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Should Lay Celibates Have Short Hair?

Dear TIA,

I have read articles on traditional Catholic femininity that women should have long hair. I also read the reasons why nuns have short hair from Supra I Epistolam B. Pauli ad Corinthios lectura written by St. Thomas Aquinas.

What about a lay celibate woman who wants to be detached from the world and vanity but is not a nun? What kind of hair should she have? Long hair or short hair? Can a lay celibate woman practice femininity too?

     Thank you


TIA responds:

Dear B.T.,

In the past, many women who wished to remain single in the world would enter Confraternities or Third Orders (e.g. St. Rose of Lima, Bl. Angelina of Corbara, St. Catherine of Siena, St. Gemma Galgani). The written rules of these Orders prescribed the women to dress simply and modestly and to cover their hair with veils.

gemma galgani

St Gemma Galgani wore her hair neatly pulled back in a simple style

However, even in Orders like these, in the rules there was no requirement or command for women to cut or shore the hair, as was done in the Orders of professed nuns and sisters as a sign of their rejection of the world.

The single or third-order woman simply covered her hair, following the customs and styles of the times. Until the 20th century, a woman's garb was not complete without some kind of headwear – veil, scarf, straw hat, wimple, etc. Therefore, the single woman who wanted to remain so for love of God did not differentiate herself, but merely adopted clothing that was not conspicuous, extravagant or flamboyant.

It was assumed that any woman appearing in the world – married or single – should be feminine, and should not in any way try to look masculine or eccentric. It was also assumed that every single woman was pure.

Single vocation in a Pious Union

For example, in the life of St. Mary Mazzarello, founder of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians, a Pious Union of single women was founded by her confessor, Fr. Pestarino. The Union consisted of single women who wished to live in the world while being entirely detached from it. Most of them lived at home with their parents.

pious union st john bosco

Before she founded an Order, Mary Mazzarello dressed normally, hair covered, in the Pious Union

These women did not intend to marry, nor did they feel called to be religious. Rather, they felt called to work in the world promoting the glory of God by directing and helping mothers to raise their daughters well. Through the mothers, the Union hoped to influence the fathers as well. It was their aim to promote religion and virtue by giving good example rather than directly converting sinners.

Mary was one of the first young women to be admitted into the Union, and she followed the rules with great care. After she founded her Order of teaching Sisters, some of the members of the Pious Union joined her, but others remained as single women in the world. The members of the Pious Union wore the clothing of the times, though with strict neatness, modesty and simplicity. They did not cut their hair, nor did they follow the latest fashions.

Only when Mary became a Sister did she begin to wear a habit. Yet even as a youth, Mary was noted for her modesty in dress and deportment and her clothing was always very neat and clean.

Women should always be feminine

Now then, regarding last part of your question, clearly a single woman should be feminine. It is the Revolution that wants women to appear and be like men and to lose their feminine spirit and way of being.

Therefore, to be counter-revolutionary, a woman – single or married – should make special effort to be feminine, to speak and act with gentility, restraint and modesty. In fact, it should be a particular aim of a single woman who wants to dedicate herself to Christ to be feminine, to demonstrate that she is not rejecting her feminine nature.


A governess in the past, simply and charmingly attired

This is also a means to attract others to the single state. If girls see women who have chosen the single state for idealistic and religious reasons trying to be unfeminine and unattractive, they will be repelled instead of attracted in their noble aspirations.

Therefore, one should not follow the revolutionary styles – such as wearing pants or adopting short hair – as a means to avoid vanity and practice detachment from the world.

So, what would be appropriate? It is the very simple and age-old solution. Keep your long hair. You could follow a similar pattern with your clothing and shoes, choosing simple full skirts, non-clinging blouses and dresses, sleeves below the elbow, closed toes and stocking (vs. bare legs), and so on. In short, nothing ostentatious, over-fancy or provocative.

Today, when miserablist and tribalist tendencies in dress and customs are so prevalent in society, the Catholic woman should always try to be well-dressed, dignified and feminine, even if she is pursuing the single vocation and living in the world. Her good example and way of being will give glory to God and attract others to follow on the path of idealism and the fight to restore Christian Civilization.


Blason de Charlemagne
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Posted August 19, 2021


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