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I Miss Women Wearing Hats and Veils in Church. A brief reminiscence of days gone by
Archdiocese of Washington ^ | april 10th, 2012 | Msgr. Charles Pope

Posted on 04/11/2012 5:08:39 PM PDT by Salvation

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

By: Msgr. Charles Pope

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Yeah, I know, I am hopelessly out of date and some of you feel judged.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.

TOPICS: Apologetics; Catholic; History; Theology
KEYWORDS: catholic; culture; current; feminism; hats; hatsandveils; msgrcharlespope; tradition; veils; women
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To: Jack Hydrazine

I think the sale of hats will only increase. The styles are returning! Are you connected with retail or wholesale?

21 posted on 04/11/2012 5:50:04 PM PDT by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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To: Salvation

I’m appalled by the way people dress for church these days. On Easter Sunday I saw a young woman with her cleavage showing and short shorts over her fat thighs. I would never wear jeans to church unless there were some kind of emergency. On Sundays I wear a good wool dress (long enough to reach my knees when I sit down) and a skirt or good dress slacks for daily 9 a.m. mass. But I don’t buy clothes just for Easter.

Hats, though...that’s another story. A hat in church will block the view of the person behind you. How I recall the frustration when, as a little girl, I couldn’t see what was going on at the front of the church because the ladies wore hats back then! I wear straw hats for driving all summer and may wear a felt fedora with a feather in it for shooting or going to the races, depending on temperatures, but I would take a hat off before going into church.

Some of the younger women in our church will don a mantilla. This is considered sort of a strong statement for daily mass. I would actually like to wear a mantilla but I don’t want to draw attention to myself.

It’s nice to see how ladies are turned out at the black churches. They pull no punches—shoes and matching purse, hat, jewelry, pastel suit. I think it shows that they respect the House of the Lord.

22 posted on 04/11/2012 5:51:13 PM PDT by ottbmare (The OTTB Mare)
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To: Oshkalaboomboom

I remember that, too. I also remember getting into the habit of wearing a stretchy headband and my mom getting fed up and saying I needed to start covering my head and not just wear a headband every week. I think monsignor would make remarks about it (girls wearing headbands instead of covering their heads) in the homily, too.

23 posted on 04/11/2012 5:51:20 PM PDT by FrdmLvr (culture, language, borders)
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To: Lilyjuslan

“Heck! I miss women wearing dresses to church. These days many of them show up in jeans.”

Me too! I’d never go to church wearing even a pantsuit.

I miss people walking into the sanctuary, sitting down, bowing their heads, and preparing to hear the sermon. Now it’s a free-for-all chit-chat session with kids running wild and adults acting like carnival attendees.

I miss respectful services. Our last Sunday at our former church had the teenagers on the platform during morning service dancing “holy hip-hop” to rap music. (SBC)

Very discouraging.

24 posted on 04/11/2012 5:53:14 PM PDT by MayflowerMadam
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To: Salvation

I remember the good old days when women and girls had hats for winter and hats for summer. I even remember wearing out hats. wow. haven’t thought about THAT in a long, long time.

25 posted on 04/11/2012 5:53:40 PM PDT by redhead (Alaska: Step out of the bus and into the food chain.)
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To: Salvation

Well, you could visit some Orthodox Presbyterian Churches! Seems like most of them in my area feature many of the women in hats or veils. It’s not a rule, but it seems to be a custom.

26 posted on 04/11/2012 5:53:52 PM PDT by Persevero (Homeschooling for Excellence since 1992)
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To: Salvation

I wore a hat once to a church in a small town in Indiana when I was visiting my daughter on Easter Sunday, and I got some peculiar looks. I felt like I walked in in costume. When I was young, it was a requirement that women had their heads covered in church, whether Mass was going on or not. We used to carry around a little circular lace piece to put on our heads called “chapel caps”. Then there were the beautiful mantillas, made of lace as well. I used to have one each in black and white. Those were particularly popular in the 1960s when teased hair was in style and wearing hats was tricky.

Then at some point, the Church eased the rules on head coverings in Church and that was the end of that. Now anything goes for church clothes today. I wish the Church would re-implement a dress code, although I’m sure it would be ignored. But no one dresses up for anything anymore. I love dressing up. I hope dressing up comes back in vogue again.

27 posted on 04/11/2012 6:00:10 PM PDT by murron (Proud Mom of a Marine Vet)
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To: ottbmare

“I would actually like to wear a mantilla but I don’t want to draw attention to myself.”
I used to feel that way about wearing a tie to Mass (let alone a suit), but I found the only attention I got was positive. I’m sure you would find the same if you wore a mantilla. Speaking as a man, I find a modest veil or mantilla on a woman quite lovely and edifying.

28 posted on 04/11/2012 6:00:44 PM PDT by fidelis (Zonie and USAF Cold Warrior)
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To: ottbmare

And I have to add, I do love hats for both men and women. When I see a gentleman wearing a hat I make it a point to thank him; when I see a lady wearing one I compliment her. I’d love to wear hats more and have often remarked that folks should wear them more often. Bring back 1955, I say!

29 posted on 04/11/2012 6:02:49 PM PDT by ottbmare (The OTTB Mare)
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To: Salvation

Another good side benefit; privacy. It used to be that a woman would not go to church without wearing a hat. My grandmother always wore a hat when she went out anywhere; and she certainly was not vain or trying to impress anyone. (She lived back in the hills and hollers and went to the Primitive Baptist Church.)

I’d like to wear a veil; and do use a head covering whenever I pray. I keep a small lightweight scarf in the drawer beside the chair where I have my daily devotion for use when I pray. I think it would be neat to wear a lightweight scarf like some of the modest dressing women in the Mennonite community. Husband wouldn’t go for that lifestyle, I’m afraid.

30 posted on 04/11/2012 6:04:35 PM PDT by Twinkie (John 3:16)
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To: Secret Agent Man

>>I care nobody’s coming anymore and nobody’s being dragged there by their parents. That churches don’t know how to drive them in from the hedges anymore. People that need to hear the gospel and understand why it’s important to them, personally.<<

Come to my parish.
We have ladies with their heads covered and families with more than 10 kids. Sometimes there are 20 “family buses” in the back parking lot.

AND we have 275 Altar BOYS.

Although we have a Traditional Latin Mass in our six weekend masses, most of them are Novus Ordo.

Why? Because our priests are not afraid to have homilies on sin.

31 posted on 04/11/2012 6:10:02 PM PDT by netmilsmom (I am Breitbart)
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To: Salvation

I’m not in that industry. I just remember seeing a story a few years ago about trends in the millinery which had a graph showing hat sales for the past 30 or so years. The trend was upward but only around 1% or possibly 2% per year. Not much growth but it is increasing.

Name the first POTUS that did NOT wear a hat at his inauguration?

Answer: JFK.

32 posted on 04/11/2012 6:19:27 PM PDT by Jack Hydrazine (It's the end of the world as we know it and I feel fine!)
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To: Jack Hydrazine

Make them wear Habibs

33 posted on 04/11/2012 6:22:37 PM PDT by Craftmore
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To: Salvation

My daughter won’t be in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament without her head covered.

She’s got my wife doing it now.

(And, while I am thrilled, I had absolutely NOTHING to do with it)

34 posted on 04/11/2012 6:23:43 PM PDT by markomalley (Nothing emboldens the wicked so greatly as the lack of courage on the part of the good-Pope Leo XIII)
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To: netmilsmom

**AND we have 275 Altar BOYS.**

I wish we had that!

35 posted on 04/11/2012 6:25:38 PM PDT by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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To: Craftmore

Habib is an Arabic surname. Why would you want women to wear that?

36 posted on 04/11/2012 6:27:36 PM PDT by Jack Hydrazine (It's the end of the world as we know it and I feel fine!)
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To: fidelis
I agree that the mantilla is a graceful thing to wear, in both senses of the word. But the comparison to a tie isn't quite accurate, is it? In church almost all middle-class men wear ties for Sunday mass, and those who are stopping at church for daily mass on their way to work are also usually wearing a tie. But a mantilla seems to say, "I'm the only one here who is holy enough to wear a veil. I'm such a good little girl." There is only one other woman in our parish who wears a veil, and she is a homeschool Catholic mother of six who comes to mass every morning with her children. There are so many, many, many women in our parish who are truly devout, truly godly, and make their whole lives revolve around the Church, while I am just a noob and a very weak, inadequate vessel. There would be an element of grandiosity, you see? Like a pharisee praying on a street corner.
37 posted on 04/11/2012 6:28:16 PM PDT by ottbmare (The OTTB Mare)
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To: Salvation

The Latin rite institutes an attitude of decorum.

38 posted on 04/11/2012 6:30:14 PM PDT by TASMANIANRED (We kneel to no prince but the Prince of Peace)
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To: Oshkalaboomboom
I remember girls forgetting their hats and fastening pieces of tissue to their heads with bobbi pins.

I remember that, too. I remember my mom and my aunts using a handkerchief folded into a square pinned to the top of their head.

Back in those days it was required that a woman wear a head covering when in a church.

39 posted on 04/11/2012 6:30:43 PM PDT by Age of Reason
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To: Salvation

The link for the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter. They are approved by the Pope & they pray the Mass in Latin like the old days. A 1962 Missal is good for the Mass if you still have one. The Church I visited had extra Missals available for use.

The laity is devout. The people wear their best clothes to Church, almost every female covered her head & wore a skirt or dress, they all go to Confession regularly, pray the Rosary & the other good prayers. +The Catholic families are bigger than Mormon families. & Everyone in the Communion line held their hands in prayer with the palms together fingers towards the chin.

It’s a Mass well worth attending if there is a Church near you. I was fortunate & attended on St. Cecilia feast day (choirs) = The Mass was sung in Latin with a Cantor,choir + a lot of musicians.

The Priests wore a ‘Priest Hat’ = similar to the ‘Biretta’ but a little different. The Pope also wears a “Hat” = there will always be a place for ‘hats’ in the Catholic Church. +If we are devout & obtain all the promises, we will all receive ‘Crowns’ & then place them at the feet of Jesus Christ as He is the King of Kings.

Now days: if you get to Church 10 or 15 minutes early = you just about have the place to yourself. At the Latin Mass Church: 15 minutes early means you’re looking for a seat as the Church is full of Devout-Catholics on their knees praying the Rosary. (The Rosary is led from the >first pew.)

The Church had a Communion Rail where you kneel & take the Host on the tongue. +You are not suppose to say ‘Amen’ out loud. The Church had the old-style Confessionals = the Priest had his own door. +Old time Penitence is available too. = You may end up praying a Rosary & spending time with Jesus in the Tabernacle.

40 posted on 04/11/2012 6:42:42 PM PDT by gghd (A Pro-life Palinista & a member of the NRA)
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