I grew up in the pre-Vatican II Church. The use of a head-covering at Mass was the norm. You didn’t even think twice about it. The custom was so deeply engrained that you wouldn’t dream of entering a Church without something over your head. On Saturday afternoons everyone went to confession. Every week. It’s just what we did. There was no Mass. Women always had at least a little chapel veil with them tucked into their purses, but younger girls sometimes forgot and then there was a panicked hunt for a paper tissue and bobby pins to serve as emergency covering.In almost every corner drug store you could easily find the little circular chapel veils worn by girls, and the triangular veils for older girls and women. There wasn’t much variety. They were either black or white. Sometimes you might see a rare pastel: pink, blue or yellow. Grandmothers and older relatives from Europe had more elaborate veils with heavier lace and beautiful edging. But for the most part, we all looked the same.
Veils weren’t by any means the only acceptable head covering. If you were in Catholic school and went to Mass during the week, you’d wear your uniform beret or beanie. Others would wear a kerchief either tied under the chin or wrapped around and tied in the back. On Sundays, especially in warmer weather, we wore hats.
Vatican II changed a lot of things in the Church, including the use of veils and other head-coverings at worship. The only women who wore them, it seemed, were little old ladies from Latin America and the Eastern Europeans in their babushkas. That is unless you were blessed to know that the Latin Mass hadn’t evaporated for all time.
A little less than 20 years ago I was invited to the home of Jewish friends for dinner on a Friday night. I was stunned to see my friend, a modern woman who was a successful accountant, place a veil on her head as she prepared to light the candles at dinner. In the soft light, with her head covered, she sang the ancient prayers of the Shabbat dinner. That moment took me back to another time and place, a more reverent time.
That dinner changed a lot in our lives, as I’ve described elsewhere on this site. When we arrived home, my young son asked why the Jewish people used a special language when they prayed. Our journey to the Latin Mass and a return to wearing the veil was set in motion.
As I looked for veils, I wasn’t too happy with what I found. Vintage veils, for the most part, had been washed many times and were extremely limp and sometimes fragile. The new veils I ordered from a popular online site weren’t made by that company at all but were imported from several countries and tended to be “sticky” and rough and got caught in odd spots in my hair.I decided to start making my own. Recognizing that there are different veils for different occasions – regular Sunday wear, impromptu visits to the Blessed Sacrament, funerals and weddings. There was also a decided need for veils that worked well with all types of hair and hair styles, Left alone, my own hair is baby fine and even a hair clip will slip right out. I needed a heavier lace that would hold its own without pins. If I wore my hair up, another type of veil was needed so I wouldn’t look like I was wearing a pancake on my head.
I knew I wasn’t alone and began making veils for others. Some are made from vintage lace I found in the estate sales of old Italian dressmakers who prepared garments for generations of brides. Some were designed to use up a small piece of beautiful edging.
There are also many mantilla veils that are made with new lace in interesting colors that I came across in my travels to find new quilting fabric. Sometimes I’d become so engrossed in the lace that I’d forget the fabric.
In recent months, I’ve begun to source new laces as I continue to make beautiful, unique veils. I’ve added some with lace embellishments and others that have motifs embroidered directly onto the veil.
After all this time, each veil is still handmade in our home by me.
I know it can be frustrating, but I buy lace in relatively small lots and I make what I’m inspired to make at the moment. I also maintain this website and the storefront and do all the photography myself. There can be a lag time in delivery, because many are made to order. I am hoping that this year I will find someone to help me, but in the meanwhile, it’s just me. If you’re in a big rush, there are other places to shop.
Whichever you select, I guarantee you won’t find another one like it anywhere. And I guarantee that each is made prayerfully with great attention to detail.