In today’s culture and society, the dress code is becoming looser and looser. The appearance of professionalism has changed drastically over the past few decades in the marketplace as well as the church. Does your church have a dress code, still? Is it even needed?
Once upon a day, wearing your “Sunday best” meant that people only wore their very best dresses and outfits to church on Sunday. This was common for people who may have only owned two or three dresses (in women’s cases, at least) and so, their most formal and special dress was worn only on Sundays when attending a service.
When picking out Sunday church clothing the first important thing is to consider comfort. The point of church outfits is to feel free and comfortable. Yes, you have to choose an array of easy to wear clothes but you have to feel confident and think only about God, so nothing disturbs your feelings and thoughts.
Church-appropriate styles are subtle, tidy and conservative. That’s not to say they’re frumpy or stuffy — but that is to say, your club outfit doesn’t work on Sunday mornings and your gym outfit doesn’t either. As the old phrase goes, there’s a time and a place for everything. Specifically, the church isn’t the place for minis, tanks, sweats, shorts, halters and cleavage. And sadly, there’s just no such thing as the perfect “church to beach” outfit.
A great church outfit is one that makes you feel comfortable and also fits into the standards of your church community. Some churches lean more towards casual clothing, while others have more formal dress codes. Most churches, however, expect worshipers and guests to wear what makes them feel prepared to worship. Whatever the dress code is, though, you should feel comfortable enough to actively participate in the services in your outfit!
Why do we have a dress code?
We serve to point people to God. One way that we can do that is by dressing appropriately for our role that day. For those on-platform, what you wear should not distract people, draw attention to yourself, or be inappropriate. And for those off-platform, what you wear should be as distraction-free as possible, so that you can operate quietly and assist in pointing people's attention to God.
This is not a 'mould' to try and squeeze all the personality out of you. These are just guidelines we follow so that we can all work together in our goal of leading people closer to Jesus.
How to Dress Elegantly for Church Services?
Before we show you our top picks for what to wear to church, here are a few tips and things to keep in mind:
- A general rule of thumb that holds true in most if not all cases when attending church is to dress modestly and with discretion. The church is a place of worship, not a social hangout. Be respectful and keep this in mind when planning your attire.
- Most churches in the Western sphere are air-conditioned (not every country is so lucky) and are usually kept quite chilly in the summer. This varies, of course, but having a light cardigan or jacket on hand is always a good idea.
- Avoid overly skintight clothing if possible as it is not usually considered appropriate.
- You don’t have to wear a dress or skirt if you do not want to. However, they are one of the most typical and common attires for women when attending church.
- If this is your first time attending a particular church (or church in general) don’t be nervous or anxious about what to wear! Coming as you are is what matters. Assess your wardrobe choices and try and pick whatever looks nicest but don’t overthink it. When in doubt, a dress is always a suitable option but try and pick one that is not overly short or revealing. (Pro tip: if you are worried about a low-cut front or back, pop a light cardigan or shawl over it! It’s an easy fix and will also keep you comfortable if the church is chilly.)
- Dress comfortably and not too high maintenance. An outfit that requires constant adjusting or fixing can be an annoying distraction.
Tips for Dressing Up
Choose clean, pressed, and well-fitted clothes for church wear
Avoid pulling clothes from the bottom of the hamper or closet to wear to church. Guys should be dressed in a clean church outfit to be taken seriously in a house of worship no matter what the occasion. By press, we just mean wrinkle-free clothes. Wearing a wrinkled shirt to church may give off the wrong impression. Many shirts are designed non-iron and wrinkle-free already and can be thrown on with a nice pair of slacks and pants. Wear a crisp and freshly steamed shirt to be presentable and taken seriously within the church community.
A great fit on clothes is hard to come by. Look for brands that carry your size and fit your body type best. Sometimes you can find a great shirt just off-the-rack without a tailor for the perfect church wear. We have a list of the best slim fit dress shirts that have trimmed measurements all around to provide the perfect tapered look. Baggy clothes and shirts give off a sloppy impression and finding a good fit shows that you can dress well for important events like weekly services at church. Wear a well-fitted and light-coloured shirt that’s been recently steamed and you’re guaranteed to pass the test. The same rule applies to pants, cardigans, jackets you may be complementing your outfit with.
Avoid statement pieces and bright colours in church
Wearing bright colours or statement pieces to church is distracting for those around you and probably for yourself as well. Avoid drawing attention to yourself in the modest church environment and dress in neutral colours, solids or minimal patterns. When in doubt, go for a white or light blue shirt and dark pants for what to wear to church as a man. Bright colours or patterns can be noisy in an environment that is dedicated to worship and being a modest attendee. Make sure to avoid the neon shirt next Sunday.
Go with smart casual church wear with coordinated colours and separates to stand out modestly.
Accessorize appropriately for church wear
If you’re looking for ways to bring personality to your church clothes beyond neutral colours, feel free to dress up with the right accessories. From shoes to belts to socks to a nice jacket, there are many options to accessorize what you wear to church as a guy. For men, match your belt to the colour of your shoes. Try loafers, boat shoes, or dress shoes if you want to go the extra mile in your church attire. Dress socks come in many colours and patterns and can be one element where guys can embellish a bit. Since men's dress socks are hidden by slacks and shoes, they make the perfect accessory for men’s church wear attire. Sock is a great place to show a bit of personality without using too much real estate in your church outfit.
Accessories that are not as appropriate for church wear include hats and sneakers. Depending on the tradition or custom in specific faiths, wearing a hat can be a sign of disrespect and are often asked to be removed in church. As for sneakers, you may get by with a pair of minimalist black sneakers but err on the side of caution and go with nicer loafers, boat shoes or dress shoes for church wear.
Dressing For Women
Think modest and conservative when picking out your outfit
While the church is a social gathering, it’s not a party or a night out with your friends. Families of all different ages attend church and many churches are still conservative, so make sure to dress appropriately. You should eliminate backless or low-cut dresses, spaghetti straps, tank tops, or anything that shows your midriff.
- Just because it has to be modest, does not mean it can’t be fashionable. Just make sure to not leave a lot of your skin exposed.
- Overly glitzy jewellery or expensive accessories should also be avoided.
Do not wear anything that rises above the knee
When picking out a dress, consider one that’s a bit longer. Although, dresses do not have to be down to the ankle like they were expected to be in times past.
- While there is not an exact measurement that’s appropriate, make sure to avoid showing too much of your body or dressing in a way that would send signals that go against your tenets of the faith.
Refrain from wearing anything transparent
Wearing darker, non-lace tops can prevent you from wearing something that’s see-through.
Wear black pants if you don’t like dresses
While it is expected in certain faiths that women wear dresses, a pair of dark pants will typically also work.
- You can pair your black pants with a dark top and blazer to stay stylish but conservative.
- Avoid wearing stretch pants/leggings or jeans.
And about those shoes
Low-heeled pumps with a covered toe are always a great choice for church. A simple ankle boot is also appropriate if you’re wearing pants. Stay away from super-casual sandals, worn sneakers and flip flops.
Wear heels or flats when attending service. Sneakers are not appropriate shoes for Sunday morning services. Pick out your best pair of heels when going to church, just make sure the heel is lower than 3 inches (not high stilettos-type). Pumps compliment pencil skirts or pants. If heels aren’t your thing, flats are also appropriate.
- Coordinate your shoe colour with your outfit, but avoid loud colours like deep red or bright pinks and greens. The focus should not be on you but on the Lord.
Dressing For Men
Choose your best clothes and make sure they are clean
While standards on clothing for the church have become laxer over time, it is still usually expected that you dress in your nicest garments when attending Sunday morning worship service.
- Having nice clothes does not mean you have to spend a lot of money on them. Just make sure that they are clean and presentable.
- Avoid drawing attention to yourself or wearing things that would stand out.
Wear wrinkle-free slacks
Black dress pants are the best option for a person attending a church service. If you don’t have a pair, you can wear clean and wrinkle-free casual slacks or khakis as an alternative.
- Avoid shorts. Even if it’s hot, you should refrain from wearing shorts. Jeans are too casual for Sunday morning service. And you do wear jeans, do not wear ones with patches or holes.
- Avoid things that have a drawstring or too many zippers or clips.
- Remember to wear a black or brown belt with your pants, at least when not wearing a sport coat or blazer.
Be aware of specific traditions and customs in certain faiths
In times past, in Western culture, wearing a hat indoors was a sign of disrespect, but even today it applies to church services. In 1 Corinthians 11:7, the apostle Paul says, “a man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God.”
- Members of the military are allowed to wear hats as part of their uniform in some religions like Christianity.
The Dos and Don’ts of What to Wear to Church
- Do choose garments that cover your shoulders.
- Do wear skirts that are knee-length or longer.
- Do add layers, such as a blazer, to more revealing tops and dresses.
- Do tuck in your top and wear a belt if your bottoms have belt loops.
- Do wear feminine patterns like florals.
- Do be cautious about pencil skirts. A looser style might work, but a body-hugging skirt will not.
- Don’t wear animal prints.
- Don’t wear tight pants or leggings.
- Don’t overdo the accessories. A pair of stud earrings is all you need.
- Don’t wear heels taller than 3 inches.
- Don’t wear anything sheer.
FAQs About Church Dress Code
If you want to know how to dress for church, something modest and comfortable should be fine. Tennis shoes may be alright for certain church events but during Sunday services, some form of dress shoes should be worn. Women may wear dress pants to church, but leggings and skinny jeans are not usually a good choice.
The Bible's Old Testament does have religious rules concerning dress. Specifically, Deuteronomy 22:11 gives the rule: "Do not wear clothes of wool and linen woven together." No one today knows what motivated that rule. All the biblical authors were priests, and all the priests were males.
Why do Catholic women wear chapel veils at Mass? The veil is meant to be an external sign of a woman's interior desire to humble herself before God, truly present in the Blessed Sacrament. For 2000 years, Catholic women have worn some kind of head covering in Church.