A reader recently commented:
I had a vague notion that all the vestments mean something and are all meant to be there, but come to think of it I realize I don't actually know.
Coincidentally, I just got finished writing a short section on this very subject for work
, so here it is, modified a bit for a non-K-6 audience:
Alb - The alb represents that our souls are washed clean at Baptism. Any baptized Christian may wear the alb.
Cincture - Over the alb, the priest or deacon wears a cord called a cincture around his waist. It represents the virtue of chastity, and is usually white. If the alb has a waistband, the cincture is not required.
Amice - The amice is a rectangular piece of fabric with ties on each end. The fabric is tucked in around the collar of the alb and the ties are crossed in front and tied. The amice represents the helmet of salvation. One doesn't see this terribly often anymore, but the rubrics still require it if the alb does not cover one's street clothes at the neck.
Stole - The stole is a long piece of cloth in the liturgical color of the day. It represents the authority that the priest or deacon received in the Sacrament of Holy Orders. A deacon wears the stole over one shoulder and fastened at the waist on the opposite side. A priest wears the stole over his neck, with both ends hanging down in front, either crossed or straight down.
Chasuble - The chasuble is worn only by the priest. It is also the liturgical color of the day, and often elaborately decorated. The chasuble symbolizes charity, which is the greatest of virtues; thus, it is worn on top of all the other vestments.
For more detailed information on the symbolism of the vestments, I recommend Fr. Tucker's
archives (click this link
, then scroll up a couple lines). Catholic Encyclopedia
also has good information on the history of each piece.