Choosing an outfit everyday is the dilemma many people face daily. The choosing of the outfit is based on the occasion the individual is going to. A person going to weddings, formals, proms, a job interview, funerals, etc. is likely to wear formal clothes such as suits and dresses. A person going out with friends, school, and parties might dress casual. What about church? There was time when everyone wore finer clothes on Sundays, that is where the term “Sunday’s best.” Men wore suits and women wore a dress and a headdress, either a hat or a veil. This all changed as society and time changed. Around the 1960s-1970s, it was common to see churchgoers wearing tank-tops, t-shirts, shorts etc. clothes that evokes lust than prayer. Many people dress as if they were going to the beach or even night clubbing. Shorts and clothes that reveal shoulders and backs, even stomachs, has been worn in church during the celebration of the Liturgy. They dress more for a party than meeting with the Lord. Formal clothes became a staple of the past, only found in the confines of traditional churches and formal occasions. Our clothes are as important as our being, our clothes express our inward being.
Church has become casual to many people, even to the point that church is regarded not that special of an event to wear formal clothes. By wearing formal clothes we express the importance of the event we are going to partake of. Many ask if there is any dress code in churches. The Church, in the Scripture and her tradition, gives us a “dress code” that does not only pertains to church, but also to daily life. St. Paul tells us, “also that women should adorn themselves modestly and sensibly in seemly apparel, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly attire but by good deeds, as befits women who profess religion” (1 Timothy 2:9-10). The latest fashion trend is based on how much we can show our bodies, there is no more sense of covering our bodies. This has been a consequence of society being highly sexualized. Modesty has become for “old, boring people.” This virtue has been disregarded and shunned by many, preferring revealing clothes. It is a clear irony to do when we pray the Lord’s Prayer. Every Sunday we recite “Et ne nos inducas in tentationem”, and lead us not into temptation (Matthew 6:13). Yet many of us dress in a way that goes against this prayer. Our minds are drawn away from prayer to thoughts that, if shown to everyone, might be shameful. Christ warns us, “‘Woe to the world for temptations to sin! For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the man by whom the temptation comes!’” (Matthew 18:7). The Church teaches, “Purity requires modesty, an integral part of temperance. Modesty protects the intimate center of the person. It means refusing to unveil what should remain hidden. It is ordered to chastity to whose sensitivity it bears witness. It guides how one looks at others and behaves toward them in conformity with the dignity of persons and their solidarity. Modesty protects the mystery of persons and their love. It encourages patience and moderation in loving relationships; it requires that the conditions for the definitive giving and commitment of man and woman to one another be fulfilled. Modesty is decency. It inspires one's choice of clothing. It keeps silence or reserve where there is evident risk of unhealthy curiosity. It is discreet” (Catechism of the Catholic Church 2521-2522). We are to dress that “in such a way that you will not cause another believer to stumble and fall.” (Romans 14:13). We are living after the fall of man, we have known our nakedness and ashamed of it (Genesis 3:10), “And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins, and clothed them” (Genesis 3:21). Therefore, we must wear clothes that cover ourselves. Not clothes that reveals our bodies and causes us “to stumble and fall.” Christ reminds us, in the Parable of the Wedding Feast, “‘But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment; and he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. 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.’ For many are called, but few are chosen’” (Matthew 22:11-14). The parable pertains to the Church and the wedding feast refers to the Liturgy. Here, both the spiritual and physical are both intertwined. The “wedding garment” refers to the soul clothed in grace. And the clothes we wear expresses our inward state of being.
The importance we give to our clothes shows the importance of the event we are going to. Since the fall of man, we are conscious of our sexuality, shame and covering up our body has been the consequence (Genesis 2:25, 3:7, 3:10-11). Scripture also warns of the temptation of the flesh that is brought by feminine shamelessness (Proverbs 2:16, 5:3, 7:5-27). The New Testament speaks of modesty both in the physical and spiritual: in looks, words, and behavior (Matthew 5:28; Ephesians 5:3-20; 2 Peter 2:14). Churches are insistent in advising dress codes for “liturgical ministers”, but fail to address the problem that is within the congregation.
Not acceptable for men:
Short pants, jogging pants, jeans, caps, sports jerseys, sports logo, t-shirts, beach wear, working outfits, tight clothing, and extreme piercings that are distracting.
Not acceptable for women:
Any dress or skirt that does not completely cover the knee when sitting or standing, (Slacks are not acceptable in Traditional Churches), shorts, skimpy shorts, tank tops, spaghetti-strap tops, tops with sleeves that do not reach the elbow, tops that are more than two fingers width from the pit of the throat, plunging necklines, beach wear, flashy clothing and hot colors that are distracting and that may be perceived as enticing, extreme piercings that are distracting, sleeveless, tight or low-cut clothing or dresses with long cuts or slits, tight clothing, and any and all see-through clothing.
Even the Vatican and the major basilicas of Rome have a strict dress code, where those who do not comply to this is not admitted. It forbids: hats for lay men inside the basilica, shorts/skirts above the knees, sleeveless shirts, shirts exposing the navel, shirts for women that expose cleavage, shirts which contain profanity, excessive jewelry, the use of mobile phones is also prohibited, as is smoking.