Women church hats across the ages

By: Sharon Evans


As written in the Bible (1 Corinthians 11:5), Apostle Paul asked women who were praying to cover their heads, because failing to do so would have been equivalent to shaving their heads. At that time, it was shameful for a woman to have her head shaved. Since then, there was a long history of various ways women used to cover their heads during the religious service. Women church hats are only one of these ways. By becoming part of the church suits for women, they reached a high diversity and represent the catching element of these suits.

In old times, women were permanently wearing veils, but especially when being in church. Any woman who did not cover her head was considered disgraced. The veil had the significance of the submission of the woman to her husband in Godís presence, as cultural differences of those times dictated that every woman had to be submissive to her husband. The veil covered not only the head, but also a part of the womanís face.

In the Middle Ages, there was no change for the attitude of women in the church. They kept on covering their heads during the service, as well as for the rest of the day in public. Head coverings however evolved and added caps in various styles. The style of head coverings changed to adapt to cultural changes that happened during this long period of time.

The 19th century came with a revolution related to head coverings in church. Some churches decided that they were no more necessary, while others switched from the ancient veils and caps to bonnets. The ones worn in the church were often nicer than those worn outside of Godís house. Women were not forced to wear those bonnets all the time. Besides, fashionable bonnets became the mean by which women from upper and middle classes used to show off their social status.

Starting with the first half of last century, fancy hats instead of bonnets were included in the suits for women, especially the wealthy ones. Meant to indicate the social status of any wealthy woman, hats rather reflected a habit or fashion than religion. Meantime, poorer women continued to wear bonnets or, in some cases, plain hats. Although wearing a hat was no longer required, many women would have been ashamed to enter a church without having their heads covered with a bonnet or a hat. This way, women church hats became a habit and began to be a part of most church suits for women.

Wearing a hat in church around the 1950ís became a rare habit, many women considering this as outdated. Hats were no more showing off the social status, as both women and men felt like having more equal statuses at that time. However, there are still some churches, especially the southern ones, where there are many African American members, with many women wearing hats during the service.

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Church suits for women in some areas include women church hats as a quasi-mandatory piece of clothing.

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