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#1 of 104 Old 06-19-2009, 10:48 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Does your religion or particular church/spiritual group have a clear definition of appropriate clothing for both men and women attending services or functions? After reading Tradd's recent post about wedding attire this got me thinking about dressing for religious services in general.

I've found that in my own parish, which is considered to be a fairly conservative parish in my area, the majority of the attendees are dressed either immodestly or very casually for services. I have two trains of thought on this, which conflict. The first is that people should be welcomed no matter how they dress (which they are at this point) and that the point is to be worshipping God not focusing on what is being worn. But then my own personal approach is to dress for church very modestly, wearing at the least a dress with short sleeves that is also at least knee length. What I see are attendees in gym clothes, shorts so short that they look like underwear (popular with teen girls), hair that hasn't been combed and is pulled in a messy ponytail, men wearing rumpled, torn jeans and flip flops, etc.

I think the messy, casual clothing isn't as big a deal as the clothing (generally worn by women) that exposes more than it covers. But as I've grown more entrenched in my faith (Roman Catholicism) my views on clothing that I wear all the time, not just at church, have changed quite a bit. I am a much more modest dresser than I used to be. And my own personal spiritual journey is probably affecting my opinion of what is appropriate and what is not for everyone, though I am not sure that is fair.

I feel both judgmental and frustrated at the same time. I don't want to be a person who makes judgments about my fellow congregants based on what they are wearing because I have no idea what their personal relationship with God is, and they could be a much more devout and conscientious practitioner than I am. The clothing doesn't necessarily define the status of a person's spiritual life. But I find it disheartening that so many people will take far more time to get ready to go out and meet their friends than they will to go meet God.

I know this is a grey area in that the argument in the RC church about head covering for women, for instance, is that it is no longer culturally relevant so it no longer needs to be adhered to in church services. I suppose the argument could be made that this extends to all sorts of clothing that is no longer culturally relevant. We have celebrities who are lauded for showing up in clothing held together by safety pins and stick on adhesive fabric scantily covering small portions of breasts, for instance. A trip to the mall shows clearly that modest clothing is no longer culturally relevant in the USA. In fact, FINDING modest, stylish clothing is a pain the neck!

Anyone else have thoughts on this? What is this like at your own church/synagogue/house of worship?

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#2 of 104 Old 06-20-2009, 03:23 AM
 
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I do think about this. I believe that what one wears to worship is between them and God, so I try not to judge. That being said, it really does bother me when people dress rather immodestly. Usually it's women, but if it's low cut, tight, or really short you're probably distracting some others from focussing on God. And, IMO, dressing in a way to draw attention to yourself rather than God when you're going to a worship services expressly to focus on God is a problem.

For me, personally, I try to dress in a way that gets me in the right frame of mind for worship and in a way that I feel is modest. So I do choose to dress up a bit, it helps me set apart the day as "special" that way. I do dress modestly in general, but I'm extra cautious to not wear something distracting to worship.

We (as in my dh and I) also set standards we are teaching our boys. Like on Sundays they wear slacks and shirts with a collar (khakis and polos are fine) and we don't let them wear shorts. We feel that setting standards in our family will help guide their standards later in life in what they choose to wear to worship. We have told my 4yo, when he asks, that when he's old enough to decide for himself whether or not to accept Christ's teachings and become a Christian, he can decide what is appropriate attire. Until then, our family, our rules.

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#3 of 104 Old 06-20-2009, 09:41 AM
 
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My church (Orthodox) has an interesting mix. It's traditional for women to have their heads covered. If you ever see pictures of women in church in Russia, you'll see they have their heads covered. My parish has a mix of immigrants from Russia/Eastern Europe/Greece/Ethiopia. Some of the immigrant women cover their heads, as this is what they grew up with/were taught by their mothers and grandmothers, and others don't. I sometimes cover my head (I often wear a hat) and some other American converts/American-born Orthodox do, too.

We do get some folks in jeans for regular services, but as long as they're clean/no holes/no belly showing, no one says anything about it. I wear skirts more often than not, ankle length or just a bit shorter. Occasionally, you'll get a young girl who is clueless, but after seeing how the rest of the folks are dressed, she usually puts on something different, more modest, after several weeks.

The funniest thing to me is to see a young woman with a headcovering on, because that's how she was taught you go to church by a grandmother, but she's also wearing something tight and/or short. The two just don't go together!

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#4 of 104 Old 06-20-2009, 10:34 AM
 
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I mentioned this in the other thread--our current church doesn't have a dress code, although they provide those shawls so ladies don't pull a Britney Spears thing by accident. I never have figured out why the ladies in the choir don't just wear slacks or long skirts, since anything less than calf length will expose them when they sit down up on stage.

In our church we see all sorts, from the fancy fancy suits to raggedy t-shirts, punk, ethnic clothing, denim jumpers, alligator shoes died to match men's suits, etc. On the days our city has a big football game on, the whole church is outfitted in the team colors and jersey's.

I remember something funny too. Well, ironic. I was sitting in back with my noisy baby, when a woman came rushing up to the ushers urgently whispering she needed a shawl because a young girl who was visiting was in the front row, in a short skirt, with legs crossed---flashing the preacher. What was odd was that the woman who was complaining and concerned about modesty was in an absolutely skin-tight dress, basically painted on, with a radically low neckline that showed everything. And *she* also had a seat in front of the pastor.
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#5 of 104 Old 06-20-2009, 11:14 AM
 
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I think there are a few things going on here.

One is the idea, already mentioned, that we should welcome people as they come. After all, some people don't have options in what to wear, or easy access to a place to clean up. In other cases, people are just wearing what popular culture tells them is appropriate, and they don't have enough experience or maturity to think critically about that yet.

But it is true that people will put much more effort into getting dressed to go out to a bar or the movies than they do to church. And while I think people should feel comfortable in church, there is something to be said for putting in some effort when you go to God's house. Sure, God sees you in the buff every morning in the shower, but it's a matter of your own attitude. What things in life you put effort into says something about where your priorities really lie.

While it is true that what is modest varies significantly by culture, I don't think that is really what has been going on in a lot of cases with clothing standards in the West. When young women go out in skimpy clothes, there is really no question that those things were designed to be deliberatly sexy - that is to suggest a certian sexual availability or to deliberatly highlight a persons sexuality. Of course we are all sexual, but when and where is it appropriate to make that especially the focus? I don't think young women are being asked that question much.

On the other hand, in many cases, I'm not sure that the girls are really consciously aware of that or what it might mean. They see it in terms of being in style, or what everyone else wears, or just what they like because they see it in a million magazines and are conditioned that way.

But it doesn't take much to make people see that there is in fact more to it than that - it is close to the surface even if they aren't directly conscious of it. But we don't see that in popular culture. In a religious context, I guess it is up to the teaching of the churches.

I think in many cases they prefer, rather than directly address, say, short skirts, they prefer to talk about the appropriate use of the body, about the role of sexuality, and hop people will make the connection themselves. But perhaps there needs to be a bit more direct talking about the clothing choices people make. I have noticed that young women make some pretty horrendous choices - they don't seem to be quite at home in their skins yet.

It can be very easy to seem legalistic about this though, which turns people off, so I think it needs to be handled carefully.

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#6 of 104 Old 06-20-2009, 11:51 AM
 
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At my church they have the dress code posted outside every entrance door. And very few exceptions are ever made. Women must wear skirts that go below the knees with no slits. See thru fabrics or tight, stretchy materials are not allowed. The neckline on a "blouse" may be no more than two fingers width below the collarbone and all blouses must have real sleeves, no flutter sleeves. Men and boys are expected to wear long pants, no shorts and no tank tops. All the women and girls are to cover their heads when in the chapel. And if a woman shows up not in accordance with the posted dress code, the Sisters will pull them out of the chapel and offer them an appropriate skirt or a shawl. Thats my little Traditional Catholic chapel!

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#7 of 104 Old 06-20-2009, 02:04 PM
 
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i was i little surprised by the stern looks from a mother sitting in front of us i got recently when dd started crying so i discreetly covered us completely in the fabric tail of her sling and quietly nursed in the back row where we were sitting. no skin ever saw the light of day. her preteen daughter was dressed very inappropriately and had a "playboy" logo purse!

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#8 of 104 Old 06-20-2009, 02:09 PM
 
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Thats always annoying. My chapel is pretty bfing friendly, but every now and then the religious will ask a mama to cover up or go upstairs.

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#9 of 104 Old 06-20-2009, 02:36 PM
 
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nak

im torn on this. i think modesty and respecting the body as a creation of god are important.


but then since having dd, im surprised what i care less about. sometimes i think its great if dd and i both have a top and bottom on, a pair of shoes and we make it on time for a weekday service. thankfully for sunday services dh is able to go w/ us so he can help and we are much more presentable.

i guess it doesn't help to justify the 20 somethings who show up wearing skin tight tops w/o bras (is that really ever nice to look at? ever???)



i remember at my childhood parish, the priest would take a few minutes at the beginning of summer to talk about church clothes. his favourite thing to do was to read the dress code for a local golf club and point out that a golf club required more respect than most people will dress for when going to church lol. probably had a few people grumbling at him but at least he never pointed fingers.

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#10 of 104 Old 06-20-2009, 02:50 PM
 
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I think that the message in our church is to come dressed the best that you personally can to show respect and to respect the modesty standards of the church. For most people, that consists of dresses to the knee for young women and adult women that have sleeves and men in dress pants and shirts or suits (children are allowed much more leeway in regards to sleeveless dresses and shorter dresses and shorts, etc.). However, if what you can afford is jeans and a T-Shirt, than that is the best you can personally dress and it's okay. We also often have visitors who don't know what the usual dress is who come in whatever, sometimes street wear and sometimes short or sleeveless dresses for females, and nothing is ever said. Usually, as someone's time as a member lengthens they begin to conform more to the majority dress as they become more convicted of the spiritual reasons for modesty standards.

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#11 of 104 Old 06-20-2009, 02:52 PM
 
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Originally Posted by Bluegoat View Post
One is the idea, already mentioned, that we should welcome people as they come.

....

But it is true that people will put much more effort into getting dressed to go out to a bar or the movies than they do to church.

....

It can be very easy to seem legalistic about this though, which turns people off, so I think it needs to be handled carefully.
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#12 of 104 Old 06-20-2009, 03:34 PM
 
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I did just remember one rule--it's a summer rule that's given just before the church picnics. "Please do not come to church wearing your swim suit, even if it's covered with a t-shirt. Please do not wear bikinis as this is an all-age church picnic and not a Beach Beauty Contest".
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#13 of 104 Old 06-21-2009, 02:30 AM
 
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Bluegoat - well said. I definitely think that the dress of those who aren't "Christians" yet or who aren't regular members at my church is less of an issue to me then those who I know are Christians and attend regularly. It's one thing for random woman off of the street because she saw a sign and was curious to come to worship in a skimpy outfit versus someone who is a regular attendee and a Christian, IMO. And I totally agree about being legalistic. Which is why even though I have modesty standards for myself and my children, it's something I try to not bind on others or even bring up to them unless it's grossly innapropriate attire (i.e. genitals showing or something of the like).

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#14 of 104 Old 06-21-2009, 02:39 AM
 
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I have high standards for myself, DH and DD when it comes to going to Church. For others, it is what is appropriate for them.

The one and only time I extended my standards on to others was for my wedding rehearsal. I told DH to tell his friends and family that proper dress (ie: polos and khaki) was required. I didn't care if jean shorts and t-shirts were "appropriate" for service at their church, if they were going to be in my Church, there would be respect shown in the way they dressed.

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#15 of 104 Old 06-21-2009, 03:35 AM
 
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Originally Posted by Bluegoat View Post
I think there are a few things going on here.

One is the idea, already mentioned, that we should welcome people as they come. After all, some people don't have options in what to wear, or easy access to a place to clean up. In other cases, people are just wearing what popular culture tells them is appropriate, and they don't have enough experience or maturity to think critically about that yet.

But it is true that people will put much more effort into getting dressed to go out to a bar or the movies than they do to church. And while I think people should feel comfortable in church, there is something to be said for putting in some effort when you go to God's house.
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While it is true that what is modest varies significantly by culture, I don't think that is really what has been going on in a lot of cases with clothing standards in the West. When young women go out in skimpy clothes, there is really no question that those things were designed to be deliberatly sexy - that is to suggest a certian sexual availability or to deliberatly highlight a persons sexuality. Of course we are all sexual, but when and where is it appropriate to make that especially the focus? I don't think young women are being asked that question much.

On the other hand, in many cases, I'm not sure that the girls are really consciously aware of that or what it might mean. They see it in terms of being in style, or what everyone else wears, or just what they like because they see it in a million magazines and are conditioned that way.
Bluegoat makes some very good points.
My church takes modesty in services very seriously, and insists on people dressing appropriately. That is especially true for places like monasteries, which usually have to include detailed instructions on their literature and websites, to avoid people showing up in shorts and tank tops. I think most visitors do not really see the point. One problem is that it is women's clothing which is more likely to be immodest, just because fashion directs things that way; so instructions about dress may be perceived as being directed only at women, and that men are not required to be modest.

I see a lot of young women, even devout women, showing up at church in skintight clothing which shows a lot of skin. They have obviously taken a lot of trouble to dress up nicely for church. The thing is, they do not seem to see a distinction between "dressing up pretty" and "dressing modestly." The same clothing they would wear to go out dancing is put on to go to church, because it is their nicest or most expensive dress, and church is a special occasion. I do not think they are being deliberately immodest; their intentions are good. The concept of modesty has to be introduced and made real to them, before dress requirements will make any sense at all.
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#16 of 104 Old 06-21-2009, 09:59 AM
 
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I see a lot of young women, even devout women, showing up at church in skintight clothing which shows a lot of skin. They have obviously taken a lot of trouble to dress up nicely for church. The thing is, they do not seem to see a distinction between "dressing up pretty" and "dressing modestly." The same clothing they would wear to go out dancing is put on to go to church, because it is their nicest or most expensive dress, and church is a special occasion. I do not think they are being deliberately immodest; their intentions are good. The concept of modesty has to be introduced and made real to them, before dress requirements will make any sense at all.
Yes, I think this is very much the case. I've noticed in in the workplace to some extent to - young women think dressing up means wearing what they might to a club, not professional attire. My FIL had a young woman come to work in one of those napkin shirts once - I guess they had one of the older ladies talk to her discretely, but she was a bit offended.

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#17 of 104 Old 06-21-2009, 08:40 PM
 
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more importantly than what you wear is that you are bringing your best. if you only have jeans wear your best pair. I am Orthodox and while is it custom to dress modestly and wear your best a lot of people don't get it. our parish does not turn any one away, and there are some people who really come looking bad. short shorts, tissue thin baby tees. guests of course are granted a lot of grace. we are on a college campus, across the street from an multi denominational seminary so we get a lot of classes through our doors. usually they come in jeans or shorts and a T-shirt. honestly it bothers me far more that they duck out early than what they are wearing. but that is another discussion all together.... and things just aren't handled publically so who knows, there may be discussion privately. it is considered a growth issue and everyone is just in their place along a path to growth. i know my dds godmother addressed it with her and took her shopping for some more modest dresses (she had outgrown all her dresses, i had no money and finding pretty, modest dresses for a pluse sized 12 year old is a challenege. on the other hand I am a single mother of three and fighting over clothes on a Sunday morning is not likely to get anyone to church.) So modest dress is expected. bringing your best is expected (although I think some parishes can get really judgmental about this because your best might not be someone else blah bloah blah), but at the same time no one gets turned away at our parish. we are pretty laid back. I feel comfortable wearing nice slacks and even occaisionally jeans depending on the service, at my parish but if I were visiting another parish I would be sure to have my best dress on and a head copver (few people cover at my parish).

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#18 of 104 Old 06-21-2009, 09:26 PM
 
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I see a lot of young women, even devout women, showing up at church in skintight clothing which shows a lot of skin. They have obviously taken a lot of trouble to dress up nicely for church. The thing is, they do not seem to see a distinction between "dressing up pretty" and "dressing modestly." The same clothing they would wear to go out dancing is put on to go to church, because it is their nicest or most expensive dress, and church is a special occasion. I do not think they are being deliberately immodest; their intentions are good. The concept of modesty has to be introduced and made real to them, before dress requirements will make any sense at all.
I do think that it really does come a lot down to attitude. WHY is one wearing what they are? Really, that should effect how we dress in everyday life. And it does make sense that "dressing up" for one might include something immodest if they don't know better. It is a learned thing in all aspects of life. Personally, I wouldn't wear anything less modest in every day life then I'd wear in Church, more casual, but not less modest.

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#19 of 104 Old 06-21-2009, 09:32 PM
 
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The church dh belongs to has a actual paper up on the wall requesting that all christian's dress in an appropriate manner. Men must be in pants or like clothing and woman must wear a dress or skirt knee length or longer.

This note was put up after a woman came to a singing wearing pants and got up to sing.

 
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#20 of 104 Old 06-21-2009, 11:15 PM
 
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My church is very casual dress. Some people make more of an effort to dress nice (dress or nice slacks with blouse) but other wear jeans or whatever. I don't have a problem with it, and actually am glad it's this way because if I tried to dress up for church I'd be wearing the same thing every Sunday. I do feel uncomfortable going sometimes in the summer though because although I think casual is fine (at my church) all my shorts are very short and while thats fine for everyday, I don't feel comfortable at church in short shorts. I can (and do) wear pants, but it's so hot in the summer I get tired of wearing pants. Sometimes the whole issue bogs me down and I just don't go.

There was this one time the Easter before last that a woman was there in a VERY low cut dress and I found it extremely distracting. She had spectacular breasts but I didn't think she should be showing 5 inches of cleavage on Easter Sunday. I'm a heterosexual woman so I can only imagine how distracting it was for some of the men. This incident and how it made me feel is actually what led me to feel so uncomfortable wearing shorts in service.... I'd hate to induce those same feelings in anyone else and be a distraction from the Lord.
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#21 of 104 Old 06-21-2009, 11:21 PM
 
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I'll preface this by saying that I'm now an atheist. But, my family is Roman Catholic. So, on Christmas Eve we all go to midnight mass together.

Now, I have no issues with what people wear normally. I spent a lot of time in nudist communities growing up. So, I have no issues with skin.

But, in my view, Church is a house of worship. And, in recent years, I must admit that midnight mass has been shocking to me. I have seen women wear (and I'm not trying to be mean) what I've seen streetwalkers in Las Vegas wear. I mean, REALLY low cut tops, breasts falling out, very short/tight skirts. Which is double ironic because my family lives in a place where it snows for winter. So, if only to be warm, they should cover themselves up.

When I was a little girl, I seem to remember midnight mass as a very holy occasion, where people dressed in a way that was appropriate to greeting/celebrating the birth of God's son. You put on your best clothes, but modest ones.

Now ... even as an atheist, I'm shocked by what people wear. It just doesn't seem appropriate to the occasion for me. Especially since it's midnight mass on Christmas Eve and not your "average" Sunday.

I haven't been to any Sunday masses in a while ... so I can't really make an opinion on that. It seems like casual clothes would bother me a lot less than ... skin tight lycra (not kidding, I saw it).

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#22 of 104 Old 06-22-2009, 12:16 AM
 
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Jewish here. I tend to notice the MEN not having a clue. Jewish women, by and large, (in my congregation) wear skirts below the knee or baggy slacks when coming up to the bima. Not a lot of cleavage, never belly showing. Most wear dresses that are lovely and though not tznius, are modest by 21st century standards. Never no-sleeved without a sweater, never miniskirts.

The men and boys, however. Ugh. I've seen boys on the bima wearing jeans, cargo shorts, sneakers, t-shirts with things like "I"m out of bed and dressed - what more do you want?" written on them. I've seen men (who are coming up for an aliyah) in a polo shirt and jeans (albeit nice jeans). Totally unacceptable. If you hate ties, at least wear slacks and a jacket if you're having the honor of an aliyah. Sheesh. Our rabbi goes purple when that happens and they get a serious talking-to, but most men just don't see the point. The rabbi is always in a suit and tie, and I (I do the music) am always in a long skirt and blouse or a tznius dress.

It's a respect/maturity thing - I totally agree. I think also, if women are spoken to about it, they tend to get the importance of clothing. They may not like it, but women know what clothing says about the body. Many men just wear whatever they wear - so they can't imagine why anyone would care what they were wearing. Terrible generalization, but I have this fight with my DH every time he comes to services with me.

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#23 of 104 Old 06-22-2009, 08:57 PM
 
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, but I have this fight with my DH every time he comes to services with me.
heh I have that problem with my DH too. He has an entire closet full of nice clothes ready to go and he wants to know if he can wear a polo and jeans! Absolutely not, my dear. We actually visited friends at another Parish this weekend and somehow the men were discussing dress codes. The friend said "most of the men wear ties. You can come in jeans and a polo but I don't know you" lol So hopefully we have that resolved for a while at least.

From my experience, I think you should dress modestly first, and then to the best of your ability. People now take it backwards - first they decided what they have that looks nice, and then if possible, they go with something modest. Unfortunately, most fashions are not particularly modest and so that part gets left out.

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#24 of 104 Old 06-22-2009, 10:07 PM
 
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We're Unitarians, so we don't have a dress code. People are free to wear whatever they want. In our congregation, the most "dressed up" folks wear khaki pants and polo shirts. Everybody else wears jeans. I sometimes wear a long skirt or dress but usually wear jeans.

I've never been big on dress codes. Even as a child, I didn't understand them. I grew up evangelical, and while we didn't have an official dress code (as in they wouldn't refuse you entrance to the service), you'd definitely get the vibe if you weren't attired appropriately. Women and girls were not allowed to wear pants, and to this day, if I go into a Protestant church, it's one of the big indicators for me of the temperament of the church (whether any women have on pants).

I refused to go to church camp one year because you had to wear a one-piece swimsuit (which I understood), and you had to wear a t-shirt and shorts over it. How utterly ridiculous. As a senior in high school, I was in the finals in a mock judicial competition held in the state capitol. The program was through the YMCA, and we were told after we got there to wear skirts because God didn't want women to wear pants (their words). So I showed up at the last minute in pants so there wouldn't be time to make me change. They agreed to let me speak after *lengthy* debate. (I'd prepared my arguments with Biblical back-up beforehand.) Still my advisor was really ticked off at me. So, I guess you could say I've really rebelled against forced attire for a long time. If I'm in a house of worship for another denomination or religion, then I will wear what they require out of respect. I just won't be a member of a religious community requiring a certain type of dress.

My husband is the same way. You go in nice clothes, as in clean/ironed/good shape, but he has a real problem with what he sees as a falsehood of many mainline churches. There's so much focus on outward issues, such as clothing, that the real message is lost.

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#25 of 104 Old 06-23-2009, 08:04 AM
 
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I'm trying to understand why God would care about what clothes you wear anywhere?

The term 'modesty' is up to so much personal interpretation, way too broad of a term. And, it's used in many many circles to mean 'proof that I'm better than" others who are 'less modest'. Kind of like a club, you can tell who 'fits' by who wears the 'right' things to church.

And, for that matter, modesty is strictly a worldly and cultural/social 'setting' anyways, and (for Christians at least) you are called to be 'not of this world'.

As for someone's clothing being a distraction to other church members, why isn't it the responsibility of the one 'being distracted' to maintain their focus on worshiping?

Just some random thoughts.

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#26 of 104 Old 06-23-2009, 09:14 AM
 
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I'm trying to understand why God would care about what clothes you wear anywhere?

The term 'modesty' is up to so much personal interpretation, way too broad of a term. And, it's used in many many circles to mean 'proof that I'm better than" others who are 'less modest'. Kind of like a club, you can tell who 'fits' by who wears the 'right' things to church.

And, for that matter, modesty is strictly a worldly and cultural/social 'setting' anyways, and (for Christians at least) you are called to be 'not of this world'.

As for someone's clothing being a distraction to other church members, why isn't it the responsibility of the one 'being distracted' to maintain their focus on worshiping?

Just some random thoughts.
Yes, I think that modesty is culturally relative. However, it is pretty much impossible to escape it in any culture. Or another way to put it is that every culture, even those where people are naked most of the time, has standards or customs as to what practices are appropriate. So in that sense, the IDEA of modestly is universal.

And what, really, is the idea of modestly about? Specifically, it's related to sexuality, and what that culture thinks are appropriate attitudes, clothing, and actions in relation to sexuality. To be immodest is to purposfully display, use, or try to excite someone elses sexuality in an innappropriate way. That could be trying to do it at the family picnic, outside of marriage, or whatever.

In some places, foe example, a woman's hair is a powerful symbol of sexuality, so in public it is covered. In other places, here in NA for example, women don't cover hair but they normally cover breasts, even at the beach. In other places they cover nothing - the body is not a sexual symbol that way. But those cultures do have other ways of displaying sexuality that could be used immodestly. And of course it is perfectly possible to have an immodest attitude wile obeying all the "rules" of modestly, so it isn't cut and dried.

There are other reasons people break the rules of modesty in a culture, that don't actually reflect an inappropriate use of sexuality, but in some cases they may reflect other poor actions. They might not understand the rule, this is especially true of visitors, or in pluralistic cultures like the West. They might not care about the rules, which is probably unkind or thoughtless of other people. They might do it to shock and cause a sensation, which is rude and prideful.

Also, sometimes people have nefarious reasons for maintaining so-called rules of modesty. Maintaining power over a certain class or gender would be a good example. And of course all these reasons are not mutually exclusive, which makes it more difficult to tease them out at times.

The West can be particularly confusing because of pluralism, and because there have been changes in standards of modestly over the last two generations, so there are many people living together who have different ideas. I think it is best to be understanding about those kind of differences and realize that they don't actually reflect an immodest spirit - it's just a cultural change. (On the other hand, I think this is not always the case - clothes deliberatly worn to be provocative at a club are pretty obviously meant to be sexually titillating - people are not being very aware if they wear them to grandma's birthday party.)

That being said - even here, among people who claim not to understand modesty, they actually do follow the rules in almost all cases, as far as I can see. I doubt that you dh would head to church in a thong and do a stripper dance, or that you would go topless. The difference is more about what you think the limits of modesty are.

Formality is another issue really - but similar in that ideas have changed, and there are noticeable differences both by location within North America and by generation.

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#27 of 104 Old 06-23-2009, 02:28 PM
 
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I'm trying to understand why God would care about what clothes you wear anywhere?

The term 'modesty' is up to so much personal interpretation, way too broad of a term. And, it's used in many many circles to mean 'proof that I'm better than" others who are 'less modest'. Kind of like a club, you can tell who 'fits' by who wears the 'right' things to church.

And, for that matter, modesty is strictly a worldly and cultural/social 'setting' anyways, and (for Christians at least) you are called to be 'not of this world'.

As for someone's clothing being a distraction to other church members, why isn't it the responsibility of the one 'being distracted' to maintain their focus on worshiping?

Just some random thoughts.
It's a matter of respect for others, which a good deal of folks nowadays seems to have totally forgotten about. Also a matter of respect for God. I've nothing with someone coming to church wearing khakis and a polo/decent shirt. Or even clean jeans. If you like skirts, a clean khaki or denin skirt that's at least knee-length. You're clean and everything (chest, belly) is generally covered up. That shows you have some respect for others AND yourself. If you habitually roll out of bed 5 minutes before you have to leave, come to church in low-slung yoga pants with your underwear peaking out, a shirt that shows both your chest AND your belly, and ratty hair - well, you're not showing respect for ANYONE.

Contrary to what some folks nowadays think (and practice), you can't really wear whatever you want wherever you want. You generally have to dress differently for work than what you would wear to play on the weekend. To put it simply, unless you're a stripper, a hooker, a Playboy bunny, work for Hooters, or have to wear a uniform/employer-issued clothes, what you wear to work is generally acceptable for church.

I don't get why there seems to be a mentality of "letting it all hang out at church." You wouldn't be able to get away with that in most offices, why should church be any different? Or it thinking of "God better accept me as I am!" and the concept of actually "stretching" yourself, encouraged to act better is verboten?

A basic practical description of modesty for mainstream America would probably go something like this: skirts knee-length or longer and not tight/form-fitting; tops not see-through, lingerie showing as little as possibe (aka don't wear a black bra under a white shirt if you're caucasian), not tight, no cleavage, short sleeves, no halter tops; pants, cropped or longer, no visible panty lines, not tight. When you lean over, tops must not ride up and show underwear and back/belly. No bare shoulders, bellies, or backs.

I guess this whole thinking is just another sign of the "me, me, me" thinking that wants to do whatever it wants, regardless of the effect on other people.

And as for others being distracted by scanty clothes in church - it's distracting for both men AND women. Even if you are paying attention to what's going on up front, if there is someone in the pew in front of you who has on pants so low, you're seeing her butt crack, yeah, it can be distracting.

And the Apostle Paul writes something along the lines about bearing each other's burdens and supporting those weaker. So, cover up for that hour each Sunday. However, if someone has to expose her chest and dress provocatively ALL THE TIME, even in church, makes you wonder about HER, hmm?

Church/synagogue/mosque is for worshipping God - taking the focus off US. However, that seems to be a totally alien concept for a great many folks I run into, both IRL and online. People are just too danged self-focused. What ever happened to thinking more of others?

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#28 of 104 Old 06-23-2009, 03:14 PM
 
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It's a matter of respect for others, which a good deal of folks nowadays seems to have totally forgotten about. Also a matter of respect for God. I've nothing with someone coming to church wearing khakis and a polo/decent shirt. Or even clean jeans. If you like skirts, a clean khaki or denin skirt that's at least knee-length. You're clean and everything (chest, belly) is generally covered up. That shows you have some respect for others AND yourself. If you habitually roll out of bed 5 minutes before you have to leave, come to church in low-slung yoga pants with your underwear peaking out, a shirt that shows both your chest AND your belly, and ratty hair - well, you're not showing respect for ANYONE.

Contrary to what some folks nowadays think (and practice), you can't really wear whatever you want wherever you want. You generally have to dress differently for work than what you would wear to play on the weekend. To put it simply, unless you're a stripper, a hooker, a Playboy bunny, work for Hooters, or have to wear a uniform/employer-issued clothes, what you wear to work is generally acceptable for church.

I don't get why there seems to be a mentality of "letting it all hang out at church." You wouldn't be able to get away with that in most offices, why should church be any different? Or it thinking of "God better accept me as I am!" and the concept of actually "stretching" yourself, encouraged to act better is verboten?

A basic practical description of modesty for mainstream America would probably go something like this: skirts knee-length or longer and not tight/form-fitting; tops not see-through, lingerie showing as little as possibe (aka don't wear a black bra under a white shirt if you're caucasian), not tight, no cleavage, short sleeves, no halter tops; pants, cropped or longer, no visible panty lines, not tight. When you lean over, tops must not ride up and show underwear and back/belly. No bare shoulders, bellies, or backs.

I guess this whole thinking is just another sign of the "me, me, me" thinking that wants to do whatever it wants, regardless of the effect on other people.

And as for others being distracted by scanty clothes in church - it's distracting for both men AND women. Even if you are paying attention to what's going on up front, if there is someone in the pew in front of you who has on pants so low, you're seeing her butt crack, yeah, it can be distracting.

And the Apostle Paul writes something along the lines about bearing each other's burdens and supporting those weaker. So, cover up for that hour each Sunday. However, if someone has to expose her chest and dress provocatively ALL THE TIME, even in church, makes you wonder about HER, hmm?

Church/synagogue/mosque is for worshipping God - taking the focus off US. However, that seems to be a totally alien concept for a great many folks I run into, both IRL and online. People are just too danged self-focused. What ever happened to thinking more of others?
If that's truly the case I don't understand the focus and concern about what other people are wearing. Aren't you focusing on yourself and your version/judegement of modesty or appropriateness when you focus on what others are wearing? If the idea is truly to worship your god in those spaces, shouldn't your thoughts be on that act?

I'm UU. Last Sunday I sat beside one of our members who is a cross dresser. He came in a yellow sarong (with bike shorts underneath because the slits can be a tricky thing), a white blouse and tevia type sandals. He's a great guy, interesting, articulate, caring and kind. He'd be an asset to any congregation. Knowing him has absolutely made a positve affect on my spiritual journey. I'm glad his clothing choices presents no barrier in our group.

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#29 of 104 Old 06-23-2009, 03:16 PM
 
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Disclaimer: Not coming from a Christian perspective here, so maybe your post was only referring to Christians - if so, I'm sorry for misunderstanding, but I felt the need to address some of these points.

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I'm trying to understand why God would care about what clothes you wear anywhere?
My culture believes that we were made "b'tzelem elohim," in the image of G-d, so G-d would absolutely care what I wear. I am a reflection of G-d.

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The term 'modesty' is up to so much personal interpretation, way too broad of a term. And, it's used in many many circles to mean 'proof that I'm better than" others who are 'less modest'. Kind of like a club, you can tell who 'fits' by who wears the 'right' things to church.
I don't see this in my community. I'm sure it happens, but modest dressing doesn't mean that you're better. I'm no better a person or more G-d-fearing than any woman who wears pants. I just have a different relationship with G-d than she does - just like I have a different relationship with G-d than the next woman who DOES choose to dress modestly. It's a very personal thing, and though it's human to judge, it doesn't mean it's right.

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As for someone's clothing being a distraction to other church members, why isn't it the responsibility of the one 'being distracted' to maintain their focus on worshiping?
I agree with you on this - it's my responsibility to create a worship experience free of distractions. While I don't like when men have an aliyah while wearing jeans, it's not because it's distracting to me. It's because we have a cultural norm that they are (many times deliberately) flouting, and that's disrespectful. It's disrespectful to our culture and (IMO and in my culture's opinion) disrespectful to G-d. It's not like we're asking for the moon - just look nice when you're being honored.

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#30 of 104 Old 06-23-2009, 04:16 PM
 
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If that's truly the case I don't understand the focus and concern about what other people are wearing. Aren't you focusing on yourself and your version/judegement of modesty or appropriateness when you focus on what others are wearing? If the idea is truly to worship your god in those spaces, shouldn't your thoughts be on that act?

I'm UU. Last Sunday I sat beside one of our members who is a cross dresser. He came in a yellow sarong (with bike shorts underneath because the slits can be a tricky thing), a white blouse and tevia type sandals. He's a great guy, interesting, articulate, caring and kind. He'd be an asset to any congregation. Knowing him has absolutely made a positve affect on my spiritual journey. I'm glad his clothing choices presents no barrier in our group.
Having standards of right and wrong and community expectations of how people should conduct themselves in accordance to those standards doesn't make someone "mean" or "judgemental". It means we don't believe in moral relativism.

Disapproval of someones clothing or conduct doesn't mean disapproval of the person himself, but.. just the clothing or conduct in question.

There are several issues getting mixed here and so it's impossible to discuss them. I personally think Tradd's post broke them out pretty clearly. Sloppiness/respect is one. Clothing that represents immodesty of heart and mind is another. The third that I see is your obligation to minimize your distraction to your fellow worshipers. In this case, someone who came fully clothed from wrist to ankle but wearing a 3ft. chiquita banana hat would still be culpable.

Of all 3, I care about #1 the least - we all have bad days, we may not have better clothes. It happens and I don't think anyone was saying you should be hanged for it, but that there are better ways to show your respect in a house of worship than looking like you rolled out of bed week after week.
#2 is considered gravely sinful in the Catholic Church because you are enticing other to sin. You don't know what a person's internal struggles are, male or female, and, to put it bluntly, leading someone else to hell is seriously frowned upon. That is why *I* care when a woman in scantily clad.
#3 Is more a sign of maturity than anything else. Feeling confident in your place in the community that you don't have to say "me me me" all the time. I only care about this if that 3ft hat blocks my view, but it can represent a person's pride and vanity

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