Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Skirts, Veils, and Catholic Feminism

I remember when I first made the personal decision to never wear pants into a Catholic Church again - whether for Mass, or just for prayer.  Obviously there are instances where I don't necessarily have a choice...I mean, if it's go to Mass in pants, or don't go at all, I would definitely just wear the pants.  But, as a general rule, I make the effort to wear a skirt or dress - even if I don't feel like it.  I don't remember the exact date, but it was probably about 2 years ago, and I was going on a silent, weekend retreat.  There is a sign on the Chapel at the retreat center that says "Please no shorts in chapel".  It was rare that I would wear shorts to Church (at least not since I came back to my Faith as an adult), but I almost always wore dress pants, the occasional skirt, and rarely dresses (due to nursing babies).  But, before going on that retreat, I decided that I would pack only skirts and a dress for Sunday Mass.  My reasoning was two-fold.  1. it was a weekend that was to be devoted to Christ, so I thought it would help if I gave him the best of my whole self...not just the focus of my mind through prayer, but in the way I dressed as well.  And, 2. it was a weekend away from the kids, so I knew I would have the time to primp and pamper myself (you know, actually shower more than one day in a row, fix my hair, and wear a little makeup) without worrying about my nice clothes getting chewed up food on them, or other unpleasant baby goo on them!  The only non-dress clothes I packed were my pajamas and running shorts - so I wouldn't be tempted to opt out of my skirts for the weekend.  You see, I am a big creature of comfort.  So,  while I love the idea of wearing cute, modest, and feminine skirts to the grocery store, it is more of a struggle to actually implement it.  I walk into my closet, and those soft, faded, blue jeans and familiar, old T-shirts just call out my name, and I can't resist!  And, being that I don't have an out of the home job, it's easy to just fall into that trap.  But, ever since that weekend, I started wearing only skirts and dresses to Mass - no more dress pants.  It is just a small sacrifice and witness to womanhood.  I am a woman, and I am feminine, so why not dress that way??  Modestly, of course.  Skimpy clothes is a distorted version of feminism.  Plus, I think Phil likes to see me dress feminine more often.  And, since I made the switch for Mass, I've found that I enjoy wearing skirts more around the house, and when we go out.  I hardly do it every day, because it's not always practical with kids, and I just don't feel like it.  But, it's nice that I have gotten more comfortable with my femininity.  I was never really a girly-girl growing up - I don't think I wore make-up until I got to college, and even now I only wear it for Sunday Mass and special occasions...I just don't like to bother with the stuff on a regular basis.  If I look washed our and tired, oh well!  But, now, maybe once or twice a week, I'll wear a skirt...just because I'm a girl!  Who knows...maybe one day I'll switch over and be an exclusive skirt-wearer, but probably not.  And, there's also a difference between being feminine and being a high-maintenance, movie-star-type woman.  Feminine I can handle...high-maintenance, I can not!  And, I'm pretty sure neither can my husband. It's weird how just the way you dress can make you more aware of who you are as a person.  Once I started wearing skirts more, it really made me think more about what it means to be a woman, especially a Catholic woman.  Where does Catholic feminism really fit in my life?  What does it mean for me to be a Catholic wife and mother?  I'm still working on figuring all that out, but the journey sure is interesting!  Which brings me to another topic:  Chapel Veils....

To veil or not to veil?  That is the question.  I've mentioned several times that our family started attending the Traditional Latin Mass recently.  And, actually, the word 'recently' probably no longer will be a year this June that we began attending the TLM on a regular basis.  Not long after we began going to that Mass, I noticed a handful of chapel veils dotted throughout the congregation.  I was initially intrigued.  Being born in the early 80's, chapel veils had all but disappeared by the time I was old enough to know what they were.  I'm not even really sure I knew that it used to be a tradition in the Church, to be honest.  I knew Our Lady wore a veil, and many of the Saints, and nuns, but that's about it.  So, when I first saw them, I was curious, and oddly attracted to the idea of wearing one.  So, I went home did some research, and decided that I liked what they represented (at least on a spiritual human pride was more than a little turned off, although I did think they were pretty).  Several months after going to the TLM, I looked around at different stores that sold them, and bought one each for me and Natalie.  When they came in, we tried them on and played around with making them stay on.  Then, they sat in the van for the next two Sundays because I felt awkward.  Not only am I a creature of comfort, but I also do not like to be frowned upon.  I love human respect way too much.  What if someone made fun of me?  What if someone asked my why I was wearing this thing?  What if *gasp!*  people judged me and deemed me as a  'holier than thou' Catholic?!!?  Finally, I just swallowed my pride and wore it.  I realized that it didn't matter what other people thought about the fact that I wore a veil.  I don't wear it for them anyway...I wear it as a sign of my womanhood, of my obedience to Christ and my role as a wife, and out of respect for what is happening on the altar.  If people think I'm weird, or too traditional, so what!  That's not why I wear it, and it's not their place to decide my intentions.  These were the thoughts running through my mind as I pondered wearing this pretty, new veil.  But, you know what?  I can count on one finger the number of times that someone has asked me about my veil.  And, she was very sweet about was more a curiosity thing than a judgmental thing.  And, maybe I was the one being too judgmental about other people's intentions towards me.  Most people probably don't even notice.  Now, I feel weird when I don't wear it.  In fact, it is rare that I attend Church as the only veil wearer - even at non-Latin Masses.  While I am always in the minority, there is also usually at least one or two other ladies who have one as well.  Our Lady wore one...St. Veronica used hers to wipe the face of Our, why not wear one?? 

I realize that these are two hot-button topics among Catholic women; however, these are just my personal views on the issues.  I mean no offense to ladies who never wear veils or skirts.  For me, they are just two, small outward signs for witnessing to and being respectful of my dignity as a Catholic woman.  Because, being a woman and a Catholic are two of the most dignified gifts God has given me, and it's hard to be authentically respectful of that in the culture we live in today.  And, while there are many ways to show God that I appreciate those gifts, this is what I've chosen to show Him my appreciation for creating me as a woman and a Catholic.  So, there you have it!  Skirts, veils, and Catholic stuff!

Here's a video that I discovered at the Knit Together blog on Veiling:


Amy Caroline said...

About two years ago we too decided to only wear skirts to mass. The girls and I talked about it and decided it was respectful and what we were going to do. Really, just for our own sign to God. I don't think anyone else really notices!
As for the veil, I love it. I don't wear it all the time, for all the reasons you mentioned. But I am working back to wearing it more. My older girls are not interested in wearing it though. It was nice when they were and I wasn't all alone!

Kelly said...

Yes, Yes, and yes! Thank you for posting this Cathy.
I have been wearing only skirts or dresses to mass ever since getting married (over 13 yrs ago). And not because of some demand of my husband, either. It was my own decision and done for the same reasons you stated in your post. Also, the past year I have been wearing a mantilla/veil to mass or any time that I am in the presence of our Lord. We, unfortunately, do not have a TLM where we live. So, I am the only one (besides my daughters) to wear one at church. It has been something that I have wanted to do now for some time, but was affraid to do because of the same reasons you stated. Judgement from others and standing out. Since I have made the decision to do this I have been filled with peace and know that it was the right thing for me to do. Among other reasons, one is that it helps me to be more aware of our Lord's Presence in the tabernacle.

Again, thank you for this post. For being so honest and open.

May God bless you!

Cathy said...

Thanks for the kind words, Kelly! My husband had nothing to do with my switch to skirts, either. In fact, I don't think I even mentioned it to him...I just started doing it. He has made comments here and there about me looking nice when I wear skirts at home, so I'm sure he appreciates it =) Most men like their wives to look like women, I would guess. I tried to leave a comment twice at your blog, but I don't think it, if you end up with two similar comments from me...sorry!

And, Amy, I am pretty lax about making my daughters wear a veil...I only have one for my 5 year old, but I don't always make her wear it. Partly because I don't really like the color (it's hot pink...I thought it was going to be a bit softer when I bought it O_o), and partly because I don't always have time to make it stay in her hair. But, I'd like to be more consistent with her, and get a little small round one for when the baby gets a little older, that way they will at least be comfortable with wearing one when they are old enough to know what it means...and, if they opt out, then that is really their choice.

Nicole said...

Cathy, do you have any suggestions on where to get nice, modest skirts? And not necessarily ones that go all the way to your ankles.

Cathy said...

I really like Anne Taylor Loft....they have very cute, modest, and stylish skirts at awesome prices! I've gotten skirts there for $10 on their sale racks. I also shop at Target...if you search the clearance racks, you can find cute stuff for cheap as well. I also try to opt for skirts with elastic waists, because between pregnancies, and nursing, my size fluctuates alot, so if I get the elastic waste ones, I can wear them whenever. But, I do have some cute non-elastic ones that I like to keep in my closet as may try ebay, too, if you're brave enough =)

LIndsey Vondenstein said...

Oh man, I typed out this long comment only to have it disappear. I will be back to re-type it soon.

Great post!

Lindsey (I'm not signed in my google account.)

+JMJ+ said...

I'd never seen this video before, although I've blogged several times on the Veil an feminine attire. Your blog is a pleasure to read!


JOYfilled Family said...

We are a skirt wearing and veiling family. ALL FOR!
I was called to wear skirts about 6 years ago. I placed the ultimate decision to the headship of my husband. I desired to have this issue be less about me and more right-ordered, to glorify God.
My eldest daughter and I wear skirts 90% of the time. My two little girls wear skirts/dresses 80% of the time. I keep my eyes open for skirts wherever we go. They must be modest and long enough to remain below the knee while kneeling. I find majority of my skirts for us at the thrift stores. Ann Taylor Loft, Coldwater Creek, Talbots and other fine brands for my eldest daughter and myself. Land’s End, Children's Place, Gymboree, Boden....for the girls. All quality brands that last many seasons. I do not spend more than $5 on any skirt. In fact, I always buy the skirts on dollar skirt day or teacher discount day. Quality clothes that I would not be able to afford otherwise.
My little girls are educated on the meaning of the veils. They are encouraged to wear the veil but not required until they are of the age of reason. I buy inexpensive veils and make my own when needed. I always attach the little girls veils to a small plastic headband. I use a hot glue gun. The veils on a headband last the entire length Mass or Adoration with no issues. Just be sure to select the right headband per child so that it does not cause them discomfort.
Pax Christi - lena

p.s. I’m new to your blog. I look forward to reading more posts.

Cathy LeBlanc said...

Thanks, Lena! I probably only wear skirts about 50% of the time during the week, and ALWAYS when I go to Mass...I'm not sure if I'll ever switch over to completely wearing skirts, but you never know ;). my 6 year old daughter wears a skirt or dress just about's pretty rare that she doesn't. We'll see how it goes with my 2 year, she opted for a dress =)

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