Common Threads: A Cultural History of Clothing in American Catholicism

Overview

A well-illustrated cultural history of the apparel worn by American Catholics, Sally Dwyer-McNulty's Common Threads reveals the transnational origins and homegrown significance of clothing in developing identity, unity, and a sense of respectability for a major religious group that had long struggled for its footing in a Protestant-dominated society often openly hostile to Catholics. Focusing on those who wore the most visually distinct clothes--priests, women religious, and schoolchildren--the story begins in ...
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Common Threads: A Cultural History of Clothing in American Catholicism

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Overview

A well-illustrated cultural history of the apparel worn by American Catholics, Sally Dwyer-McNulty's Common Threads reveals the transnational origins and homegrown significance of clothing in developing identity, unity, and a sense of respectability for a major religious group that had long struggled for its footing in a Protestant-dominated society often openly hostile to Catholics. Focusing on those who wore the most visually distinct clothes--priests, women religious, and schoolchildren--the story begins in the 1830s, when most American priests were foreign born and wore a variety of clerical styles. Dwyer-McNulty tracks and analyzes changes in Catholic clothing all the way through the twentieth century and into the present, which finds the new Pope Francis choosing to wear plain black shoes rather than ornate red ones.

Drawing on insights from the study of material culture and of lived religion, Dwyer-McNulty demonstrates how the visual lexicon of clothing in Catholicism can indicate gender ideology, age, and class. Indeed, clothing itself has become a kind of Catholic language, whether expressing shared devotional experiences or entwined with debates about education, authority, and the place of religion in American society.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
03/10/2014
The history of clothing in a Catholic context is fascinating—or at least it is from the hands of Dwyer-McNulty. In this fairly dense overview of Catholic attire during the 1800s through to the mid-1900s, divided into sections about priests, nuns, and schoolchildren, historian Dwyer-McNulty shows how clothing, both clerical and lay, has been so many things to American Catholics—a form of rebellion, a manner of disguise, a way of asserting one's identity or reminding oneself of it to ward off temptation. She writes playfully of priests who go on "vacation" by dressing like the laity at a bar; battles over gender and sex and what women put on their bodies; nuns' sometimes humorous failure at secular dress to avoid harassment in the 1800s; and the advent of "ready-to-wear" clothing that changes the look of Catholic schoolchildren, especially girls, during the 20th century. More than a few former Catholic schoolgirls will surely nod their heads when reading Dwyer-McNulty's assessment that "ust like the religious habits and clericals, uniforms would be material aids to control the students." Unfortunately, Dwyer-McNulty devotes only a short epilogue to the post 1970s, and readers may wish she gave more time to the contemporary era and less to the 1800s. (Apr.)
From the Publisher
Recommended. All levels/libraries.--Choice

Dwyer-McNulty traces how religious dress evolved in America.--Boston Globe

Catholic and American cultural studies at its best.--Magistra: Journal of Women's Spirituality In History

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781469614090
  • Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press
  • Publication date: 4/15/2014
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 272
  • Sales rank: 635,062
  • Product dimensions: 6.50 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Sally Dwyer-McNulty is associate professor of history at Marist College.
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Table of Contents


A well-illustrated cultural history of the apparel worn by American Catholics, Sally Dwyer-McNulty's Common Threads reveals the transnational origins and homegrown significance of clothing in developing identity, unity, and a sense of respectability for a major religious group that had long struggled for its footing in a Protestant-dominated society often openly hostile to Catholics. Focusing on those who wore the most visually distinct clothes--priests, women religious, and schoolchildren--Dwyer-McNulty tracks and analyzes changes in Catholic clothing all the way through the twentieth century and into the present, which finds the new Pope Francis choosing to wear plain black shoes rather than ornate red ones.
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