Oct 11, 2012
The veil. I mean, what's up with that?
Here in the West, veils are often associated with the "exotic" East: harem girls and Persian princesses -- images often filtered through Hollywood movies like "Arabian Nights" or TV sitcoms like "I Dream of Jeannie." I don't think it's passing judgment to say that veiled women -- even Western brides -- are symbols of women-as-property, even if we no longer make this association.
If I remember my Cecil B. DeMille correctly, women were traditionally veiled to protect men from the lust women's bodies aroused in them. And in theory, veils kept men from coveting other men's wives, though I'm not sure how well this ever worked. Gay men just liked the floaty fabrics.
Since I'm starting to create my Halloween "Scheherazade in high fidelity" costume, I've been thinking a lot about veils, and -- I hope this doesn't sound like a contradiction -- how much I love them. Veils are glamorous!
Veiled hats were popular through the dying days of the hat-as-wardrobe-necessity. And what was the Twentieth Century hat veil if not a vestige of the modesty-protecting veils of yore?
Veils flatter by softening the eyes and the shape of the face. Veils conceal (crows feet especially), serving as a sort of soft-focus lens. Veils add romantic shadows and textures. And they keep out the mosquitoes.
Veils can even be whimsical.
Happily, veiled hats still turn up from time to time, mainly in the UK. And at weddings. The veiled cocktail party fascinator is a favorite among the vintage-loving crew.
Readers, what are your thoughts about veils? Do you agree that the veiled hat is a vestige of the days when women's bodies were hidden from sight, and are cousin to the veils and other face-concealing garments many women in the world still wear?
Apart from the occasional wedding (or funeral), do you ever wear a veil? What do you think makes them so appealing even today?