Despite the fact that I lay out what I am going to wear each evening before bed, I cannot tell you how many outfits I go through on many mornings trying to decide what to wear. Sometimes I wake up, put on my chosen outfit and am ready to go! Other mornings it is not so easy. It might be warmer or colder than I anticipated prompting a new outfit better suited for the day’s temperature. Or it could be I decide I don’t want to squash my feet into heels today, and my flats just don’t go well with that particular skirt. Or I’m feeling tired and simply want something more comfortable. Sometimes there isn’t really a reason at all! I just don’t feel like wearing what I had originally intended. This results in the trying on of numerous tops, skirts, pants, dresses, and shoes in a mad-dash attempt to find the perfect outfit for the day (which consequently results in numerous tops, skirts, pants, dresses and shoes being tossed on the closet floor).
I know I am not alone in this dilemma! Many people (especially girls) know exactly what I am talking about. Finding the perfect outfit for any event, or even just an ordinary work day, can be quite the challenge. But why? Most anything in my closet would have been fine to wear. I have enough clothing to choose from. I am only going to work in an office where the dress requirement is business casual and more casual than business). Many times once I come home I end up changing into something more comfortable anyway. So what is the big deal? Who cares what I wear? Who am I dressing for?
When I am spending the day with my husband the answer is obvious. I like to look nice for him. I know he doesn’t really care but I also know that if I take a little extra time or wear his favorite dress he notices and appreciates it. It’s not that I feel I have to dress nicely for him. But I love and respect him and one of the ways I show that is by dressing nicely and respectfully. When I go to work I dress mostly for me. I want to look professional for the people I work with and for people coming into the office. But mainly, I want to dress nice because I feel better when I feel that I look nice. I feel more confident. It just feels right. What we wear can affect the way we feel and behave.
When I performed and taught theatre, costumes and makeup were always such a fun part of the rehearsal process. It was so exciting to get your costume and be able to wear it during rehearsal. Not only was it fun to try on new costumes though, it helps you get into character. You can dance around the stage as much as you want in shorts and a tank top but when you put on that costume, it takes a whole new level. If affects your performance. You might move differently based on what you are wearing. And it helps match your personality to that of your character. Now is it really the costume? No. There are no magical costumes that suddenly make you a better actor or dancer. But sometimes what you wear can help bring out something already inside of you.
Sometimes we dress up for other people. Sometimes we dress just to be comfortable. And sometimes we dress a certain way to play a certain part (like wearing a nice pair of dress pants with a nice blouse and heels to make you feel more professional for the work place rather than say a t-shirt and shorts with flip flops more suited for the beach).
How do we dress for God? Each Sunday we go to worship in God’s house. How do we dress? Some people approach church as a “come as you are” situation. In fact many churches advertise the fact that you don’t need to dress up, just come as you are to worship the Lord. And of course that is the most important thing. Why worry about what we wear?
In 1 Samuel 16:7 “ But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”
Even Jesus tells us, “And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you?” Matthew 6:28-30.
In looking at these two passages many people decide that this means it does not matter what you wear to church. And while your outfit is certainly less important than worship, I think it does matter. Not because our outward appearance is important. And as Jesus tells us, we shouldn’t be worrying about what we wear as our main concern. But I do think we should pay attention to how we dress for God’s house.
If you were having lunch with the President or the Queen you would of course dress up. Going on a date…you dress up. Getting married? Going to a wedding? You dress up! We dress up for all of these momentous occasions in our lives with ordinary people. When we go to church we are going to the house of the Lord! Consider the Mass. We listen to the word of God. We praise and worship Him. We lift up our hearts in song, in chant, in spoken prayer. And then we are in the physical presence of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. This is not just a Sunday obligation…this is a time of worship that demands, and more importantly deserves, reverence. We are in the presence of the Lord.
“The heavens also dropped rain at the presence of God;
Sinai itself quaked at the presence of God, the God of Israel” – Psalm 68:8
If the presence of our God is so mighty and wondrous to make rain fall and mountains move, how can we approach the house of God without giving it a second thought? We are going to the house of the King of Kings! What is the appropriate clothing to worship in the house of God?
I believe that question will be different to each person but it should center around dressing in what you feel is the best you can wear on a Sunday while still feeling comfortable enough to focus on the Mass instead of what you are wearing. I love dresses and so it is fitting for me to wear a dress to Mass. For me, wearing a nice dress or skirt and blouse symbolizes that this is not just any old place we are visiting. This is a momentous occasion and I want to mark it as such! I know I am made in God’s image and do not necessarily need to dress up, but I want to. It reminds me of the importance of Mass, it makes me act in a more reverent manner. And to be honest, I feel that if I spend so much time getting ready for work or a night out, I can certainly put the effort into doing the same for church!
But for some people, dressing up does not hold the same meaning. I have a friend who simply hates dresses. She feels awkward and uncomfortable in any dress or skirt and will avoid them at all costs. For her to wear a dress to church would likely only make her uncomfortable, fidgety, and more worried about her appearance as she would be completely out of her norm. Instead, she opts to wear nice pants and a nice top. The same goes for many people. Other people may not have the same selection of clothing that you do. And some people may want to dress in a more casual outfit not out of lack of respect but as a way to humbly approach God.
There is no right or wrong way to dress for church so long as we remember where it is we are going and why and dress appropriately for the occasion, whatever that may mean to us.