Husbands and Headcovers

Being Plain is ordinary for both my husband and me. We made the decision together. I am more obviously Plain, but that is expected since I wear a Mennonite style prayer cap and the old-fashioned traditional clothes of the Plain sects. His clothing doesn’t draw as much notice, unless he is out on the street in the Plain black brimmed hat. Nicholas and I are both dedicated Christians, both Anglican priests, and we have well-matched views on everything from theology to finances. 

I am finding that many couples are not so well-yoked. I hear particularly from women who find that their husbands just aren’t walking with them on this path. I’m sure that there are husbands in the predicament, but my ministry is to women drawn to traditional ways of Christian life.

One point of our tradition is that the husband (or father) is the head of the household.  When decisions in the family are not mutual, then his decision is the final one. And that leaves some women in a quandary. They believe that they are called to follow the Biblical injunctions of modesty and humility handed down from the early church, but their spouses do not approve or support that decision. What are they to do?

My advice is to follow their husbands’ wishes. Gentle-spirited obedience is a wifely virtue, and that willingness may even sway him to see the wife’s point of view. If he opposes the wearing of the prayer cap, or any headcover, it is best to  agree. The opportunity will come to show the righteousness of her conviction, but it may take some time.

I’m going to add a caveat here, as I often do. A broken heart and fear are not gentle submission. Threats from a spouse are not acceptable. And a woman has a right to her modesty. A spouse who wants to control what the partner wears, even if it is against his or her taste and desire, is too controlling. Counseling and support from a competent person are necessary then. I have seen this particularly in the case of women who find that their husbands dictate what they wear, not because they are unacceptably immodest, but because the women’s taste is too quiet and traditional for the lifestyle the men think they should have. Women are not possessions, dolls to be dressed up and paraded around, like some young guy with a new car.

Some husbands are wary of the headcover in particular. They may not want to be viewed as belonging to what they see as a rigid religious group. They may not want to be singled out as different. They may belong to mainline churches that frown upon or even openly disapprove of such outward symbols of Christian faithfulness. They don’t want themselves or their wives to be mistaken for something they are not.

Some men are proud of how their wives look. They enjoy the feminine beauty, perhaps like to show off their wives a bit. It’s a bit of an ego trip to them. Are they afraid that other men will disapprove, even laugh at them, if they are out in public with this Plain woman? Will they look hopelessly old-fashioned and unsophisticated?

I’m sure people make all sorts of assumptions about us. They think we don’t know how to work computers, automatic tellers, or other modern conveniences.  My innate distrust and distaste for these devices probably reinforces that attitude! We get a fair number of stares in shopping districts and even grocery stores. Some are a little hostile, but most are just curious. My sister-in-law says that we get better service in stores, government offices and restaurants because staff expect us to be friendly and easy-going. (This is true.) Since moving from the other city in Ontario where we used to live, people have been kinder and friendlier.

When we were in our previous city, my husband became somewhat troubled that I seemed to be a target of unkind remarks and even hostility. He worried about my safety. (A near hit-and-run reinforced that worry.) He asked me to stop wearing the head cover. I did for a short while, but when I asked if I could go back to it, and he realized how convicted I was in the Spirit to do so, he completely agreed. I was willing to take the possible abuse and hostility. I was called to that witness, and it was painful to my soul to let it go. 

Husbands who are not believers may have trouble understanding that. Perhaps wives who wish to cover can find an analogy to help them. The cover in itself is a strong message about Christian faith, about sober-mindedness and about womanly maturity. It really says, “I am dedicated to God and my husband”, more so than a wedding ring. Plain, covered head and sober, modest clothes tell the world that a woman expects to be taken seriously.

We are not to be afraid of our Christian witness. I believe that all Christians are called to represent themselves as such, in the ways the New Testament tells us. We are to follow Jesus as Lord, God and Saviour. He calls us to holy poverty and total dedication, to a life of service and humility: Not just a few of us, but all of us. The apostles called us to express ourselves publicly as Christians in what we do and how we appear, in ways that are faithful to God’s plan for creation. Men are to look like men, women like women. Men should not wear effeminate hairstyles nor women’s clothing. Women are to wear their hair long, and dress in women’ clothes, and they are to cover their heads in an act of submission to Christ. I believe we are to do this all the time, not just for church. How we have come so far from that standard so quickly is frightening. We see it every day -women who have cut off their hair and wear pants, like men; men who style their hair and fuss over their complexion and clothing like the silliest of young women.

The modest dresses and headcovers of Plain women are a quiet reminder that God had expected something else from His creation rather than sinfulness. We are obedient not just to husbands and fathers because they are men, but we are obedient to God and the Way of Christ. Our earthly obedience is synbolic of our spiritual obedience. Wives, obey thy husbands; husbands love thy wives,  as Christ loves His Church.

13 thoughts on “Husbands and Headcovers

  1. Thank you. As expected, you’re refreshing to my spirit. My husband asked me to quit covering in public. Working with the public as apartment managers he didn’t want any negative (albeit false) impressions to get in the way of our business and since it’s not a regular 9-5 job that pretty much means there isn’t a time other than alone at home when I can cover. Doing it just at home seems like hiding so for now I’ve quit to honor his wishes. Although I still have hats and such which I wear in summer. We and our children still dress modestly and unworldly. No one seems to mind that. I’ve even gotten some compliments. It’s just the Christian headcovering that brings attention and stereotype comments sometimes.

  2. Excellent post! 🙂

    Even though my husband and I are of different faiths, he doesn’t mind one bit that I cover and dress Plain.
    I am always asking him if he is okay with the way I look and he says yes.
    We both know we get stared at when out and about and we both don’t care. 🙂
    If I catch the eye someone staring, I will give them a smile, but normally they look away embarrased they got caught staring…lol.

    I think the funniest thing is when we are out and people call me a ‘Sister’ or a ‘Nun’ and my husband says ‘that’s not a nun, that’s my wife’…LOL…Oh the expressions on their faces…lol. 😛

    I love this Plain calling GOD has placed on my life.

    Dawn in TX

    • I get the “sister” comment quite a bit. Sometimes I correct them and tell them it’s “Mother.” That confuses people a bit. It’s always a blessing to hear from another Plain “sister.”

  3. How did your congregation react when you began to dress plain?

    I have had quite a few nasty incidents from others about my veil- it probably looks too catholic.

    • I’ve had mixed comments. Some are approving and supportive, usually older clergy! But some women are a bit hostile, some think I’ve joined a cult, and others think I’m a nun, which is okay. What kind of veil does thee wear? The mantilla, or lace veil, is very traditionally Roman Catholic, while the plain charity veil, a circular veil, is much more protestant. One reader here says that she had people in one denomination actually try to remove her veil!

      When thee is convicted to cover, it is important to stand thy ground, but it is difficult. We cannot understand why they do not see it as we do. And the lack of respect can shake thee greatly. Some see the covering as a condemnation on their shamefully uncovered head. It is perhaps an inkling of the Spirit moving within them, but rather than welcoming it and opening their hearts, they reject it further. But we are not here to be accepted by the world.

  4. That is a lovely photo of three beautiful modest young women. I do love the short charity veil, and I wish more women would adopt it. It is feminine and obviously Christian, especially with the cape dresses they are wearing. As other readers have noted, the cape dress graces many body types, unlike most modern clothing styles.

  5. I am an orthodox Jewish woman doing researching woman and haircovering throughout the world in different religion. I found your website and teachings and have been very interested in the writings. We all have many commonalities among us and other religions and devout modest woman who cover for God. Thank you for all your information and look forward to reading more.


  6. My dear friend. thank thee for this post. I just found it today, pretty late considering the date of its post, but none the less relevant to my recent experience. I relate very much to what the first commenter said. Although I began with my traditional white bonnet, it has morphed into a very modernized bandana, or a simplified cap that is elasticized under the hairline, no strings. Very recently I have found myself wearing the covering less and less (mostly at my husband’s request.) Its a tough one. The clothes are 50/50. He understands the modesty thing, appreciates it even, although he also likes to see me in my “old clothes”. He is not in the same place as I am on my faith journey, and I try to remind myself that we are all unique in our faith journeys for a variety of reasons, and in that we can learn from one another. I appreciate this post, it offered me encouragement that I am by no means alone in this struggle.

    • Quaker Jane used to wear her Plain dress only at home, until she felt all was reconciled. Maybe you could wear the “old clothes” and no covering only at home. My husband only once asked me to stop covering as he thought it made me a target for harassment on the street. I went back to it after a week, with his permission.

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