What is a wimple and coif?

Answered by John Hunt

A wimple and coif are both traditional headpieces that were commonly worn by Catholic nuns and Religious Sisters as part of their religious habit. They were worn in addition to the white cotton cap, bandeau, and veil.

Let’s start with the wimple. A wimple is a piece of fabric, typically made of starched linen or cotton, that covers the cheeks, neck, and chest of the wearer. It is worn to modestly conceal these areas of the body and to symbolize the humility and dedication to God that is expected of religious women. The wimple is usually white in color, reflecting the purity and devotion of the wearer.

The coif, on the other hand, is a headpiece that covers the top of the head and is worn underneath the veil. It is often made of the same material as the wimple and is designed to keep the hair neatly in place and to provide a secure base for attaching the veil. The coif is typically white or a light color, blending in with the wearer’s habit.

Both the wimple and the coif were important elements of the traditional religious habit, serving both practical and symbolic purposes. They helped to create a sense of uniformity and modesty among the nuns and Religious Sisters, as well as signifying their dedication to a life of prayer and service to God.

Personally, I have seen nuns wearing the wimple and coif during my visits to convents and religious communities. The sight of these headpieces always struck me as a powerful symbol of the commitment and devotion of these women to their religious vocation. It was a visual reminder of the sacrifices they made and the unique way they chose to live out their faith.

The wimple and coif were integral parts of the traditional religious habit worn by Catholic nuns and Religious Sisters. The wimple covered the cheeks, neck, and chest, while the coif provided a base for attaching the veil and kept the hair in place. These headpieces served both practical and symbolic purposes, emphasizing modesty, uniformity, and dedication to God.