When I posted the photo with the piece on women religious I knew I had found the garb I’ve been used to seeing women religious wear since at least the mid-80’s. Cotton. Sensible cotton: a denim jumper and a skirt with wrinkles you wouldn’t see those strands in the image above tolerate.

My friend Tony fell right into it.

Is it an urban legend that today’s women religious favor polyester? I’m starting to think definitely so.

I do remember women religious teaching at my grade school and high school, and their habits had the smooth look of polyester. I’m allergic to the fabric: it literally makes my skin crawl. The 70’s were a particularly trying time for me: I refused to submit to my peers’ dress code of denim, and I refused to go the Tony Manero route of polyester and silk shirts.

It was a corduroy and t-shirt decade for me, on the whole.

Most women religious strike me as sensible people who stock their closets on a budget. If thrift stores are hawking polyester, they’ll get ’em. More often, you see women religious wearing the same things other modest women wear. Most ecologically conscious women wear natural fabrics.

On the other hand, I’ve seen some women religious in traditional habits use artificial fabrics, or blends. Don’t see a lot of wool. I’ve also seen lots of clergy don polyester vestments. $150 is a whole lot cheaper than $600–unless the wealthy parishioners are footing the bill.

So what do you think? I’d say it’s time for this urban legend to retire. It seems rather weird to be focusing on what women religious wear, anyway.

As for polyester, for me it brings back memories of Father Cheapo and the disco craze. I could never quite get sisters crammed into that picture.


About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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4 Responses to Polyester

  1. Anne says:

    I admit that I have never heard the sisters and polyester story. Sensible clothing makes sense as opposed to expensive designer fashion (or a habit for that matter) If they want to wear what other women are wearing, I would suggest a little make up, at least lipstick. Just sayin’…not important.

  2. Tony says:

    Hee, hee, hee… A whole blog post on polyester. :)

  3. Tony says:

    Oh, and as a side note. I believe sisters ought to wear a habit and priests ought to wear their clericals when they are out and about.

    People should be able to easily identify religious folks out in the “real world”.

    I was bemoaning the fact that many of the area priests don’t wear their clericals, and two who usually go on vacation together don’t even take their priestly garb, and want to be referred to as Tim and Tom. I told my wife that they ought to wear their clericals as an outward sign to the world of their vocation.

    She looked pointedly at my left hand and said: “Why should they, you don’t. Ouch! Did you ever find yourself caught in one of those obvious hypocrisy situations? :)

    I hadn’t worn my wedding ring for about 10 years because I had gotten too fat and it didn’t fit any more. So two Christmases ago, I had my wedding ring sized, and gave it to my wife (to put on me) as one of her Christmas presents.

    So now I can complain all I want.

  4. Todd says:

    I think clergy and religious are big boys and girls, and should determine on their own and within their community how they should dress in public. I have no opinion on the matter, aside that it shouldn’t be the opinion of others outside religious life.

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