I can hold my tongue no longer. Not that I ever could. But about this particular topic I've really hit the end of my rope. WHAT HAS HAPPENED TO SUNDAY DRESS??
Below are some very accurate examples of four outfits I saw today at church. Yes, this very day. The only differences being that most of the men had not worn jackets. It's summer after all. But I found dead-on pictures of the denim jumper, jean jacket, flip flops, and t-shirts. The Hollister t-shirt was a different color but the striped hoodie is identical. Now, there were also very appropriately dressed women. One had on a great black pencil skirt/wrap top combo that I would have loved in my own closet. But the fact that the outfits below were not merely represented but almost a majority was a travesty.
This isn't a trend isolated to my town. The demise of Sunday Best has been surfing in on the wave of casualization that began sweeping across America with the dot com boom. "Too cool for old school" 20 and 30 year olds, with their start-up cash, attended meetings in shorts and t-shirts. They were doing business a new way and certainly adopted a new uniform for it. But when that bubble burst, why didn't appropriate style return? I'm part of the dot com generation but never went in for the hyper-casual philosophy.
Once again, I've found a topic I could write a book about but I've done my best to edit myself to a few key points.
- Casual clothing is disrespectful. No, church is not a fashion show. But let's be honest, the only people who drag out that mantra are the ones trying to excuse their own clothing choices!! Julie Beck, one of the leaders of the women's organization in the LDS church, gave a fantastic talk in 2007 about what women who really understand the religion do. One small part of that talk is so very applicable here. "I have visited sacrament meetings in some of the poorest places on the earth where mothers have dressed with great care in their Sunday best despite walking for miles on dusty streets and using worn-out public transportation. They bring daughters in clean and ironed dresses with hair brushed to perfection; their sons wear white shirts and ties and have missionary haircuts. These mothers know they are going to sacrament meeting, where covenants are renewed. ...These mothers have influence and power." (Click here for her entire talk.)
- There really are appropriate and inappropriate outfit options for nearly every occasion. Several years ago, while I was still in the singles ward and living in Phoenix a letter was read from the pulpit. All LDS people know that if a letter is read in church, the same letter would have been read that Sunday to at least the entire stake, if not region. So again, not an isolated incident. The dress code had apparently hit rock bottom and needed to be dealt with. I remember two things from that Sunday. First, that I wanted to stand up and cheer that it was finally being discussed, and second, the highlights of the letter. A) Denim is not appropriate. In any form. B) Casual, printed and/or tight-fitting t-shirts are not appropriate. C) Rubber flip flops are not appropriate. I would hasten to add that sweatshirts are also not appropriate. Another point of that letter was that if anyone didn't have or could not afford appropriate Sunday clothing to please talk to their leaders so that help could be provided. It was and is THAT important to show our church meetings the proper level of respect.
- Men have it easier because they have a church "uniform." A man's suit makes dressing for church very easy. He grabs the suit, a button down shirt, tie and appropriate shoes. The only variations tend to be no jacket in the summer months, shirt sleeve length, and the addition of a sweater in the winter months. Women would find dressing properly for church much easier if they had their own version of a uniform, aka, the capsule wardrobe. Capsule wardrobes for various occasions will be discussed in greater detail in upcoming posts, but for now, create your own church "uniform" by putting together outfits with your very best skirts and dresses. If it helps, hang them together in your closet. Don't worry about how many you have. Most men only have 2 suits they wear regularly and a few other trousers. More important than wearing something new every week is wearing something respectful.
Sunday best used to have meaning. It was clear to everyone. There was clothing reserved for Sunday so that it would always look it's best. And it wasn't just a version of the same clothing worn throughout the week. Its only a couple hours out of the week, but some of the most important. I have to agree with Ms. Dolly, "Dressed like a dream your spirits seem to turn about. That Sunday shine is a certain sign that you feel as fine as you look!"