Uniforms: Nuns

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Our new feature, Uniforms, explores the ways in which individuals express themselves within the confines of a uniform.

For a website dedicated to showcasing those with distinctive personal style, it seems somehow off-topic to dedicate an entire feature to the history and significance of uniforms. In actuality, it couldn’t be more on point with our message. A number of our muses – Kim Hastreiter and Sheena Matheiken included – have found their greatest sense of indivduality by wearing a uniform. As Freddie Leiba once told us, “People in uniforms always look great. It dignifies everyone,” and the uniform traditionally associated with religious sisters is a particularly dramatic one that has seen countless references on runways and in fashion editorial shoots. Clearly, we aren’t the only ones fascinated with the habit.

At once instantly identifiable and typical, it’s the nuns’ iconic black and white garb that allows the general public to readily disregard the individual personalities that exist beneath them. While the sisters that we spoke to – hailing from the Daughters of St. Paul and Sisters of Saint John the Baptist – and our muses alike speak to the simplicity and liberation inherent in wearing the same thing on a daily basis, the habit has become a stark signifier of a world that elicits equally sharp judgment from those that don’t partake of it. The sisters’ simple but distinct clothing is deceptively influential, with the ability to elicit knee-jerk reactions ranging from deep-seated anger to pleas for God’s blessings. We admire their willingness to stand alone for what they believe in and voluntarily place themselves in a position of constant vulnerability. Sound familiar?

We took the time to explore the psyche of those wholeheartedly devoted to the church, in an effort to dispel hasty assumptions, one of them being that a nun is set on the path toward a deeply faithful lifestyle from the beginning. In fact, we found that a pious adult is hardly indicative of a pious childhood or a religious family. Nevertheless, it is fascinating to learn that a calling to the ascetic life is mysteriously present from within, like many of our own various passions and true purposes. Not unlike feeling most at ease in a sari, flats or Ann Demeulemeester, you find peace when you find that soulful connection to who you are.