A form of the alb but unlike it, having large sleeves and worn loose at the waist as choir dress. The use of the surplice originated in the 11th century in England or France, where it was worn over a tunic or cassock lined with furs for warmth in churches unheated in winter. Like the alb, the early surplices were made of linen and were full length, but by the end of the 18th century this garment had lost its nobility. Lace had been substituted for linen, and the length had been so reduced that it barely covered the hips. The rochet is similar to the surplice in appearance but is distinguished from it by the shape of its sleeves, which are always tight-fitting. The surplice is less frequently worn today, giving way to the alb, which requires no cassock as an undergarment.
Bibliography: h. norris, Church Vestments (London 1948). e. a. roulin, Vestments and Vesture, tr. j. mccann (Westminster, MD 1950). j. braun, Die liturgische Gewandung im Occident und Orient (Freiburg 1907). j. mayo, A History of Ecclesiastical Dress (London 1984). d. hines, Dressing for Worship: A Fresh Look at What Christians Wear in Church (Cambridge 1996). d. philippart, ed., Clothed in Glory: Vesting the Church (Chicago 1997)
sur·plice / ˈsərplis/ • n. a loose white linen vestment varying from hip-length to calf-length, worn over a cassock by clergy, acolytes, and choristers at Christian church services. DERIVATIVES: sur·pliced adj.