I remember many moons ago in Las Vegas – around 2003 – getting my glad rags on and heading out for the evening to see a show.
What struck me as odd, however, was the sea of people around me that seemed to have made no effort.
There were men in shorts and baseball caps, women in pool-stained t-shirts with the strings of their bikini’s on show, and Gav and I sat among them in a suit and a little black dress.
What we thought was an occasion to dress up and feel glamorous, turned out not to be.
As we left the show and headed for the casino, we watched many of our fellow audience members head back out to the pool, or attack the all-you-can-eat buffet and continue with their evening.
This made me feel quite sad yet angry at the same time, that people had such disrespect for an occasion, or maybe I was being a little old-fashioned at the tender age of 24 – who knows?
Fast forward to our family caravan holidays. I like nothing more (and still to this day) than showering off at the beach or the pool and getting changed and made up to go back out. The kids are encouraged to do the same, and even Gav will have a change of shirt…! Only to be faced at the club house with people sat at the bar with a towel round them.
My thoughts also turn to when we spent two blissful weeks in the Maldives. As you may know, this is a Muslim country, so they are not tolerant of women being topless, or entering anywhere you can eat in a state of undress (bikini’s or swimming costumes), so you’re required to cover up. This of course was respected by Gav and I and we covered up appropriately when we entered the buffet – Gav popping on a t-shirt and I put a sun dress on over my swimming stuff. But, of course, there were people who would “forget”, and get irritated with the staff who were trying to communicate the best they could about how disrespectful it was.
Another occasion that springs to mind is Church. I touched upon how, as a child, it was a very different occasion which included wearing your “Sunday best”.
And as I look round the church I attend on a Sunday (mostly), I often observe what people wear. There are some in bright colourful outfits and you can see that Sunday Mass is deemed worthy an occasion to go all out for. There are others who are dressed for a night out, again respectful but tight dresses and high heels. There are others (and I have been guilty of this) who will wear jeans, trainers, and a t-shirt.
Now I totally respect ALL parties and what they choose to wear, but sometimes we have to respect that this is a place of God, that there many people in the Parish who would struggle to see past your baseball cap, and would also consider this to be a mark of disrespect (like wearing a hat indoors is for many places). But for women, traditionally in the Catholic faith, covering your hair in church (your crown and place of beauty and vanity) was a requirement. Think Nuns in their full get-up – they always have their hair covered by their habit.
What would you think if you see your priest turn up to mass in t-shirt and jeans? Would that be a mark of disrespect against the faith? Does it make his Mass any less important because of what he is wearing? No. But it doesn’t seem quite right.
And whilst there are no “rules” for dress any more at church, we all have different views on what we should wear.
A recent example for me was the hot weather we had.
That morning I had a summer dress and flip flops on. But when I got ready for Church, I slipped a pair of legging on underneath the dress and a pair of ankle boots. For me, I don’t think that a lot of leg should be shown in a church (weddings and christenings included I am afraid…!).
However, I do teach children’s liturgy, and, where possible I like to make sure that the kids are on their feet and we are being as physically interactive as possible, so I wear trainers so that I can nimble as possible. I also walk to church with my children in tow so we have practical footwear on. But that doesn’t stop me from glancing down at my feet during the offertory and seeing my bright pink trainers next to someones more conservative footwear, and thinking that I really SHOULD make the effort.
If you look around any gym, however you tend to see a trend of what people wear.
I think it is quite obvious that you need to wear trainers (although I have witnesses someone on the treadmill in wedges!). Women tend to wear skin-tight leggings and most wear sleeveless tops. But these are for practicality.
I LOVE shopping for gym stuff and will always go for the brightest things I can find, but would I wear these in church? Even if I was going to the gym straight after? I’m not sure.
I welcome your thoughts on this subject. Do you “dress” for church, or turn up as you are?