When did women stop covering their heads during worship?




I am not very old; therefore, all I know about the veil thing is from my mother and from westerns; but otherwise, I do not know when about the whole change occurred. I know that you are probably really busy but I was having trouble finding something. I was figuring since you have more knowledge in the subject than I do, so you may know when generally did women stop covering there heads within the church or maybe just a general year or something. If you have an answer that would be very helpful.

An excellent question, but one that I don't think I can answer with great precision. As I write this, I'm in my mid-forties so my personal memories only reach back to the 1960's. By that time head coverings of any form had become unfashionable. Only a few elderly ladies wore hats, especially during worship. Older men still wore hats, but these were removed upon entering a building.

According to several reliable sources, the materials available often dictated what women wore upon their heads. Hence, during the early 1800's cloth bonnets were in fashion. As greater variety of materials became available and affordable, the early 1900's saw large, elaborately decorated hats. The roaring 1920's brought in short hair styles for women and hats accordingly shrank as well. The war years, between 1930 to 1950, made materials expensive so simple practicality dominated the fashions. It was during World War II that many women entered the workplace while the men were off at war. Ready-to-wear fashions became favored and hats started to fade in general usage. By the 1960's hair care products became generally available. This meant that a woman could arrange her hair without all the concerns as to what the wind would do to her hair. As a result hats all but disappeared except as temporary fashion accessories.

Though we may wish otherwise, the church is often influenced by societal trends. As women stopped wearing hats in general, they stopped wearing any covering during church services. Popular fashion continues to influence our behavior. I recall debates in the 1970's whether women's pants-suits were acceptable in worship. Funny thing is most of the objectors saw nothing wrong with them for general wear, they just did think they belonged in the worship assembly. The usual objection was that the pants-suit wasn't distinctive enough from men's attire. Today, pants are commonly seen on women in the assembly. Now the fashion trend is toward shorts during the warm months, and men and women are showing up at services in casual attire -- something unheard of years ago when people had two basic outfits: every day and Sunday best.

The Scriptures do not dictate specific outfits that men and women are to wear. Instead, guidelines are given as to what is acceptable or unacceptable. Clothing is to cover one's nakedness (defined to be areas of a person's sexual organs) (Genesis 3:7, 10, 21; Exodus 28:42-43). Men's clothing is to be distinctive from women's clothing (Deuteronomy 22:5). Clothing is to be appropriate, modest, and in keeping with a sense of shame (I Timothy 2:9-10). And the one that has caused much controversy, women are to show submission by covering their heads during prayer and men are to have their heads uncovered during prayer (I Corinthians 11:3-16). These guidelines still leave considerable flexiblity in fashions.

See also:

Modest Apparel
Proper Attire (from Growing Up in the Lord: A Study for Teenage Boys)
Proper Attire (from Growing Up in the Lord: A Study for Teenage Girls)
Is a veil required?
Command or Custom?
Images of Head Coverings in Worship
The Message of I Corinthians 11

November 16, 2011