In the typical Roman Catholic or Anglican orders, the habit consists of a tunic covered by a scapular and cowl, with a hood for monks or friars and a veil for nuns; in other orders it may be a distinctive form of cassock for men, or a distinctive habit and veil for women. Modern habits are sometimes eschewed in favor of a simple business suit. Catholic Canon Law requires only that it be in some way identifiable so that the person may serve as a witness to Gospel values. This requires flexibility and creativity. For instance in Turkey, where religious garb is not allowed in public, a Franciscan might wear street clothes.
In many orders, the conclusion of postulancy and the beginning of the novitiate is marked by a ceremony, during which the new novice is accepted then clothed in the community's habit by the superior. In some cases the novice's habit will be somewhat different from the customary habit: for instance, in certain orders of women that use the veil, it is common for novices to wear a white veil while professed members wear black, or if the order generally wears white, the novice wears a gray veil. Among some Franciscan communities of men, novices wear a sort of overshirt over their tunic; Carthusian novices wear a black cloak over their white habit.
In some orders, different types or levels of profession are indicated by differences in habits.
Pope John Paul II in his Post-Apostolic Exhortation Vita consecrata (1996) says concerning the religious habit of consecrated persons:
§25 … The Church must always seek to make her presence visible in everyday life, especially in contemporary culture, which is often very secularized and yet sensitive to the language of signs. In this regard the Church has a right to expect a significant contribution from consecrated persons, called as they are in every situation to bear clear witness that they belong to Christ.
Since the habit is a sign of consecration, poverty and membership in a particular Religious family, I join the Fathers of the Synod in strongly recommending to men and women religious that they wear their proper habit, suitably adapted to the conditions of time and place.
Where valid reasons of their apostolate call for it, Religious, in conformity with the norms of their Institute, may also dress in a simple and modest manner, with an appropriate symbol, in such a way that their consecration is recognizable.
Institutes which from their origin or by provision of their Constitutions do not have a specific habit should ensure that the dress of their members corresponds in dignity and simplicity to the nature of their vocation.