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Sunday Service Church Clothing - What Happened to 'Sunday Best?'

Updated on March 25, 2015

Remember the times when Sunday service church clothing is more than just a "dress up day?" Women wear dresses and suit dresses, men (and boys) wore jackets and ties or dress shirts, and girls wear dresses often with puffy sleeves. This ensemble of clothing looks pretty as well as conservative enough for the Lord.

But times have changed, and so have church frocks.

Instead of the puffy-sleeved, fairytale princess-like dresses, some little girls wear T-shirts with denim skirts (which is actually pretty close to the old days and has a modern twist). Teenage girls come to church in their fitted shirts, skinny jeans, and flip-flops, not caring if the edifice is historical or not. Some of them come to church wearing shorts, and that baffles some long-time churchgoers, who disapprove of them in the building.

There's a question that burns within those who yearn for more traditional clothing in their missions, parishes, and other types of churches: where is the Sunday best?

What "Sunday Best" Used to Mean

Starting back in the Victorian times, people who believed in God set aside clothes that are fashionable enough to wear for a Sunday service. Women wore dresses, hats, and gloves, while men wore suits. Children virtually wore the same thing - with boys in darling pantsuits and girls in those flouncy dresses with puffy sleeves and zipper backs.


Three kids in their traditional church frocks, circa 1960's
Three kids in their traditional church frocks, circa 1960's | Source

Dressing Down for Church

But as people walk in the naves and sanctuaries of the current churches, some traditionalists see less little girls wearing cute dresses and more teens wearing jeans - and most of them blame it largely on peer pressure and the media. Most of them point out the growing number of youth attending church, particularly teens and college students, and most of them simply do not like the practice of dressing in "stuffy" attire.

Convenience - not taking the time to prepare in clothing for a Sunday Mass - plays a role in the dressing down of churches. People are just too busy to wear fancier clothing to the sanctuary. Some churchgoers who embrace tradition worry that if this trend continues, the practice of dressing in "fancy" clothes on Sundays dies out.

Do Churches Have Dress Codes?

In response to cultural trends in fashion, most churches ranging from the significantly historic to the megachurch-modern allow their worshipers to come dressed as they are as long as it's modest and clean to them. Some others are a bit stricter, warning people not to wear shorts to their sanctuaries.

Some others tell people to strictly wear the clothes people traditionally wear in the old days. For example, some Catholic parishes that offer Tridentine Masses (Masses said almost completely in Latin) remind women to wear dresses instead of pants and wear a veil on their heads called a mantilla. Either way, they expect people to dress modestly for congregational worship, regardless of denomination.

...and Now

Sunday best of now: most children come to church in jeans.
Sunday best of now: most children come to church in jeans. | Source

Is it OK to wear jeans in place of the more traditional dress in church? Are shorts even OK to worship God? It depends on what the church expects you to dress - some allow you to wear whatever you want as long as it is modest and as long as the graphics or wording is appropriate or fostering Christian values. (Besides, it's sinful to judge one another on how bright and happy your shirts are, even if it's modest!)

Others, however, want you to wear what they would like you to wear - dresses instead of pantsuits for women and suits for men. Parents play a role in what to wear for the sanctuary, whether it has a praise band or a pipe organ. They either allow children to dress in whatever clothes they love to wear or they lay out their church clothing, usually the frilly, stuffy ones.

As long as their clothing is suited for praising the Lord in church, anything goes in some churches.

When in doubt, dress in non-denim clothing (dress shirt and slacks for men, dresses for women) to make sure.


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    • profile image

      Taaia 4 years ago

      I also like dressing up on Sunday because I can feel that the spirit of God always near me. Every Sunday my mom show me how to wear my cloth and I know that putting good cloth on me or putting my Sunday best on me makes me feel good and pretty. I know that without this church and the gospel I don't know that my body is a temple of GOD ........!!!!!!!!!!!1 I grateful that I can find the church and know everything, this church is like my parents I love it!!!!!

    • Ericajean profile image

      Ericajean 4 years ago

      This is a very passionate article, Talfonso and I respect your longing for the "old days" and we each have opinions on standard.

      However I have to disagree that dressing up should be of main importance when it concerns church service. I, too, grew up in a time where Sunday Best was taught, preached and practiced. It's okay for some but I am a lady who enjoys being comfortable. Sure I wear dresses, short heels, denim skirts, etc. but only when I feel like it.

      Now, if men and women are dressing in a way that breeds temptation- then maybe modest/Sunday Best should be worn by them until they learn decent dressing.

      How we dress is not nearly as important as who we serve.


    • prektjr.dc profile image

      Debbie Carey 5 years ago from Riverton, KS, USA

      I am humbled that you have chosen to share my hub on etiquette in church. Thank you ....God bless! I agree we have become complacent on our "dress etiquette!" Thanks for sharing!

    • profile image

      K chanae 6 years ago

      I remember those dresses I had like a 100 of them.I guess times have change.

    • profile image

      Katrina White 6 years ago

      i'm 12yrs old and my mother still dresses me in Sunday best. Collared dress with puffed sleeves, white ribbed tights and flat patient maryjane shoes with thin straps and silver buckles. I also wear high pigtails with ribbons on Sunday. Most girls wear casual cloths. And some girl have commented that I dress like a 7 yrs old. But I know that it's a respectful way to dress in Gods house.

    • FriendofTruth profile image

      FriendofTruth 7 years ago from Michigan

      Personally I enjoy dressing nice and having my children dress the same way. In fact my boys especially enjoy putting on their little suits and ties. I don't think there's anything wrong with wanting to 'dress your best' for church. I think it is wrong when it becomes a fashion show and people are just coming to church to show off their new outfit. I also believe in modesty for example: not wearing revealing clothing, tight pants/jeans/skirts, short skirts, cleavage showing, etc. I like my pastor's view on being modest, he says to look in the mirror after you've gotten dressed, and if you see anything that would be attracting the 'wrong' kind of attention to certain body parts, than perhaps you're being immodest.

      God bless!

    • JY3502 profile image

      John Young 7 years ago from Florence, South Carolina

      I think people are just too lazy to go to all that trouble these days. Myself included I'm ashamed to say. I try to find a job where I don't have to dress up also. It's more comfortable to wear casual clothes. Besides, the important thing is just to go to church. I doubt if the apostles or Jesus had a suit and tie. LOL