Callie Gordon, a college junior, is 20-something; Lillie-Beth Brinkman, assistant features editor, is in her 40s; and social columnist Helen Ford Wallace is 60-plus. At times, you'll also find a guest answer. Callie and Lillie-Beth were both debutantes; Helen has served on local ball committees.
QUESTION: Is there a new dress code for church? Last summer I noticed people wearing tank tops, shorts and flipflops to the 10 a.m. church service, and I wondered if ministers and priests should be saying more about the way people dress.
Young people might not know (and their parents might have a memory lapse) that “Sunday best” used to be the norm for church.
CALLIE'S ANSWER: There is not a new dress code for church; I just think it has become more casual. “Come as you are” tank tops and spaghetti strap tees should not be seen in church, but I can understand wearing nice sandals or even nice shorts.
That said, be smart with what you are wearing; nothing too low cut or too short. Everything can be dressed up with the right accessories and shoes. If you're that offended, I'm sure there is an 8 a.m. service.
LILLIE-BETH'S ANSWER: Like much of society, church has gotten more casual in recent years. However, in the end, church is not about what you wear but about finding God. People shouldn't feel like they have to stay away from church because of an unwritten dress code when they don't have the financial means to dress up or don't like to dress that way.
I still like the idea of dressing up when you go to church out of reverence and respect, but that's a personal opinion. People worship in their own way, and many churches have found that one way to welcome newcomers is to accept them as they are, like God does.
HELEN'S ANSWER: When we go to church it is important to use church manners and that includes the way we dress. A modest look, one that does not call attention to ourselves, is best. I think that shorts and tank tops are a little too casual for any church service, even if everyone else has that look.
Dressing with care for worship always shows respect for the church and for all the other people who attend.
GUEST'S ANSWER: Carla Hinton, Religion Editor: Having visited numerous churches over the last several years, I can tell you that each congregation has its own way of dressing for Sunday services. Sometimes that means more formal attire is expected, and sometimes it means casual attire is expected. I have learned that there is typically not a formal dress code in place, with maybe a handful of denominations that are exceptions to that rule.
In most cases, it's all about expectations. At some churches, women are expected, not required, to wear nice dresses, pantyhose and dressy shoes, while men wear suits and ties and dress shoes. At other churches, the members and clergy may prefer to wear casual clothes to church services. I do think that most churches take a “come-as-you-are” approach when it comes to visitors. In other words, they don't want a person's type of clothing to keep them from attending worship services.
So in answer to your question, I don't think many churches have dress codes like they may have in the past. If it is something that concerns you, I would suggest you ask your minister or priest what his thoughts are on the subject. It could be something that he is also concerned about, and perhaps the two of you, along with other interested members, could develop some sort of suggested dress code or general guidelines that you would like the congregation to consider as they get dressed on Sunday mornings.
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