I like big wide brimmed sun hats. I like little knit caps and berets. I like snoods. And of course, as you all probably have guessed, I like mantillas.
When I started covering my husband and I talked about the various types of covering and he told me that when his mom and grandma were young and covering was still common, everyone wore hats. He had also purchased a beautiful white chapel veil for me from our local Catholic bookstore, with little lace flowers covering it, just in case I wanted to go that route. At that point he didn’t really care one way or another if I covered, but he knew that it was something that I was thinking about and he was supportive of me, whatever conclusion I came to.
I first slipped the white chapel veil on my head during a very hectic Mass at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. We had made slow progress down the narrow streets of the Old City in Jerusalem, slipping and sliding on the slick cobblestones at one point, and were late for our scheduled Mass. The line of pilgrims waiting was beginning to form and our priest was told he had twenty something minutes to say Mass in the tight space. After bending and kissing the place where they had washed Jesus’ body I felt the ever present tug to cover my head and for once I listened to it. I felt awkward and silly for a few moments but my attention was quickly turned towards the Mass as it began. Thus began my headcovering adventures (in practice).
When Sadie was born nearly nine months later I was ready to begin my next adventure in headcovering, and this time, I promised myself, the devotion would stick. I wouldn’t let fear overwhelm the pull that I felt towards the devotion. I began wrapping the chapel veil back around my bun (not unlike a tichel and thanks to the lace it actually stayed in place!) so that it wouldn’t fall off.
Before long I had amassed a collection of three summer hats and I began to intersperse hats in the Sunday (and Tuesday) Mass lineup. The next year I discovered snoods and I alternated between snoods and hats before, after discovering Lily’s Veils and the veil comb that she sews in (and that I’ve sewn into my black mantilla!) I began adding mantillas back into the lineup (thank you Lily!).
Right now I find mantillas more convenient than hats and at the moment convenience is big for me. My mantilla folds up and stays in my diaper bag when it’s not on my head. It fits there perfectly and I don’t have to worry about forgetting it because, to be honest, these days I feel as though I would forget my head if it weren’t attached to my body.
Hats are great. But they were always getting smooshed under something when I left them in the car until they no longer quite looked like the hat I’d loved during the early months of our hat/hat-wearer relationship. And I found it incredibly hard to find cute hats (or to justify buying another hat even when I saw one of those elusive “that would be perfect for me” hats…). I also always worried that my hats (which weren’t gigantic or unreasonably sized) would block the view of the people behind me since we usually sit in the front row so the babies can see.
The major hurtle that stands between me and my hats however, is my hair. If I ever chop my hair off again (which I have no plan on doing) I’ll be back in my hats. At the moment though I wear buns almost all day, every day and I have a lot of hair. Even my lowest bun pushed my hats forward at an uncomfortable (and slightly ridiculous) angle.
Snoods are pretty equal to mantillas in my mind. They fit in my bag. They stay put. And some are quite pretty. But I don’t think they blend in any better than a mantilla most of the time. In fact, when I wear my black snood, which is solid, I think some people wonder if I’m seriously ill (although I think my style of dress usually helps people realize that it’s for religious reasons).
As a convert from a Protestant family I don’t have the cultural background that many cradle Catholics would have and would be following by covering in a certain style. My family tree has branches from all over the world (Which is probably why I feel like I've had this conversation too many times... always during summer or fall: Person #1: "What are you?" Me: "American." Person #1: "No I mean, what ARE you?" Me: heroic effort to stifle an eye roll as my best friend would usually reply for me that my family was from all over...) so the “this is what was always worn by (fill in the society of your choice)” doesn’t really influence me much.
In the end the advice I would give anyone else would be the advice that I take from my headcovering experiences: Wear what makes you feel the most comfortable when you’re covering your head. If wearing a mantilla stresses you out wear a hat! If wearing a hat isn’t comfortable or you find yourself forgetting your headcovering (or finding it smashed if you left it in the car) opt for something that fits in your purse! And try not to worry too much about it, whatever you decide to do!