Church choir uniforms - some options

I've received a couple of questions lately about choosing and sourcing choir uniforms.

This is a topic that many church and secular choirs find difficult:  there is NO style or colour which suits everyone, some people have deeply-held opinions and feelings about what is suitable, and what clothing they are willing to wear. 

This article suggests a three approaches (robes, same-colour street clothing, tee-shirts), discusses some of the issues with each one, and gives some options for using a generic t-shirt uniform.

The formal approach:  Choir robes or gowns

More traditional churches sometimes choose to use robes that members wear over their regular clothing.   Arguably this is a style which suits everyone equally badly, and it is in keeping with traditional church-church dress. 

Deciding to use robes doesn't answer all the questions:  Even with this approach, are there are discussions about color, cost, style, etc.   One issue that is sometimes overlooked is the availability of extra robes if more people, or different-shaped people, join - this can be very costly if you have a set of robes custom made, and then just need one or two more later.

If you decide to use robes, then as well as agreeing the color and design, you need to:
  • Fund them:  typically churches provide robes, members are not asked to buy their own, due to them being relative expensive
  • Have a place to keep them (they're usually too bulky for members to bring with them) - probably you need a wardrobe where they can hang
  • Arrange to have them cleaned regularly
  • Make sure that your choir area has a suitable temperature.  Robes worn over clothing can be very warm
  • Provide members with a dressing-room or robing-room:   ideally somewhere that they can safely leave coats etc during the service
  • Decide how alterations and mending will be done.
  • Have a policy on replacements and catering to different body types and sizes  (these issues can be very sensitive).

To find a robe-supplier, check with other churches who they have used and would recommend.   This is a very specialist area dealing with customised orders, so do not expect to find an on-line supplier easily:  there are some, but for the number involved in most choirs, it may be better to choose a design and contract a local dressmaker or similar.

An in-between approach:  dress in the same colour

A popular option for non-church choirs is for everyone to dress in the same colour - usually black, because that is the colour which most easily disguises the fact that there are many many different shades.

This is a good option because everyone is clearly responsible for their own clothing, and can select styles that they like. 

However unless the choir is mainly seen from a great distance, it may not look overly uniform - possibly this is why it is not often used by church choirs.

The casual approach:  t-shirts

At the opposite end of the choir-uniform spectrum, tee-shirts or similar items (hoodies, scarves, etc) are relatively cheap, easily replaceable and come in a range of sizes.

Just like robes, there are some issues to be worked through:  are you happy for your choir to be dressed so informally, who decides on the design, who pays, how are the shirts stored and cleaned, etc.   Usually, though, members buy their own shirts, or a gifted a shirt by the church for their use, and then look after their own storage, laundry etc - so questions about these issues are more easily answered.

T-shirts can be plain, or custom-printed with your logo or a suitable graphic or phrase.

To get a set of plain shirts, approach a local retailer:  obviously they won't have 40 red (or whatever) shirts on display, but they will be able to get them for you if requested.

To get a set of custom printed t-shirts in a range of sizes, contract a local printing company or print-shop.  Ideally get quotes from 2-3 places.   This type of printing is quite common because many different groups (eg sports-teams, hospitality staff, schools, etc) want custom printed tee-shirts.

If you cannot find a local supplier, you may need to use an on-line printing and distribution company. There are a number of companies supplying this service - one which I have used is Printful who have bases in both the USA and the Europe. Again, get quotes from 2-3, and check out their shipping costs. (I especially like Printful's approach: there's a shipping cost per order, with only a very small increase to each additional shirt.)

Standard design printed t-shirts

The following range of custom-printed t-shirts are printed with generic choir wording or logos:   they may be suitable if you don't have a specific logo or design, but still want a shirt that makes your choir look distinct.

Sales for these shirts are handled through Etsy, a well-regarded platform for customised / craft goods:  credit card details and private data are managed according to Etsy's policies.

Most designs seem to have two approaches:  white print on a dark background, or dark print on a light background, and each design is available in a range of colours and sizes.

If there is a design that you want which is not on shown here, please leave a message in the Comments box near the bottom of this page.  I will pass it on to the designer to see what is possible. (Note: comments with personal contact information will not be published.)

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