that fit properly, so I bought a sewing machine and turned out an alb, surplice, cassock, amices, etc) and I find that for a man like myself (6’1″ tall, 54L coat, 20.5″ neck), a 30″x45″ amice is ideal. I have a deacon friend (will be ordained a priest Thursday) who similarly enjoys such jumbo-sized amices although he is much thinner than I. I think it all comes down to personal comfort and preference. I have found that, obviously, if you go for a square-yoke alb, your amice necessarily must be larger (Though, still being lay, perhaps when I start wearing an outer vestment as well that weight might keep the amice tucked in in back.

  10. digdigby says:

    This is about the most amic-able discussion I’ve seen on this blog in ages.

  11. Legisperitus says:

    If you belong to a habit-wearing order, the amice should presumably be big enough to cover your cowl.

  12. tmitchell says:

    Would it be permissible for altar servers who wear albs to use the amice (for the same purpose of covering street clothes)?

  13. uptoncp says:

    legisperitus – monastic practice is different, the cowl stays out and is used for covering the head where a secular priest uses his biretta. See, for example, the New Liturgical Movement blog on Feb 10 of this year (I would link, but I’d rather save Fr. from having to fish this out of his spam filter – use the blog’s built in search function) for pictures of Dom Cassian Folsom, OSB, celebrating high Mass with two secular priests assisting as deacon and subdeacon.

    tmitchell – I find it hard to envisage an alb worn without an amice looking reasonable. Anyone who wears an alb can, and surely should, wear an amice under it.

    A note: if you wish to attach an apparel to your amice, whether in the traditional way by tacking it, or by more modern means with poppers (aka press studs in the US, IIRC), not only does the amice need to be a little longer to accommodate it, but the strings also need to be longer, as an extra turn is taken around the neck to form the top of the amice into a hood.

  14. Andy Milam says:

    @tmitchell;

    re: amices for servers who wear albs….ABSOLUTELY!!!! There is no prohibition. It would be laudable actually. It would further the idea that all the boys are equal.

    The use of albs for servers isn’t necessarily a bad thing, if one is serving in a place where the use of an alb is warranted, such as for a parish church serviced by an order…or if one is in a monestary where that is the custom as well. The most obvious that comes to mind is in a Cistercian monestary.

  15. Pearty says:

    Thanks be to God. My prayers go with you.