I Miss Women Wearing Hats and Veils in Church. A brief reminiscence of days gone by.

I know, I know, I am so hopelessly old fashioned. But I want to say, I miss women wearing hats. I have written before (HERE) of how I miss them wearing the veil in Church. But even before the veil, the hat was more commonly worn by women in 1940s and before (See photo  below left, of my parish taken in the early 1950s, click photo for a larger view). Veils became popular in the later 1950s and 1960s before head coverings for women (and men) all but disappeared in the late 1960s (along with just about everything elegant).

The Easter Bonnet, once a main tradition at Easter, now provokes stares of confusion when mentioned to younger people today. “Easter Bonnet?…What’s that?!” Too bad, gone with the (cultural) wind.

Frankly we have become a very informal culture and we almost never dress up any more. Jeans and a T-Shirt, even for Mass. When I was a kid in the early 1960s I would not set foot in the Church without trousers, a button down shirt, a necktie and (in the cooler months) a dress jacket). Women and girls always wore a dress and a veil or hat. Frankly too, we would not think of going to a restaurant in those years either, without dressing up a good bit.

Yeah, I know, I am hopelessly out of date and some of you feel judged. But I’m just going to say it again, I miss the fact that we almost never dress up any more, and that things like hats, jackets and ties for men, formal and pretty dresses for women, veils (or hats) in Church are gone.

In the African American Community where I have served for most of my priesthood, dressing up for Church and women wearing hats and veils, hung on a lot longer, but it too has largely subsided. I read an article in the Washington Post yesterday that largely read the funeral rites over hat wearing in the Black congregations. There’s still a few with the “ole time religion” but they are far fewer. Here are a some excerpts from the article:

For generations, church sanctuaries across the nation on Sunday mornings, especially in black churches and especially on Easter, transformed into a collage of hats: straw ones, felt ones, velvet ones, every shape, size and color, with bows, jewels and feathers, reaching for the heavens.

But anyone walking into today’s services expecting to see a nonstop parade of women making fashion statements on their heads will be sorely disappointed. Many daughters and granddaughters of the women who made bold and flashy hats synonymous with the black church have not carried on the tradition.

Anita Saunders, 42… grew up watching her mother’s generation flaunt their hats in church. “And I always loved it,” says the Indianapolis resident. “It was part of Sunday, the experience of the hats. We looked forward to seeing what hat Sister So-and-So was going to wear. My friends, we all grew up in the same church with mothers who wore hats, but we don’t. And so, yes, it seems it’s fading out.”

Elaine Saunders…is part of that generation of black women who launched hat-wearing into the stratosphere…..Their style was dignified, elegant, sometimes irreverent and even humorous, but it was always eye-catching. “You have a certain air when you put on a hat. If you put on the whole shebang and you’re satisfied, you walk different. You act different. And people treat you different,” says Saunders….

The whole shebang would be a hat that matches the suit that matches the shoes that match the bag….

Mother and daughter not only wore hats and gloves to church but also donned them for shopping trips downtown. “If you were dressed up, they thought you were somebody important, so you’d get waited on,” Saunders said.

“I guess as I got older, around my teens, I started flirting around with different hairstyles,” said Sylvia Magby, 58, “I started cutting my hair, and I just never found a hat that fit my head.” Her youngest sister, Anita…won’t go near a hat (except the emergency baseball cap for bad hair days). She was much younger when she first rebelled against them. “I was maybe 6, and I was very concerned that the hat would disturb my bangs, and I wanted nothing to do with it,” she recalls.

Many women say, “I have hats from my mother and other relatives, but I don’t wear them,” or “Hats don’t look good on me,” [But] as Saunders sees it, “there will be a set of women who will wear hats forever.”…there, in all its splendor,  that poof of fuchsia and iridescent feathers, … for all the world to see.

Read the Full Article Here: Church Ladies and their Hats, A Fading Tradition

Some will doubtless say, “Well look, it sounds like it was more about pride and getting seen, than worshiping God.” Others will doubtless remark that the Scriptures envision a woman covering her head before God as a way of covering her glory (i.e. her hair) and thus being humble before God. OK fine, but I’d just like to add that there is also something wonderful about the dignity of dressing really well to go to God’s house, something classy, something fitting. And again I’ll just say, I miss it, and always appreciate when I see it.

We men too have let things drop often marching into Church with sandals, jeans and a t-shirt. I regret too that we so seldom wear suits or hats anymore. Priests still wear the suit, but a fine cassock is hard to find and there is a lot of sloppy and poorly set forth liturgical vestments and altar cloths. Finer things are few and far between.

A small boast form your host, I have worn a fedora in the cooler months since my 20s. Not only do I think it looks good, but it is also does a great job keeping the cold away. I am amazed at what a difference a simple hat can make. Think about it men, a good hat can be classy and warm.

And ladies, I don’t DARE tell you what to do, but let me just say it again, I MISS the veils and hats. Yes, a real touch of class. Uh oh, now the comments are open.

146 Replies to “I Miss Women Wearing Hats and Veils in Church. A brief reminiscence of days gone by.”

  1. I wear a veil to Mass, and I do have several hats I will occasionally wear. I certainly agree that people have become so sloppy, and so when I see a man in Church wearing a suit it’s a shock. I don’t if we will ever get back to more formal wear, but I long for it. 🙂

  2. I have to be honest with you, Msgr. Pope, but I agree. When did we get so dull with our fashion? That’s not to say that we haven’t had daring, but often that simply means vulgar.

    As a man, I love to see a beautiful hat on a woman, an up-do, or even flowers in her hair. We could use a touch of elegance these days. I can’t quite carry off a fedora, but I do have a grey herringbone trilby that I like quite a bit. My girls (11, 9, 4) always get quite excited each week to wear a beautiful dress to Mass. Their latest affections are for shawls and dual-sided capes. Maybe they needs hats now … hmm. Food for thought.

  3. Well, as I recall, the major reasons hats were worn were two-fold. First, they kept people a LOT warmer, so if you walked everywhere, or came by open carriage, they made sense. If, however, you drove to church in a heated car and if your church was heated also, then they made less sense. Second, in former years folks washed their hair once a week, and kept it tied up and under a hat to avoid dust, other peoples’ lice that so forth. After the 1960s daily showering became the norm, and hats were no longer needed as protection from head lice, as hygenic standards rose.

    I do understand the hankering for formality in “God’s house.” But I also think that nowadays most people (certainly myself) think of church as “my Father’s house” not “the King’s house.” There is something a little chilling about dressing up to see your father, though I make an effort (sort of) on C & E mostly because I don’t want to put some of the older folks off their stride by dressing in my usual casuals.

    But you can encourage the return of hats, Msgr! Just turn off the heat in the winter, and everybody will go back to wearing them! Plus they will stop wearing low cut blouses and pants that expose midrif or rear ends!

    1. The major reason veils were worn is because the bible tells us that it should.

      For the reason headcoverings for women as a whole has been diminished, see my posting below with excerpts taken from a Catholic pamphlete written specifically on the matter, called “the veil”.

      Here is the pamphlet itself: http://www.christianfamilyoutreach.com/pamphlets/theveil.pdf
      Below you will find the answer it provides as to why headcoverings in Church for women has all but gone.

      And a Church is The Kings House, Shari.
      You may have a hope for salvation, but you certainly have no guarantee.

      1. Oh I know quite well I have no guarantees. But I also know that wearing a dress and hat is unlikely to “improve my chances.” Frankly I do periodically consider it (mostly because my own Msgr. puts in an annual plug for improved wardrobes, and I like him). However, it just feels unnatural to me. It makes me feel like I’m in church to collect Brownie points, rather than to worship God, or to renew my relationship with my father. After all, if one wants to honor God (or please one’s father) Jesus tells us that engaging in a show of piety in the synagogue, or for that matter tieing knots in ones’ clothes (also recommended in the Bible – do you do that, Gabriel?) is not the best way to do this. There are lots of ways of honoring God that do not involve a show, and which are more pleasing to him. We are supposed to “not let our left hand know what our right hand is doing.” Wearing fancy clothes, particularly the veil and hat thing when there is no hygienic reason for this anymore runs in opposition to this directive. Me, I think that after one has run out of the other ways of pleasing God, then I think it is just swell to wear a hat, but I personally am not there yet, though I daresay others might be, (and indeed I do know many people who wear veils and hats and have a servants heart). I am, however (alas) not one of them.

        1. I care nothing for dressing up, Shari.
          Some people consider dressing up a sign of respect, but I do not.

          God knows there are reasons people are poor, and if there is one thing the poor should not waste their money on, it is fancy garments in an effort to please The Lord.

          They can spend their money on food for their children, or if they have more than they need, they can give it to other poor people.
          People should dress modestly and decent. I care nothing for fancy get-up`s.
          And especially in The Kings House, people should be reminded that they are servants.

          But I do care about women veiling their heads.
          As a token of humility, submission and respect.

          It does not have to be anything costly or fancy though.
          Just a plain piece of cloth will do.

          1. Ok, Gabriel, but women are free not to use the veil. I like you admire the hats and veils but we should be clear it is not required nor should a woman have to see it as a sign of submission per se.

          2. You misunderstand me, Monsignore.
            I do not “admire” hats or veils. I just notice that according to scripture, women should cover their heads in some way or another, and if scripture says so, they should.

            It is as simple as that.
            It was never a question of admiration on my part.

            But of course legally, they are “free” not to use the veil, as you insist.
            Legally, they are “free” not to do anything at all.
            They are “free” not to go to Church at all. They are “free” not to worship The Lord at all.

            They are also legally “free” to not submit to The Lord in any way.
            But this is not about what they are “free” not to do, is it?

            This is about what pleases The Lord according to scripture.
            And if they do not wish to please The Lord, but rather wishes to please themselves or the National Organisation for Women, who used to organise veil-burnings, then so be it.

            However, if you do not want to submit to The Lord, or display through the wearing of a veil that you do, then why not stay at home?
            Why go to Church at all, if you do not intend to submit to The Lords will, but only your own?

            Surely, you do not think The Lord considers churchgoing a “favour” to Him that He should be thankful for?

          3. “They are “free” not to go to Church at all. They are “free” not to worship The Lord at all.”

            According to whose law, Gabriel? The Church says otherwise.

            Furthermore, when you say that the poor are left free to spend money on food, but not on fancy clothes to please the Lord, I think you miss the point: frivolity is one thing, but “man does not live on bread alone.” Here, I think we ought to refer to one’s “Sunday best.” “Sunday best” need not be fancy; it need only be neat, tidy, and clean, and need not even be brand new (I would think that our romanticization of “thrifting” and “repurposing” these days should tell us that much). Surely the poor are worthy and deserving of dignity, which is not merely reducible to what goes into their stomachs? Else, why would we bother clothing the naked, and why should we bother laundering those clothes before they are given away? Because instinctively, we know that there is more involved than meeting a need that is merely material.

            And if we’re going to refer to Scripture, does it not behoove us to remember that it was Judas who frowned on the woman who used costly perfume and her hair to anoint Jesus’s feet, saying that the perfume could’ve been sold and the money given to the poor? Jesus rebuked him, saying that the woman had done a great thing for him. Along the same lines, Dorothy Day chafed at suggestions that the Church should sell all of its artwork and strip everything down and give the money to the poor, because it would confine the poor to a dull, flat and lifeless gray, removing as it would the material reminders of that which elevates their souls and their very worth as human beings.

          4. It is alwasy interesting to read how people feel about dressing up.
            I would wager that they would dress up if they were invited to a state
            dinner at the White House, to attend the Oscars, or to visit the Queen of England.
            But they won’t dress up to receive the King of Kings!

          5. In the end, The Elect will be presented with white robes.
            Courtesy of The Host. No need to bring your own, Thomas.

            “1 After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth, so that no wind would blow on the earth or on the sea or on any tree. 2 And I saw another angel ascending from the rising of the sun, having the seal of the living God; and he cried out with a loud voice to the four angels to whom it was granted to harm the earth and the sea, 3 saying, “Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees until we have sealed the bond-servants of our God on their foreheads.”

            The 144,000

            4 And I heard the number of those who were sealed, one hundred and forty-four thousand sealed from every tribe of the sons of Israel:
            5 from the tribe of Judah, twelve thousand were sealed, from the tribe of Reuben twelve thousand, from the tribe of Gad twelve thousand, 6 from the tribe of Asher twelve thousand, from the tribe of Naphtali twelve thousand, from the tribe of Manasseh twelve thousand, 7 from the tribe of Simeon twelve thousand, from the tribe of Levi twelve thousand, from the tribe of Issachar twelve thousand, 8 from the tribe of Zebulun twelve thousand, from the tribe of Joseph twelve thousand, from the tribe of Benjamin, twelve thousand were sealed.

            A Multitude from the Tribulation

            9 After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands; 10 and they cry out with a loud voice, saying,
            “Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.” 11 And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures; and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12 saying,
            “Amen, blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might, be to our God forever and ever. Amen.”

            13 Then one of the elders answered, saying to me, “These who are clothed in the white robes, who are they, and where have they come from?” 14 I said to him, “My lord, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. 15 “For this reason, they are before the throne of God; and they serve Him day and night in His temple; and He who sits on the throne will spread His tabernacle over them. 16 “They will hunger no longer, nor thirst anymore; nor will the sun beat down on them, nor any heat; 17 for the Lamb in the center of the throne will be their shepherd, and will guide them to springs of the water of life; and God will wipe every tear from their eyes.”

            Revelation 7

      2. Grabriel, doesn’t it also say in the bible, that men shouldn’t cover their heads when they pray?
        1 COR: 11 v.1-4 then why do some of the clergy Pope on down wear coverings during the mass, are they not dishonoring CHRIST?

    2. Others will doubtless remark that the Scriptures envision a woman covering her head before God as a way of covering her glory (i.e. her hair) and thus being humble before God.

      I don’t see personal glorification as being an issue these days. Especially with the older women, most of whom have their hair all chopped off. Seeing a woman over 50 with long hair is more rare than seeing one with a hat.

      1. Oh, good, I am a rare bird! Over 50, long (silver) hair (well, shoulder length, anyway) AND a veil! I always wanted to be a trend setter. 🙂

        1. Yes! I’m with you BHG! I’m 49 and wear my greying hair long…below my shoulder blades. Don’t think of myself as a fashion rebel! My husband has asked me to keep it long…so I do.

    3. I don’t dress up for Sunday Mass because I don’t have pretty clothes as I am a sole parent of three. However, I try to look my best and scorn my boys if they want to be sloppy. The Mass is the wedding feast of the Lamb. Nobody goes to wedding in casual clothes. And shouldn’t we, the Bride, when we approach our glorious Bridegroom to consummate our vowed with Him in the Holy Eucharist, look the best?

  4. I was shocked Easter Sunday during 7:45 AM mass to see a man in his mid to late 60’s going up to receive communion in a pair of plaid bermuda shorts, casual short sleave, linen shirt with a collar and wearing a pair of sandals. He was clean shaven, and appeared educated and possibly retired. This was in north central Texas and he looked like he was headed to a Jimmy Buffet concert at the beach. The nearest beach is around 300 miles south and Jimmy Buffet’s concert in Dallas isn’t for another three weeks at least. Maybe he was just looking for another cheese burger in paradise. Father Foley is in his 70’s and from the Island across the Pond. Oh to be a fly on his rectory wall.

  5. “The answer can be found in the National Organization of Women Handbook.
    Please read carefully the following quotes taken from the N.O.W. Handbook.

    We read under A. Religion Resolutions, ” Because the wearing of a head covering by women at religious services is a symbol of subjection within many churches, NOW recommends that all chapters undertake an effort to have all women participate in a “national unveiling” by sending their head coverings to the task force chairman. At the Spring meeting of the task force of women and religion,
    these veils will be publicly burned to protest the second class status of women in all churches. (Dec., 1968)”

    So, it appears there may be a couple of issues that needs to be dealt with before hats will come back in style, Monsignore.

    1. Okay, but a subjection to WHOM? NOW’s “answer” simply begs that far more tantalizing and important question. We are all subject to the Lord, which is actually a good reminder that we are not subject to anyone else. In a marriage, a woman submits to her husband who also submits to her by laying down his life for her, and both submit to the Lord, who laid down his life for His Church. So we women– and men– are not to submit to just anyone or anything. We are certainly not to obey those who invite us to sin, whereupon we then open ourselves up to the use and abuse of those who abuse their authority.

      Furthermore, that which is veiled in the Church is that which is holy. For that reason, the tabernacle is veiled. The chalice used to be veiled. A woman veils in a Catholic Church because the tabernacle– the Lord– is present.

      1. But in addition– let me second what Msgr. Pope said– no woman is forced to veil, either.

        I think someone asked Cardinal Burke about this issue, and he reacted favorably to women wanting to take up the veil, but reminded everyone that no woman is forced to veil against her will.

  6. I miss the fact that we almost never dress up any more, and that things like hats, jackets and ties for men, formal and pretty dresses for women, veils (or hats) in Church are gone.

    We looked forward to seeing what hat Sister So-and-So was going to wear.

    Well, that’s the thing, isn’t it? You can’t wear the same thing week after week after week. People will notice and say, “again?” You need a variety, a selection of different shirts, different ties, different suits, different hats. And if you are a woman, about 700 pairs of shoes, not to mention a couple dozen purses. All of that can be pretty $$$, especially if your job does not require wearing such clothes. (And if your job does involve dress clothes, then it is hardly dressing up to wear your work clothes to church.) Personally, aside from the issue of what to wear to church, I think as a society we spend way, way, way too much money on clothing, much of it wasteful opulence.

    Most Sundays I do try to wear a jacket or tie or both, but not always. And I do worry, thinking, “did I wear this last week?” What is most important is to be respectful and appropriately solemn about it. And by most important, I mean worrying about yourself, and not looking around worrying about other people.

    1. I agree! My family sacrifices a lot for me to be a mother at home with young children, and the fact is that most of my clothes come from Goodwill or the Walmart clearance racks, and this is true for many of the families I know. A single nice ‘dress-up’ dress, dress shoes, and a hat would cost more than my whole clothes budget for the year. I make an effort to wear a skirt to Mass and always wear a mantilla. But no one will wax nostalgic for how I’m dressed in a couple of decades, because it’s neither classic nor in style, and the quality is often shoddy. My kids are in dresses or their school uniforms.

      One of the many reasons dressing up has declined, I think, is that dry-cleaning is an additional expense and two additional trips. With many women’s dresses & men’s suits, we pay for it twice–once at the store, and again over the life of the dress in getting it cleaned. And dry-cleaning is just not in the budget or the schedule for many of us–even if something nice & appropriately modest turns up at Goodwill, if it’s dry-clean we pass it up.

      I’m not being defensive here, just offering a perspective from the trenches.

      1. I agree to some extent, but you can put together 2 or 3 dress outfits per person without breaking the bank. My family and I live on one small income–my husband is still in training–and my boys’ clothes are all gifts or purchased from consignment sales. That being said, they are always in clean shirts + dress pants at church–no one needs to know I bought them for $1. I have a few dresses and skirt outfits that I have found on clearance or at consignment shops/Goodwill over the past few years and I rotate them. I purposely don’t buy “statement” dresses or anything trendy so that if I wear the same one every other week, no one is likely to notice or remember. I buy washable dresses and skirts–there are plenty of those out there, I hardly every find dry-clean-only dresses that aren’t for formal parties, so no dry cleaning costs. My husband can wear a different tie with his blazer and no one will notice or care that it’s the same one every week because really, who notices men’s jackets?

        Some other people have commented that they don’t remember what others wear and I think that’s true. I know I’m too busy monitoring my children and attempting to pay as much attention to Mass as a mother of 2 under 2 can to remember if the lady in the next pew wore that dress last week. As long as you’re dressed reasonably well and not outlandishly, no one will notice you wear the same 2 dresses to church–or if they do, who cares? I’d rather be the lady who wears the same 2 nice dresses than the one who is always wearing a different T shirt.

        1. Totally agree!

          I am able to get some gorgeous clothing at consignment shops very economically!

          1. Cecilia, Gradchica and Jennifer:

            God blesses your dignity, humility and your poverty.
            Your love for your families shines through your words, your thoughts and your hearts.

          2. One doesn’t have to have all kinds of nice things. I’m with gradchica – who cares if people notice you wear the same thing each Sunday? The idea that we all have to have to wear different outfits every day and have enough clothes not to wear the same thing every week over and over is a bourgeois idea further promoted by the fashion industry so we will all waste money on things we don’t need. We Christians should resist that!

            ANYWAY, we can do what the poor and humble people of the world always have done: have one or two nice things and save them for Sunday Mass. Whatever the nicest thing you have is, wear it to Mass. In poor countries, the women who may barely have one decent dress, wear it to church. Here where we are rich, we wear nice things to work and to secular parties, and wear sloppy stuff to Mass. Something isn’t right there. I wouldn’t want Mass to be a fashion show by any means, but it’s not that hard to look decent but in a sober way, not trying to make a point of one’s fashion or wealth.

            However, I don’t mean that to sound like a criticism of the African American ladies and their hats. I think that’s a whole different cultural thing, and since they were forced for so long to wear rags when they were slaves, I don’t begrudge them the fancy hats!! The younger generation could wear simple hats, if they don’t want the “whole shebang”!

          3. I don’t think we need go that far vis-a-vis bourgeois ideas further promoted by the fashion industry, though I do take your point. There is nothing wrong with having nice things or occasionally spending money on nice things. What’s out of whack is worshiping nice things and their acquisition thereof.

            It’s not hard to look decent in a sober way when you don’t have a lot of money, as opposed to making going to Mass a fashion show, though I think you want to say “humble” and “modest” rather than “sober.” A simple, but modest, dress that is well-tailored and well-fitted (it’s wonderful that some women are blessed with the talent to make their own clothes, so that they fit better) is going to look good, period. A simple pearl necklace to accent such a dress and a decent pair of shoes work wonders. No need to go overboard there; just simple, elegant, and very classy. And one can have a carefully chosen wardrobe of a modest size, just by knowing what flatters you, and by not unduly restricting yourself when it comes to knowing where to look.

  7. As a college student, I’ve noticed how much nicer and more respectful it is to dress up for Mass. I go to the student Masses at my school, and always try to wear a dress or dress slacks, and our chaplain encourages us to dress nicely. I’ve never worn a scarf or a veil (although I have one for the occasional Latin Mass), since I figure both students and parishioners will think it strange or unbecoming on someone so young.

    1. Hey Christina,

      Fellow college student here–get a cute hat like a newsboy or a cadet…even a cloche–that’s what I wear to every Ordinary Form Mass and people either don’t notice or they compliment

      1. Christina~
        I’ve got two girls (22 & 17) who converted last Easter to the Church, and they both wear veils or hats to Mass- daily and Sunday- whether it’s a Latin Mass or not. Both of them decided this on their own & they always have a hat or veil when traveling & haven’t felt weird about covering their heads in any Catholic Church. It’s got to be a “heart-decision” and not one someone is forced into. You can’t do it or not do it because you are concerned about what others will think. I agree with Caroline that a cute hat is always a nice choice~ my 17yo started wearing one sometimes to daily Mass & has gotten lots of compliments! Blessings on your “head covering journey”!

    2. Don’t worry about what others might think, Christina. I’m a college student, too. If you want to veil, by all means veil. While no woman is forced to veil, no woman is forced not to, either (if someone gets on your case, which I really doubt they will, given my experience and that of others, all you have to do is tell them that much).

      One of my priest friends, whom I did ask about this, told me the following, which I think is good advice: if you’re going to do it, do it for the right reason– that you’re doing this out of love for the Lord.

  8. While nostalgia is understandable, I think we have bigger fish to fry in the Church right now than what people are wearing. I’m loathe to criticize what someone is wearing at Mass because they’re…well…at Mass, unlike a large percentage of Catholics. What can we do to engage more people in a constructive way to get them in the door?

    1. Happy Easter Daniel, and remember, a little light fare is good for the soul. As you know I often write on cultural things and I was responding to an article int he Washington Post on said topic. From the rarefied air of your superior vantage point, please allow the rest of us who dwell in less rarefied air and have less proper priorities than you to have a little small talk, especially in the giddy joy of Easter light.

      1. Msgr.,
        Artfully articulated sarcasm. Note to self: less sober, more sanguine.

        1. A quick observation, though in defense of my point: Even in the 1950s in your parish , it would seem that there could have been a greater effort to get more men to go to mass. I see only one lay man in the congregation (hence all the fine hats!)…

  9. I would enjoy seeing the more formal dress of the early 60s and earlier return (although if someone took away my blue jeans I wouldn’t have much to wear). But I wish someone would explain (perhaps again) the theology behind head coverings for women in church. As a convert, I didn’t grow up with it, and have never understood the point of the practice. I’ve always understood the scripture about head coverings as being a response to a particular cultural situation.

    (As for Christina’s concern about what people would think: I would just wear a veil and not worry about people’s reactions.)

    1. I will explain it to you.

      There is no such thing as “a response to a particular cultural situation”.
      If God says “cover your heads” then cover your heads.
      Because God said so.

      Does not matter what year it is.
      So, if archeologists dig up this site 300 000 billion years from now, then note to future archeologists;

      Teach your daughters to cover their heads.
      Not because “such was the culture of the early 21st century” but because God said so.

      Forget about “Culture” and other fads. “Culture” should adapt to the word of God. Not the other way around.
      “Culture” is never any excuse for disobeying the Word of God. No matter what year it is. There should never be any debate between the first diciples and the diciples of the year 47 000 000 000 AD about anything at all.

      1. Possibly while we are teaching our daughters to cover their heads, we should teach Jesus to NOT cover his head (with the traditional and biblically commanded prayer shawl) that He undoubtedly wore..

        Because Paul taught that it was dishonorable for men to cover their heads when praying or prophesying, in the same passage that Paul taught that it was dishonorable for women to fail to cover their heads during the same activities. We sure don’t want Jesus to “disobey the Word of God,” right?

        After all, in a contest between Jesus and Paul, we all know whose word is more important, right? I sure hope that Paul let the disciples in Jeruselem know so they could hurry to throw out a thousand years of Jewish teaching.

        Or possibly the customs (or shall we call it “culture” or “fads”) that pertain to Greece might reasonably differ from those of Jerusalem? Or maybe, just maybe even America?

        Maybe that could even be the reason that the Church gives us a living Magisterium to interpret the Word of God. Or are you Protestant, Gabriel that you think your personal interpretation of sacred Scripture should be priviledged over the teachings of the Holy Father and the Catechism? My Baptist friends would completely agree with you. Sola Scriptura!

  10. Wow. After years of hesitating today was the day that I finally wore a scarf over my hair to Mass. I am at a pretty liberal parish and it was difficult, but coming across this post confirmed my decision.

  11. We have one woman who wears a veil and she also dresses up. Interestingly enough, she’s a convert. Also interestingly enough, we are both over 50 with long hair 😉

    That said, the people in my parish mostly dress horribly. Not many seem to care what they wear…it’s enough that they show up. The saddest thing is how the extraordinary ministers dress – it’s appalling. Sweat pants and sweat jackets, clothes that don’t even qualify as casual by any stretch.

    If you want to see people dressed for church, just drive by a Mormon Stakehouse some Sunday. Shirts and ties on all the men and boys, and every girl and woman in a dress – not even a dressy pantsuit. It’s embarrassing, in fact, when the LDS are visiting our parish for something or other and they are dressed so much better than everyone else.

    I don’t think people pay attention to whether or not some wear the same things over and over. I don’t personally notice much what people wear if its appropriate – but I notice the slovenly. Don’t judge me for saying that – it’s a tiny church – one can’t help but notice that, especially when there’s no need for it. There is free clothing here for the taking.

    I don’t remember the line verbatim, but in the book “Giants in the Earth” by O.E. Rolvaag, an itinerant minister shows up in a Norwegian settlement in the Dakotas to hold services in the home of the main characters in the story, Beret and Per Hansa. Before the service, the minister approaches Beret and tells her to inform everyone that they should come dressed in their best because they are coming to worship their God.

    Makes sense to me. But don’t ever look for the return of the veil – the Church after all is just mirroring society at large, which is crumbling so quickly that it’s hard to keep up.

    1. That`s the point Jan. The Church should not mirror society in any way, shape or form.

      The Church has a mission to convert society to The Word of God.
      But The Church should not convert to anything earthly, but remain an unchangeable cornerstone for ever.

      And that`s the whole point of The Church.
      To be a Pillar in The House of God for ever.

      Let the contestants of American Idol sleaze, grease and suck up to “the judges” for popularity points if they will.
      But The Church should never give an inch. Not one single inch. Never.

  12. Honestly, if I had the guts I would totally wear a veil to Mass, but I just don’t have what it takes to stand out. I’m toying around with wearing a fashionable hat though — perhaps a cloche (sp?), which is subtle enough to go unnoticed by most.

    1. Just do it. I absolutely hate being noticed or stared at, especially at church. I practically ran away as soon as the candle flame caught the one time my family lit the Advent wreath before Mass because I was so uncomfortable. I had wanted to start wearing a veil or hat for a while but didn’t have the guts–then I moved and figured, why not? I was self-conscious for a few weeks, but I figured it was a good spiritual exercise in humility and on keeping my eyes to myself–after all, I couldn’t see if anyone was giving me the stink eye if I was looking down at my missal, could I? I started with a hat–a big summer one, which is not at all unusual here in South Carolina. The sides flopped down pretty far, so I couldn’t see too much anyway! In fall, I changed to the veil and after a while, it felt natural and I forgot I was even wearing it.

  13. Veils are very popular — practically required — at the Latin Mass we attend. The formality of the rite seems to encourage it.

  14. You should be happy that people show up at all instead of whining about what they’re wearing! Stop longing for the old days like my grandmother and move on!!

    1. It seems to me that you are the whinner. I don’t expect men to be in 3 piece suits and fedoras or women wearing hats and white gloves (although that would be nice), but I also don’t expect to see people dressed like slobs and hobos either. A few Sundays ago I saw a man in his 70’s attend Mass in a dirty tee shirt, cut off denim shorts, black socks and sneakers. Really! He knows better. He should have enough self respect not to leave the house looking like that let alone attending Mass that way. And we shouldn’t be glad people are showing up…..they should be glad they have a Mass to attend. But the real reason Catholics attend Mass looking like rag pickers isn’t because society has changed but because of the complete collapse of the liturgy. When the laity sees “Father” dressed like a teenager and going out of his way to be as irreverent as possible when offering Mass then why should the lay people bother.

      1. I should point something out here: It is never enough just to attend! That is being lukewarm, which I distinctly remember being verboten by Christ Himself. They are at mass… Great! now let’s get them to show up well dressed. After that, let’s get them well catechized. Then let’s get them going to daily mass. There is always more that you can do if you are still alive to do it, so let’s get them doing more! All or nothing, there is no enough!

  15. I love hats, but was almost cured of them in the 60’s, when I had to wear one, with gloves, to teas and it felt like a lot of nonsense to me. A veil at Latin Mass is a different story though. It helps me pray better I do believe.

  16. I don’t mind seeing women wearing such coverings. However, I cringe when I see a woman wearing a hat that resembles a baseball cap as I end up questioning whether they are wearing the cap for the right purpose or not.

    Also, it is my understanding that the purpose of the head covering was to silence items used to fix the woman’s hair. As most women do not use items that make noise when they hit each other to fix their hair, it is not necessary for all women to use such head coverings.

  17. I have my ‘going to Church’ clothes. No tie, but my best trousers and a button down shirt. My shoes are black walking shoes that double for dress shoes. And that is how I dress for Mass.

  18. I’d like to suggest that we use the time we have when we gather together to celebrate , to worship our Lord. …To focus on things spiritual. Taking time out to study a man’s wardrobe might not be what Jesus would do. . Let’s offer a prayer of thanksgiving that the “hippies” too are joining in. Me, I don’t have much money so I wear clean jeans and clean tee shirts….And I am so happy to see the suits , the veils , the bermuda shorts , the long hair , the mohawk cuts….We are all God’s children and He calls us all….The tax collectors , the fishermen , the thief on the cross next to Him , Mary Magdalene…we are all welcomed…Ain’t it so very wonderful !

  19. After watching throngs of women old and young gather for the Easter Hat Parade, I can say that hats have not totally died out here in downtown Charleston, SC. I saw some great ones at the Easter Vigil at the Cathedral–I wear a veil in winter and quite a large hat in summer–and my mom reports good hat attendance at her Presbyterian church. We’ve both seen a big difference in the higher style of dress + hat wearing at our downtown churches versus when we go to a suburban church. I’m also happy to report that most of the hats and veils I see are on women under 40, so perhaps we are seeing something of a resurgence as young women like myself go “retro” and feminine with hats and veils that we never saw on our own mothers.

    1. I would like to point out that she said “feminine”, not “feminist”. Feminine women are much better to be around than feminist women, and I wish the feminists would realize that.

  20. I never step into a Church without my veil. I had up to about 10 that stay in my car. Several times, after Mass, someone will come up to me and ask where they can purchase a veil. I get one of mine and give it to them. On Easter Sunday the young lady I gave a veil to about three weeks ago was sitting right behind me with her veil on. She looked so happy.

    Pride and getting seen? I don’t know if people can understand this or not, but most times, especially out of my own parish, it is a very painful experience to wear the veil because people whisper and look at you like you just crawled out from under a rock. Most are women. The elderly men look at you with a bit of admiration. After a while one gets used to it though; the veil becomes part of your modest Sunday dress.

  21. I have always worn both hats and veils to Mass, for a variety of reason mentioned above. I also wear my best clothes to Mass. I believe that we should bring our best to the Lord. Like it is stated in the Bible giving your best, or putting on your best. Since I am just bringing myself and my family to church I want them in their best. And I say best as sometimes we don’t get very dressy. I also believe that your outward appreance reflect your inward disposition toward whatever you are participating in.

  22. I am a convert of 4 years now, and have ALWAYS LOVED the tradition of veiling. I finally came out of the closet this Holy Thursday and donned my veil that I have owned for 3 years and even had blessed by my priest, since I consider it to be a sacramental. A question I have is this: I am in the choir, and we practice in the loft. Should I wear my veil or other headcovering for rehearsal too? Logic tells me I should, but it doesn’t feel quite right. Please advise.

    1. Yes, well in the old days ANY TIME a woman was in Church she wore a veil. But today you are wholly free in this manner. I personally think that the veil, if worn should be in relation to prayer and worship, and hence to wear it for a rehearsal would generally not be called for. But again you a free in this regard to do what seems right.

    2. I say yes, wear it to rehearsal! You’ll still be in the sanctuary with Our Lord, so the concept of veiling before him would apply to those occasions as well. (Unless you belong to one of those churches that doesn’t have the tabernacle in the sanctuary, I suppose…) If you really don’t feel right wearing the veil, you could try something simpler like a hat or a bandanna to go with your more casual clothes.

      That’s a wonderful idea, by the way, of having your priest bless it. I am still working up to a “real veil” after starting with an inconspicuous cloche hat this Advent and now having completely transitioned to a dark lace rectangle (blends in with my hair) that I wrap around and tie under my hair like a very wide headband. I might approach my priest about having that blessed since I’m going to keep wearing it for the time being…

      1. I agree with Veronica. You’re still in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament!

        1. I also agree~ my 22yo daughter (also a convert) is in our choir & veils whenever she is in church. I actually made my 17yo daughter a new veil for Easter & older sister “borrowed” it. She liked it so much it’s being packed in her suitcase to take to Rome tomorrow~ she is looking forward to wearing it in every church she gets to visit during her 3 weeks in Italy!

  23. Monsignor Pope,

    Thank you for taking the time to let us ladies know your thoughts. Though my mother has never worn a veil for Holy Mass, and I never grew up wearing one, I have found the chapel veil to be a great blessing in my spiritual life. Although in the past I had been deterred for various reasons from wearing the veil, I few years ago I felt irresistibly drawn to it. I have been pleasantly surprised by the positive influence it has on my proper disposition for Holy Mass and on the disposition of others around me. I have received quite a positive response from others, particularly from men, and more ladies in the parish have since began wearing the veil. As a woman seeking to emulate the most “blessed among women”, our Blessed Mother, I have found the veil indispensable. Thank you again, Monsignor. Happy Easter, and may Mary keep you.

  24. I think the decline in formality in Church has partially to do with a culture of convenience. We have six children and a very tight budget. It’s a challenge to wrangle the young ones in church let alone set apart clothing and shoes that are for Church only. There is a spirit of sacrifice missing and I think it is related to the inattention to the larger Sacrifice, that of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament. Belief and devotion to the Real Presence, Adoration, archaic to so many Catholics now, have shared a similar timing and path of decline. I believe it is important to “set apart” Sundays, to demonstrate the significance of the Commandment and the Mass. If we could see with clear eyes the reality of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, we would be prostrate and overcome, we would regret any small act we neglected to perform to honor the glory of the One who gave us salvation. I wasn’t raised with the veil and as my spiritual journey has exposed more the beautiful aspects of our faith and living that faith, I am hoping to make this a habit. My prayer now is my 16 month old won’t spend the entire time whipping it off my head and into the congregation. I’m no prophet but… well, humility and motherhood go hand in hand! Monsignor, I think you are wanting to ask for a return to this “formality” which is anything but superficial and ultimately is an outward sign of love. I think you want to see our love for our Saviour. I do too.

    1. Yeah I know a couple of the commentors here have made the point of expense. Frankly, growing up I had a very limited selection of Sunday clothes. One pair of black shoes, one pair pleated trousers, and a couple of button-down shirts. But I’m a guy. I don’t personally know why a woman can’t just have a few special dresses or just a couple of skirt and blouse combos and who cares if there is some repetition — I know I am a guy don’t have a clue… 🙂 But frankly I don’t have a lot of memory in sch matters so as to say, OH she wore than two weeks ago. But then again, I’m a guy.

      But thanks for reminding us that a little expense and sacrifice toward God is appropriate

  25. Our pastor gently suggested a return to hats for Easter last year. The one lady who complied was a source of agitation to me. I couldn’t see over her, and I really WANT to be able to see the altar. Veils would be OK. But the important thing is MODESTY. Ladies, please do not exhibit that which should not be exhibited!

      1. I always wear large, extravagant hats to our Sunday (Tridentine) Masses. If they are not to be exhibited before our Lord and King, where can they? To avoid anyone’s annoyance (and for spiritual preparation), I arrive at least five minutes prior to the start of Mass and typically sit in front of an empty pew.

        On the other hand, I am also five-foot-nothing and frequently end up behind taller folks whose height prevents my witnessing every moment of the Holy Sacrifice. I would hardly expect the ushers to bar the doors to those of greater stature. The same for very well-attended Masses where there is not the room to maneuver one’s view; ought some parishioners be sent away to create more elbow room? It is unnecessary to see the altar in order to behold the Mass.

  26. Don’t worry, Msgr., I’m sure Mary will keep wearing her veil in future apparitions. 🙂

  27. If we examine 1 Corithians 11: We find that Paul feels that men should NOT cover their heads and should have short hair, while woman are supposed to cover their heads and should have long hair.

    4 Any man who prays or prophesies with his head covered disgraces his head. 5 But any woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered disgraces her head, for it is one and the same thing as having a shaved head.

    13 Judge for yourselves: Is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered? 14 Does not nature itself teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a disgrace for him, 15 but if a woman has long hair, it is her glory?

    However the idea that all men should have short hair was not the custom in the Holy land in Jesus’ time. John the Baptist, as a Nazarene would certainly have had long hair. Jesus might or might not have had long hair (it is not clear if Jesus was a Nazarene since He did drink wine) but even if Jesus himself (contrary to most of our images of him) had short hair, many Jewish men did have long hair back then. Further, ALL practicing Jews including almost certainly Jesus would have been praying with their heads covered by the traditional prayer shawl.

    So is Paul really saying that Jesus should have had short hair and NOT covered His head? That Jesus was disgracing His head?

    Or could Paul have been speaking to a Gentile audience where uncovered hair in women and long hair in men may have had meanings other than those present in Jerusalem 2000 years ago or in the United States today. Long haired Greek men, and women with long flowing hair, might well have been signalling devices for prostitution in those days. Greek promiscuity (both homo and hetero) was legendary in Roman times. Since Paul’s commentary comes in the context of a bunch of other admonishions such as not getting drunk at Communion, it may have been that Paul was having rather more difficulty with the deportment of his flock than even poor Msgr. on this blog.

    Just my two cents worth, brought to you all it its usual steep discount! 🙂

    1. Yes, it is a difficult passage to sort out exactly. For example what does he mean by “long hair” ? I have often thought that Jesus did not have the long (hippie like) hair he is presented as having in most modern depictions and part for the reason is the very passage you cite. That does not mean he wore it as short as many western men do today however. The nazarite vow, as you mention was an exception but I don’t think Jewish men had long locks of flowing hair, generally speaking. Perhaps too, as you also mention, Paul had a Gentile audience in mind for when he says men should pray with heads uncovered, he is going against Jewish law that says a man SHOULD pray with his head covered. A further difficulty of the passage is that Paul says, among other things, that a woman should cover her hair “on account of the angels.” Here too, lots of ink has flowed trying to say what Paul means, but, frankly, it is not easy to say. I mention more of this in my article on veils cited earlier in this post.

    2. I think you mean that John the Baptist was a “nazirite” not a Nazarene. The former is a religious observance; the later is the resident of a location. I’m not being snippy — I just wanted to clarify.

  28. I have been wearing jeans to Mass for years. As a young boy at Our Lady Queen of Hope grade school in Detroit, I used to complain about the hats. They blocked my view of the Alter. I once mentioned to my Father after Sunday Mass, “I think the ladies wearing hats are having a contest today, to see who could wear the biggest hat”. He explained that women cover their heads in Church out of respect.
    Last week at Easter Vigil, I wore a suit and tie as I do every High Holy Day. This was the Mother of all Vigils 7:30pm to 12 midnight, 43 new Catholics, praise be to God. When we returned home, my wife told me how nice my suite looked, and I confessed that I felt a bit or maybe allot more respectful.
    And I also noticed two women, one a new Catholic and one being her sponsor wearing chapel veils. And to be honest. I admit it, I miss the hats and the veils at Mass. Thank you Monsignor Pope!

  29. I would be happy if I could just find a nice red dress shirt. Yes, I try to color coordinate with the liturgical color of the day. I have white and blue (for Marian Masses) and even purple, but not red. I have a burgundy shirt, but that’s really not red. Oh, and a rose-colored shirt too for those two Sundays in Lent and Advent. But I can’t find them.

      1. And by wanting a “red shirt,” that does not mean that I want to be killed before the end of the first act.

        1. That’s great to hear about your color coordinated shirts! My 19 year old son (who converted last Easter) likes to do the same thing~ if he doesn’t have the right color of shirt, he’ll wear his white one with the right color of tie. Just a thought if you can’t find the right shirt…

  30. Thank you for the article. Just last week I was confronted by a member after Mass who wanted to know who was I dressing for at church. It was a Wednesday evening mass and my outfit could be considered a Friday work type of style. I was raised in a average size city, yet I lived in large cities for years and they dressed up for church. To be honest, the job I use to have we were told not to wear jeans. So I did not wear them to Mass/Church. Could it be more about big city vs small town idea about fashiion? Some feel they should be able to come to Mass as they are, but those same people would not go to their weddings wearing anything. So why visit our Lord that way.

    1. Just last week I was confronted by a member after Mass who wanted to know who was I dressing for at church.

      Perfect reply would have been “For Our Lord”

    2. Your comment reminded me of when we moved from the Twin Cities to small town MN. There was a different definition of formal there, namely jeans and a fleannel shirt. They also wore this for weddings, which shocked us, but they wore suits and ties and dresses for funerals, which confused us. We continued to dress up for all masses like we had been taught in the cities, but we did get some funny looks from teh younger parishoners.

  31. Hey Msgr!
    Greetings in the Risen Lord!
    I was reflecting on this issue recently and was pondering St. Paul’s teaching regarding head coverings in 1 Corinthians 11. It seems to me at least that he refers to the “practices of other churches” and “because of the angels” (very mysterious) but he also seems to ground his argument in “nature.” Maybe I’m way off here, but it seems he uses the same argumentation (nature) in Romans 1 when talking about human sexuality and 1 Timothy 2 when talking women not being allowed to “teach and have authority” because the man was created first… both lines of reasoning seem very similair to 1 Cor. 11.

    Could you help me understand how Paul’s arguments for head coverings is a societal norm and not something grounded in natural/divine law? Thanks.

    Many blessings! Keep up the good work!!!!

    1. No. Just follow the teachings of St.Paul without debate or questioning them, or any attempts to work around them – because you do not like them, and that will be fine.

      Women should cover their heads, and not teach and have authority wether they like it or not.
      And regardless of what happens to be hot in Vogue Magazine either in this months issue, or in the millenia to come, do not attempt to change the Word of God to suit your purposes.

      Have a great time in the Æons to come! And celebrate eternally the unchanging standards of The Lord.


      1. Hi Gabriel.
        Peace be with you.
        Maybe I’m incorrect here, but it seems clear that because the norms regarding head coverings in America, at least, are no longer required, this means that head coverings are not an “unchanging standard of the Lord” but a cultural norm. For instance, in the past it was unthinkable for a woman to expose her ankles.

        However, my own reading of the Scripture sees that a woman should cover her head as a man should sacrificially love his wife. Yet, in seeking to think in mind with our beloved Catholic Church, Gabriel, the liturgical norm/discipline of wearing head coverings has been lifted as far as I understand. Am I missing something?


  32. I am so glad they are gone! I am easily distracted in church by someone dressed really well or in an eye catching print. I couldn’t imagine adding hats to the mix! The occasional veil is distracting too. I love the Mass, but sometimes it is just hard to stay focused. Also, hats are expensive. I’m glad we have no such requirement that a woman needs to wear one. I do agree with you that there is a certain elegance factor that is lacking in what people wear to church. Many wear items that are too revealing, or far too casual. Sure, some people may not be able to afford something dressy, but I think in most cases that is unlikely.

    1. Perhaps you should try sitting up front to cut down on distractions. Hats seem ancillary to your argument.

  33. I don’t have a suit that I can fit into (I’m working on it–20 lbs lost and 15 to go) but I do have 3 or 4 inexpensive (Walmart or second hand) dress shirts, several ties (mostly gifts) and ONE set of dress pants and dress shoes to wear to Mass. Fashion is the furthest thing from my mind, and many other parishioners actually seem to enjoy seeing someone taking a little effort to dress for the special occasion which is the Mass. My grandfather (may he rest in peace) was a poor Mexican laborer his whole life, but he never neglected to wear a jacket, slacks and white shirt to Mass. Where I live, the population is heavily LDS and, as was noted above, they never neglect to dress nicely (NOT extravagantly) for their services–even during the summer months when it gets to the high 110’s and 120’s around here. Meanwhile, our parish sometimes looks like a slob/beach-bum/ hooker convention. I’m not looking to find fault (I do my best to guard my eyes by burying my nose in my missal), but unless one is blind one can’t help but see.

  34. Thank you father.

    Our daughter has the benefit of being the only granddaughter in a sea of grandsons so she is always well dressed. I always wear a veil to mass and I believe in dressing up myself- (ie skirt and dress). As our daughter get’s older, I am also going to continue to promote dressing modestly, neatly and well to Sunday mass which means no shorts, tank tops, mini dresses etc. Most of my Sunday clothes are the skirts and dresses I wear to work and I veil, among other reasons, as a way of reminding myself I am entering sacred space and am going to worship God- Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and that I will receive Jesus present in the Blessed Sacrament.

    I do not dress or veil for show or ostentation. Yes, church is “our Father’s house, but our Father is God. I was raised Baptist and my parents and grandparents worked blue collar jobs, including a grand mother and great grand mother who were maids yet on Sundays, they wore their best to church. They were not showing off and some was the culture, but the message in that culture was church is important and we are going to worship God. If most people were going to meet the president or going to an important civic function, they would try to make certain they dressed well and appropriately, yet for church too many seem to have the opinion that comfort is king. Not saying women need high heels, satin and pearls. My friends who are home-school moms have all managed to get some dresses or skirts and tops which are not denim and which are fine for church.

    God accepts us as we are, but scripture tells us we are to take advantage of our talents. I know some people who have very modest incomes, but they can manage more than a pair of jeans or shorts and a t-shirt on Sunday. Most people I know will dress up for a date or date night or to attend a wedding or other social event. If our family and friends are worth that, how much more should we be willing to extend to God.

  35. Wow. Do I really have to be *that* girl on this one? I don’t want to be, but here goes:

    1. Women haven’t lost their sense of fashion – the fashion industry has lost it’s ability to provide modest fashion clothing.
    2. I can get down with the veil, but not the hat. A lady’s church hat in the 50’s was sensible. A lot of the church hats that you see these days, particularly in the black churches, are so big that they are distracting.
    3. See points 1 and 2 – since when did church become a fashion show anyway.
    4. In the 50’s and 60’s, women dressed up for EVERYTHING, not just church. If you have any doubt about that, just watch The Andy Griffith show! Wearing a dress suit was not much of a step further than what they wore everyday.
    5. Does it really matter if someone dresses down for church? Is God taking notes? You can wear a three-piece suit or, for ladies, a dress suit and still be as vile as can be on the inside.

    Next week, I’ll wear a veil with my jeans and flip-flops to Mass.

  36. I attend Mass at St Patrick’s Cathedral in Auckland New Zealand. It is very beautiful and small by overseas standards.

    A couple of young women attend who cover their heads with veils. I find their devotion and piety very moving.

    Sure I know all that stuff about “come as you are” but if invited to the most important meeting each Sunday one will ever have as we Catholics are surely we should dress accordingly.

  37. I think that the garments we wear to church should be modesty, charity, faith and good will. Jesus Himself tells us to take no thought of what we put on, and points to the lillies of the field who are beautiful and acceptable, just as God made them.

    As to the rest, I’ve been poor, and I’ve been rich. When I lived in Sri Lanka I wore my school clothes to church as did everybody else (rich and poor) and I found I fit in fine in my Father’s House. When I was poor, living in America (age 6-12) I wore my school clothes to church but found that most other children were dressed vastly better than I was. My shoes were run down at the heels and had holes in the toes, my socks were heavily darned, and my skirts got shorter each year, despite starting out way too long for me. I wore the same woolen coat from the time I was six to the time I was 12. It was too large for me at 6 and at 12 it was a short sleeved sweater. I was taught to tell the curious that “Asians don’t feel cold, we are tougher than Americans,” and to simply ignore questions on my attire as the ill bred pieces of impertenance that they were.

    My clothes made a difference in the way other people treated me, and the way I felt about myself. The church no longer felt like my Father’s house. That was not the reason I left as soon as I could, but it made a difference in that there was no community to keep me in the church.

    My families finances improved when I was 13, and I was fortunate to complete both college and medical school. however just because I could buy up a wardrobe now, does not mean that I feel any desire to do so. My clothes are clean, in good repair and modest. Except for weddings and funerals (when I am dressing up for the family, and less so for God) I do not “dress up” for church. I also dress very simply at work. I encourage my children to do likewise (though they do have some nice clothes). I think that the folks in my parish (half of whom are Hispanic) who come dressed in the clothes they wear at the chicken factory do so because they and their children have no other. I think it comforts them and their children to think that there is no reason for them to join the Sunday fashion parade enjoyed by some of the more affluent members of the parish, for there are plenty of people who dress no better than they do, and whom God loves.

    I think that folks who come to church should focus on the Gospel and not worry about what they wear. Even less should they worry about what their neighbors wear. That is between their neighbors and God.

  38. It’s been really interesting for me to read everyone’s comments. I grew up with only a handful of women in my childhood parish wearing veils and I remember as a kid thinking that those ladies seemed humble and very devout. I don’t know if I’d wear one as I personally don’t like anything on my head, but I admire people that do.

    As for Sunday Mass attire, I can be seen in scrubs (if I’m going to or coming from work) or a dress/blazer or pantsuit. I find a lot of dressy stuff for work and church and any event on sale or at discount stores like TJ Maxx. I’m not one who has the budget nor the want to buy expensive clothes (unless they are like 70% off on sale). I was raised Italian and Irish Catholic, and we were taught that Sunday Mass attire is to be both dressy and conservative (not flashy). I think of how my little Italian grandmother dressed when I’m ever stumped on what to wear – she only ever wore sweatpants or any pants when she was exercising. She was in a skirt, stockings, and a blouse on a daily basis. I don’t recall if my grandmother wore a veil though. I don’t think she did.

  39. Now if we can only get some of those orders of nuns to actually wear habits again…

  40. Attend Mass at any number of Catholic churches in Denver, you always see someone with a mantilia (scarf or lace). Invariably on mexican american women and occasionally anglos as well. Their culture seems to support the mantilla yet.

  41. Just another piece of Catholic identity that was flushed down the drain in the name of opening up the doors of the Church.

  42. Sometimes after mass we say the Rosary. Yet when I have a scarf to cover my head and block out the world to focus on our Holy Mother/Prayer it is sooooo much more comforting for my spirit.

    1. In the days of Jackie Kennedy and before I became Catholic myself, I bought a beautiful Spanish mantilla at the UN giftshop in New York. I wore it once or twice as a fancy-dress kerchief (women wore kerchiefs back then to keep the wind from messing up their beehive hairdos) when I went out in the evening. I haven’t worn it in more than fifty years. By the time I had a use for it, Catholic women had, for the most part, abandoned wearing any head covering.

      As an older woman, I tend to wear pants outfits (not jeans) to church since I have foot problems that do not fit into the kind of dress shoe usually worn with skirts. I notice that I am not alone in this preference. Also, the climate does not cooperate and pants outfits are warmer!

  43. I grew up with the veil for Mass. (sometimes even a kleenex if I had no veil with me)
    Sorry to say I abandoned it for convenience. (Toddlers kept pulling it off) and didn’t return to it after they grew up.
    I occasionally wear it, (if I haven’t just washed my hair because it makes it go flat) and I find myself more uplifted during Mass when I do wear it. It hides my face from people wanting to talk to me and it shields my eyes from wandering and therefore keeps my mind from wandering from my purpose of my presence at Mass.

  44. I remember seeing a Jewish couple walking with their baby to the synagogue on an incredibly hot summer’s day. The man was in full suit with hat with his wife was dressed beautifully as well. Why do they show more honor to the Lord than Catholics? Is it more a problem of respect and reverence with Catholics today or the bogus argument about appearances? The cacaphonic behavior of Catholics before and after Mass answers the question pretty easily.

  45. I began wearing a veil in 1997 as a Protestant in my own prayers at home–and began wearing a hat to church. I can’t recommend it enough. I want to begin a “veil ministry” one day for young girls. There is just something wonderfully humble and loving about wearing one. Now that I am Catholic, I was hoping I would be accepted wearing a veil to church, but it feels awkward. Several people have told me I look muslim. I still do it though, out of love for Christ.

  46. I visited the Holy Land 2 years ago and when we entered the site of Calvary and the Holy Sepulcher area I immediately was convinced to cover myself. The air was permeated with holiness and I felt so unworthy to be there. Later my thoughts were that I should feel like that in every Catholic Church in the presence of our Lord. I purchased a veil in Jerusalem and have worn ever since. It is uncomfortable to be a church and you are the only one veiled but its a small price to pay for the humility and reverence it brings to my soul at Mass. I encourage all women to veil themselves and watch how reverence at Mass will increase and you will have much peace.

  47. Two thoughts from a person of approximately the Msgr’s age:

    In the late 1950s, my mother, a farm girl that hailed from downstate, went into downtown
    Chicago from our suburban home dressed in blue jeans. She relates that she was told (I’m not sure by who) that
    this was “simply not done”. It is no suprise that people dressed nicely for church then.

    As a person who actually has to wear the clothes, I don’t miss the mores of the 1950s. However,
    I can still be shocked.. I have seen people of all ages wearing clothes in church carrying logos and
    messages that a reasonable person would think are completely inappropriate.

  48. My word what a distraction women’s hats and the women in them were at Mass years ago. Take a woman of average beauty and put the right hat on her and she becomes drop dead gorgeous- a fact of which she is very aware. In my childhood my Dad told me to keep my eyes on the altar, but this became increasingly difficult as the years went by.

    A veil bespeaks modesty and piety, and makes it easier for everyone to see the altar, whereas otherwise one has to peak through feathers and flowers or put oneself at the front of the Church. Women in hats did not enhance the worship of our Lord, of that I am pretty sure.

  49. Two amazing sermons on veils! Well worth listening to!
    1. Precious Things Are Always Veiled: http://www.audiosancto.org/sermon/20090628-Precious-Things-are-Always-Veiled.html (14 minutes 38 seconds)
    2. The Theological Significance of Veils and Consequences of Unveiling:http://www.audiosancto.org/sermon/20090329-The-Theological-Significance-of-Veils-and-Consequences-of-Unveiling.html (16 minutes 05 seconds)
    Not sure if these have already been posted, as I didn’t read all 100 comments, but they are great!

  50. My personal standard, as a woman, is comfort, appropriateness, simplicity and modesty, which is easy to do on a small budget. Cover the cleavage and the knees, and wear flowey things that don’t outline the rear end. You can look very feminine and nice that way, and not be a distraction to anyone at mass.

    I see lot of comfort as mass, but not a lot of appropriateness or modesty (and as an EMHC, get tired of inadvertently looking down other women’s cleavage as I serve the Chalice – and my husband plain gets outraged). But I don’t want to go back to the 1950’s or other such eras, as the clothes women wore were uncomfortable, restrictive and unhealthy. I agree that hats can be a distraction and source of vanity, but they can also wreck your hair when you actually do need to look good. I avoid hats unless it’s bitter cold out and I’m not going anywhere I need to look nice, because they always leave big visible dents in my stick-straight hair. And as a short person, I hate it when anyone sitting in front of me wears a brimmed hat, because I can’t see around or over it. Wreaks the view.

    I would love to wear a veil with my other long flowey things, but don’t as it would make me feel self-conscious in a sea of bare-headed women.

  51. I always loved wearing the veil. I wore it until my mother refused to let me into the car for church while wearing or carring one. I found early that if worn right, when I bowed by head in prayer, the veil fell forward enough to block out others, thus leaving me “closeted” with the One I came to pray to. Now that women are starting to cover their hair again I look longingly thru the websites that sell them (see mantillas on your search). They are truly amazing and I want one.

  52. Tim those are great sermons! Thank you! I think they should be taken very seriously!

    There are collections of quotations of the saints on modesty too: http://www.saintsworks.net/

    I think how things that were simply not done were changed gives us a lesson in what to watch for when there’s a movement for that to occur.

    Modesty is a virtue! We cannot have enough of it.. the more the more spiritual beauty before God. And to think so much of it can be achieved simply with a little effort on the exterior. 🙂 Thank God for the opportunity, to express modesty and oppose the opposite vice.

    1. If interested in modesty, here’s a link to sermons by Fr. Chad Ripperger. If you scroll down, you will see a 8-part series on modesty that is better than anything I have ever heard anyone else speak about… His sermon on movies, and his sermon on music are also both amazing. Actually, pretty much all his sermons are great! Here’s the link: http://www.sensustraditionis.org/multimedia.html

  53. Both men and women tend to dress up more in my current parish than others I’ve been a member of, but I suspect it’s because it’s a super-wealthy parish and people just dress better in general regardless where they’re going.

    As for veils and hats, to each her own. They’re merely objects and can be worn sincerely or insincerely. Don’t mean a thing in and of themselves. I’ve known women who wear veils in order to show off, and I’ve known women who don’t wear them who are quiet, humble, holy women. And vice versa. The veils themselves are just bits of cloth or lace. Assigning spiritual attributes to them is idolatry.

  54. I grew up in the 50’s and my mother always made me feel that going to church on Sunday was a very special event. We weren’t very whealthy but she made me look pretty by curling my hair and making me wear my prettiest dress, hat and shoes. I was always looking forward to going to church. It might sound like it was all but superficial but being well dressed matched the solemnly of the mass as it was presented to us back then. These were the days before Vatican II. After that the style of the mass became encreasingly more layed back and our way of dressing became more casual. I think that people should dress appropriately wherever they go and the right way to dress at mass is at least to appear neat, clean, modest and not attract to much attention to ones’self. For women, a simple headress or a veil is preferable to an uncovered head by respect for tradition. Certain traditions are worth coming back to. I sometimes go to a nun’s convent for mass. All the nuns there have abandonned their former clothes and wear absolutely nothing on their head during mass. I would like to see them wearing their regious outfits or at least wearing a veil at mass. A lot of women who go meet the pope wear the veil or a hat to show respect, so why should we not do the same when we go to church. I have abandonned the practice of covering my head at church for many years and I have changed my mind about it since a few years. I now wear a large headband which came back into fashion recently. I don’t think that God needs us to cover our heads but I think he is touched by our desire to please Him.

  55. i wear a veil everytime i enter the church or the chapel. i do it for the same reason that i kneel. i’m there to show my deference to God, not to be “fashionable.” i hate wearing skirts and dresses, so i wear black slacks and tops. i can’t imagine going in without my veil. i also attend the tridentine mass, so that might have something to do with it. the only thing i’m not sure of, is whether or not i can get away with tying it under my chin.

  56. I agree! The reason I don’t wear a veil to Mass is that now it seems like such a statement; and I don’t want to be a walking statement/distraction for others when I am encountering my Lord and God. I actually feel much more comfortable wearing a stylin’ hat and simple. modest dress. I like how you put this, Msgr.

  57. Nice article. I started veiling during Lent this year to bring my focus on my submission to God, my savior. I am the last person who wants to draw attention to myself, so I am not wearing it to be a distraction to others, but to enhance my prayerfulness. And now that Lent is over, I am still veiling. I love that when I receive the body of Christ, I can go back to my pew, kneel down, and have the veil fall so that it covers the sides of my face and I can more effectively meditate with the One I’m communing with. Right now, I’m the only one veiling in my little church and at first I felt awkward, but then I kept telling myself that I’m doing it for my relationship with God, not my relationship with the congregation.

    Also, I’m a corporate business woman and dress up most days for work, but rarely wear a dress or skirt to work. I decided last year to not only dress up for Our Lord, but to come to Church as feminine as I could, so most days I wear a dress or skirt to Mass. (modest – which is hard to find in women’s fashion nowadays!!) I thought to myself, if I really believed that I was going to God’s House to Dine with Him, I better show reverence. I am a woman, not a man. Now, I agree with the others, I want to be comfortable in Church and not distracted by tight skirts or a plunging neckline or binding pantyhose, so I seek far and wide for comfortable, feminine, modest clothing…. and shoes!

    1. Theresa, I so agree with you and your thoughts. I’m a convert (as of 5 years ago today, in fact) and ironicly just before Lent the following year, I started looking in to the idea of veiling. I searched online and even sent an email to our Archbishop to ask him a couple of questions about the practice. (His response was that I’d actually read more than he had on the subject.) After some soul searching and prayer I decided this was what I wanted to do to show my respect to our Lord. I’ve never been concerned with what others thought about what I’d chosen because I didn’t do it for them but I’ve never had any bad comments regarding it. I actually feel naked without it when I enter the sanctuary because I feel it’s really so much a part of me and of my faith. And I’m not afraid to wear it in another denomination’s church either. My thought process is that irregardless of the faith of the congregation, I’m entering the Lord’s house. The only time I didn’t was for a friend’s wedding. I didn’t want anything to distract anyone from her.

      I agree with your thoughts on dressing for church as well. You’re going to visit the Lord’s house, to show him honor and respect and to worship him. That’s why you’re there. Not to show off your body. Dressing modestly these days is really hard.

      I wish there were more women who wore a veil. However, I appreciate the fact that it’s a choice and not an edict forcing anyone to. And I think God would appreciate that part of it too. I choose to veil and I’m not afraid to admit it.

  58. I agree with Claire. I, too, grew up in the fifties, and Sundays were always special. No one would have dared darken a Catholic Church door back then dressed the way they do today, not even the poorest families. No matter when I am in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament, a mantilla is on my head. Should I happen to be without one, I don’t make a big deal of it, nor do I expect every woman in my parish to cover their head.

  59. I grew up in a time when Sunday was a day when the whole local community turned up for Mass in their best dress. So regardless of whether you were poor or rich, you turned up clean, tidy and appropriately dressed. Even the non christians would take note of people going to church in their best dress, walking down the street. Yes the hats, caps, berets, scarves were all beautiful and I hope they make a come back. I think to myself now when I am in the presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, who is King of us all, I want to look my best for Him and I want others to learn from my attitude to adopt the same attitude themselves. I have learnt a lot from being in church and watching very holy, reverent people.

  60. As a teen I wore a dress and small hat to the Episcopal church as I didn’t dare show up without one, nobody did. But I loved it and now, having been Catholic for 14 years I occasionally wear a veil/mantilla. My granddaughters wanted one too so I gifted them. The clothes were NOT uncomfortable, much easier to wear than jeans or pants.I look forward to women returning to look like women. Some look great in pants suits but most, frankly don’t have the body for it and a dress covers a multitude of faults!

  61. I’m 30 years old and was converted three years ago this past Christmas by the SSPX. Before I knew anything about any theological disputes, I was amazed by scores and scores of women who dress like women. The first time I entered a Catholic chapel was during passion week in 2008. There were lines of people waiting for confession and every woman there was wearing a modest dress and chapel veil or hat, everything was really quiet and the church had very a very traditional design. I was converted by beauty as much as the truth I slowly learned. When I first went into the church I was wearing some old paint-spattered pants some hippie had given me to help her milk some goats at a goat dairy where she worked, but now I wear a suit and tie. I owe it to the Church and the SSPX.

  62. Maggie McC said: “Some look great in pants suits but most, frankly don’t have the body for it and a dress covers a multitude of faults!” Hahaha! You noticed too I see.

    1. LOL Some of us just should never be caught dead wearing spagetti straps or anything sleeveless. And as N older woman, Showing my cleavage is just too scary. LOL

  63. I saw a woman who was a Sheriff. She was dressed in a Sheriff’s uniform complete with tie, shirt, trousers and hat. If it wasn’t for her face I would have thought she was a man. She even almost sounded like a man. I also saw a woman in the military that was a colonel. She had on a green combat uniform. If it wasn’t for her face she could have been mistaken for a man. She even spoke with a manly kind of voice and words. Not just that but I also saw a woman with what looked like a man’s shirt tightening the tie (looked like a man’s tie) around her neck.

  64. I completely agree with this article. I was born in the 80’s and I was raised in an environment where one had to dress up for sunday mass. I recall I hated it but now that I am an adult I love to dress up for any day but especially for mass. My mother raised me with the metality that dressing too casual for mass is like your disrespecting our Lord. Its sad to see how along the years that tradition has faded away. But at the moment I dont have any children but the day I do, they are so going to dress for sunday mass.

  65. We at HATagories completely agree with formality nowadays. People have become so casual at church, theatre, dining, and such. They forget the importance of dressing to show your best and can be lazy when it comes to important social or spiritual occasions. I personally work very hard to bring back that classic tradition and appreciate others who feel the same way.

  66. There is an easy fix to all of this Msgr. Bring back traditional liturgy. Bring back beauty in the Mass and a sense of the Sacred. Get rid of 70’s happy-clappy music and vestments that go with it. Bring in chant, sacred polyphony and sacred hymns which are actually written by Catholics and are theologically sound. Mandate the se of the Proper-Antiphons in and sung prayers. Get rid of the drum set, electric guitars, synthesizers, Protestant sounding piano music, etc. If you want to restore the Church, restore the liturgy. I’m not saying that it all needs to be the Traditional Latin Mass (see the Anglican Use for an example of how to do the liturgical changes from Vatican II with reverence) but what we have now isn’t doing it.

    In addition, get back to proclaiming Christ the King and the necessity of the Church for salvation as it has been traditionally taught in the Church.

    Do these things, and you will see the turn around you long for, and an increase in Catholic culture and life to boot.

    1. Probably a little more to it than you think since the veil wearers who were raised in the old Church and the Baltimore Catechism were the very ones who threw the revolution and brought in what you term happy clappy. Culture is little more complicated than you argue.

      1. When you change something which was largely viewed as the greatest treasure of the Church, and do so in a way not in continuity with the tradition of that same liturgy, you get what we have now. The impression is created that nothing is unchangeable.


        As was shown in Figure 1 of that study, which was published in the reputable Homiletic and Pastoral Review, the decline in Mass attendance has averaged 1% per year since the OF of the Mass was promulgated. However it was was an actual loss of 1% per year . Rather, the overwhelming majority of the drop in Mass attendance in both the UK and the USA was immediately surrounding that of Vatican II and the implementation of the Mass of Paul VI. The graph for the USA actually shows a 22% drop in Mass attendance from approx. 1965 to approx. 1977. The trend line for the UK shows 25% over the same time span. After that, Mass attendance in the USA actually steadied to the point that it only dropped approx. 4% over the next 15 years. In the UK, it continued to drop, but not even close to the same rate of the initial trend, taking from 1977 to 1999 to drop an additional 15%.

        In addition, the myth that Catholics and Protestants saw roughly the same decline in attendance, and thus, it has nothing to do with Vatican II or the form of the Mass is dispelled in Figure 3. In the same time span that Mass attendance dropped 22% in the USA, attendance at Protestant services only dropped 5%, which was recovered in the late 1980’s. Over the entire span of the data collection, while USA Mass attendance dropped 30%, attendance at Protestant services actually stayed the same, at 45%.

        If it was a cultural as is often claimed, it would have affected Protestants as well as Catholics. In addition, there is a reason that the Orthodox Church is actually growing in the Western world while Catholicism is hemorrhaging people.

  67. I grew up when women were women and you knew it. I remember going on the bus downtown every Spring with my bushia (Polish for grandmother to buy her new hat. She would put on her hat and hold it in place with a stick pin, grab her purse, put on her gloves and off we went. I always got a new “Easter bonnet” too. My parents scrimped and saved so that we 4 girls could have a new dress each Easter. Some years the younger girls got hand me downs or Mom altered one of her dresses and made a dress for one of us.

    she always told us “You ALWAYS wear your very best for Jesus . To this very day I always wear a dress to Church. I stopped wear a hat back in 1967 and went to a chapel veil.When everyone quit wearing anything on their head, I did too.
    Recently I joined a Traditional parish, where the Latin Mass is reverently celebrated, and I can pray to my Lord without having 11 songs, bongo drums , marachas etc killing my concentration. Men wear suits or at least dress pants, shirts and ties. Women wear dresses , jumpers or skirts and blouses. No sleeveless garments, no cleavage showing. Even little girls wear chapel veils or the little round doillies.
    I also now veil, because everything that is sacred, is covered. From the chalice to the statures during lent, all are covered at times. We being children of God are also sacred..

  68. I grew up in the late 50s and early 60s,and back then we wore easter bonnets with our cute easter dresses and even girls as old as 16 wore them.when i made my first communion in 1965 at age 10,the white poofy above the knees communion dresses and veils with the lace anklets and white mary janes were required.to symbolize the purity of our baptisms,we wore the playtex toddler extralarge size milky white rubber pants under our dresses.after our first communion,the rubber pants were kept in our drawers and worn for easter,thanks giving,christmas,weddings and other special occasions.I feel the first communion outfits should be required by all parishes.

  69. My neice didnt make her First holy communion untill she was 14 due to various problems and family issues.They lived in Algona,Iowa at the time and their parish was strict.she was in the class with the 7 and 8 year olds and their parish required the girls to wear identical poofy,top of the knees communion dresses with a white bonnet instead of the veil.With the dress they had to wear lace anklets and white ‘mary jane’ shoes.They all had to wear a cloth diaper,rubber pants and under shirt under their dresses.The neice was ok with the dress,bonnet,etc,but did not want to wear the diaper,rubber pants and under shirt under the dress.She told the Rel.Ed.director that she thought it was unfair for her to have to wear the diaper and rubber pants since she was 14 and she was told that that was the required outfit for the girls and that she couldnt participate unless she was in the full outfit.The morning of the ceremony,we had to hold her down on her bed while the diaper and rubber pants and under shirt were being put on her,she cried the whole time.we got the rest of the required oufit on her and she looked gorgeous in it.After we got back to their house she went right to her room and took the diaper and rubber pants off.

  70. I always wear a hat to church, and everywhere else, as I love them. My great aunt was a milliner who made hats for London shops and I have always remembered that. I don’t care if I am the only one in a hat, because I do not feel properly dressed without one. Love gloves, too!

    I have a straw boater for summer, and a pink rose veil fascinator, plus a number of large brimmed straw hats of all colours, for home, garden, church, etc, and for winter, I have similar hats in reds, greys and black.

    Hats are elegant, sophisticated and fun. It would be lovely if others would join me, and revive the hat fashion!

  71. I agree the U.S. dress code is informal & quite often sloppy. I’m 55, female, Catholic, & wore a veil until Vatican II.
    I grew up in a family of 7 (4 girls including my mom) & thanks to hats/veils we were rarely late to mass. That’s the great thing about hats-put your makeup on, get dresses, & your done. I’m not talking panty hose (haven’t owed a pair in yrs), but the public definitely could use a little dressing up.

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