Saints and Seamers
Updated: Aug 20, 2021
Even those of us who aren’t catholic are probably familiar with the names of a few saints. There are St. Christopher medals for nervous travellers, St. Francis bird baths for the garden, St. Joseph statues for burying upside down in the back yard if you can’t sell your house, an endless array of colleges, hospitals and towns named for various saints, and anyone who has bought vintage clothing at a thrift store is probably familiar with Vincent de Paul, the patron saint of charities. But is there a patron saint of fashion?
There isn't one saint for the entire industry, but there are many patrons who oversee various aspects of the fashion industry. St. Crispin is the patron saint of shoemakers, although his sainthood has been downgraded like many saints whose good works and posthumous miracles were not properly documented during the Middle Ages.
St. Bartholomew and St. Simon Zelotes both work on the behalf of tanners; similarily, St. Bonifice and St. Matthias are both patron saints of tailors. For goldsmiths and jewellers there is St. Eligius, and for dyers and needle makers, Helena is the patron (or is that matron?) saint. St. Blase is the patron saint of carders (wool combers), and both St. James the Lesser and St. Clement of Ireland work as patron saints of both wool fullers and hatters. Saint Barbara is also a part time patron of hatters, but as she is primarily devoted to the military, her hat job is more of a sideline.
Saint Severus is probably the best candidate for becoming the patron saint of the fashion industry as he is already the patron saint of drapers, hatters, milliners, silk workers, weavers, and wool manufacturers. However, Saint Catherine of Alexandria, the patron saint of lace makers and spinsters has been honoured by the fashion and millinery industry. On St. Catherine’s feast day on November 25, ‘midinettes’ (unmarried seamstresses at the grand couture maisons) would don hats of yellow and green (representing faith and wisdom), and make a pilgrimage to a statue of St. Catherine to ask for help in finding a husband so they don’t have to wear ‘St. Catherine’s Bonnet’ (become an old maid.)
French fashion houses began holding parades that featured fantastic novelty hat creations and by the 1930s the parades had become Old Maid’s Day celebrations with a big party at night where you might meet a husband (probably not yours) to dance the night away…
Catherinettes in Paris, 1909