Designing women: creating a fashionable habit for nuns

The result strikes me as closer to Little Red Riding Hood than the Little Flower.  Which, I guess, is the point.

Details, from the Paris Review:

Modest, natural, and snazzy—those were the three directions Mother Mary Magdalene gave artist Julia Sherman for designing the habits for the Community of Compassion, Mother Mary’s new Anglican Catholic order in Forth Worth, Texas. “You can’t just go to the store and buy a habit,” Mother Mary wrote to me. “Every order has to have a distinct one designed by the foundress, and you’re not supposed to copy anyone else.” The difference between two orders can be as simple as a few extra pleats in the skirt or as noticeable as Mother Teresa’s blue-striped, sari-inspired head covering.

But Sherman’s habits are something entirely new. Moreover, the JF & Son store in New York has partnered with Sherman to produce and sell the habits for secular customers. So while Mother Mary is praying in her peach-colored harem pants in Forth Worth, a young New York woman might be traipsing across Fifth Avenue in the very same design.

Mother Mary found Sherman after she saw the artist’s work photographing nun dolls from the Nun Doll Museum in Indian River, Michigan, a shrine to more than five hundred dolls and mannequins, each dressed in the traditional garb of men and woman from religious communities in North and South America. Sherman, whose previous photographic work has focused on the intricate process of creating wigs for Jewish women, clearly has a thing for religious accessories.

“These traditions,” she said, “are compelling because there is an issue of agency. The head covering, for example, can be either a source of pride or oppression, depending on the perspective and position of the woman who wears it.” The clothing line isn’t Sherman’s only nun-related project—she’s also collaborating with another order on a line of blessed soaps and facial creams.

Sherman first became interested in the nun dolls because they wore the only surviving patterns for many centuries-old habits, like those of the twelfth-century German abbess, Hildegard von Bingen, whose order was extravagantly dressed in white silk habits and gold head pieces. “Old habits,” Mother Mary said, “many of them gorgeous, have been forgotten altogether as the order who wore them has died out. There are no patterns, no documentation. It’s really sad.”

Read more, and see more pictures, here.

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