Women and veils are nowadays something we almost exclusively see as a “Muslim thing” or maybe also a Roman-catholic thing if we include nuns. But in the 15th century all respectable European women would veil themselves as a sign of modesty and respectability. France adopted already in the 12th century a law forbidding whores from wearing veils so that they weren’t able to pretend having a better reputation than they deserved. Good women were even encouraged to snatch the veil of ill-reputed women. That’s basically an early example of slut shaming women!
Apart from the message it send about being modesty and decency the veil could show your status. White veils were better than other colors because it was harder to keep them white so it showed you had the time and means to do laundry often.
Another plus for the veil was that it protected against the sun so you would have nice porcelain-like skin that was highly attractive in those days.
Even very rich and powerful women like Mary of Burgundy would have to cover her hair one way or the other because a women showing her hair in her time was simply not done.
We see here clearly that Mary of Burgundy used her veils to give a fashion statement. She wears materials that were exclusive at the time like the see-through veil, nicely decorated with gold threads or a veil in a desirable color like white or red with white. And of course the fact that she had many different ones was a sign of her wealth.
Next time you see a veiled women you might simply smile and see her as no different than many other women in (western) history that used a veil to show her status and express her individuality by choosing the fabrics, colors, patterns and way of wearing the veil(s) carefully to suit her style. If you look closely you are likely to learn more about the wearer of the veil than just her religious background.
Bonsoir mes amis, Hilde