Material Improvements for Your Choir Robes


By: Todd Van Campen

Article 1

Is your choir asking for new robes? They probably will sometime, if they aren’t already, so it’s good to have the information to help them make a superb selection. Here, then, are some facts to file until the time arrives.

Looking for Durability

Since you don’t buy choir robes often, it’s important for them to look good for a number of years. Robe construction is a major factor in determining robe life, but you may also want to consider the importance of fabrics that are

Wrinkle resistant. Fibers differ widely on this major factor. Note: Heat plus wear will always produce wrinkles. What to look for: How easily the robe wrinkles, and whether or not the wrinkles come out when the robe is hung. Suggestion: Crusha sample in your fist and then release. Wrinkle-resistant fabrics spring back quickly; others stay creased.

* Polyester is the most wrinkle resistant, shedding wrinkles well when hung after wearing. Plus: Polyester robes don’t need to be ironed after machine washing.

* Acetate wrinkles easily and doesn’t shed wrinkles as well as polyester, which makes it much harder to care for.

* Cotton-poly blends wrinkle more easily than 100% polyester and sometimes must be ironed, a major inconvenience.

Note: Weave also affects wrinkle resistance. Example: Crepe is the most wrinkle resistant of polyesters.

Treated with a soil-release finish that makes the robe easier to clean. Use of this technology by robe manufacturers is growing.

Example: Milliken & Co.’s Visa treatment makes the fabric:

* Hydrophilic (water absorbent, as opposed to hydrophobic, or water repellent), which helps it release stains.

* More colorfast.

* Have better wicking action (it “breathes better,” letting heat and moisture escape).

Washable. Manufacturers strongly recommend dry-cleaning robes, which helps accessories and linings last longer, but on rare occasions it may be expedient to throw a robe in the washing machine.

Note: Most polyester robes and cotton-poly blends are machine washable. Acetate robes should always be dry-cleaned.

Colorfast. How well will the fabric hold its color over the years? Will colors stay bright, or fade? Consider the dyeing method.

* Piece-dyed fabric. The finished fabric is dipped in dye. Polyester and natural fibers are colored this way. Note: Piece-dyed polyester is more colorfast than cotton-poly blends. Avoid: Piece-dyed acetate, which loses color quickly.

Disadvantage: The color of the dye may vary, by batch. Result: A piece-dyed robe bought this year may be a slightly different color than those bought previously. Advice: Order extra robes with your original purchase. That way you won’t have to worry about mismatches later.

* Solution-dyed fabric. Dye is added to the chemical mix when the yarn is made.
Note: Acetate fabrics are often solution dyed. Advantage: With this method, colors virtually never fade, and there is no variance.

Suggestion: Order 12 x 12 samples of the fabrics you’re most interested in, and then try to damage them to find out which is the most durable.

Considering Appearance

You’ll want to decide the luster and texture your robes should have. Do you want a silklike look, for example, or would you rather the robes look plainer? Here are some common finishes:

Plain. Smooth, unadorned, exactly as the name implies.

Faille. This is a ridged finish characterized by flat horizontal ribs.

Crepe. Often found in light polyester, crepe finishes look pebbly. Note: Crepes are the most popular finish.

Twill or gaberdine. Gives a diagonal rib or line to the fabric.

Shiny. This look comes from:

* Acetate. It’s natural for this synthetic yarn to look shiny.

* Satin weave. Usually used for accessories. Note: Satin isn’t best for an entire robe, because it’s hard to clean and isn’t the most durable of fabrics.

Remember: There are as many different names for fabrics as there are notes in a Bach cantata. Don’t be confused. Ask which of the above categories the fabric fits into to get a general idea of how it looks.

Deciding on Fabric Weight

The warmth and often the durability of the fabric is determined by factors such as weave, weight, and yarn size.

Polyester usually is available in three weights. Typically, the lighter the weight, the cooler the robe.

Acetate robes are light, soft, and comfortable, although less durable.

Cotton-poly blends have a reputation for being cooler than 100% polyester.

Important: Unless the composition of the robe is at least 50-50 (which is rare), there isn’t much difference, and these blends are less colorfast and wrinkle resistant than 100% polyester.

Final Tips

Decide on the fabric and color of the robes at the same time. Reason: Not every fabric comes in every color. Some fabrics sell better than others and thus have more color options.

After you’ve narrowed the field considerably, ask the companies to send a sample robe so you can make final determinations on the weight, drape, color, and texture of the fabric.

Suggestion: 100% polyester robes, because of their durability, are considered the top choice by many churches.


By: Bill Rayborn

When buying a choir robe, the choices may look over-whelming, but here are some tips to help you make a better decision.

Share the responsibility. Don’t make a unilateral decision or parade twenty-five robes before the choir. A pastor or choir leader can help a well-chosen committee select two or three top robes for final input by the choir members. Advantage: Many people share the credit for the decision.

Contact several manufacturers. Some of the leading manufacturers are:

* Collegiate Cap & Gown 800/637-1124
* Lyric Choir Gown Company 904/725-7977
* Murphy Cap & Gown 800/876-8774
* Regency Cap & Gown 800/826-8612

Compare prices. Although price is but one of many considerations, be a good comparison shopper. Tip: You may be able to negotiate the price, especially on larger orders.

Check off-the-rack robes. Most robes are custom made; the cloth isn’t cut until you make a down payment. However, it is possible to get less expensive, ready-made robes at music stores or through Christian bookstores.

Consider discount music distributor, who may also discount robes from major suppliers. Here are some people to call:

* Publisher’s Outlet (Bonnie Cole) 800/365-3805
* Kempke Music (Shirley Kempke) 800/753-6753
* Creative Music (P. J. Newsom) 800/531-2525

Note: Buying from a discounter means you probably won’t get the face-to-face help a salesperson can offer.

(The above material appeared in the Mar./Apr. 1992 issue of Your Church magazine.)

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