I originally sat down to finalize two blog posts about 19th and 20th century hats for ladies. I got side tracked into religious head coverings for women. I found it so interesting that I put aside (temporarily) the two other blog posts.
According to Wikipedia, there is no actual command in either the Old or the New Testaments of the Bible that requires women to wear head coverings. Apparently the closest admonition is in the New Testament: “Every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, for that is one and the same as if her head were shaved” (1 Corinthians 11:5). That said, through out time various institutional decrees and analysis have made it practice in many groups of the major world religions: Christianity, Judaism and Islam.
I remember my American Aunt Elise, a devout Catholic, had several beautiful mantillas (from Spanish manta, mantle), she wore on her head to church every Sunday. Her favorite was a fairly large black silk mantilla that had been her mother’s; it was either crocheted or knit – I don’t remember which. (That’s not my Aunt Elise to the right wearing the mantilla; the picture is from a vintage crochet mantilla pattern available on eBay.) But I also remember she had several smaller ones that I thought were doilies. They weren’t, as I found out when I asked her why she had a doily on her head.
It has been Catholic Church canon law, Muslim Sha’aria law and Jewish Halachic law that have proscribed which women must cover their heads (e.g., all, married, single, widowed), when (e.g., always or just during religious events?), and how extensive coverings must be (e.g., burkah, hijab, hat, wig or long hair?). The extent to which various groups define and practice head coverings for women varied and continues to vary widely.
Curiously, it was not a universal law for Catholic women to cover their heads when in church until 1917 (Canon 1262). That law stayed in place until 1983. Eastern Catholic Church women were never universally obligated to wear head coverings. According to the Vintage Fashion Guide, in the Middle Ages the Catholic Church decreed that women must cover their hair at all times. Plain and Simple Headcoverings has many pictures of the head coverings worn by Christians throughout the centuries.
Orthodox and/or Conservative Jews rely on halakha (legal part of Talmudic literature interpreting Scripture) on this issue. It is a matter of tzniut – modesty or privacy, as a character trait, general conduct, and/or dress for women.
The picture at the left (Wikipedia), shows the backs of three Jewish women praying, each wearing a head covering. From left to right, they are wearing a snood (a sort of bag worn at the back of the head, either solid or lace, into which a woman stuffs her hair – very popular among American women in the late 19th century), a fall (a type of small wig – were very popular among non-Jewish American women in the 1960s), and a hat.
According to Britain’s Investigating Islam, the specific verse of the Qur’an addressing women’s head covering is: “And say to the believing women … that they should draw their head-coverings over the neck opening (of their dresses), and not display their ornaments except to their husbands, their fathers …” (Surah 24:31; see also Surah 33:58-59). It is an issue of modesty and avoiding sexual attraction from anyone but one’s husband. Again, the type and extent of head coverings to be worn by women varies by country. (If you are interested, see Wikipedia’s page about these variations.)
The woman in the picture above wears a hijab. (If interested in hijabs and how they are worn, take a peek at the page that’s the source of the picture: “How to be Beautiful.”)
The picture at the right is from the BBC website and shows two conservative Muslim veiling options: the Niqab and the Burka. (The BBC website has drawings and comparisons of several different forms of Muslim veils for women.)
While the Catholic church ended the universal obligation of women wearing head coverings some 30 years ago, several Protestant churches still mandate their women wear head coverings. The women of the Hutterites, Mennonites, Amish, Quakers, Shakers, and Wesleyan Methodists wear some sort of head covering as do women from many Christian evangelical and fundamentalist groups. The head coverings are generally hats, bonnets, small caps or scarves and signify submission to god and/or husband. (To see the variations among some of these hats – both in style and color – visit Quaker Jane.)
As I prepared this post and my two previous posts (Hats Off! and Wimples & Haps), I thought about the gender difference in dress requirements. However to be fair, in some of these religious groups men were also expected to wear some sort of head covering (e.g., Quakers, Jews, Muslims), though the requirements varied by community, country and religious interpretation.
Interestingly, except for the Amish, I could not find any sort of outward sign indicating whether a man was single or married. Amish men are expected by their Ordnung (rules) to be clean shaven until they are married, at which time they grow beards. No Amish man, whether single or married, is allowed to have a moustache.
Now, for those of you who want to try their hand at making some of these head coverings …
For beautiful crocheted taqiyah aka kufi patterns worn by Muslim men, check out Erika Luke’s blog or, for a knitted one, take a peek at K. Salihah Schaff’s pattern at http://queenrapunzel.com/2009/12/knit-kufi-pattern/ (firstname.lastname@example.org).
For patterns for beautiful vintage mantillas, in addition to eBay link provided above, take a peek at this spectacular mantilla shown on the right, also available on eBay.
For a pattern to sew a lovely snood, see Shoshana’s Snood Pattern.
Now I will go back to work on cloches, hat pins and fascinators. 🙂