In the world of Christian liturgical worship clothing is very important, and when used correctly can bring a whole other dimension to the experiences of those involved. Special types of clothing worn by those leading worship (and occasionally those participating as well) are designed to act as symbols enhancing the experience of those observing the people wearing them and also to change the perception and experience of the people wearing the clothes themselves.
Items of clothing worn by priests during worship are called vestments and come in the form of robes, cassocks, cloaks and more specific items such as the chasuble and stole. These specific items of clothing are designed to set the wearer out from other people present in worship and signify their role in the service. Other religious items of clothing are also designed to set the wearing out from others such as the dog collar and the habit of religious orders. Those who wear these specific items of clothing are set aside in the roles they perform.
This is similar to the role clothing plays in a BDSM scene.
Whilst clothing may be used simply to cause arousal, or removed entirely, it can also be used in scene to designate who is who. A Dominant for example might remain clothed, whilst the submissive undresses. Slaves are occasionally permanently collared by their owners to mark them out as owned, and it is not uncommon for the dominant partner to wear something that links them with their submissive. Clothes also play an important role in setting the mood for a scene. Not only do they help mark out who is who, but they also help with atmosphere and tone of what is taking place.
Clothing may also help play a part in preparing for a scene. Many participants create ritual in getting ready for play through dressing, for example in the slow lacing up of a corset or the sliding on of rubber. This ritual dressing is also common in worship with certain vestments being treated with reverence and the use of vesting prayers, said to prepare oneself for worship whilst getting dressed.
Whilst setting the wearer out as different to others and being used for highly personal devotion and ritual, religious items of clothing are also intended to depersonalise & draw attention away from the specific person wearing them and make people focus on either what they are doing or the role they are performing. Vestments are worn to de-personalise the wearer. The emphasis is switched from the person to the role, it is not the person that is important it is the role they are performing that is being highlighted. The intended idea is to remove the person’s identity and make them synonymous with the role they are performing.
This de-personalisation is also present in the world of kink.
Full body rubber suits are intended to de-personalise to such an extent that they also de-humanize. When fully enclosed in rubber all that makes the wearer an individual is covered up. Their gender, race, age and any defining features are obscured, all that is left visible is the shape of that person and the role they are inhabiting. Along with the sensations caused by the wearing of these outfits, it is this sense of de-humanising that is the appeal of them, both for the wearer and those who are viewing them.
Losing your identity in your clothing is a liberating thing and helps transcend the mundane. Rubber suits transcend by helping the person lose their identity to the outside world. Vestments transcend by causing the wearer to have their identity covered and subsumed into Christ’s. One is inward focused, the other is outward, though both involve a releasing of the self through a masking of identity.
What marks the wearing of vestments out as different to the wearing of kink clothing is that vestments are intended to both highlight the individual wearing them whilst also de-humanising them at the same time. The role of priest in worship is one that requires all focus and attention to be on the single person and their role, whilst they are simultaneously stripped of their identity by the covering up of who they are. Not only that but in doing both of these roles vestments also help enhance the experience of those participating with the wearer just as latex does to those playing with it.
In both taking the role on and de-humanising themselves the vestment wearer is able to enhance the experience of those witnessing them in worship by being both fully present in role but not individualistically human and distracting.
A final note on the similarity between vestments and fetish clothing is the sensuality of wearing them. Rubber, leather and PVC all bring with them different smells, tastes and sensations to play that heighten the mood of a scene. They also bring a sense of magnitude with the larger than life outfits worn, either in rubber play, or by dominants, that again, helps transcend the mundane. In wearing extra-ordinary clothing that overstimulates, the wearer and watcher are transferred to another place. Vestments also help transcend the ordinary by being extra-ordinary outfits, they are clothes set aside and when combined with the other stimuli of worship, such as music, the taste of Eucharist and the smell of incense, transcend mundanity and bring the worshipers into a higher place of worship & communion with God.
Through the marking out of specific roles whilst simultaneously de-humanising the wearer vestments offer both the wearer and the viewer the means to escape the ordinary, in much the same way high heeled boots, corsets and rubber masks do to those engaged in a scene. Whilst it is possible to worship or engage in a scene without special clothing, the addition of certain items of clothing can transcend the ordinary into extra-ordinary.