20-40-60 Etiquette: Mode of dress seems to follow the times
QUESTION: I want to make a comment of how people dress in public. I think a lot of the casual (too nice a word) dress we now see has a lot of laziness, lack of pride and a good dose of slovenliness involved in it. It is just too easy to roll out of bed and easily slip on athletic wear or to not even remove one’s pajamas. I am appalled every Sunday at what people now wear to church. Even preachers don’t wear jackets and ties anymore. I was taught as a boy that we always wore our best for the Lord on Sunday. What do you think?
CALLIE’S ANSWER: Isn't this more of an opinion as to what “our best” is? This can range from culture to culture and even person to person. If it’s cost, some ripped jeans and tennis shoes can cost more than someone’s suit. My opinion, wear what is comfortable and appropriate. Praise the Lord for when we all get to be together and worship in church.
LILLIE-BETH’S ANSWER: We answered a similar question in this column almost 10 years ago, and I’m going to paraphrase some of my answer related to church attire from back then. But first, in some ways, society has gotten really casual in general, and I occasionally argue with my kids that they should make more of an effort in everyday wear. My older two are in college and sometimes wake up just in time to brush their teeth and get to class and don’t look the way I think a person should look when out in public. On the other hand, I have come to appreciate the fact that they have friends and classmates who accept them as they are and have gotten to know them beyond the way they look at any given moment, that what’s inside matters more. They’re getting their work done, they’re productive, they’re caring for the people in their community, they and their clothes are clean, and they are relatively happy and balanced. Complaining about the way they look occasionally in class makes me feel like I am missing the point, even if I don’t understand it always. They dress up and look presentable for the right occasions.
Church trends have followed the more casual trends, but I think what I wrote in 2011 holds true: “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.”
In the end, I can’t wait for when it’s safe to hug people again at any occasion, however they look — gray or dark roots showing, scraggly haircuts and all. Just as they are.
HELEN’S ANSWER: We are going to be so happy to get back in church that it might not matter what we are wearing. But it is important to look our best when appearing in public, whether it is church, shopping or going to work. People enjoy seeing our best self when we are out and about. Athletic outfits do look darling on some people, but for church wear? We also may be wearing more closed-in shoes for awhile because of germs. So, continue to dress appropriately, and try to present yourself to friends and strangers in the best manner possible.
GUEST’S ANSWER: Jane Jayroe Gamble, guest columnist, former Miss America, former television anchor, author: I might have answered this question differently a month ago. Now, I feel pretty slovenly myself as I “shelter in place.” I believe it does encourage productivity and pride when we get out of our pajamas. These days, that takes some self-discipline.
But I do understand the observations of the person asking the question. It can feel disrespectful to see people not caring how they present themselves at work or at church. I believe that it lessens a person’s effectiveness in some arenas when they don’t care about their appearance. But the workplace has become more casual, and that’s not all bad. As for church, I just want people to come! They're welcome at most churches however they want to dress, and I think that’s a good thing.
I’ll continue to dress to my own standards for the Lord’s Day, and this Easter as I stayed home for the first time in my life — I dressed up in honor of the resurrection and hope of Jesus. That’s just me.
Since 2009, Callie, Lillie-Beth and Helen have written this generational etiquette column. They also include guest responses from a wide range of ages each week. So many years later, Callie is 20-plus; Lillie-Beth is 40-plus and Helen is 60-plus. To ask an etiquette question, email firstname.lastname@example.org.