A long white linen tunic worn as an undergarment for most liturgical functions. It is gathered in about the waist by means of a cincture. It has its origin in the Greco-Roman tunica talaris, a garment of daily use reaching to the ankles and decorated at the bottom and extremities of the sleeves with colored bands. Even though the influence of the short garments of the Germanic peoples brought about a change in fashion, the clergy did not follow it, continuing instead to dress in the traditional Roman style. By the 6th century, the wearing of albs was an established custom for the celebration of the liturgy. Although the interest in color during the Gothic eriod brought about the appearance of colored albs, white has always been traditional. The 16th century saw the rise of the lace industry; only then did lace appear on albs—an innovation that was a regression from the masculine and dignified robe of the past. Eventually lace, at first a mere ornament, covered most of the garment. The liturgical renewal of the 20th century brought about the return of the all-linen alb.
Bibliography: h. norris, Church Vestments (New York 1950). e. a. roulin, Vestments and Vesture, tr. j. mccann (Westminster, Md. 1950). j. braun, Die liturgische Gewandung im Occident und Orient (Freiburg 1907).