menu

What to Wear, What to Wear: Appropriate Dress for Church

What to Wear, What to Wear: Appropriate Dress for Church November 14, 2021

Is there such a thing as appropriate dress for church? Should we be able to attend Mass in any old thing, or should we dress up for church?

In my humble opinion, western civilization has turned into a bunch of slobs. All one has to do is walk through Walmart to see that there is no sense of shame left in some people.

Not that I would want to go back to the days when high society people changed clothes several times each day according to whether they were going riding, having tea, or dressing formally for dinner.

For us peasants, those days meant work clothes versus party clothes versus Sunday-go-to-meeting clothes. On Sundays you wore your best suit or dress, and that is still a reasonably common practice.

Nonetheless, there are those at Mass whose attire is so unseemly, so lacking any sense of place, that it raises a question of appropriateness.

Dressing to Fit the Place

The situation is much like I encountered among young teachers. On a project at an elementary school, I noticed that most were in grubby clothes as if on their way from the college dorm to class.

The principal wanted feedback on my observations. I asked if there was a dress code. He instantly knew why. He was dismayed by the teachers’ slovenly appearance too, but it was a touchy subject.

Image by congerdesign from Pixabay

For one thing, he was a male principal who knew he couldn’t dare say anything to the women about their attire without being accused of sexism.

For another, when there were attempts at discussions about professional dress, the younger teachers said that they had worn t-shirts and jeans all through college, didn’t have any other clothes, and on a teacher’s salary couldn’t afford to buy anything different.

You have to sympathize with the money problem. Then again, isn’t that like the cost of doing business? Isn’t that a priority expense? Isn’t there professional pride? Isn’t there an issue of setting a good example for your students?

Understanding and Diplomacy

I live in a beach community where people wear shorts and sandals to everything. So, our church has a similar problem. Tourists are forgiven because we know they are just ducking into Mass in between all of their other playtime activities. The regulars range from decent to casually dressed to a little bit dressed up.

There was a sad confrontation a few years ago though. One of the women tended to dress in very short skirts or shorts and low-cut tops. The pastor and one of the Eucharistic Ministers had a talk with her about her clothes.

Apparently, they didn’t handle the situation at all well, and the woman, who had even been involved in church activities, stopped coming to Mass.

That’s not how we want it to go. Appropriate dress, yes. Drive someone away because of how they are dressed, NO.

Photo by Mateus Campos Felipe for Unsplash

Respect for God

The crux of the matter is respect. As we all know, image is everything. What you wear says something about the importance or type of the occasion.

What you wear to your college class is not the same as what you wear to your job interview. You wouldn’t wear your prom dress to the neighbor’s dinner party any more than you would wear your old gardening clothes.

So what are you saying to God when you come to church looking like it was too much effort to put on anything better than the clothes you threw on the floor the night before?

If those are the only clothes you have, then welcome and let us help you. But if you have lots of clothes and you just don’t care, maybe you should ask yourself if you are taking God for granted.

You see some people in church who cross their legs and drape an arm over the back of the pew. Their demeanor says they are too cool or too bored to be attentive. That’s not respectful either.

In Biblical stories, the faithful were supposed to give their unblemished lamb in sacrifice. They understood giving their best to God because God gives so much better back to you. That hasn’t changed with time or fashion — we still need to give our best to God.

When we come into church, we should bless ourselves, genuflect and act as if we know we are in the presence of God.

This is not to say that God and the Church aren’t thrilled with each and every person who comes to Mass. The most important thing is that people come. A little reciprocation would be nice though. God is glad to see you; show that you are glad to see God.


Browse Our Archives