I recently tweeted that the outfit I was wearing was a little "Sister Annunciata meets Star Trek away team". It's true that I gravitate heavily to a minimalist starkness in what I wear. But it's not really minimalism I have in mind (unfortunately, manifestation does not always capture intention when it comes to what I wear). I've long loved nuns in habit. I was taught by them, and was lucky to have a positive experience with them (countless, of course, didn't). But I loved their starchiness, those perfect creases, the solemnity of their habits and also the contrast to the spaces they occupied.
The convents and churches of my childhood were not austere or ascetic spaces. Stained glass and dripping candles, beeswaxed wood, mosaic floors were the backdrop. And always religious iconography, the stations of the cross, the gold leaf of halos, the blue or the Virgin's garments. It all melded in my mind, so those plain black dresses looked not stark but mysterious outlined against a palette of decadent other-worldliness.
Comrags have a dress called "Monk" this season. And the dress above from La Garconne is called "Pilgrim". Both recall those outlines that appeal to me in such a visceral way and directly impact how I dress today. I was also looking at the photos of Desiree Dolron on Friday and felt the same feelings or familiar starkness. Nuns were always beautiful to me in their navy and black, their sensible footwear and sure steps on polished floors.
And of course, there's fear and mystery built into all of this. They could be formidable and fearsome. For all their stark sameness, the personalities and foibles of each nun who taught me stands out in my mind. Sister Bernadette with her cruel and weary disappointment. Sister Nuala, with her doting eyes, but quick readiness to tell me I was vexing her. Sister Annunciata, the most evangelical of them, and the one who permed her hair beneath her habit, susceptible to flares of passion and anger, rousing us always to song.
I outgrew the religion, but not the aesthetic of those places or the silhouette of nuns. On past posts, people have commented that they find it depressing that I wear so much black. But in my mind's eye, it's not that simple or stark; surrounded as it is by a world of colour and patina. And when I move around the world in black, I feel simultaneously defined and protected, secretive. I love the power of clothes to make me feel that way.
Products: Rose Noir from Byredo | Bamboo by United Bamboo Pilgrim Dress from La Garconne | Chromatic Ribbed Tights from Anthropologie | Sylva & Cie Rose Gold and Black Diamond Caviar Band from Twist | Mimi Frank purse from Mimi Berry | Dieppa Restrepo Leon shoe from Totokaelo
Artwork by Desiree Dolron