Monday, August 07, 2017

Nun gazing ...

Brignogan-Plage. Groupe de femmes en costume de fête (1890-1910)

Some Catholics are fascinated by it.

Many Catholics lament the abandonment of the religious habit for women religious in active life.  Some have retained a modified habit, or a traditional monastic style with a modified veil, some have not.  However, early foundresses often adapted the traditional 'fashion' of women's clothing of their time and place.  An unique view of that in our day would of course be the Missionaries of Charity who adopted the Indian sari.

The photo above demonstrates the formal feast-day dress for late 19th century women of Brignogan-Plage in Brittany.  It could easily translate into religious garb if the dress was changed to black or blue serge, and perhaps even a veil covering the bonnet or coif.

Just a bit of trivia for those who seem to think women religious should return to wearing 19th century costumes.

That said, the Little Sisters of the Poor have a very dignified modified habit ...

Old habit.

New habit.


  1. I'll take a habit over a polyester pantsuit any day of the week! But a habit doesn't need to be a long dress with all the head gear. Everyone in matching calf length dresses in gray, black, navy or brown with a simple veil
    Is sufficient.

  2. There are pros and cons to the traditional dress of consecrated men and woman. The nuns who taught me in grammar school had full habits until I was in the 7th grade. Some famous designer, Olga Cassini maybe, designed the modified one. Sister friends of mine have told me how uncomfortable and impractical the older dress was, especially for nuns in the active orders. The cleaning, drying and ironing alone were all full time jobs. In some cases more time was spent on proper dress then their other duties. What began as a simplification of the medieval woman's apparel became a burden in later eras. As active communities branched out into new areas the challenge of dress became more an issue. In grade school one of the stories passed around that state aid would require all our nuns to give up the habit. Seems silly now. I have no problem with each community setting their own quidelines. I certainly can attest to the facts that dress, no matter what fashion, does not make the individual any more or less holy. Behavior and depth of interior life are the habits that count.


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