Veiling At Mass: How To Give It A Try

To veil or not to veil; that is the question…..that I am not touching with a 10 foot pole. I’ll let you decide for yourself whether you feel compelled to veil, a.k.a wear a head covering at Mass, or not. Maybe you’re considering doing so for Lent and are uncertain of how to proceed. Maybe you associate veiling with that one little old lady who wears a doily on the crown of her head and sits in the very front of your church at daily Mass. As someone who’s been veiling at Mass for seven years (ever since we started attending the Extraordinary Form) I thought I would use this week’s post as a beginners guide to keeping  your crowning glory under wraps.

Start with a Scarf

This is a typical head covering for me at Mass. Is it childproof? No. Do I sometimes forget to wear it? Yes. But scarves tend to be  my go to veil of choice. They double as nursing covers and when worn as above, there’s actually enough slack so if Teddy grabs at it and pulls, it doesn’t always fall off my head. The strangulation risk is minimal.

photo (26)

While I take a very lazy approach to wearing my scarf, when I visit other parishes, I often do a simple styled scarf head wrap.

Photo on 2-17-13 at 1.10 PM

However, there are several good sites which list more elaborate headwrapping styles. Not only will you be veiled, you’ll also be able to stylishly hide the fact that you didn’t shower before Mass…oh, wait that’s just me? Most people would only think of your head covering as an accessory rather than “a statement,” if they noticed it at all, which might help you adjust to wearing a veil if you’re in the minority at your church.

Maybe a Mantilla?

Many other women wear a lace mantilla. Addie once wore a lace table runner for a couple  years as her head covering, but that’s a story for another time.

photo (27)

Mantillas come in all colors and sizes, but black and white are the most common. The lace texture makes it easy to secure with a bobby pin or two; however I’ve always found that when a child rips at a mantilla that’s pinned in place, not only does the mantilla come off, but so do the bobby pins and large clumps of my hair.

If you’re at a parish where most women don’t veil and dress is typically very casual, showing up in a lace mantilla might make you stand out, the exact opposite of what you’re trying to do. Since I now veil at all Masses, whether we’re at our home parish or not, I’ve found some stylish ways to veil that keep me covered but don’t scream “I believe I’m holier than thou, and BTW, you’re all going to hell for wearing jeans to Mass!”

Why Not Rock a Hat?

First, hats. No matter what you wear to Mass, you can find a hat to accessorize. Several teens at our parish wear loosely crocheted caps, while other women sport berets or a fancy clocheA hat is also slightly less accessible to grabby baby hands.

Photo on 2-17-13 at 1.12 PM #2
Me pretending to be a trendy teen. The dark circles give away that I’m slightly older…just slightly.

Veiling at Mass doesn’t have to be unstylish, just like modesty doesn’t equal frumpiness. But trying to make a fashion statement with your head covering would be counterproductive.

photo (28)
Over the top, just maybe? When the guy sitting behind you can’t see the priest, you might need to scale it back a bit.

So there you have it. Once again, I’m not pressuring anyone to veil, but if you feel compelled to do so I hope I’ve helped alleviate some of your reservations. I know I’m blessed to be at a church where veiling is the norm, rather than the exception so I don’t feel out-of-place. I never felt a lot of pressure to veil, I just tried it, read and prayed about it, and ultimately embraced it completely. Your journey may be different so don’t stress about it. Let me know if I can answer any of your questions.

veiling at mass tips


  1. Thank you for this entertaining ‘fashion tutorial’! Loved the ‘over the top’ image~ sooo ‘you’~ couldn’t stop laughing. If you were to pair it with a matching ensemble, you might not be too out of place at our local parish; there are a couple of women who wear that particular style in prints that match their dresses! 🙂

  2. Hi,
    I’ve never commented before, but this post touches on something that I have been mulling over recently. Not veiling in particular, but clothing in genera at mass. My daily uniform is jeans and tshirts, and I tend to feel self-conscious or even phoney when wearing “nice” clothing. I live in a VERY small rural town (one priest for several parishes, and extraordinary form is nowhere to be found). Most people dress casually, but a few dress up. I go round and round about the issue, but usually show up in jeans out of refusal to pretend to be something or someone I’m not, not wanting to dress up until I am completely comfortable with my reasons for doing so. I am not Catholic, but am considering converting. This is a small thing, but one that makes me uncomfortable at mass where I already feel like an awkward outsider (I practically get a stress headache). I like the casual feel of some of the non-denominational churches with their ‘come as you are’ dress customs (though that’s about the only thing I find appealing), where I don’t feel like I will be judged for dressing one way or another. Obviously, if I come to believe the Catholic faith is true (which I pretty much already have) I won’t let this little discomfort dissuade me, but I would like to resolve it. I don’t like feeling like either way I go I have to justify my choice of clothing, when I feel that should be the last thing on anyone’s mind. Any thoughts?
    Thanks! I enjoy your blog 🙂

    1. Tess, thanks for your comment. I relate to your struggles. I am a convert and only recently have embraced “womanly dress” and veiling. Fifteen years ago I was on the edge of converting and usually sporting mens pants and dark t-shirts to Mass with my boyfriend. I remember crying at Mass a couple times feeling like I didn’t belong, so your description of an awkward outsider really struck me. I could never have jumped from there directly into the life I have now. I needed years of discernment and gentle prodding from God to arrive where I am in terms of modesty and fashion, at home and at Mass. Those externals grew from a deeper faith which needed time to grow and mature, and which I’m still working on.
      Pray for guidance and be patient. If your home is in the Catholic Church, which I think it is, God will make you comfortable there.

      1. Thanks 🙂 I love reading your blog and that of other converts – it helps to find people to relate to. It will be interesting to see where I am in fifteen years and looking back on this time. I am already a different person than I was a couple years ago!

    2. Tess you are going to see JESUS! Who cares what anybody thinks or says. God is so glad to see you. When I was a little kid I was told to dress like you are seeing someone very special, but sometime it isn’t practical and I want to see God just however I am good or bad. Welcome home. Marisa

  3. Two people talked about veiling this week, juuuust as I was mentioning my discernment on my post today. Caaaar-ray-zee. And I love your scarf approach. So feminine yet practical.

  4. Love this! My husband’s been wanting me to wear a veil for years and I’ve only recently decided to do so (once it comes in the mail!) because of another WIWS post. But I never considered the fact that my kids are going to pull it off! Yikes! We’re moving next week to a parish where lots of women wear veils (even when it’s not Latin Mass), so I’ll definitely feel a lot less self-conscious than at our current parish, where I’ve never seen anyone wear one!

    Part of the reason I didn’t want to wear one was that I knew that if I were the only one I’d start feeling a little superior like, “Look at how much more traditional I am than YOU!” and also because I’m a jerk and was like, “Oh, I don’t think they’re pretty/they’ll mess up my hair/insert stupid reason here.” But it’s nice to know there are other people who cover their heads who A. aren’t 80 years old and B. Have a sense of humor about it!

  5. Wait, wait, wait — I am going to need a LOT more detail about that first scarf. What does it look like when it’s unfolded? How long is it? How do you drape it like that? I have tried wearing scarves and it always looks…not like that. Please have mercy on the fashion illiterate and share your secrets!

  6. I loved this entry so much! I am now searching out masses in the Extraordinary Form in my area because I am drawn to learning more about it. It befuddles me that my relatives all over the country have Latin masses practically at their doorsteps, while I will be driving 2 1/2 hours if I am to get to the nearest one. Oh well!

    I like the idea of a veil. I’m in my early 50s, so I have very faint memories of pre-Vatican II “wearing a doily on my head” days. 🙂 As for dressing up, what makes the most sense to me is that we are putting on our best for Christ, NOT as a fashion statement for each other. When I wear jeans, which I do on occasion, I feel a bit like I’m not giving God my best. Thanks for the prod to spiff up a bit more for HIM.

    Oh, and to Tess, even as a cradle Catholic, I still have times when I feel like I don’t fit in and am just not good enough. I just keep plugging away though because this Church feeds my soul. Hang in there!

  7. Love the variety you offered ~ and the dress looked gorgeous!
    Most women at my parish don’t (neither do I) but one that general does also usually wears jeans, which I won’t ~ Love the juxtaposition!

  8. I almost took the veiling plunge a while back but when I found myself fixating for hours on how I could make my veil look a little more Grace Kelly-esque I decided my vintage-loving vanity wasn’t quite ready for that step just yet. 😉

  9. This is fascinating to me! Thank you for sharing your practices. I found this shop recently and I really love her eternity veil. If I ever took the plunge, I think I’d go with the purple one. http://www.etsy.com/shop/LiturgicalTime
    (um, this is not my shop and I don’t know the woman the shop belongs to, I just found it really interesting – I don’t want to sound advertisey).

    Elegant boots, btw, and I think I have that same dress in my closet and am currently working my weight down so I can fit in it again!

    This was a fun visit!

  10. I remember the darling pictures of Jackie Kennedy with Caroline, John, and little John wearing her white lace veil for Easter Sunday back in 1963. It was a big deal because JFK was our first Catholic president. And when you saw his wife veiled for Easter, no one could argue with that. So beautiful!

  11. LOVE all the head coverings (and the dress looks fantastic). When we used to attend Latin Mass in our old city, I tried a few times to wear one, but it never seemed to work and always fell off. I love the scarf idea, though! Will have to consider that when we’re visiting there this spring.

  12. Thanks so much for this post! I am pregnant with my 5th baby, due in a couple of weeks, and have been in bed most of the pregnancy with hyperemesis gravidarum. Veiling has been on my heart for a while so I decided that since I really am not in a position to be giving up food (I can barely eat as it is anyway), that I would start wearing the veil during Lent. Today was my second mass and I found myself already far less self-conscious than I was on Ash Wednesday. I love seeing all your different ideas for veiling. It’s one thing to wear a veil to my church where many women veil in all masses, not just the Latin mass, but I’m already stressing about the baby’s Christening in April when my non-Catholic family (who already don’t understand why I converted) will certainly be befuddled if I wear a mantilla (why I care, I do not know). Perhaps, though, I can use a hat or scarf to continue to veil without causing controversy among those who truly will not understand.

  13. Hi there! I run a site called Wrapunzel at wrapunzel.wordpress.com – and it’s geared towards all women that wear head coverings for various reasons. Check it out and contact me if you’d like me to do a feature on you. There are quite a few Christians on there.

  14. I always enjoy visiting here. Your just too funny my friend. Love todays outfit. Best blobesque dress I have ever seen! LOL!
    Veiling is not something I have ever considered. It just wasn’t part of my growing up in the church. So it never crossed my mind. My husband is a convert and hasn’t ever asked me to do it. So there you go.

  15. I recently found my old mantilla (it was a hand-me-down gift) and tried it on for the first time in about 6 years. I’ve been wanting to veil for a long while now and I think it’s for good reasons, prompted by the Holy Spirit. But after trying that one on I decided I’ll need to start out much, much, much more discreetly. So… can you give a little more info on the scarf at the top, please?

  16. Ok, now I have to know some of the reasons people veil that you read about. (Did that sentence make sense?) I have thought about it because it is so hard for me to pay attention to Mass with a toddler who wants to do anything but. But, I can’t imagine a veil would help.

    Right now we are trying to sit with her and pray a Rosary every Sunday as practice for praying and sitting. We’ll see how this goes…

  17. Have been attending the Extraordinary form for 20+ years…and always cover head…but I really don’t like veils..I definitely like to dress up, and prefer a stylish hat, beret, etc. I kind of wish that women’s hats would stage a comeback. Our parish borders a black neighborhood where we often see well dressed women going to their penecostal churches wearing lovely little hats like the ones ladies would wear in the 1950’s.
    Tess, regarding dressing “down” and Mass attendance. Would you consider wearing, say, a casual skirt to Mass? I hesitate to suggest a denim skirt, but maybe a khaki one? I can’t see why someone at a Catholic church would find you too pretentious for wearing that…

  18. Ok, so I am pretty “against” veiling, and in fact I have to pray to like those that do, because, well, I do think it comes off as holier than thou. But I know that is off topic and controversial, and perhaps a bit “liberal” of me. But I have to throw it out there before I give you my fashion thoughts on these veiling options. And, seriously, I think you might be my first true veiling friend, which says that you are awesome. So there. With that caveat, here are my fashion thoughts on the above options. LOVE the scarf. It is in and cool and great. I do think a “thinner” scarf might work better, some sort of more sheer or silky material might make for a more polished and less “rustic” look. I think with a head scarf you have to be careful to wear the right dress and shoes, as you don’t want to look like a peasant on the farm. A sleeker look works better, if you know what I mean. Second, I Hate the beanie. Sorry, but it isn’t a good look on anyone. I think you are just being ridiculous with the biker look, so I won’t comment on that. I am not a fan of the lace cover, as I think it looks very old. Again, these are fashion ONLY opinions, and even though I am a mom in my 30’s with lots of kids, I do care about fashion and make an effort to dress well and in style. Finding a head covering that works with today’s fashion is NOT easy. Most efforts draw WAY too much attention to the head covering, something that is the exact opposite of what a woman is trying to do by wearing one.

  19. Nice post! I also have the toddler pulling on the veil problem, but I found a nice one with sewn in comb that is relatively difficult for them to remove here http://www.veilsbylily.com, Not my site or anything, I just found it useful. My three year old thought it was weird the first time but now likes it and talks about how pretty it is. I wear that for visits to EF churches, at our local church I think it would stand out too much. However, I’ve been considering the hat idea – easier to start with in winter I think. Thanks for the ideas.

  20. I love the scarf idea. I haven’t really felt called to veil, but I’ve thought about it more in terms of whether I should or not. Even when I’ve considered it, the mantilla look doesn’t float my boat. The scarf? That, I could do. Here in Korea many women veil even at the OF masses. Our parish is an American military one, so no veiling, but I think I will try a scarf next time I go to a local church. That’s for sharing!

  21. I, too, would love to hear the Catholic reasons – your reasons – for wearing veiling to Mass. As a recent convert from an adolescence of borderline-Fundamentalism, the practice has very, very negative vibes for me…like wearing a sign on your head that says, “I am just a weak, inferior woman who daren’t raise her eyes from the floor.” Which doesn’t really sound like you or Jen or so many others here… Nobody at all wears a traditional lace veil at our 1,000+ Cathedral parish, but I do see a few hats scattered around each week. I’ve even worn one myself several times – on a bad-hair-Sunday! – but that’s not the same thing, is it?

    1. I personally veil because it was something God asked me to do as part of an overall change in how I dressed, in and out of Mass. It’s hard for me to explain; I just had a very concrete moment in which God asked me to change what I was doing and I accepted it for the truth that it was. Period. There was no real prolonged struggle or anything, I just started veiling and dressing more modestly and that was that. I don’t like to “preach” veiling to other Catholics because I feel that turns women away from the practice. If you feel called to veil, try it, if not, fine. I simply wanted to offer ways for women to inconspicuously veil if they feel called to do so. Fisheaters offers some of the traditional reasons for veiling, worded in very, um, no-nonsense terms if anyone is interested.
      If you google ‘catholic veiling’ a number of posts describing women who veil and their reasons for doing so will pop up.
      Lastly, I would hate for people to think I take a ‘holier than thou’ attitude because I veil, just like I’m sure you don’t want me assuming you’re a ‘cafeteria Catholic’ because you chose not to. Let us all remember to be charitable in our judgements of others.
      I’ve appreciated all the comments and questions; thanks for the friendly discussion ladies!

      1. And this was meant to be a general comment not just a reply to Finicky Cat. I’m not singling you out!! 😉

  22. Hi,
    Here are some more websites that have a lot of options for covering:

    After reading about covering, the reasons make sense, and I find it very appealing, even on a daily basis. I would be much more comfortable with veiling than dressing up – like the other commenter mentioned, I would be the one in jeans! Maybe because I see the reasoning behind the veil; this may be a silly question, but what is the reason for dressing up? Why the pressure, even if it is slight?


    1. Tess, I live in Florida where casual dress is almost always the norm, even at most churches. While I have always dressed at least “business casual”, you’ll often see people dressed as if they’re headed to the golf course or beach (flip flops? spaghetti straps??) every Sunday. When our current priest came to our parish, things changed a lot. He is VERY traditional and we now have a Latin Mass and many women who veil (in fact, I started veiling this Lenten season). He is supportive of veiling and has mentioned it numerous times in his homilies. Additionally, he has spoken very openly and directly about how we should dress for Mass. Since we are coming into the presence of Jesus Christ Himself in the Eucharist, we should dress no differently than if we were meeting someone very important–the president, the Pope, the Queen of England, etc. If we would dress up for these special occasions, why wouldn’t we dress to meet Jesus when we receive Him in the Eucharist. If you truly believe He is present then you should want to give your very best effort, not simply what feels good and comfortable. We often take clothing to change into after mass if we are headed somewhere more casual–not an easy task with four (soon-to-be five) kids, but we feel that it’s important to show reverence for our Lord when we are in His presence.

      1. Thanks, that helps. I guess even I have my limits, because when you mentioned spaghetti straps and flip flops I cringed a little. 🙂

  23. That fisheaters website was rather offensive and, IMHO wrong, “Some women, influenced by the thoughts of “Christian” feminists, believe that St. Paul was speaking as a man of his time, and that this ordinance no longer applies. They use the same arguments that homosexualists make in trying to prove their case.”

    Um, no. The arguments are actually pretty different, and to seriously compare a pastoral practice with homosexuality is pretty irrational. I’m sure there are arguments to be made for veiling, things like, it is questionable that the pastoral requirement has been lifted, it is an outward show of respect for the Eucharist, it is an outward show of submission, it is a form of obedience, etc., but to seriously compare the practice to homosexual behavior is absolutely ridiculous. Veiling was/is a matter of pastoral wisdom, and arguments can be made about whether this requirement has or has not been changed. Homosexual behavior is a matter of basic morality that can never, ever, be changed. There is a huge difference, and those making arguments against veiling aren’t necessarily doing so with feminist intentions. Perhaps they are trying to evangelize, not draw too much attention to themselves, dress in a manner that fits in with those around them, etc.

    We once had a Priest who had taken a vow of sobriety. He felt called to do so for very personal and holy reasons. I completely respected him for doing so, even though on several occasions it was awkward and he had to explain his choices. But I respected him all the more for allowing everyone else to have a drink, making sure they all knew that he felt personally called to something different, and that not everyone had that same call. So I can totally respect your very personal reasons for veiling, and even try to help with fashion advice! But when it comes to tolerating the reasons given by the fisheaters site — no way! When I researched this years ago, it was information like that that convinced me to never veil, AND to avoid Churches where it was a common practice.

    1. That is an interesting point. I wasn’t completely comfortable with the Fisheaters website not because of the reasons giving for veiling, some of which I found illuminating, but because of the dig against the Second Vatican Council and the Norvus Ordo Mass:
      “…but during the Second Vatican Council, Bugnini (the same Freemason who designed the Novus Ordo Mass) was asked by journalists if women would still have to cover their heads.”
      While I do find many of the reasons for veiling compelling, I want to steer clear of anything that stinks of radical traditionalism. I have a natural tendency toward extremism that does not need to be encouraged. I would rather trust in Christ’s promise to protect his Church, even when at first glance some arguments against that can appear concerning.

  24. I don’t think they were comparing the practice of not veiling with the practice of homosexuality. I think they were demonstrating that the *justifications* for one practice (for homosexuality), and the dropping of another practice (dropping the veiling requirement), come from the same line of faulty reasoning.

    They talked about what was done during the changes made during Vatican II, and compared to what was written. That is rather different than those rad trads who criticize Vatican II as wrong and evil, full stop, and don’t even make distinctions between what was intended and what was done. Sorry,
    but “hoot-nanny masses” would offend most anyone, I think. That, rightfully so, has been stopped in most places.

    There was a reason why they convened the council in the first place, and there were people who took things in a different and unintended directions.
    Things that should not have happened, did happen during the changes. Things that were needed to be done were also done and implemented. Attitudes toward Vat II should not be a shibboleth for church factions. It had both positives and negative effects in our Holy Church.

    When looking at these arguments, prayerfully consider why a _reasonable_ person might do these practices– or not. It is easy to find crazy reasons to do or not do a thing you don’t like. The challenge is to look at the motivations for people who might not be crazy. This is still a matter of conscience. I am offended when _either_ side is painted with the broad brush of fanaticism.

    1. Of course, of course! Link away! I’ve discovered so many great veiling posts around the internet because of this post. Thanks for pointing me to your blog!

  25. I struggle getting dressed on Sunday. The phrase “Sunday Best” always pops into my head while I’m getting ready. Still, I usually end up in jeans and a nice top but your post really inspired me. I have plenty of maxi skirts and I have hats and even a mantilla. But I don’t wear them because I don’t want to seem pretentious. Well maybe I’m looking at this the wrong way. If more women in my parish dressed up, I would too (which is what I feel I should do in my heart of hearts). Why should I not be the first? Instead of being afraid of offending someone, maybe I would inspire someone, maybe I would help someone else who feels uncomfortable in casual clothes find the courage to wear a dress. Also, it never occurred to me that there might be an option outside of a mantilla! Long story short- I’m totally wearing and skirt and hat this Sunday.

    1. Love the fashion suggestions! I could go either way, dress or jeans. I sure can relate to the desire to not stand out too much. Maybe i will knit a nice mohair scarf to wear with my jeans (nice, not torn) and shirt. And then go sit in the back. I like the idea that the veil keeps me focused on Mass and not what others are thinking. Im old enough to remember “doiley” days, but dont consider veiling to be submitting to anyone but God. Im not known for submitting toanyone, so in a way veiling would be a statement that if a rebel like me veils for the Lord it must be ok. Well i hope thats the message im conveying. I sure appreciate reading all the posts!

  26. g’day from australia — a child during 1960s I remember the women wearing veils to church. Our local nuns wore full black dress, and always remember in reply to our question, being told (she) felt cooler in our heat. Shared mid eastern links back in dress, frankincense, history. I felt compelled to comment after reading someone else saying ‘you’re going to church to see Jesus’. Reminded me of our Sundays spent at grandparent’s farm, having all the cousins together for home grown and home cooked meal <3 (I am nearly 60 yrs old, and I miss my grandparents still) … anyway … after a full day outside in cow paddocks (yes! poo) and no time to change my brothers and I all went in gumboots (= rain boots) and whatever reasonably clean clothes available. The modern world has gotten too caught up in itself, and thankyou for reminding me to be more like children! I was searching for veil information and arrived on your page. Bliss bombs and joy, and I pray for peace in our hearts. Truly are blessed to be alive

  27. Oh my goodness, the second to last photo made me laugh! Love the practical tips. I’m pretty much the only one who wears a head covering to Mass at my parish (during the particular Mass I go to; I’ve noticed more people veiling when I’ve gone at a different time). I like a long veil that’s more like a wrap with embroidery, but when I sing in the choir I just wear a “slouchy” hat, because it’s more practical.

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