Now that I'm ordained, I'll start to wear a robe for worship. Some will inevitably wonder why... so I'd like to pre-emptively answer that publicly.
Why wear a robe? There are several reasons:
1. It fits our worship style. We have a fairly traditional worship style at Hickory Withe. It isn't stuff or overly formal, but it is traditional and a little bit "high church." A ministerial robe fits into this worship style well.
2. It serves as a sort of "uniform." Many professions have their uniforms-- doctors wear lab coats or scrubs, lawyers wear suits, Uniforms distinguish people in their particular roles. What is the uniform for pastoral ministry? Some would say it is a robe.
3. It fits a long-standing tradition. Not only have pastors, priests, and bishops worn robes for centuries, but many of the pastors of Hickory Withe have, too. I get to participate in a great heritage when I wear mine.
4. It eliminates concerns about wardrobe. With a robe, it removes the distractions and concerns of other wardrobe options. I'm not distracted by the fact that I have limited options, or whether my shirt is untucked, etc. My congregation isn't distracted by whether my tie is too loud or whether I'm wearing the same suit two weeks in a row.
5. I like it. I was given the generous gift of an ecclesiastical robe as a seminary graduation present, and I like it.
What sort of robe do I wear? Some would argue that the proper robe for a Presbyterian pastor to wear is a white one, also known as an alb. (As Ken Collins said: "people in robes are dressed like Calvin. People in albs are dressed like Jesus.") Personally, I never saw a white robe on a pastor growing up in the south, and most Presbyterian Pastors I know who wear robes wear black ones.
On the other hand, I appreciate the (probably apocryphal) story of how John Calvin re-introduced the robe to worship in Geneva: his pulpit was drafty, and he was cold, so he grabbed his academic gown before leaving his study and wore it! What IS known is that Calvin established the practice of wearing robes for protestants, and wore an academic robe because he wasn't ordained.
In light of that (and because I love its simplicity), I asked for a Geneva Gown when picking out my robe. It is all black, with a plain, pleated front (no velvet bands as some black robes have). And I wear a stole with it, with appropriate colors, to mark the liturgical season.