The Carmelite Habit

At the end of the 19th century

The religious habit is a component of a clothing system, with its constraints, its bans, its tolerance, its exclusions. It is an act of communication between the person who wears it, her community and the society of her time.

Inherited from the clothing worn by Teresa d’Avila herself, the habit is a complex assemblage of various pieces under the robe and the scapular. Let’s remember the discomfort of feminine clothing of the well to do class from the same time period as we can see in the family albums. The working class dressed more traditionally with fabric that lasted. This was the case of the heavy woolen fabric in Carmel, in a habit without buttons held together entirely with pins for attachment.

Several pages from 

Le Conseiller Universel 

Magazine, regarding 

fashion for the 1870s:

robes-19esiecle 0 mini

robe carmelite

The robe in brown wool. The seam near the middle is the pleat where fabric is folded over on the inside which will be used to lengthen the robe
in case of wear and tear. At the bottom of the robe, a ribbon (seam binding) is used to protect the hem from wear.
The fold at the top of the robe on the left was used to insert the profession crucifix (slanted fold) and the other was used to keep spare pins.
Carmel’s sacristan during a very hot day felt sorry for the sisters wearing heavy habits. Thérèse comments:
"Ah, in Heaven, the good God will reward us for having worn heavy habits here on earth for love of Him". 

The Yellow Notebook August 5, 1897

Such an impractical dress !

[1099r] For convenience, I sewed a large, strong fold in our robe, in backstitch, so that I wouldn’t have to make the fold every morning when putting on the belt. A few days before the Servant of God died, I spoke to her about it; she immediately told me to unpick the fold, because it went against our customs. Nevertheless, I left it, postponing unpicking it until later. The day after Sister Thérèse died, I couldn’t stop thinking about that wretched fold, and I said to myself: “She can see I still have it, and perhaps it’s troubling her.” At last I addressed her with this prayer: “Dear little Sister, if this fold displeases you, take it out yourself, and I promise to never make it again.” Surprisingly, the very next day, I noticed that the fold had disappeared. I felt frightened, but at the same time immensely consoled.  Testimony of Marie of the Trinity

tunique de carmelite

The tunic in twill or wool was worn against the skin, from neck to calf. Notice the armpit beneath the sleeve giving roominess to the fabric. The sleeves can be detached as we see here. In this other photo, we see the sleeve of the light colored tunic under a removable sleeve of dark colored wool.

robe de carmelite troussee

 For work they hitched up the robe in front towards the back on the underskirt. We can see the hook where everything attached in back. Click here to see the robes of sisters Marie de Gonzague and St John the Baptist hitched up.

scapulaire carmelite

Scapular the length of the robe, to be worn on top of it where it is attached with pins. Click here to see Thérèse’s scapular tinted green. In the box, the little night scapular which was attached around the waist.

tunique courte
Woolen vest to wear on top of the tunic, to which the underskirt was attached.
jupon marron de carmelite
Underskirt with pocket in front.
jupon blanc de carmelite
White underskirt.
tunique courte ete

Summer vest in linen.

chausses carmelite

Winter stocking in wool and summer in linen. Attached behind the knees.

chausses attaches

Belt to attach the stockings behind the knee

toque de carmelite

The toque in linen. Slipped on the head, it is kept in place under the chin and behind with pins and is placed between the robe and the scapular (see photos of Thérèse).

voile de carmelite ouvert

The first veil placed on the toque and held in place with pins.

voile plie

The second veil placed on the smaller one (they removed it for work). There was a third longer veil worn covering all of the head when meeting workers.

coiffette carmelite
The tiny headcap, "coiffette", to wear under the toque.
manteau blanc carmelite
The white mantle, slightly shorter than the robe.
tibi manteau carmelite
The clasp - named tibi - 2 cm. long, attached at the top of the mantle in front.
To the right you can see the enlarged habit.

Following the requirements of Teresa of Avila,

note the heavy woolen fabric

with its coarse creases

and the dark brown color.

Rosaries were made of plain round beads, not sculpted.



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