Women’s Hat Advice! (Veil-Wearers, Pay Attention, Too!)

I’m not exactly Miss Fashion Queen, as anyone who knows me is well aware. So I know it looks silly whenever I decide to write a fashion post. But if women are going to wear something to cover their heads in front of God and everybody, they need to think about more than how princessy or devout it makes them feel. For God’s sake, and on the principle of the parable of the wedding garments, they should take a step back and check the whole package in the mirror. I mean, geez, you’re going to church!

Hairstyles, hats, headdresses, and veils all work on the same principles. You pick them based on the shape of your face. Also, headgear should not clash with your hairstyle, hair color, skin tone, or clothing. (It doesn’t have to match; in fact, contrast is good if it all pulls together. But it shouldn’t clash.)

For example, if you’ve got a round face or a face with broad cheekbones, it’s a bit silly to wear a short, broad hat; or a short chapel veil that ends at the cheekbones. (If you’ve got short hair, blonde or white hair, and pale or rosy skin as well, and then you add a short white veil, you’re gonna look like your neck ends in a cottonball.)

Similarly, a long skinny little face doesn’t need a tall skinny hat or a long drapey veil, and especially not one in dark colors. (You don’t want to give the impression that your head is a broomstick! πŸ™‚

OTOH, if you’re tiny, you don’t want a huge hat that looks like Godzilla is devouring your head, and a big lady probably doesn’t want a teensy-tiny hat or veil. Your headgear should fit to scale.

Also, white does go with everything, but not all whites are created equal. Matte white is different from ivory is different from off-white. Silk is different from lace is different from cotton crochet.

Btw, if you have a plain hat and a scarf that goes with an outfit, you can always tie the scarf around the hat just for that day. (If it doesn’t look stupid on the hat.) This will help tie the outfit together.

Here’s a good milliner’s company with tips on how to choose a hat, picking hats according to basic face shapes, pictures of hat dos and don’ts, miscellaneous handy hints, hat fit and securing hats on your head, and other interesting info. (If you don’t know your face shape, the old advice was to trace your facial lines in a mirror with a bar of soap. Oh, and “fringe” is the British way of saying “bangs”.) They even have clips from their hat videos!
(This page doesn’t so much sell hats as hatmaking equipment and materials, btw. All you crafty types can go wild.)

Here’s a page with more great tips and more on face shapes/hats. Also from a hat and bridal veil company, natch. πŸ™‚ But the face shape illustration is gorgeous.

Obviously, all this stuff is optional. If you want to go with the Ugly Babushka Test, who’s to stop you? But hey, my mom wouldn’t have let me leave the house — much less go to Mass! — in an Ugly Babushka, and neither would any of her olden days female kinsfolk. Ugly clothing that you know is ugly, and wear even though you have an alternative that’s not ugly, is just as much disrespecting the Lord as falling out of a skimpy blouse.

(And with all due respect to saints, I learned early in my house that “saints did it” isn’t a good argument. If a saint ran around naked in the desert and ate bugs, that’s between her, God, and her spiritual director. But as for us, we can mortify ourselves just as well by just getting up, putting on our church clothes and going to church. If you think you can’t, call your mom and get some mortification and chore suggestions. I’m sure she’ll have some for you.) πŸ™‚

So I’m sure it’s totally unintentional that women leave the house in some of the chapel veils I see women wearing when they pan the crowd at some EWTN event. It’s not that the veils are ugly, or that the ladies are ugly. It’s that the two specific models so often do not go together — or at least, do each other no favors. And if the veils fit the woman’s face shape, they often are wrong for her clothing. (They look weird with her dress fabric or neckline, or with the color of the dress, etc.)

I’m a nerd, and if I don’t think about it in the morning, I’ll just slap on whatever comes to hand and only worry about clashing colors when it gets light. But the rest of you are not super-nerdy people who live alone, and you actually care about putting on the dog for the man in your life and giving a good fashion example to your daughters. There are plenty of times when we have to look like a clown for the love of God, but going to God’s house is not one of those times.

So think about integrating what you put on your head with what the rest of your head and body looks like on a given day. If you are trying to promote traditional practices, it’s logical that a nice total look makes you a better silent argument as well as being worshipful. And if being feminine is part of your female Catholic spirituality, you should do what it takes, not just slap on a long skirt and a lace table runner. πŸ™‚

Otherwise, my mom is likely to set up on EWTN as some kind of fashion version of the Knights of Columbus protecting the Eucharist from women with bad outfits, and that would be super scary. Brrrrrr.

1 Comment

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One response to “Women’s Hat Advice! (Veil-Wearers, Pay Attention, Too!)

  1. Great post! I just want to point out that the Ugly Babushka test is only to be resorted to if you think that you’re being called to cover your head in church but aren’t sure. As a private devotional practice covering the head can be lovely, but the insistence that a) all Catholic women must cover their heads at Mass, and 2) the only acceptable way to do this is to find something that looks like a rummage-sale lace tablecloth and festoon oneself with it irritate me no end.

    So, to be sure one’s motivations are good and one’s desire to wear a headcovering isn’t rooted in one’s desire, persisting from childhood, to dress like a fairy tale princess in public, I suggested the babushka test. I also point out on as many occasions as possible that my grandmothers seldom, if ever, wore a chapel veil to church; they wore *hats,* and very stylish ones, too.

    And your advice on the selection of suitable hats for those inclined to wear them is very much needed. Women have gotten out of the habit of hat-wearing, so we have to rediscover the fashion if we want to implement it properly. For myself, I’ve reached the sad conclusion that whether I’m wearing hat, veil, or babushka, the adoption of any headgear at all feels entirely too much like playing a game of “dress up” or masquerade, which is entirely the wrong disposition to have at Mass!

    I really enjoyed your post on this topic!

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