Whatever Happened to Your Sunday Best?

Is it just me, or has the quality of clothing worn by people inside Church become truly pathetic? Both the men and women at the Mass/service I attended yesterday wore clothing that would have been appropriate for home or going to the store, not for Church.

I was the only man present who was dressed in a suit, and I could count on one hand the number of men who wore nice shirts and slacks. Otherwise, t-shirts of various stripes and colors seemed to be the most common clothes worn by the men. There was even one man (I dare say he doesn’t qualify as a gentleman at this point) who was wearing a sports jersey. Not a few wore shorts.

Sadly, the women attending were no better. Just as many women wore pants as men, and only a few of those women wore nice blouses to compensate. Only a handful of women at church were wearing dresses or skirts, which is a pity, because they added some class (which was desperately needed). Fortunately, I did not see any women wearing clothes that were too revealing or tasteless. Sadly, that isn’t always the case. The younger women are especially prone to this; the fact that few seemed to be in attendance might have been the reason for the absence of tastelessness. Oh, and no head coverings that I could see, either.

The weather was no excuse for the informal clothing; it wasn’t hot at all but was rather a pleasant day. Nor was the temperature inside the church any different.  I wish that the Church was more proactive when it came to telling people to wear clothing appropriate to Church. For Catholics especially this should be true, because are supposed to treat Masses (services) as celebrations. And here is what Jesus said about dressing for celebrations:

Once more Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying: “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding banquet, but they would not come. Again he sent other slaves, saying, ‘Tell those who have been invited: Look, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready; come to the wedding banquet.’ But they made light of it and went away, one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his slaves, mistreated them, and killed them. The king was enraged. He sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. Then he said to his slaves, ‘The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.’ 10 Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad; so the wedding hall was filled with guests.

11 “But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing a wedding robe, 12 and he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe?’ And he was speechless. 13 Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ 14 For many are called, but few are chosen.”

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17 Comments

Filed under Christianity, Femininity, Men, The Church, Women

17 responses to “Whatever Happened to Your Sunday Best?

  1. Well-written post! I agree. I have seen women dressed as if they were going to clean out the hall closet or do laundry. You’re quite right in that when one attends church, one should be dressed with respect. Respect for God and respect for yourself. Sadly, a lot of people have forgotten what that means.

  2. alekdrake

    This bothers me too! I don’t notice the men as much, but it seems like quite a few of them (at least the older ones, teen boys and younger tend to be more casual) wear slacks and a shirt at least. But with the girls and women it seems like the uniform is skin tight jeans and tops. Older women and girls from the more traditional families wear dresses but they are in the minority, it seems. Honestly though, I am a straight-as-an-arrow married woman and *I* am even distracted by all the tight/skimpy outfits lots of the women wear. I can only imagine how difficult it must be for the men, not to mention the poor priests!

    The powers that be seem to be afraid to talk about it for fear of dissuading people from coming to Mass at all. Of course it’s better to be underdressed than to not go at all, but at the same time, we are Catholic. We believe in the True Presence of the Eucharist. It’s not symbolic, we believe that Almighty God is *physically present* at Mass. Would they really wear clothes like that to see God? I don’t think so. I think, for some, their careless manner of dress speaks to a fundamental misunderstanding of what Mass is.

    /shrug/
    I wouldn’t want to come across as judgemental and of course I can’t possibly know the state of anyone’s soul but my own, but I do think it’s a problem.

  3. Staggering thoughts really. I must admit that I think the Word gives us some understanding of appropriate attire for both in Church and out. I wonder though… was the parable here concerned with outer physical garments, or our being robed with the righteousness of Christ? Thoughts well taken…

  4. The sad part is people won’t come dressed like that to a job interview, wedding, or to see the president. People would rather dress up and give a man more respect than God. My mom always told me, you dress for God when you go to church. When you enter the Lord’s house, dress like how He would like to see you because if you have to look your best and give respect to anybody–it should be God.

  5. mtsweat,
    I think it was more metaphysical than anything, given that it was a parable. However, the lesson learned from it is that we should clothe ourselves as appropriate. And when we have come together with fellow believers, appropriate dress should be our best.

    As one priest told me: If you can’t show God some respect by wearing your best when you go to Church, just how important is He in your life?

  6. @ alex

    I am a man. And let me tell you, it is extremely difficult to focus on God when a woman ahead of you in church is wearing Daisy-Duke cut-off shorts or a skimpy top.

    I think a large reason why St. Paul and St. Peter explained that women should be dressed modestly, especially when gathered together as believers, was to reduce the distraction that a woman can present.

  7. Good points… well said.

  8. As a millennial, I’ve noticed churches often try to appeal to my generation by emphasizing their casual-ness. “Look how not stuffy and rule focused we are! Watch the youth pastor wearing jeans and an ironic hipster Jesus t-shirt play worship songs on his guitar!”

    I dress nice for church, but I don’t recall ever being told by the clergy to dress fancy. So, um, lets not blame younger Christians for their casual church attire. If no one ever tells them to dress fancy for church, of course they wont bother to.

  9. Fair enough point BF. If they haven’t heard anything otherwise, then the blame falls on their elders.

  10. thehap

    @Butterfly Flower, you totally reminded me of this video:

  11. thehap

    Higher quality version:

  12. Fair enough point BF. If they haven’t heard anything otherwise, then the blame falls on their elders.

    Unfortunately, Baby Boomers and even Gen X-ers have not taught the Christian faith too well. There’s a good book called “Almost Christian: What the Faith of Our Teenagers is Telling the American Church” that documents the most common faith issues of millennial Christians. The book emphasizes on how churches have become so casual and focused on entertainment (like youth pastors with guitars), millennials do not feel like they are attending a worship service. Going to church is just a fun way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

  13. ballista74

    I wish that the Church was more proactive when it came to telling people to wear clothing appropriate to Church. For Catholics especially this should be true, because are supposed to treat Masses (services) as celebrations.

    As with challenging most of the traditions of men, there’s always a deliberation and prayer to determine what to say and to hear whether those hearts involved are ready to hear the message. This particular tradition of men involving the Sunday Morning Costume is no exception.

    To give a brief description of my research, the idea of dressing up for church started in the 18th century and got popular in the 19th century. The aristocracy had a habit of “dressing up” to show off their wealth, and when fancy clothing got less expensive due to the Industrial Revolution, the practice filtered down into the less wealthy. The common practice of dressing up for church began as an advertisement of the wealth of the individuals involved. Doctrinally, the idea came to the fore around the mid 19th century when pastors argued that sophistication and refinement were attributes of God and that his children should follow them. The people followed after the world in flaunting their wealth to others (think pride), to the protests of several of the preachers, but the preachers eventually gave in to the will of the people and let the world enter into the church.

    As one might figure out from the description, the problem is one of image management and Pharisaical ritualism in the idea that somehow you are “good” by dressing up. It presents a false message about what God is about. Even worse, it creates a wealth distinction. Personally, I started going to church back in the bad old days of dressing up in your “Sunday best”. Being poorer, I couldn’t show up in a wardrobe worth the price of a used car, which is basically what the expectation was since “Sunday best” amounted to a three-piece suit and tie. Needless to say, the looks I got and the sneers I got were a poor witness to what the Church should be, and was a very negative witness until I learned better. It sends a very bad message that outer appearance is what counts before the Lord, and good riddance to it.

    Relevant Scriptures against the practice I would use in a blog post elaborating on this (already have one set for today, but maybe for another time): Luke 20:46; Colossians 2:8; 1 Samuel 16:7; Luke 11:39; 1 Peter 3:3-5; James 2:1-5; Mark 7:1-13

  14. I think the reasons are simple. Christianity sold a “Come as you are” view to the world to try and bolster attendance. I mean this both in terms of formal, semi-formal, and casual clothes as well as peoples’ approach to sin.

    A come as you are approach is just part of the race to the bottom. Comfort in all things is the ultimate goal to those people it appeals to.

  15. an observer

    Come as you are: desperately hypergamous, seeking alpha.

  16. Pingback: The Sunday Morning Costume | The Society of Phineas

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