Over time I have noticed myself ruling out clothes I see in shops because I find them inappropriate and instead opting for something in a more conservative style, something I would not have perhaps done before. Now I am generally careful how much chest I show, choose skirts that are knee length or longer and trousers which are not too tight.
I have always liked to dress smartly to church. My reason for doing so at least when I was very new to the faith was simply because I was under the impression that’s what people who go to church did, later on it stopped being about the people and became something I did to honor God, which is the way it remains even till today.
My first reason however was quickly proved wrong, as before I could receive Holy Communion I would often watch other people as they walked to the front of church to do so and found myself disgusted by what I saw some people, especially young women were wearing.
By all means I don’t always wear my best clothes when I attend Mass as while I especially like to dress smartly for church on Sunday as it is the purpose of me going out, during the week I often attend Mass in the early evening after a day at work or university, consequently am usually wearing my uniform or trousers and a good pair of boots (I do a lot of walking when I am at university). Nonetheless feel I am always appropriately covered to attend church which is more than I would say for the women I saw.
With young children I have found positive reinforcement to be the best way to solve this problem however, have come up against a wall when it comes to influencing older children (and even adults).
On my travels I once went to a church with a dress code printed on a large piece of paper pinned to the notice board just outside the church. I did not like this idea. It made me feel uncomfortable and I would have felt unable to attend Mass if I had been in my university clothes as I more often than not wear jeans and I don’t like the idea of putting off or even preventing people from attending Mass. Neither is it tackling the source of the problem which in my opinion is the increasing lack of respect and reverence people have towards worship, the Eucharist and religious buildings.
While I would not confine this problem to women as I also like to see men and boys dressed smartly and hate to see unpolished shoes or trainer on altar boys I did manage to find a short piece about what one pope had to say on the matter.
From the encyclical "Sacra Propediem" of Pope Benedict XV-
19. From this point of view one cannot sufficiently deplore the blindness of so many women of every age and condition; made foolish by desire to please, they do not see to what a degree the in decency of their clothing shocks every honest man, and offends God. Most of them would formerly have blushed for those toilettes as for a grave fault against Christian modesty; now it does not suffice for them to exhibit them on the public thoroughfares; they do not fear to cross the threshold of the churches, to assist at the Holy sacrifice of the Mass, and even to bear the seducing food of shameful passions to the Eucharistic Table where one receives the heavenly Author of purity."
While researching this topic on the interest I also found this comment made by a priest concerning church attire:
I have found that it is not peoples regard for dress codes which have relaxed greatly in recent decades but the attitude, the respect and reverence people have for worship and church buildings. From brides walking down the aisle chewing gum to funeral pallbearers wearing tennis shoes, to members wearing flip-flops, shorts and tank tops on Sunday, the lack of respect and reverence to worship is disgusting.In contrast however this following comment left me with a lot to think
These same people would never allow their children to play in a sporting event out of uniform, or apply for a job interview themselves dressed inappropriately. Sunday worship should be no different!
I also said I was raised to believe people should dress “respectfully” in the house of the Lord - and that means fully shod and covered up enough so it doesn’t distract other worshippers.
More important than what people are wearing is the reason for being in church in the first place. Maybe it would be better if we could all enter God’s house blind. If we can’t see what people are wearing, we can leave our judgments and prejudices outside and use the time to learn more about God’s purpose for our lives.
What do you think?
Would you like your church to have a dress code?