Friday, May 2, 2014

Wearing play clothes to work. . .

I will admit to being a rather curmudgeonly character when it comes to dress.  It seems more often than not I am over dressed but I prefer it to the alternative.  I am becoming an anachronism as our increasingly casual culture has clearly registered its choice of comfy over presentable.  What this means is that more often than not we wear our play clothes to work.  The idea of casual Fridays has evolved into casual everyday.  Gone are the days when you could tell the teachers from the students simply by their dress.  Gone are the days when you could recognize authority figures by their clothing.  We wear play clothes all the time and therefore confuse and blur the distinctions between work and play.

We all know that Americans are accused of working at their play and playing at their work.  Perhaps it is true but our manner of dress seems to suggest that it is more true than we might care to admit.  This is especially a problem on Sunday morning.  More and more folks wear their play clothes to worship -- not because they have nothing better but because they don't want to.  These same people have perfectly fine formal clothing in their closets but they dress on Sunday morning to be comfortable and for casual play.  It is not a matter of simply what you wear but the consequences of it all.

Formal clothing is worn not simply because the occasion is formal but as a matter of respect.  We dress for the occasion and we dress to show externally the inward honor for that occasion or venue.  We wear our best before the Lord not because it is demanded but as an outward sign that we understand what is happening in worship and we want to honor the Lord with nothing less than our best -- best clothing and best behavior!

Wearing play clothes to worship is one of the ways we diminish what is happening there (if not deliberately then inadvertently).  Wearing play clothes to worship is one way in which we bring the Lord and the whole occasion of the Divine Service down to our level.  Both of these are dangerous.  To diminish the Lord, His house and His gifts, is to dishonor Him.  To bring the Lord down to our level is something we cannot do and it renders the incarnation of our Lord unnecessary.

When I grew up a million years ago my parents were on the lower end of middle class yet we always had suits and ties to mirror what our dad wore just as my mom dressed up for Sunday morning.  Often the clothes were not new (sometimes hand me downs from other families and family members) but it was drilled into us that the occasion of the Divine Service was so important we must wear our best.  Certainly there were dads and sons in blue jeans in church (if that was their best) and this was not a style show for the benefit of others or an expression of the economic divide.  Not equal gifts but equal sacrifice -- that is how one stewardship theme put it and that is how the dress was seen then.  We may not wear the same but it was assured that whatever we wore was the best in our wardrobe.  The point was that we dare not wear casual clothing or play clothes to worship without in the same way confusing or diminishing what took place there.

Every Sunday I look out at a great mix of clothing.  Some of it is formal wear (suits, ties, dresses, etc...) but increasingly it is play wear -- the same thing we might wear to a picnic, to the store, etc...  I cannot help but think that what we wear is shaped by the idea that nothing important happens in worship and that God's presence is no big deal.  That, my friends, is a big problem.


David Gray said...


Anonymous said...

Amen, amen!

Fr. D+
Anglican Priest

tubbs said...

May I beg to differ? Let's not confuse bourgeois habits of the last two centuries with something more than just that.
Sorry, but I remember only too well the (w)itchy competitive attitude about clothing, among the "Church Ladies" especially, back in the fifties.
Modesty should be the guide here.
I think baggy sweats are most appropriate.

Anonymous said...

Bourgeois habits no... but our best for His glory? Yes.

Anonymous said...

Two thumbs up for this post...WAY up!

Anonymous said...

@ tubbs

Tubbs said, "I think baggy sweats are most appropriate."

Let me ask:

Would you wear baggy sweats to a job interview with the president of a company where you really wanted to get a job?

Would you really wear baggy sweats if you were to receive a special honor conferred by the President of the US?

If the answer to either of these is "no," then explain why you think it most appropriate to wear such clothing to meet the Maker of the Universe and Our Saviour, Jesus Christ? (That is what is supposed to happen every Sunday. If it does not, perhaps you are in the wrong church?)

Fr. D+
Anglican Priest

Anonymous said...

Wearing nice (and especially clean) clothes used to be a status marker. So as to avoid looking low status and being treated accordingly, people dressed as nicely as they could. Now, not having to dress in work clothes such as a uniform or suit etc., is a status marker provided the play clothes have expensive highly visible labels. So, the same thing is at work just expressed differently.