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I’m rethinking my wardrobe thanks to Sr. Wilhelmina’s habit

Clothing wrack with hand

Armin Staudt | Shutterstock

Cecilia Pigg - published on 06/27/23

Visiting the holy nun and seeing how she dressed made me ask myself: What do my clothes say about who I am and what I live for?

What we wear matters. That’s the lesson I took from my visit to see Sr. Wilhelmina’s body a few weeks ago. The most incredible part to me was not her body, but her habit. It looked impeccable—and she had been buried in that habit, in a coffin with a crack at the top, for four years. The lining of the coffin had rotted away, but her habit, and her Hanes black socks, looked and smelled quite fresh.

This holy nun’s habit signified her vows; while she was alive, it showed the world whom and what she had given her life for. You could tell what she was all about just from a quick glance.

Even my two-year-old recognizes this. Whenever he spots religious sisters (often this will be at Mass), he is quick to point them out to me: “Mom! Those are nuns! Those nuns!” 

All this has made me reflect on how I dress myself. Can someone tell, by looking at me, something of who I am? I have not always been the most intentional when it comes to my own clothing. Ease and comfort dictate too many of my choices. Being comfortable is not bad, but I often end up wearing something just because it is handy, and not because it works particularly well for me or what I am doing. More often, as I re-wear old clothes from a different time in my life, I don’t feel much like “me.”

My essential wardrobe questions

I have some questions I’ve started using to consider my wardrobe, to make sure that what I wear reflects my identity and my current vocation.

To start, what is my vocation right now? I’m a woman, a wife, and a mom. My current line of work is based at home and involves teaching my small kids alongside keeping food and household chores running.

Do my clothes reflect who I am? Answering the first question by starting with “I’m a woman” may sound too obvious, but I want to reflect that in what I wear. I don’t want to wear androgynous styles. I also want to stop wearing the same things I did ten years ago in college, and fifteen years ago in high school. My husband likes to remind me that I’m not an old lady yet, however, so I need to walk that fine line between “homeschooled high schooler” comfort and “lady who has lived a full life and is now retiring” comfort!

When it comes to specific pieces of clothing, I’m asking myself questions like “Is this appropriate for what I do during the day?” and “Am I comfortable wearing this?” Often, I forget that regardless of my plans, I can do a lot of moving around during my day — especially chasing and wrangling reckless babies or stubborn toddlers. If my clothes do not allow me freedom of movement, or if they require too much adjusting and layering, they have to go. 

And knowing myself all too well, another question I had to ask is “Do I feel too comfortable wearing this item of clothing?” If the answer is a tentative yes, then I need to acknowledge that perhaps the item in question actually belongs in the pajama family and should be relegated to evening/sick day wear. 

Dressing with intention

As I sort through my winter and summer clothes, asking myself what should stay or go, I can’t help but think back to my visit to see Sr. Wilhemina’s body. I wonder what I will wear in my own coffin someday. I would hope that, like her habit, my clothes will say something about who I was and what I lived my life for. At the very least, all of this reflection has made me a little more intentional in the morning when I choose something to wear.

Thanks, Sister Wilhelmina!

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