Focus On: Clergy and Choir Attire
By Valli Herman
When a scene calls for a church choir, a papal procession or grand mass, Costume Designers don’t need to pray for a handy resource for authentic vestments. If they’re in Rome, they can contact the dozens of firms that supply clergy with ecclesiastical wear. Costume Designer Daniel Orlandi scoured the ancient city’s vast ecclesiastical supply stores and famous tailors to dress the 200 cardinals, priests, bishops, nuns and more in the 2009 film “Angels & Demons.” If Rome isn’t in your budget, Los Angeles offers a number of major manufacturers, custom designers and niche experts that can supply productions with a wide range of attire for everyone from altar boys to priests to entire choirs. Here’s a small sampling of the top suppliers.
ACADEMIC CAP & GOWN
20644 Superior St., Chatsworth, CA 91311
Though this San Fernando Valley company specializes in regalia for graduation ceremonies, it also has a thriving division for church choir robes and offers three dozen distinct styles. The company was established in 1946 as a manufacturer of judges’ robes, and gradually added the production and sale of church gown and accessories. Academic is a third-generation family business that also manufacturers most of its products in the United States. The website includes a short history of choir robes and features a special section for choral stoles that can be highlighted with embroidery. The website also sells a full range of choir robes, church robes and choral accessories. Some basic choir robes are available for sale and quick shipment directly from the factory at a discounted price, typically beginning at $50 for an adult gown; $35 for children’s. Custom orders require five to nine weeks of production time; rush orders are available during slower seasons. Their choir robes were featured in Madonna’s Superbowl performance and the 79th Annual Academy Awards show. A catalog, fabric swatches and samples can also be requested; discounts are available for quantity orders.
CHAGALL DESIGN LTD.
20625 S. Belshaw Ave., Carson CA 90746
True specialists, Chagall Design Ltd. In Carson offers a wide selection of chasubles for the liturgy and such items as dalmatics, copes, stoles, albs, surplices, mitres and even the altar clothes and banners to match. Made in America, the detailed garments can cost from $300 for a simple dalmatic to more than $2,500 for a brocade cope.
CLIFFORD + CHALLY
12225 Hatteras St., Valley Village, CA 91607
Clifford Chally is a Costume Designers Guild Board member and President Ex-Officio who is as well known for his pioneering work on “Designing Women” as he is for creating elegant church vestments. His company, CLIFFORD+CHALLY, has been designing and producing custom vestments and paraments since 1997 for churches and individuals alike. Drawing on his costume design skills, Chally creates each order to the specifications of the client, and incorporates environmental elements, architectural details, trademarks, or personal interests to produce unique designs.
His company designs and constructs a full range of custom vestments and paraments employed in religious service: copes, mitres, chasubles, dalmatics, tunicles, stoles, deacon stoles, scapulars, frontals, antependiums, banners, bible markers, burses, veils, casket palls, and urn palls. Chally also restores heirloom pieces and can guide Costume Designers through the use of the specialized items.
His customized garments have reflected the design of a church’s stained glass windows, a sunrise of another’s Arizona location or the design details found in the sanctuary or literature.
“I design for spaces,” he says. “That’s way different than picking up a catalog and picking out a trim and a fabric and color.”
COTTER CHURCH SUPPLIES
1701 James M. Wood Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90015
In the Westlake area of Los Angeles near downtown, Mike Cotter guides customers at Cotter Church Supplies through the sometimes arcane details of proper attire and the attendant ceremony of ecclesiastical wear. Cotter says his company, which was started by his father Ted, often operates as a resource for designers. The business offers all of the garments that are worn in modern-day church settings for all the major Christian denominations. Catholics, with a large emphasis on ceremony and decoration, constitute a large customer base. The online catalog offers such items as a $47 altar boy’s cassock to a $185 chasuble banded in traditional Central American prints. Cotter also offers custom production for garments and even specialty items such as altar cloths, which can be shipped in just a few days. More complex custom order can take up to eight weeks.