When I was a mere lad and being the recipient of a Catholic school education, the nuns at my elementary school always wore long black robes and something called a habit on their head. It was part of what I guess you could call their “uniform”. In a sign of my age, I can recall that some of them even wore veils. Where was I? Oh, yeah…
I believe the habit was worn as an outward sign to us regular folks. The habit was supposed to represent their chastity and total devotion to Jesus.
When I first got there, the habit covered all of their hair and all of their neck. The styles were the same for both veteran nuns and novices (nuns in training?). It didn’t matter how hot or cold, rainy or snowy, indoors or outdoors, a nun couldn’t be caught dead without one. The only difference in the habit was that that the veteran nuns wore black habits while the novices (nuns in training) wore white.
Then along came Vatican II and some of the stricter dress codes for nuns were relaxed. Habits got shorter and shorter, veils vanished almost overnight and those long black robes, they were now replaced by skirts.
As we hit the 70’s, those nuns of a wilder nature or less strict order began to drop the habit completely from their attire. You couldn’t recognize them in public anymore!
Nowadays, I don’t know what the protocol is. I think it’s a “matter of choice.” In my humble opinion, it’s a shame the church doesn’t feel that way about other more important matters.