The Spiritual Purpose of a Church Hat

  • , by Alex Torres
  • 3 min reading time

Have you ever wondered why women wear formal hats to church? Sure, wearing your "Sunday best" is the only way to present yourself appropriately when you want to show respect and reverence. But hats are typically removed in formal settings. So what makes this accessory acceptable to wear in church?

Looking Back in Time

The answer lies in its history. As early as the 1910s, women began covering their heads with "chapel veils," or other head dressings and accessories. As the 20th century progressed, the custom became so pronounced that it soon emerged as a staple of church-going culture.

During the 1950s, it was not only common but expected, for older women to wear hats to church. The hats spotted at Baptist churches, for example, were elaborately bold, bright, and colorful, featuring wide brims that competed for attention with other fashionable hats. Clearly, it was a highly stylish proposition to consider a hat for church on Sunday.

Fancy hats were especially popular in African American churches at that time. Though they were highly stylish, it's important to note that they weren't considered major fashion statements. In actuality, it was a nod to the tradition of women covering their heads during religious worship. Although it was not unusual to simply drape a basic cloth over the head, it was far more preferable for spiritual women to wear a formal women's hat. Beautiful head coverings were essentially an homage to a higher power.

Fashionable Church Hats Today

What occurred between the proper wear of yesteryear and the modern-day woman who tends to eschew the fashionable hat in favor of something far more casual? Again, we can look at history. In the 1980s, a change in women's youth fashion resulted in trendy styles without head coverage. Today, dressing for church is more a study in the most basic of formal attire. Some might show up in basic pants and some variation of a dressy tee. Many do still wear formal suits, in which case a hat would fit the look nicely.

Many women consider hats essential for their church wardrobes. Certainly, older women see no point in eliminating the one piece that makes their church-service ensembles so noteworthy. In fact, it was considered a major sign of respect to dress up for church from head to toe. In the late 1950s, the Bennett College for Women, located in Greensboro, North Carolina, required young women to wear hats to church - or even when they left campus!

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Consider it a form of proper manners. Wearing a hat might be considered improper in other formal settings, but the church has its own dress code. In those "old" days, it was not unusual for women to match their hats to their gloves and their purse to their shoes. The skirt was not to sit above the knee, and the top should be well covered to the neck or just slightly below.

The austere look undoubtedly gave churchgoers a good reason to invest in fashionable hats for women. Popular styles ran the gamut from bold toppers that resemble the modern-day fascinators worn by young women in the United Kingdom to posh little cloches that were perched atop the head in a rather dainty way.

Today, hats have reentered popular fashion, making many appearances in women's catalogs. Celebrities and fashion lovers alike have been seen sporting woven hats, wide-brimmed fedoras, floppy hats, and other fun styles in a variety of colors to complement their outfits. It's safe to say that a stylish hat now exists for every season and occasion, adding a playful touch to a woman's wardrobe.

So, whether your modern-day church wardrobe includes a hat or not, you can rest assured that wearing one is not considered a fashion sin in a spiritual house. In fact, wearing a hat can be considered a thoughtful way to honor a higher power while still making a classy statement. Why not add one to your Sunday best now?

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