Hat Lore

The Modernization of Roman Catholic Sisters' Headwear

Mother Élisabeth Bruyère, founder of the Sisters of Charity of Ottawa, Ottawa, ca. 1850
Photograph courtesy of the Sisters of Charity of Ottawa

The two coifs in this exhibit, worn as part of a nun's habit, reflect the changes in the philosophy and direction of the Roman Catholic Church. After Vatican Council II in 1962-1965, which tried to reform many out-moded and restrictive traditions, Pope Paul VI called for greater simplicity and modernity in religious practice, including in the style of nuns' habits. Although this was met with some resistance, many religious orders responded by redesigning their habits. The Sisters of Charity of Ottawa exchanged the heavily starched, elaborate coif, worn since Mother Élisabeth Bruyère founded the order in 1845, for the simple headband with veil they wear today.

next menu return index