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Saturday, August 20, 2011

Does it matter how you dress for church?

(photo taken from my grandmother’s photos- Easter circa mid 1950's)
Not too long ago most people dressed up for church. They put on their Sunday Best. Ladies wore hats and gloves. Men wore jackets and ties. Children also dressed up.  Today many churches and parishes have adopted a more casual dress code for mass and church. But does it matter what you wear to church? Does it change your experience at mass? Does God care what you wear?
There are two main camps in this discussion one says to offer Christ our best. And the same is true of our dress. We should offer Christ our 'Sunday best", not our everyday or common wear. And we should dress modestly, not in a flashy way that would bring attention to ourselves. Our dress should always be becoming of a Christian - especially at church.
The other camp says that God is not concerned with our clothing that he is more concerned with our soul. Clothing is a worldly issue, not a Godly thing.
Today our clothes have become an expression of who we are. Yet culture customs and mores do exist. Where they do not man has made them. Most schools and work places have a dress code. Even places that do not have a dress code have implied ones. When you go to the symphony or an opera, one still does tend to dress up, not the the extent they used to but because it is fun to dress up.
In my house I always talk to my children about the appropriateness of dress for the occasion. If we are going to soccer practice we need to take cleats and shin guards they are customary and expected. If you are running errands or going to school you probably do no wear the same clothes you do for painting or playing in the creek.
So what is appropriate for church these days. We follow certain guidelines at our house with my family. Among those are the following. But it boils down to a basic question. Would I wear these clothes to work in the yard or to practice sports? You could also ask your self would you wear these clothes to the beach or lake? If the answer is yes, then perhaps I should consider something different for church.

(Easter 2011)
But if you would like some more specific guidelines, I am happy to share the ones we use at our house.
  • Undergarments should remain undergarments. I don’t want to see any bras, or underwear slipping out of or showing through your clothes. Please no VPL (visible panty line).
  • Please wear appropriate undergarments.
  • Shorts may be fine but only dress shorts and worn with a shirt with a collar, or a nice blouse. for kids.  Adults at my house as a rule do not wear shorts to church.
  • Jeans may be worn if the weather is inclement but they must be in good shape, and fit well. No tight jeans, no torn jeans , no s”skinny jeans”allowed.
  • Keep shoes in good shape. We generally don’t wear our sneakers or tennis shoes as they call them here, to church.
  • Take a jacket if it is summer time. My girls may wear a nice sundress, sometimes these are thin straps and with the air conditioning they may get cold. Depending on the church we attend on a given weekend, the Cathedral, the Monastery, a more respectful formal dress is expected than a country parish, and women are expected to cover their shoulders.
  • Skirts and Dresses need to be a modest length. What does that mean? Generally if you bend over and I can see underwear it is too short. If the skirt or dress is still a favorite and too short there are options such as bloomers (for a toddler), bike shorts or leggings.
  • Young ladies of all ages need to take care that tops do not reveal too much. Think about how you move. When you bend over, does your top show cleavage? Cleavage is not for church.  According to Deacon G, he does not like to see a belly button when a woman makes a bow of reverence receiving communion. I use a miracle tape that can be used to keep all sorts of tops closed, and it a pinch you can use it to hem pants.
  • If you are visiting an unknown church, err on the side of caution, business casual won’t be wrong in most cases. If you would not wear an outfit to work don’t wear it to church.
Dressing up is not necessary to a better experience to church but dressing appropriately will certainly enhance it.


What's Cookin Stacey?? said...

Love your blog! I agree 100 %! I grew up in private school and church was fun after all week of uniforms. :)

royalegacy said...

I love your guidelines. I wish more people would use the same when they go into the House of our Lord.

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Crunchy Con Mommy said...

I agree...I think modesty and dressing nice without going overboard shows respect for Mass. It shouldn't be a fashion show, but should show that it's something you considered important enough to get dressed intentionally for and not just throw on whatever's clean. (of course this is totally a "first world problem"...aren't we lucky to have so many types of apparel to even choose from in the first place?)

Lisa - the Granola Catholic said...

You are so right about this being a "first world problem". I agree it does not have to be a fashion show, but culturally we show our respect by showing up in clean, non torn acceptable clothing. I often attend mass at a monastery, the monks there only have two habits, a work habit and a "dress habit".

My great grandmother who was a poor immigrant would say it does not cost you any money to comb your hair and wash your hands. (She would actually check fingernails to see if they were clean.)

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