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Catherinettes in Paris, rue de la Paix, in 1932

Catherinettes was a traditional French label for women of twenty-five years old who were still unmarried by the Feast of Saint Catherine (25 November). A special celebration was offered to them on this day, while everyone wished them a fast end to their singlehood.


Since the Middle Ages, women were under the protection of St Catherine (while Saint Nicolas cared for the men). Women participated in devotion groups to the saint, and were responsible for the confection of a beautiful headdress to "cap" her statue each year on 25 November. The young women left the group when marrying, hence "capping Saint Catherine" became, for a female, synonymous to "being still single at/after 25". Following the changes of women's and marriage's status in society, this custom progressively died all over France, with the exception of the hatmaking and dressmaking trades, wherein unmarried women, after they turned twenty-five, would attend a ball on St Catherine's Day in a hat made specially for the occasion; to wear such a hat was referred to as "capping St. Catherine" (coiffer sainte Catherine).

Although the term has become rather old-fashioned in France, it is still sometimes used to refer to 25-year-old single women.

  • The term spinster or old maid may also be used in a more popular context.

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