How Do You Dress for Church? Some Helpful Encouragement from a New Video

0713blogI have written at length before on the issues of modesty and how we dress for Mass:

Rather than repost all that commentary here, I would like to focus on a new video (thanks to Brandon Vogt and the other producers) that invites us to be more considerate about how we dress for Holy Mass. The video is quite balanced and presents a range of views. One man wears a tie, the other does not; one woman wears a dress, the other, slacks. The point is not to specify in minute detail what is to be worn, but rather to reinstill a devotion that influences our clothing and demeanor at Mass within a range that is culturally recognizable as appropriate for the occasion.

As a “range” this will vary a bit based on age, season, climate, personal issues, and the like. But a range, while admitting variability still has limits beyond which we ought not to go. Consider of a road with several lanes; it also has shoulders and a guardrail. And while one may travel in any of the different lanes (styles), the shoulders should ordinarily be avoided (except for urgent reasons). The guardrail represents a final limit which, if transgressed, indicates that one has gone beyond safety and prudence.

Here are a few random observations about the range of clothing decisions for Holy Mass and what might affect and influence that range.

  1. Church norms and rules – There are no official, specific Church norms or requirements for lay persons who attend Mass mentioned in Canon Law or the Sacramentary. Surely for priests and other clergy there are many rules and norms, but I am unaware of any currently binding norms for the laity. Although veils were once required for women (in the 1917 Code of Canon Law), the current code is silent on the matter.
  2. Hence it seems that the culture supplies most of the norms. A factor to be considered is that in the West, the culture has become secular and does not therefore supply a proper sense of the sacred. Therefore Catholics ought not to simply consider cultural norms in assessing proper attire for Holy Mass.
  3. For, indeed, in American culture we almost never dress up for anything anymore. Casual is an almost ubiquitous norm. Most of us who are older than fifty remember a time when this was not so. Prior to 1968 (when the culturkampf really exploded) one would almost never think of going into a restaurant in shorts or a T-shirt. Trousers with a belt, and a button-down shirt with a collar were the expected norm. This norm prevailed in most other public places as well. Shorts and T-shirts were fine for the backyard, but not out in public. Today such norms are long-gone and casual attire prevails almost everywhere. Jeans and T-shirts, once considered rather sloppy except for those engaged in physical labor, and are now considered fashionable.
  4. So the cultural norms have changed. Some of us who are older or more conservative lament this. But some room has to be made for the general consideration of things like fashion and for the fact that people have different opinions about what is acceptable.
  5. But remember, saying that there is a range does not mean that there are no limits. There is some right and duty to insist on limits and to indicate offense when necessary. The culture, even if it has gone casual, does not alone supply a proper sense of dress for Holy Mass, since the culture has become secular.
  6. Sadly, even among many Catholics, attitudes about Holy Mass have changed, too, arguably for the worse. Poor catechism, bad liturgical practices, secularism, other cultural trends, and even architecture have all lessened the reverence many Catholics have for Holy Mass. Many do not consider that they go to meet and worship God. Communal dimensions, not bad in themselves, prevail; they are out-of-balance and eclipse the presence of God and the orientation that Holy Mass should have toward God. We aren’t just “going to Church,” we are going to encounter God and worship Him. But this is simply not the emphasis in most people’s minds and it affects the way they dress.
  7. God cares how we dress. One of the replies that sometimes comes back in discussions about proper attire is that “God doesn’t care how I dress.” One ought to avoid saying that God doesn’t care about things, especially when His revealed word indicates otherwise. There are actually a number of places where God indicates in His Word that He does care about such stuff. There is the general directive to Adore the Lord in holy attire (Psalm 96:9; Ps 29:2). Moses was told to remove his shoes for he stood on holy ground. There are directives for the Passover meal that one should have staff in hand, with loins girt, and sandals on his feet (Ex 12:11). St. Paul speaks to norms of his day regarding decorum and orderliness in worship, that women cover their heads in prayer, etc. (cf 1 Cor 11 – 14). Granted, these norms spoke to the culture of that time and admit of interpretation. But it is wrong to say categorically that “God doesn’t care how I dress.” God does care, because, as we all intrinsically know, the way we dress says a lot about how we regard something and affects how we behave. Even in our more casual times, people know the value of dressing well for a job interview, or for important events such as a prom, a wedding, or a State dinner. Clothing both signifies and affects our attitudes. To this extent God does care, because he looks to our heart and its condition. And we, too, should care, by observing a proper range of clothing choices for something as significant as Holy Mass, wherein we go to worship the God of the Universe and take part in the Wedding Feast of the Lamb. Holy attire is fitting for holy things, holy rituals, and holy people.
  8. Climate – Another common reply is that it is “hot.” Yet here in America, I can hardly avoid chuckling at that response. For the most part, people leave their air-conditioned homes, get into their air-conditioned cars, and walk into air-conditioned churches. It may be hot outside, but most people spend little time in any sort of heat. It is also fascinating to me that our most recent ancestors, who had no air-conditioning at all, usually dressed and wore a lot more clothing than we do. I suspect one thing that helped them was that they wore more natural fibers such as cotton and linen. So this retort seems more rooted in a “comfort culture” that has made us soft and out-of-touch with the real weather outside. However, as noted above, climate and weather are factors in the range of clothing that is acceptable. Back in the “old days,” before the revolution, during the hot summer we would usually wear “only” a shirt and tie to Mass. It was mainly in the cooler months that a suit jacket was worn.
  9. Getting smarter about clothes? People often ask me, as a priest, how I tolerate the hot summers in Washington. I generally find that loose-fitting clothing is actually better than less clothing. My summer cassock (which has no liner) is a better option around the parish because it breathes more and shades my skin from the hot sun. Linen albs are best in hot weather since modern polyesters don’t breathe well. I am least comfortable in the black business suit I am often asked to wear. I shop for suit jackets without liners, but they are hard to find.
  10. The common good – In going to Mass, we do not simply dress to “suit” ourselves. We ought to have the common good in mind as well. Demonstrating the sacredness of Holy Mass is helpful to us and to others as well. Being careful not to dress in ways that distract others (by immodesty other such things) is important. The way we dress can be a teachable moment for others.
  11. Charity – Discussions about attire can easily descend into a lack of proper charity. We have to accept that there are going to be differences of opinion and, as I have said all along, there is a range of what is appropriate. The main hope is to scope out a sensible range, allow reasonable diversity within that range, and seek to correct extremes. Simply scoffing at others from either side (too casual or too formal) creates more heat than light. The main point is to consider what Holy Mass is, and to dress accordingly within an acceptable range, out of faith and charity.

What to wear, what not to wear?

Hence at the risk of seeming old and stuffy I’d like to suggest a few norms for attire at Holy Mass. I hope you’ll supply your own as well.

  1. Men should wear formal shoes. We used to call these hard shoes (because they were) but today many formal shoes are actually quite comfortable. Sandals (not flip-flops) can be acceptable.
  2. Men should wear trousers (not jeans).
  3. Men should not wear shorts.
  4. Men should wear a decent shirt, preferably a button-down one. If it is a pullover shirt it should include a collar. Wearing a plain T-shirt without a collar seems too informal. No sleeveless shirts or tank tops should be worn.
  5. Men should consider wearing a tie, and in cooler weather, a suit coat. Some may consider this a bit too stuffy and formal, but who knows, you might be a trend setter!
  6. Now as I talk about women I know I’ll get in some trouble!
  7. Women should wear decent shoes. Flip-flops and beach sandals seem inappropriate. Some forms of sandals are more dressy and can be acceptable
  8. Women, like men, should not wear shorts.
  9. Women, like men, should not wear jeans, and though there is such a thing as fashionable jeans, they are seldom a good match to the Sacred Liturgy. Some nice and modest slacks can be fine.
  10. Women should consider wearing a dress or at least a skirt in preference to pants. It just looks a bit more formal than pants in most cases.
  11. Women should wear a nice blouse or shirt (if not wearing a dress). The blouse or shirt should not be too tight.
  12. Women should not wear tank tops, tube tops, spaghetti straps, or have a bare midriff.
  13. For both men and women, T-shirts with loud and obnoxious slogans or secular messages are inappropriate, as are sports jerseys and other sports paraphernalia.

Well, have at this list; add or subtract as you will; the discussion is open. But please, try to remain charitable; we all have opinions. Someone who doesn’t share your exact view isn’t necessarily a bad person. There is a range of acceptable options. Don’t attack the blogger (me) or your fellow commenters. Stick to the issue and comment on that.

If possible, please watch the video before commenting.

I have avoided speaking directly to modesty in this post. That, too, admits of a range and often leads to debates about men and women that I’d like to avoid here. Let’s focus on a sense of the sacred in attire, a theme that includes modesty but is wider than just modesty.

Here’s the video:

46 Replies to “How Do You Dress for Church? Some Helpful Encouragement from a New Video”

  1. Wonderful detailed straight forward instructions on how to dress for mass. Many of us are appalled at how people, young and old, dress for mass. Thank you for the clear no-nonsense message. A little dress-up would help people with respect and prayer!

  2. This is pathetic. Get over yourself. Focus on the Gospel; God is love – not an arbiter of fashion and clothes. I reject this – as do most Catholics.

    1. Hey Paul, don’t speak for me and above all don’t speak for Christ. I’m not “most Catholics” and how do you know the Lord is not offended? The Blessed Mother said that many fashions would be introduced that are offensive to God. I dress in a manner that is appropriate while in the Holy of Holies. If you want to dress for a baseball game, that’s your prerogative.

    2. Paul, God is indeed love – and calls us to love Him in return. What does that [love] look like? Love is always a sacrifice. Sacrifice like getting out of bed on Sunday morning to go to Mass instead of sleeping in: putting God first. Next, devoting time every day to prayer: spending time with that God who loved us into being. Also, “little” things like taking the time to prepare an outfit worthy of His temple – and ours [our body]. An outfit that will not be a distraction for His other children who may have weakness with regard to the imagination when confronted with suggestive and immodest clothing.
      You can reject this if you want but in rejecting it you speak volumes in the “love” you have for God and your neighbor.

      1. AMEN! AMEN! AMEN! We can attribute and contribute much time and heart to getting and keeping that job by dressing for success. Then we give no holy reverence in same in the House of Him who gave us that job, and this is one sick mess!

        AMEN! AMEN! AMEN! Surely, we sometimes wonder whether or not the attire worn by some who enter into the House of GOD makes Christ JESUS weep, and cause the angels to cry! Surely, some will say, “but GOD looks at the heart and not the outer appearance,” so ungodly and unholy dress they can justify!

        AMEN! AMEN! AMEN! It is only when we are filled with the REAL Holy Spirit/Holy Ghost that we can finally say to Abba Father, IN ALL THINGS, “not my will but thine,” like our precious King of kings. Then we find that place where, in ALL THINGS, even our dress, we can no longer enter the House of GOD wearing pants/jeans, skin-tight dress, and looking like a hoochie mess!

    3. Paul – whatever you think of the recommendations above, at least make sure that your dress at Mass is the equal of your dress for a business meeting during the work week. If you labor in the fields, jeans may be all you have. If you dress business casual for work, why wouldn’t you put equal attention into worship? If you wear a tie for work and a t-shirt for Mass, something is wrong.

    4. “A man is known by his look, and a wise man, when thou meetest him, is known by his countenance. The attire of the body, and the laughter of the teeth, and the gait of the man, shew what he is.” Ecclesiasticus 19:26-27

      “Be you therefore perfect, as also your heavenly Father is perfect.” Matthew 5:48

      One wonders what your tone will be if the Almighty shows up at your particular judgment dressed in cutoffs, a tank top and flip flops simply doing unto you as you did unto Him.

      By the way, Paul, you speak for yourself only, not most Catholics.

  3. See you at Mass next week. I’ll be in shorts. I doubt Christ will bat an eye even if it makes you twitch with anger and judgment.

    1. Paul, your sort of comment is the kind I would like warn against. It is personal in tone. Using words like “pathetic” and “get over yourself” are personal jibes and do not speak to the issues. I mentioned your “God doesn’t care” argument in the article. What doe you think of the argument advanced there (not what do you think about me) ?

      And since you have interjected personal matters into this I would like to make a personal observation about you: Your reaction says to me that you think clothes ARE very important. Otherwise you would not have reacted so strongly to an article that, if I do say myself, is gracious and admits there is a range and that this is a discussion, not a dictate from me. Why the strong reaction Paul? Do you think clothing does not matter? And if not, why not, given your reaction?

    2. “And why even of yourselves, do you not judge that which is just.” Luke 12:57

  4. Nope. On Sunday’s, I’m not trading in my slacks for skirt or dress. Haven’t wore one in years and ain’t startin now so others are edified. I’ll keep wearing my comfortable dress slacks and make sure the status of my soul is good and pleasing to God by making frequent use of Confession.

    On weekdays, when I can make it to daily Mass, I often go in jeans because that’s how I go to work and I either go right after Mass or right from work.

    What I don’t care for are people coming in shorts, tank tops, flip flops, and women in dresses or skirts so tight they look like shrink wrapped Twinkies. When it comes to modesty, I’ll put my dress slacks up against any shrink wrapped butt that exposes every peak, valley, roll, and cellulite shaking like jello in a pan on its way to a party.

    1. I understand your daily Mass issue – the article is more focused on Sunday which I should have made more clear.

      Dress slacks are fine. You may note the parallelism I set up for men too: A shirt with collar is fine, but a suit coat is even better. I think women look more formal in dresses, but it s just an opinion and we must all recall I am speaking about a range here, not a precise point. Reasonable people will differ within the range.

  5. Good post. I tend to be very casual in most of my dress, but even if I have a few boundaries for work and attending Mass. I suspect many people don’t realize how much the cultural disconnection between spiritual and physical phenomena has affected their thinking. The reason they think clothes don’t matter is because they’ve accepted an impoverished form of spiritualism which is about feelings, divorced from physical action–particularly the sacramental. One can pray without kneeling, but we kneel in order to pray better. One can also worship God while wearing shorts. But we put on pants instead, because the choice to demonstrate even such a tiny bit of consideration helps. External gestures take on great significance when done with love.

    I think the Paul above missed a key point. We don’t dress “up” for Mass because we think God would somehow love us less if we didn’t. We dress “up” because we know it’s a way to show respect and affection towards our Lord. I suppose though if he would attend a wedding or a job interview in shorts, then the idea that how he dresses says something to others is lost on him.

  6. The clothing issue always brings up so much anger. That says to me that the evil one is involved, which is no surprise given that the point of dressing modestly is to show respect to our Holy Lord and to not distract others who are there to worship him. I have a huge issue with how people dress at Mass (and elsewhere) because I am very visual and very easily distracted. I just don’t want or need the distraction of seeing some strange man’s bare, hairy legs. I mean seriously, how could that seem appropriate for the Mass? I feel so sad and disturbed and it’s sometimes been a real obstacle. My husband has helped me realize that the best we can do is to set a good example and just focus extra hard and say prayers and concentrate. I wish people understood how much it distracts and pains me. Anyway, thanks for reading and trying to understand.

  7. The easiest & often-used examination of conscience in this matter:

    When do I wear nicer clothing than at Mass? Is that event more or less important to me than the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass? What is more important in my life than God?

    Matthew 22 is the one that grabs my attention.

    11 “But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment;[a] 12 and he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. 13 Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and cast him into the outer darkness; there men will weep and gnash their teeth.’

    Notably, the man doesn’t even plead, “I was sure you wouldn’t care if I wore shorts!”

    1. Yes, to be sure however the passage is referring to righteousness and analogously referring to it as a garment. But that is just the point isn’t it – God uses clothing to symbolize our inner disposition. There is something about clothes that shows forth our inner life. And that is why clothing is not a meaningless aspect of who were are or what we do.

      Regarding shorts its interesting too that no ancient Jew would ever wear “shorts” in public since it was considered a personal indignity to show your legs. This attitude is still common in many parts of the world today. People would “gird the loins” (the ancient equivalent of “roll up your sleeves”) to work. But outside of this requirement, showing your legs meant that you were either the hired help or were in flight.

  8. Since the Mass is the highest form of worship and praise, and the means by which we give all honor and glory to God, how you dress for Mass becomes a reflection of your attitude towards God. I suspect most people who dress very casually for Mass have a horizontal, i.e., “God is my equal” view of their relationship with Him — almost as a buddy, or close personal friend. On the other hand, those who seem to be in awe of God, His Church, and His Real Presence in the Eucharist, possess a “vertical” relationship with Him, i.e., “God is not my equal; He is so far beyond me; I am humbled to be here at Mass and in His presence.”

    If you were invited to the Academy Awards, the White House or a wedding, how would you dress? Is not the Eucharist greater than these and worthy of our time and effort to present ourselves as if we truly believe that we are witnessing and receiving the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ Himself?

    What does it say about you if you dress for Mass the same way as going to your friend’s house for pizza and beer?

    At St. Peter Chanel Catholic Church in Hawaiian Gardens, California, there are signs at all the entrances to the church. The signs display the palm of a hand, as if to say “stop” and remind everyone to dress properly while listing improper attire. No one complains; it is the most properly attired parish I’ve ever seen. One would think that in our dress-down secular culture the church would be empty. But there are EIGHT Sunday Masses and FOUR daily Masses, and all are well attended, if not crowded.

    I would urge all who casually enter our churches and approach the Eucharist similarly, to rethink who we are and our relationship to God.

    I have a duty to God and that duty starts with my attitude and appearance…

    1. I think you are right that our dress reflects our understanding of God, but I don’t think your characterization of those who dress more casually is accurate or fair. I don’t think of God as my equal (and for that matter, I’ve never heard anyone else express that idea); but I do think of Him as my Father.

      I put on a shirt and tie when I go to work all week. And I resent it all week. When I go over to my parents’ house on the weekend to reconnect with them and be rejuvenated, I dress more casually. My approach is the same with mass. I am going to my Father’s house to reconnect and be rejuvenated. I dress in a way that will allow me to focus on prayer and not be distracted by how hot or uncomfortable I am. I don’t dress in a way that is distracting to others, unless you consider khaki shorts and a polo shirt to be distracting.

      1. I too get tired of putting on business attire all week long for my job! Perhaps it would be more appropriate to encourage shorts at work? Wouldn’t we all work better and be more cheerful if we were more comfortable on the job?

        That being said, I am grateful to have a job, as I am sure you are. Because I am grateful for all God has given me, I should always give even more for Him than I do for my employer (40 hours a week v. God infinite). So, my approach is different (not right or wrong, the word is different). I will strive to dress better for God than I do for my job, given that my job requires business attire. After all, my job is a fraction of my identity, and not my body and soul created by God.

        I understand your point about going to your Father’s house in the same way as going to your parents’ house on the weekend: to reconnect and rejuvenate. Instead at this point in my life, I beg God to correct me, heal my vices, and give me strength to persevere in making sacrifices, especially for my aging parents.

        Mass is where we celebrate Our Lord’s heavenly wedding feast as God’s family – to begin our week rather than as a part of a weekend visit. And the best blessing is being able to go to Mass every day.

        Also, prayer has no boundaries, feel free to pray as you like. Using the extra time at home required to dress uncomfortably for Mass (my small sacrifice) gives me more time to pray and prepare for Mass – a bonus!

        Bee Bee [below] your mention of the priest’s homily about being comfortable nails it.

        P.S. It is hard to convince my college sons to not wear long cargo shorts with a polo shirt to Mass when others do it too. So your attire, while not distracting does have an effect.

        God bless.

      2. Think how hot and uncomfortable the Priest celebrating Mass is wearing five layers of clothing.

        Think how hot and uncomfortable hanging on a cross for six hours while being executed for someone else’s sins would be.

        Think how hot and uncomfortable all the martyr’s for the faith were while being tortured to death.

        Yeah, dressing casually for an hour a week while the sacrifice at Golgotha is re-presented for our salvation certainly is indicative of our appreciation.

  9. You’re a brave man, Msgr. Pope. A couple of observations from my ongoing struggle with my family over dressing for ANY occasion:

    1. Clothes can be modest while still being slovenly.
    2. It is a charity to think of others, and dress to show respect for the occasion and the other people in attendance.
    3. Anyone, regardless of their age, build, sex, or condition can find something to wear that is tidy and dignified.

  10. If one doesn’t have proper attire due to financial difficulties that is another matter. If one does they should be worn.

    This matter of appropriate clothing worn to church is very basic and simple. The hard stuff is living the faith as best as one can and not letting up.

    1. Agreed. There are bigger and harder matters. Yet here too the Lord connects them saying “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much” Lk 16:10

      Thus little things are connected to bigger things

      St. Augustine says, Quod minimum, minimum est. Sed in minimo fidelum esse, magnum est. (A little thing is (just) a little thing. But to be faithful in a little thing is a great thing)

    2. By the way, regarding poverty, I have found that people in the poorer parishes actually dress better! Part of it is cultural since in this part of the country the poorer parishes are often African-American and they dress up more for Church than white folk.

      But clearly the point stands, if one is poor and really cannot afford finer clothes, this should never barr them from Mass, and I am not aware of any place that does so.

  11. It’s not about poverty. How did our grandparents, many of whom surely were poorer than us, manage to wear dresses and slacks and tuck in their shirts?

    I think even making a small effort is the key. As you said, switching out the tees for collared shirts, jeans for a skirt if you have one. Whatever you can do. All of these clothes can still be comfortable.

    But God still wants you there, no matter what you are wearing.

    I do wish parents would work with their teen daughters more on what is appropriate but that is probably getting into the whole modesty thing which isn’t the main point of this point.

    1. Good insights, decent clothes don’t have to cost a fortune. I wonder too if a factor is that people used to make a lot more clothes at home, or certain mend them and keep them longer. Our throw-away culture is operative in the clothing department. It seems to me that women of my mother’s generation all owned sewing machines and did a lot of mending. I can’t remember the last time I saw a sewing machine in anyone’s house.

      1. Our throwaway culture makes nice clothes cheaper than ever, at least in any reasonably-sized town. My best clothes – the ones that get raves at holiday Masses or social events – have all come from The Salvation Army store (half-off on Wednesdays) and cost less than $5 per article.

    1. 🙂 Me too, I’m gonna shine my shoes more before Sunday Mass!

  12. I think the current circumstances speak to a more overall rejection of formality and respect for authority. We haven’t just become more casual in our dress. We’ve become more casual in just about every possible way, to such an extent that we are even denying reality, most currently the reality of gender. If clothes are just external decorations, then they are meaningless and can take any form, even a form that is deliberately gender-opposite. I would love to see a return to more defined manners and expectations of what it is to be a gentleman or a lady, as well as a greater respect for hierarchy and authority, especially the authority of God. Then the problem of dress i think would take care of itself.

  13. Myself, I’d say that I do fine in the modesty of dress department–long sleeve, button down shirt, trousers, but I can understand the claim that I could do better in the formality department–my shoes are walking shoes that fake as dress shoes, and don’t fake it very well, also, I wear a windbreaker to Sunday Mass. Looks ok to me.

    1. Sounds like you’re in range. I guess we could all improve. I think too that I could have a special set of shoes for Sunday mass since my daily shoes get worn and I am cheap when it comes to buying shoes. Even just to polish my shoes before Sunday Might help. Also too many of us priests wear tattered albs or vestment that don’t fit or have other problems. One thing I hate on clergy is an alb that it too short. It make them look like they are wearing a dress. I went to one permanent deacon whose alb was approaching knee level it was so short and offered to find him a better alb in the closet. He said no, that he found longer albs made him trip that he liked a short alb. Had I been his pastor I would not allow him to vest that way and would insist he learn to deal with an ankle length garment.

  14. The way we dress reflects how we feel about ourselves. Often, people dressing like slobs or dressing morally “loose” do not have a very high opinion of themselves. The slob is hiding from society and the “loose” dresser is trying to be noticed. In both cases these people are dressing for a reaction from other people. They focus on human, not divine. They are prideful.

    There are many poor people who find a way to dress neatly and cleanly when they come to Church. God does not ask that we spend all of our money to impress Him with fancy duds. He only asks that we respect ourselves and our fellow Church-goers with dignified clothing that does not cause anyone to look at us instead of at Him. He asks for humility.

    We are meeting our Lord at mass, we should try to look acceptable for HIM, not the people we sit near. We should not hide from Him (technically we can’t). We should want to take an extra 5 minutes to find clean clothes, a decent pair of trousers, proper shoes, a well fitting top that does not offend anyone with excess skin exposure. The mass is not and never has been about us. We come to him, to give worship. If we dress like we don’t care, it’s likely because we don’t care. If we don’t care, then why bother going? Begrudging obedience really doesn’t cut the mustard.

    It is not too hard to buy a proper church “outfit” to have available for Sunday mass. You can dress sloppy or sketchy when you leave the Church, but for 1 hour each week, would it really be so hard to dress appropriately for Him, to care for Him? One outfit. Not really a sacrafice, right?

  15. I enjoyed reading through the comments – I am in agreement with most that so long as poverty isn’t an issue, we should definitely be dressing the best that we can for Mass. For daily Mass, I am guilty of going in workout clothes or scrubs, depending on the day (day off or work). There have been days where I have dealt with significant personal or health issues and wanted to get to daily Mass but dressing up wasn’t in the cards for me.

    My husband isn’t Catholic but he does come from a family and faith where dressing up is very important for church on Sunday. He once asked me, when I had taken him with me to Mass, why people don’t dress up anymore. I unfortunately did not really have a good answer for him on that one.

  16. I think clean, modest,respectable clothing is a good place to start initailly, without dictating too many particulars.

    i do wonder if pride and vanity , and the dreaded judging of others, could become a temptation, a problem,with so much emphasis on clothing? Would the homeless feel too conspicuous? Plus , there is usually a backlash anytime womans dress code is discussed. It is an offshoot of this prevalent idea of being free, to do what ever you want. ( sorry to put a damper on it)

    I agree that shorts, t shirts, flip flops are not appropriate. I remember that in Italy, tourists were given disposable bag like coverups to wear when touring certain churches. I found it refreshing, am sure many were perplexed by it, as that is what they might wear back in North America.

    It makes me wonder if something so inoccuous , like making people aware and more responsible in this little thing , would have the ripple effect of taking the Mass more seriously?

    Our parish here in Ontario, has a blurb in the bulletin reminding parishoners to dress modestly, which i had never seen before. Perhaps the tide is changeing for the better.

  17. Our priest gave a wonderful homily on this topic at Mass a few weeks ago. He began with the observation that our society is all about comfort all the time. This is reflected not only in how we dress but in how we now expect others not to say or do things that make us uncomfortable. Lest anyone be uncomfortable, we’re not allowed to speak about sin, or immorality or bad behavior. And to speak about immodest or improper dress in church also can make the listener “uncomfortable,” especially if they are one of the ones too casually or inappropriately dressed. He also mentioned women often do not appreciate and are often unaware of how their casual and skin revealing dress affects men.

    Father also made the point the video makes, that just as a different standard of dress is required at weddings, or for a formal dinner, we realize some occasions and circumstances call for more formal and modest dress. And just as it would be inappropriate to go to a friend’s wedding right from the beach, it’s inappropriate to come to Mass dressed as you would for the beach or a picnic.

    I thought Father’s homily was spot on, especially in his observation that our society is all about comfort. I thought this could be exactly the reason for the kinds of dress we see at Mass.

    I am grateful for priests addressing this topic, because it actually made me take a harder look at how I was dressing for Mass, and to upgrade my choices away from the too casual to something dressier and more appropriate. I am much more aware of modesty now, even when I shop, passing over choices that may be too tight or too short or too revealing. I appreciate the chance to think about and change my way of dress.

    1. Don’t be so worried about us guys, we actually can control ourselves. (Or at least should be able to.) I’ve seen far to many instances of “slut shaming” down to the minutiae of my wife’s sleeves. If I might offer any advice to the ladies, just remember that you are in the presence of God and not in a cocktail lounge or at the beach. So like us guys, the order of the day is respect for the sanctity of the ceremony.

  18. I had some wise words of advice given to me once by a friend of mine who works for a defense contractor… “If I can put on a jacket and tie to meet a General, I can sure put one on to meed God.”

  19. Thank you for this wonderful article. My children of 6 and 5 have “Church clothes”. I buy my kids an outfit 2 times a year for Church. My son I buy Church shoes as he calls them, which are formal shoes, a smart pair of pants, a button up shirt and a vest. My daughter has a a dress which is usually calf or maxi length a cardigan and smart shoes. My children understand that we have Church clothes for a reason, that we are going to worship God who loves us into existence.
    When we get home from Church we change into our regular clothes. Sometimes for Sunday dinner we change back into them if extended family are visiting.
    We take care of these clothes because they are special. At the end of the season when they have outgrown them, they are in great condition so I sell them on Ebay. This allows me to put the money to their new set of Church clothes.
    I can’t tell you how many people comment on my childrens dress code. They have many admiring comments at how cute they look all dressed up for Mass. It is easier to teach children the Real Presence in the Eucharist if they make this huge effort to dress up for Church, they understand that Sunday is special and dress code, behavior, reverence is easier for them to understand. In the front of my mind is always the words of St Francis, preach the Gospel and if necessary use words!

  20. I don’t want to get into an argument with anyone. I don’t have an “I am equal to God” attitude. I just believe that if I come to Mass (as opposed to the vast majority of Catholics who do not, maybe because they are tired of being judged)I may not be dressed as some of you would like. I may be in jeans because I often go to mass on Saturday evenings when I’ve been doing casual errands just before. I am dressed modestly, in clean clothes, and no t-shirts. Sometimes, during football season, we go to mass on Sunday morning at the church where we park for the games (we are season ticket holders) and we have on team jerseys and jeans. We aren’t trying to be disrespectful, we just live an hour away and cannot go home to change after mass. Normally, I wear slacks that I would wear to work – I don’t wear dresses or skirts typically, but I am respectfully dressed. I’m not going to say that God doesn’t care what I wear, just that I think he cares more that I am there.

    1. I am not in any way wanting to get into an argument with you. I am however wondering why you would wear team t shirts to glorify your fav football team and why not special clothes for your God. Why would you not wear Sunday Best clothes for Church then go to the football game in them? It would be a way to evangelize. If people ask why you are dressed so, you could tell them you went to Mass. I could never go to Mass in jeans, it just feels like I don’t care and I know that is not the case with you or others, it is the attitude of “the World”
      I hope I haven’t hurt your feelings, it is not my intent I just feel quite strongly about this subject matter.

  21. My spouse is Greek Orthodox. Many times, when he has attended Mass with me, he has remarked “Well, the Catholics have a different dress code than we.” At the GO you always see men in ties, suits or sport jackets, and the women beautifully dressed in their “Sunday best.” Summer, Winter, Spring or Fall. So I don’t know about “bowing to cultural standards.” I think that a tone is set and not varied from there. We have allowed the secular culture to dictate dress and it is a shame. As for me, I do not wear anything “new” before I wear it at Mass. For Daily Mass I will wear Jeans because I have difficulty finding good-fitting trousers/slacks. But when climate allows, I try to wear a dress, even if it is just a “duster” style. Being neat and clean [and modest] are appropriate, as well. God Bless, Monsignor!

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