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How Catholic fashion got that way

Sally Dwyer-McNulty traces how religious dress evolved in America

The Catholic faith is rich with symbolic clothing: the priest’s Roman collar, the nun’s habit, the Pope’s white cassock and cap. They invest the church with a sense of timelessness and gravity.

But even in a 2,000-year old sacramental religion, clothing changes—and in the United States, Catholic dress has had its own distinct story. The Roman collar, ubiquitous now, wasn’t mandatory for American priests until 1884. Nuns’ hemlines have crept upward, and headpieces receded in size. Even Catholic school uniforms have changed.

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