Home-Run Chapel Veil Company Sees 2,000% Growth in 10 Years

Other businesses speak to growing popularity, too.

A Veils by Lily creation
A Veils by Lily creation (photo: Lily Wilson / Veils by Lily)

You might not think of chapel veils (also known as mantillas) as a booming market item, but since Lily Wilson started selling them, her company, Veils by Lily, has grown an astonishing 2,000%.

“I started out in 2010 in the corner of my kitchen, filling 30 to 60 orders per month. Now, there are 12 of us working out of an office in historic Kimmswick, Missouri. We fill an average of 900 orders per month, including wholesale orders,” Wilson told the Register.

“Why not have a garment that also reflects our reverence and commitment to God as laywomen? We are all called to be witnesses to Christ.”

Wilson was introduced to chapel veils by a friend. One day, while praying at St. Francis de Sales Oratory in St. Louis (served by the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest), she noticed a woman wearing a chapel veil made of a particular lace. She found a similar lace at the fabric store and taught herself how to use a sewing machine. Wilson recounted that her mother, who was visiting at the time, suggested she set up a website and start selling them. “So that’s what I did,” Wilson said. “The orders started coming in, and soon, I was so busy I had to quit my part-time job to do this instead.”

Lily Wilson of Veils by Lily
Lily Wilson of Veils by Lily(Photo: Lily Wilson/courtesy of Veils by Lily)

Although veiling tends to be more popular among congregations attending the Latin Mass, Wilson explains that it is permitted in any context. While it was once very common and even mentioned in the 1917 Code of Canon Law, veiling is not a required practice for women. Any woman can veil at any form of the Mass, as well as Eucharistic adoration. As it once was in the West, veiling is still widespread among the faithful of Eastern Orthodox churches.

“It’s a good thing that it’s not mandatory anymore, in my opinion, because now we can do it in freedom and with purity of intention,” Wilson said. “Many women say their relationship with God and their experience of the Mass has deepened since starting to veil. It’s definitely a journey.”

Jane Mary-Gianna Yeak, founder of Filia Dei Veils, recounts that she “came to veiling in the brokenness of my own femininity — it's something I have struggled with quite a bit, growing up in the secular culture, as well as in my home.”

Like Veils by Lily and Filia Dei Veils, a handful of small Catholic veil businesses exist, a beautiful testimony to home-run crafting businesses with women at the helm. Evintage Veils sewing studio is “nestled deep in the quiet mountains of Pennsylvania,” for example.

In the U.K., Catholic-mom-owned Di Clara carries not just veils but vestments and other devotional items. Founded by Clare Short to support her three young children and husband recovering from long-term illness, her craft culminated in presenting a chasuble to Pope Benedict XVI.

Down under, Magnificat Veils caters to Australia and New Zealand: ​The aim is to “make veils more accessible and affordable to women in Australia and New Zealand” through the small business. Run by Niña and Rafael Nepomuceno, a young husband-and-wife duo from Melbourne, Niña says that “as a young woman growing up” she “saw the beauty in wearing a mantilla or veil at Mass” and always wondered why so few women knew about this forgotten Catholic tradition.

Since they opened in 2020, the Nepomucenos have fulfilled more than 3,000 orders and reached customers from at least 110 different countries. Said Rafael, “We are now married and have given birth to a baby girl, Izabella Grace, who turns 1 in a few months. It’s always very fulfilling not only to be doing this for God by helping women form stronger relationships with him by veiling as an act of faith, but it’s also very rewarding to form friendships and a small community with our customers, whom we pray for and support as much as we can.”

Wilson’s company now runs an online store and has a presence in many other Catholic goods stores. Wilson’s site also includes numerous resources about veils.

The company seeks to promote devotion and certainly understands that devotion and piety are not dependent on veiling. Companies like Veils by Lily seek to promote Eucharistic reverence, holiness and devotion.

In offering chapel veils commercially, Wilson’s “desire was to invite other women to carry on this beautiful act of reverence for our Eucharistic Lord.” She sees the mission of her company “centered on reverence for the Real Presence. Through the chapel veil, we seek to reignite in our hearts the faith, awe and wonder of the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Wearing a chapel veil is meant to be an external sign of the interior desire to recognize his presence and humble ourselves before him, who is truly present in the tabernacle and is made present at every Mass.” Wilson explained that making beautiful veils available draws other women to join her in taking up this beautiful practice.

Wilson notes that veiling has been part of our Catholic tradition since the time of St. Paul. “In the history of the Church, we have always veiled what is sacred, and so the veil also communicates something about the great dignity of women.” In addition, she says many women appreciate better focus at Mass while veiling and love the similarity of the veil to the mantle of Our Lady.

While there are many layers of meaning to the veil, Wilson says the primary one has to do with the nuptial imagery St. Paul uses to describe the relationship of God to the soul and Christ to the Church. “Veiling becomes an act of reverence and humility before God, where we say, ‘You are my God and I surrender to your loving will for my life.’” For Wilson and women like her who practice veiling, she explained, “It is a sign that we desire to respond to the call to holiness of life. Not that we have achieved it, but that we desire it and wish to be receptive to the love of God, which has the power to transform us from the inside out.”

Veiling has become much more common than it was 15 years ago, but Wilson says there are still many parishes with only one or two woman veiling. “It has become especially popular with the younger generation, but we do occasionally hear from older women who loved veiling as a child and were sad to see it go. Something resonates in them when they see younger women veiling and feel encouraged to take it back up as in their childhood.”

Veils by Lily examples
Some of the Veils by Lily offerings(Photo: Lily Wilson/courtesy of Veils by Lily)

Wilson sometimes encounters objections to the practice of veiling. The most common objection, she says, is that veiling draws attention to oneself, especially in parishes where few or no women veil. “I always answer this question by saying that nuns’ habits and veils also draw attention, and yet we don’t think twice about it. It’s because we know their lives have been dedicated to the Lord and their habits signify that, so why not have a garment that also reflects our reverence and commitment to God as laywomen? We are all called to be witnesses to Christ.”

“I equated being feminine to either being weak and submissive (and close to no mind of her own), or to those femme-fatale characters of the film-noir era,” writes Yeak on her Filia Dei Veils website. “It did not occur to me that gentleness and strength can (and must) sit beside one another for authentic femininity to flourish.” She found that “the Lord used this age-old tradition to call me closer to His heart to say ‘You’re my precious daughter, you’re mine. And you are loved as you are …’”

Another objection Wilson responds to is that if men don’t wear veils, why should women? “This objection forgets that the sign of reverence and humility for men is specifically to remove head coverings in church. Since men are an image of Christ, the head, they forgo a head covering because the Church submits to Christ, not Christ to the Church.”

Anna Tabeling, a junior at Wyoming Catholic College and customer of Veils by Lily, says she started veiling three years ago. She told the Register she likes the emphasis veiling places on even the soul’s relationship to Christ as bridal. For her, veiling helped readjust her mindset and posture before the Lord, the outside sign helping the interior disposition: “The veil, while it covers, also adorns.”

Julian Kwasniewski works for Wyoming Catholic College as marketing and communications coordinator and assistant music director.