What should I wear?

GOT QUESTIONS: There is no universal dress code for church

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Photo: Getty Images

It’s an age-old question: “What should I wear today?” It’s usually easy to find our uniform or an outfit that meets our needs for the day. Things can get more complicated when the question changes to “What should I wear to church today?”

There is not a universal dress code for the church around the world. A few denominations have requirements for attire—such as plain clothes for Amish and head coverings for certain apostolic groups—but the majority of communities don’t have defined clothing expectations. Even so, church attenders often have an opinion about what they should wear, especially for a weekly worship service, and some feel there is an implicit communal dress code.

We don’t know Jesus’s favorite outfit to teach in or what early church participants wore.

There is no photographic evidence of style in biblical times and Scripture doesn’t explicitly say much about church attire. Jesus spoke to people about their concerns regarding clothing (Matt. 6:25) but never insisted on a correct way to dress for worship.

Today what is considered appropriate church attire varies and is influenced by cultural, geographical and generational factors. I asked people across these demographics how they respond to the question “What should I wear to church?” and received so much feedback. From people who think this is an irrelevant topic of conversation to others who are very passionate, people shared their thoughts and personal stories about church attire:

  • “Come as you are.”
  • “Try to respect the culture of the church you’re attending, but if you can’t dress according to the church’s custom, don’t let that keep you from going.”
  • “Women were expected to wear a dress or skirt when I grew up. Pants were not acceptable. I’m now in a community where that is not an expectation, and I appreciate it.”
  • “Going to church on Sundays is like going before a world leader. Why would you dress casually when spending time with the creator of the universe?”
  • “[I] attended a church where everyone had a much higher income and definitely followed the ‘dress your best’ idea. Unfortunately, it made me feel very out of place and unwelcome because I could never dress as nice as them.”
  • “Dress modestly.”
  • “[Wear] whatever makes you comfortable! Most people come in jeans or whatever they enjoy and feel comfortable in.”
  • “We should present ourselves in our very best before the Lord. It troubles me that pastors are wearing jeans and T-shirts.”
  • “When my children were little, dressing up for church was huge! As a Sunday school teacher, I often had to adjust plans to protect the clothing of students. Kids come in comfortable clothing now, and I really think they (and their parents!) are happier as a result.”

There are a lot of different ways people dress for church and just as many reasons why they choose their outfits. Churchgoers tend to agree that the most important thing to “wear” is not a particular clothing style but the outward expressions of your relationship with Jesus. “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” (Col. 3:12).

When in doubt, consider this advice from a wise friend of mine: “Wear clothes.”

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