by Roseanne T. Sullivan
It’s a trend that is sweeping America. While the 1983 Code of Canon Law may have revoked the regulation that required women to cover their heads in church, the times they are a changin’ again. Of late, more and more Catholic women of all ages are choosing to wear veils — and not just at weddings, or at traditional Latin Masses.
The growing veiling trend is reflected in an ever-expanding market for veils — especially online. From spectacular veils in shimmering fabrics to sweet scarves for little girls, two main sites where you can find veils in attractive colors and styles are Ebay and Etsy. (Hint: Search for “chapel veil” or “mantilla,” and add “vintage” or “homemade” or a specific fabric to the search terms.)
“It has been my observation that more and more women are adopting the practice of headcovering. I think this is true particularly of younger women for whom the women’s movement in the 60s and 70s was not part of their personal experience. These women are not as predisposed to view headcovering as repressive, but rather, may be more likely to feel free to choose whether to embrace its historical, biblical, and spiritual elements as beneficial to their walk with Christ — without viewing them through the lens of an earlier time.”
–Michelle @ Liturgical Time
This Etsy store sells homemade veils, headscarves, and Israeli-style tichels, “made with prayer.” One of its best sellers is an easy to wear “Eternity Veil.” (Also known as a moibus or infinity veil.)
Popular National Catholic Register blogger, atheist-to-Catholic convert Jennifer Fulwiler waxed enthusiastic about the eternity veil recently, “What’s great about it is that it can be worn as a scarf… And then slipped over your head to use as a veil! The design allowed it to stay on my head easily—I didn’t need any bobby pins to keep it in place. Also, it helped me relax to know that I could just drop it down and wear it around my neck if it got to be too much to hassle with.”
“Of course, traditionally, married women wore black, or darker colors, and single women and girls wore white, or lighter colors. Now, though, it seems to me that those practices have relaxed a bit. I would say that, as women are re-embracing the practice of headcovering, we are, to some extent, doing so with creativity and a personal touch. However, I am sure that local parishes may have different norms and practices.”
–Michelle @ Liturgical Time.
This Etsy store is for the vintage bride — but you don’t have to be contemplating marriage to love these one-of-a-kind veils! Some recent finds include these 60s-era mantillas suitable for non-wedding wear.
Among this store’s wide selection of vintage crochet patterns is this gorgeous mantilla, originally sold as “So Dramatically New” in 1964. (If you don’t have the time or skills to make it, the owner of the Crocheted Catholic Chapel Veils store will make it to order for a mere $24.99 + shipping. This is a virtual steal since the veil has 52 separate motifs of 7 different sizes and requires two different sizes of hooks!)
“I do notice a return to hand-made ‘heirloom’ pieces such as this one,” says store owner Lauren Fraser. “A piece such as this takes many, many hours to complete … to think that it will be handed down from generation to generation is so lovely–and is the reason I work so hard to bring these vintage patterns back.”
“The ages of my adult customers varies greatly, from college students to veterans of the Latin Mass who still remember Vatican II. I do remember being pleasantly surprised to see the younger women veiling, especially those who are not yet married. I feel it speaks to their maturity and their love of the Faith!”
– Robin Fitzgerald
She started this as a shop for veils for little girls, but today Robin Fitzgerald offers veils for all ages. “My oldest daughter was four at the time, and the oldest of three. It seemed that she would spend most of Holy Mass without her veil on since my hands weren’t free to straighten it. I experimented with some leftover lace, adding tiebacks to a triangular veil. She wore it for years and years, and I made one for each of our daughters as they became old enough to veil. Nine years later, I began selling these little veils on Etsy. I honestly wanted to share the practicality and cuteness of this little veil –after all, it had served to significantly reduce my stress level during Mass.”
“Truth be told, veiling has been an integral part of my spiritual conversion. I am very thankful to have spent time in a parish where veiling was taught and encouraged, not misunderstood.”
“Bringing beauty back to the Mass, one veil at a time” is this store’s delightful slogan. Especially for those who avoid manmade fabrics, this shop on Facebook and the web has lovely cotton veils. They will also make your special veil to order at a reasonable price!
“I fell in love with the idea of making a symbolic act of humility before the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, but I had a difficult time finding a veil I could see myself wearing,” Veils by Lily owner Lily Beck Wilson explains. “Then, I found a simple yet beautiful veil. Now, I imagined that other women might have had the same problem, and I didn’t like the thought of this deterring them from making such a beautiful gesture to show reverence to our Lord. I started looking for soft, beautiful laces and soon enough, I made my first veil, stitched completely by hand because I didn’t know how to use a sewing machine yet. My mother suggested I make a website, and less than a month later, I was selling veils online.
“Traditionally, married women would wear black or darker colors and unmarried women, white or lighter colors. However, since veiling is a custom that is just now coming back, there are really no hard and fast rules to follow. At the Latin Mass oratory I’ve been to, some women wear veils to match their outfit, others wear colors they have simply decided they like, etc. In parishes where few women veil, it is common for women to want to wear something that blends in with their hair. Often, women will save the more special-looking veils for feasts of the church.”
Veils by Lily specializes in imported French and Spanish mantillas. “These beautiful new mantillas come directly from Calais, France, known for its soft, vintage-style lace that clings to the hair, and from Barcelona, Spain, where they are artfully embroidered for a lovely drape.” Their soft tulle collection is “made with one of the finest laces available. Each veil has a delightful softness and drapes beautifully.”
Are There Rules?
Unsurprisingly, the veiling trend is a hot topic these days. Over at Father Z’s blog, there’s even a live survey on the topic “Should the custom of women wearing head coverings in church be revived?”
Are there rules to wearing the veil correctly?
“I have spoken with some customers who have requested veils in certain styles and colors based on traditions. Our family was a part of a parish where it was an unspoken ‘rule’ that the single women wore white veils while the married and widowed wore black,” says Robin Fitzgerald. ”We have also been a part of and visited parishes where the liturgical season seemed to influence veil color and style. For example, during Ordinary Time and Feast Days, you would see a variety of styles, colors and lengths, while during penitential seasons, the women and girls would wear longer, black veils. I would encourage anyone new to veiling or contemplating the idea to go with whatever you feel you will be most comfortable in. I wouldn’t ever want to make someone feel awkward or shunned for not wearing the ‘right’ color or length of veil. It is between the woman and God.”
“As this new generation has embraced headcovering, they have done so without the cultural strictures that earlier generations had been raised with,” according to Michelle at Liturgical Time. “I find that the styles women choose vary somewhat with the seasons. As Advent and Lent approach, for instance, more traditional styles are popular. In the summer months, light weight cotton headcoverings that can be tied beneath the hair become popular.”
But is it really appropriate for women to try to look gorgeous when we cover our heads in church?
Jennifer Fulwiler who operates the blog Conversion Diary writes in Notes from Beneath the Veil that the purpose of women’s head coverings actually is to deflect attention: “When I was a child I occasionally ended up in churches for weddings or funerals, and when I saw the men remove their hats, they always looked a little smaller and less powerful after doing so. I understood on a visceral level that for a man to bare his head was an act of humility. For women, it’s the opposite. Imagine a girl standing in front of a mirror, heading out to a party, determined to look as gorgeous as possible…but totally neglecting her hair. It simply seemed to me that men uncovering their heads and women covering theirs was a nice, optional thing that people could do to deflect attention from themselves in a holy place.”
“When I was a child I occasionally ended up in churches for weddings or funerals, and when I saw the men remove their hats, they always looked a little smaller and less powerful after doing so. I understood on a visceral level that for a man to bare his head was an act of humility. For women, it’s the opposite.”