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20-40-60 Etiquette: What is proper "church attire?"

20-40-60 Etiquette answers why church seems to be so casual these days, with Religion Editor Carla Hinton as guest.

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.

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