The simar is often called a cassock or a house cassock, though this would be incorrect, strictly speaking. Formerly, the simar had double sleeves (which were lined and trimmed in the color of the rank of the wearer with five buttons representing the five wounds of Christ). The double sleeves were discontinued by legislation promulgated by Pope Paul VI. However, Pope Benedict XVI has personally resumed use of the double sleeve.
The simar generally takes the place of the plain cassock for non-liturgical formal wear. Prelates wear the choir cassock for liturgical functions and other solemn ceremonies. The simar of the pope is white with white buttons. The simar for all other prelates is black with colored trim, piping and lining: amaranth red for bishops and archbishops and scarlet for cardinals. In tropical regions, papal indult may allow a prelate to wear a white simar with trim and piping in the color appropriate to the wearer's rank. Both the simar and cassock have 33 buttons, denoting the years of Jesus' earthly life; five buttons may be placed on each cuff, denoting the Five Wounds of Christ. The buttons are of the same color as the piping.
As the simar is reserved for bishops, and bishops are obliged by law to always wear a pectoral cross, simars always should be worn with a pectoral cross, suspended from a chain around the neck. The simar is bound with a wide sash, called a fascia, which should not be worn as a belt but should be placed above the waist between the navel and the breastbone (sternum). The ends that hang down should be worn on the left side of the body and placed a little forward but not completely off of the left hip. Only the pope may have his Coat of Arms placed on the ends of the fascia that hang down near or past the knees.
As with the cassock, a long-sleeved white shirt with black pants are worn under the simar. Colored socks (purple for bishops and red for cardinals) are optional with the simar. In former times, regulations called for the accompanying black leather shoes to be worn with gold buckles, though this feature was outlawed by Paul VI. Pope Benedict XVI wears red leather slippers with white socks; contrary to initial speculation, the Vatican has announced the loafers are not made by Prada.
The popes normally wear a white simar, though they have sometimes worn a white plain cassock. In recent years, it has been rare to see a pope wearing a plain cassock. Pope Benedict XVI occasionally wore a white plain cassock early in his pontificate, but soon dropped it for public appearances except while vacationing.
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- Does The Pope Wear Prada? April 25, 2006 in the Wall Street Journal. Accessed January 19, 2007.