Monday, 23 June 2008

What not to wear

Why do we spend so much time noticing what the other fella is wearing?

When we first arrived at this parish, the priest said that he could tell we were from "ooop north" as we dressed up to go to Mass. It didn't stop us, but we still feel a little self-conscious.

Why am I so irritated by skinny youth sat on the pew infront, in trousers that defy gravity and hang on some immaginary hip-bone, simultaneously revealing vast amounts of underpant?

Similarly, lacey thong protruding from the top of some mother's jeans, old enough to know better...

Is it right to be so critical of the other fella's attitude towards spending time with Our Lord.

I'm increasingly feeling I should cover my head when at Mass, but I know a mantilla would cause some consternation in the parish and the conversation generated would be unhealthy. The same goes for wearing a hat, I'd be over 6 foot in a hat and I'd just take up too much room. So can I cover my head without causing a scene?

These sites below have given me ideas; modest and not too flashy or making me out to be a rampant traditionalist....I really don't know what to do.

Headcoverings by Devorah


Mrs Pea said...

Rita, I would say our parish was a "medium" sort of one: the priests don't dance or clap, but it is not ultra-trad either. I don't know how many other women cover their heads as I don't allow myself to notice what others wear etc as for me that is a short cut to judgemental harsh attitude.

But I do cover my head. I use a black mantilla, but 90% of the time have it tied on, at the nape of my neck under my hair. I don't like to be always fiddling and adjusting, as that seems to be something that would draw attention to me.

Now I do see people look at my head sometimes. It is a bit odd but I don't allow it to worry or affect me. I am a new Catholic and not "up on" all the customs and gestures etc, so sometimes maybe it seems strange to them to see someone they assume is very traditional who make mistakes -- I don't know.

But I do think if God wants it, you must do it, no matter what your fears or doubts are. Maybe others will be too busy thinking about themselves to even notice :o)

Rita said...

Mrs Pea,

I admire your fortitude if you can ignore bum cleavage and underpant from the pew infront of you!

I think part of my problem stems from being a teacher. I'm always conscious of setting an example, hence I like my genuflections to be spot on, bow during the creed, read well when asked to...Head covering could be misinterpreted as me saying our PP is not traditional enough, he certainly would not approve. I think I'll wait until we move when I start my new job, I may even be able to get away with a mantilla in my new parish, wherever it is!

Mac McLernon said...


If you want to cover your hair with a mantilla, do it.

The gossips who want to chunter will find something to chunter about whether you wear the mantilla or not, so you might as well get chuntered about doing something which will help your prayer life / fit in with your own inclinations.

And after a month, they'll get over it, and it'll seem to be part of the furniture, so-to-speak, and they won't even notice any more.

And you'll reap the benefits... having to stop from rushing headlong into church to put on your mantilla allows a minute's reflection of where you are, who you're going to visit and what you're going to do once you're in there.

Being able to shut out many distractions (if the mantilla is far enough forward - not hanging off the back of your head - it acts as a sort of 'blinker' and you don't find your gaze drawn to the side so much, but can focus forward)

And finally, fewer people will try to engage you in conversation in the pews, because they have to move right in front of you to attract your attention... and not many people want to interrupt someone who appears to be praying... this is useful when trying to prepare for Mass or for offering a thanksgiving prayer after Mass.

And then, as you step outside the church, off comes the Mantilla and everyone knows that now you'll be happy to talk!

Irene said...


Each of us is a different part of the body of Christ, and just because my part dresses one way, it does not dictate how your part is to dress (the eye is not the foot, etc). I certainly can accept, even admire the lacey thong -- if it is on a body that can wear it with beauty.

That being said, in my eyes there is nothing more beautiful than a beautiful woman wearing a mantilla. I would wish that all Catholics could see the beauty in both thong and mantilla -- and the fact that beauty always honors God (after all, it is one of his attributes).

AutumnRose said...

"I'm increasingly feeling I should cover my head when at Mass, but I know a mantilla would cause some consternation in the parish and the conversation generated would be unhealthy."

I too have felt this way, but after reading the comments here, am inclined to just go with my instincts, to please God, and to ignore how others may react. Thank you for this entry! :)

Question: where do I get a mantilla from now?

Rita said...

The question is, are mantillas too beautiful? The thing here is modesty and NOT drawing attention to oneself. If every woman is wearing them, that's diferent, but one or two and it becomes a striking statement (IMHO).

No, I think I'm looking for a feminine headcovering that is not a hat or a mantilla, yet which doesn't make me look like Hilda Ogden, hence my browsing of the Orthodox Jewish sites for modest female clothing.

Rita said...


I've usually found the Cenacle to be a reliable source of Catholic artifacts. I think you will find mantillas filed under "miscelaneous".

Irene said...

Too beautiful? I guess I just don't understand the concept.

That being said, I wear a beautiful crucifix, a gift from my spouse, made in a convent in Paris. I wear it everywhere -- but try to remember to tuck it into my top when I go in to mass because I feel it is too large and gaudy and would attract attention, distracting from the mass.

Is that the same, or different? I don't know.

Berenike said...

Mantillas are dead practical, but you do tend to stick out. Also if you ever want to convince anyone of everything you may well have already have lost about seventeen credibility points, being that ostentatiously pious wifey with the lace thing on her head. Hats often don't go over pinned-up hair. Etc. In the winter I wear a woolly hat (weekdays, also good for the vanity!), summer and winter a big long rectangular scarf - then there are small cotton squares - fold in half traingularly and tie behind your head - or a more hippy look wrapped up around the head - I got some inspiration from Jewish sites too! Tops with hoods can also be useful!

Mrs Pea said...

Rita, I don't always manage not to be amazed. Today I saw a teenager in a miniskirt who seemed to be aimlessly wandering about the sanctuary - if that is what you call it, where the altar is? And, the day I was recieved, my mouth did drop open as a lady got up to read and literally wiggled and squirmed her way up in a painted on dress that left nothing to the imagination. I don't understand how people don't just even unconsciously know "the rules" - even my 1 year old wear a cardigan to cover her arms in church.

I think it is very wonderful that you consider the way you wearing a covering would be seen and how it might reflect on your priest.

MaggieClitheroe said...

I was greatly interested in this post of yours, and all the comments, you have inspired me to write this one!