Why Do Nuns Wear Different Colors? (Why Do Different Nun Orders Wear Different Colors of Habit?)

At theology school, understanding all doctrines and various denominations was necessary, and I found myself drawn to different Catholic doctrines, orders, and rules. I was particularly drawn to the Catholic nuns, specifically their ways of life and the colored habits they wore.

While researching, I visited several convents, read several books, and interviewed several active and retired nuns whom I learned a great deal from.

Recently, my theology students asked for the reasons behind the colored habits that the nuns wore, with many wondering if it had to do with the number of years they’d served.

Many of them were thinking of what they saw in movies and just wanted to learn more. From my research, I was able to answer them comprehensively. So, why do nuns wear different colors?

Nuns wear habits in different colors to display their hierarchy within their convent and symbolize their humility. The habits also symbolize their dedication to their values around leading a simple life, chastity, and devotion, and point to the different orders that the nuns belong in. The different colors worn by the nuns differentiate Benedictine, Carthusian, Dominican, or Franciscan orders of the nuns. 

In this post, I’ll share more tips and insights into what the nuns wear and the significance of the specific colors worn by the nun orders.

So, let’s dive right into it!

Before you proceed, below is a video on the same topic covered on our Youtube channel:

Why do different nun orders wear different colors of habit?

Nuns wear habits in different colors because this helps differentiate the orders that the nuns belong to and their hierarchy within the convent.

The colors differentiate them from each other, which is why attending any big Catholic Event often leaves one in wonder as you come across a large number of nuns wearing habits in different colors.

The colors of habits can be overwhelming for anyone, but it helps to set them apart. 

The black veil is the most common habit worn by nuns, and it represents the nuns who’ve taken the solemn vow to be a nun their entire lives. Often, these nuns are fully-fledged. 

The second-year novice nuns often wear the white habit and veil, while the black headdress is common with the Cistercian nuns who wear the black habits as a sign of their consecration to the Lord. 

Benedictine Nuns wear black habits because they believe that the color black represents the vow the nuns make, that the world is dead to them. Black also represents penitence.

Carmelite Nuns wear brown habits with a scapular, and the color is chosen since it represents the earth, and so a reminder of the cross they have chosen to carry and that they have to carry it with humility, always.

There also are nuns who wear white, dark brown, grey, and even notes of blue, depending on their hierarchy in the convent and church. 

Why do some nuns wear blue habits?

Why Do Different Nun Orders Wear Different Colors of Habit?
Why do some nuns wear blue habits? Image source: Pinterest

Nuns wear the blue habit because the color blue reminds them that they should continue living as Mary and that they should bring Christ and the word of God to the believers.

These nuns wearing blue habits also choose this color because it’s a color that represents purity. 

The nuns that wear blue habits do so because they belong to a specific order or group within the Roman Catholic Church.

Some of the nuns that wear the blue habits include the Sisters of Finding Jesus in the Temple, a religious order in the Catholic Church, the Order of the Most Holy Annunciation (Blue Nuns), and the Sisters of the Mary Immaculate Queen who also wear the blue habit to honor the Blessed Virgin, Mary. 

Why do some nuns wear grey habits?

Some nuns wear grey habits to represent the order that they belong to. Often, the nuns that wear grey habits are the Salesian sisters that have chosen to live in more volatile locations in the world.

They wear simple grey head veils/ habits, as well as shoes and dresses. Grey is a symbol of penance and devotion. 

Why do some nuns wear brown habits?

Some nuns wear brown habits because this color represents their tribute to the founder of their belief, St. Francis of Assisi – the Franciscan Order and the Carmelites.

The nuns wear similar colored outfits to the priests to represent their religious order. Their brown habits represent the color of the earth, reminding them to remain humble and not regard earthly possessions as the most critical aspects of their lives. 

Why do some nuns wear black and white habits?

The main reason why some nuns wear white and black habits is because black is the primary monastic color symbolizing simplicity and repentance.

The black signifies that the nun has taken serious, solemn vows and they have devoted their lives to the church completely

The combination of white and black in the habits is common with the Benedictine nuns, and their habits represent the importance of community and liturgical prayers.

They also represent simplicity.

What nuns wear blue and white?

Why Do Different Nun Orders Wear Different Colors of Habit?
What nuns wear blue and white? Image source: Pinterest

Nuns that wear blue and white do this because they belong to the Order of the Sisters of Mary Reparatrix. These habits are white with a blue scapular, a blue and white veil, as well as a big golden heart that sits on their breasts.

Blue nuns or The Sisters of Finding Jesus Christ in the Temple. These colors also represent purity.

What nuns wear purple habits?

The nuns that belong to the order called the Children of Mary often wear purple habits. This order of nuns represents a new community of nuns whose role is to serve the church.

This order of nuns is entrusted with the role of satiating the thirst of Jesus Christ in the Most Blessed Sacrament. The Augustinian Recollect nuns also wear purple habits alongside a large crucifix. 

Which nuns wear red habits?

The nuns that wear red habits are the Redemptoristine nuns. These nuns wear the deep red habit along with a blue choir mantle, a scapular, and a colored Most Holy Redeemer medallion.

The Red habits symbolize the Blood of Christ.  

Why did Mother Teresa wear white and blue?

Along with the blue-brimmed austere white sari that Mother Teresa – and the other nuns in her order – it’s believed that this Albanian nun wore the white and blue habit, which is associated with purity.

The blue and white along the borders of the habit, alongside the white sari, became the way of identifying the Missionaries of Charity that Mother Teresa founded.

It’s believed that Mother Teresa’s inspiration behind the white saree and the habit with three blue stripes was to follow in the ways of Jesus.

Today, Mother Teresa’s blue and white sari has been trademarked by the Missionaries of Charity.

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