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Religious Habit: Habits Of Roman Catholic Religious Orders

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Habits Of Roman Catholic Religious Orders

§25 … The Church must always seek to make her presence visible in everyday life, especially in contemporary culture, which is often very secularized and yet sensitive to the language of signs. In this regard the Church has a right to expect a significant contribution from consecrated persons, called as they are in every situation to bear clear witness that they belong to Christ.

Since the habit is a sign of consecration, poverty and membership in a particular Religious family, I join the Fathers of the Synod in strongly recommending to men and women religious that they wear their proper habit, suitably adapted to the conditions of time and place.

Where valid reasons of their apostolate call for it, Religious, in conformity with the norms of their Institute, may also dress in a simple and modest manner, with an appropriate symbol, in such a way that their consecration is recognizable.

Institutes which from their origin or by provision of their Constitutions do not have a specific habit should ensure that the dress of their members corresponds in dignity and simplicity to the nature of their vocation.


The religious habit of Roman Catholic nuns typically consists of the following elements:

  • White coif: This is the garment's headpiece and includes the white cotton cap secured by a bandeau and a white wimple or guimpe of starched linen, cotton, or today polyester to cover the cheeks and neck. It is sometimes covered by a thin layer of black crape. The cornette was another type of coif.
  • Black Veil: This element is worn pinned over the coif head coverings and could be worn down to cover the face or up to expose it. The headpiece sometimes includes a white underveil as well.
  • Holy habit: This is the central piece of the garment, also commonly referred to as a tunic. It is a loose dress made of black serge fabric pleated at the neck and draping to the ground. It can be worn pinned up in the front or in the back to allow the nun to work.
  • Woollen belt: The habit is often secured around the waist with a belt made of woven black wool.
  • Rosary: The nun's rosary of wooden beads and metal links hangs from the belt by small hooks.
  • Sleeves: The habit contains two sets of sleeves, the larger of which can be worn folded up for work or folded down for ceremonial occasions or whenever entering a chapel.
  • Cross: A cross of silver traditionally hangs from a black cord around the nun's neck.
  • Ring: Nuns who have taken final or "perpetual" vows indicate this status by wearing a simple silver ring on the left hand.
  • Underskirts: The complete vestment includes two underskirts, a top skirt of black serge trimmed with cord and a bottom skirt of black cotton.
  • Scapular: This symbolic apron hangs from both front and back; all orders wear it over the habit, and Benedictine nuns also wear it over the belt, whereas other orders wear it tied under the belt.
  • Shoes: Simple functional black shoes are the usual footwear.
  • Card: This stiff black covering is worn over the coif when the nun leaves the convent to prevent the coif from becoming wet or soiled.
  • Suitcase: Nuns often travel with a small black hand-held bag containing personal items and toiletries.
  • Apron: A variety of styles of aprons can be worn over the habit to protect it during work activities.

Examples Of Roman Catholic Religious Habits

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