In your periodic ramblings and research you may have come across tippets and clergy stoles and wondered what the differences between them are. Well, it might surprise you to know that the differences are not as prescriptive as you might think, but there certainly are some.
They likely evolved from the same original garments. It is surmised that the garments that eventually became stoles originated among the nobility in Europe and were used as a sort of a napkin that eventually became formalized into a piece of liturgical dress. It is currently thought that those who could afford a spare strip of cloth or silk would wear it over their shoulders or around their waste and use it as a sort of makeshift napkin when they needed it.
Over time, this sash or stole became a piece of formal dress and ceased to be used as a functional napkin. Afterwards, it became customary to create elaborately embroidered or richly colored stoles as a part of liturgical dress. However, the theory of its origin as a sort of napkin is somewhat supported by the fact that today stoles are typically worn by priests officiating communion. They no longer use stoles as napkins, but this may have been the case in the past.
So there you have a brief origin story for both stoles and tippets; where, then, lies the main difference today. Well, as we stated at the outset, the differences are somewhat fine. In general, tippets tend to be made of one color fabric and not decorated. By contract, stoles tend to be longer and may be richly embroidered and colored, typically with crosses. This is not a hard or a fast rule, but in most instances the difference between a stole and a tippet can be drawn according to length and decoration.
Stoles and tippets both are likely to have evolved from the same progenitors, though their origins are slightly murky. Over time they took slightly different paths, and today they can often be found used interchangeably, and in accordance with the practices of different sects. To many people, they are effectively the same garment, but if you were looking for the differences, you can more or less fall back on what we have stated previously.
If you’re looking for a collection of clergy stoles, or even for tippets, you won’t be disappointed by what you can find at Divinity Clergy Wear on their website, DivinityClergyWear.com. There you will find a rich collection of colorful stoles and tippets, some of which are plainly styled and others of which are elaborately detailed. From there you can choose the direction you want to proceed with your priestly ornamentation.
Or, if you are shopping for information and not vestments, you can call their team at 877-453-3535 to learn more about the history of some of the more obscure garments that they sell. Each of the different vestments that you are liable to encounter actually has a very rich and detailed history, and though some of their origins are uncertain, this is not due to a lack of historical information but rather to a surplus. Give them a call to learn more about stoles and tippets – or about the many other interesting liturgical vestments they sell.