Medieval priests in chilly Northern European churches wore an extra-large cassock over a fur-lined gown. This garment came to be known as a surplice (from Latin super pelliceum: “over fur”).

Even those few who might have heard of the priestly garment are not likely to make the connection when discussing the surplice neckline on women’s clothing because the secular women’s garment has an overlapping V-neck whereas most most surplices worn in churches today have square or rounded necklines.

So it’s not surprising that a large number of people mistakenly refer to the women’s garment style as a “surplus neckline.” The only surplus involved in these items is the amount of flesh revealed by them.

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