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Dress Up for Mass!

Advisory Board 1943

Dapper gents from Our Lady of Victory Catholic Parish, Cincinnati, OH. (1943)

Society is growing more and more casual. I have seen people shopping for groceries in their pajama pants and fuzzy slippers. I’ve been to world-class classical concerts where people are dressed in Hawaiian shirts and jeans.  In fact, it’s hard to think of anything people will dress up for anymore. Even weddings and funerals are getting more and more casual.

This bothers me because how we dress is a sign of how much respect we have for ourselves and for other people. If we don’t dress up for anyone or anything, it’s a sure sign that we don’t respect anyone or anything.

Dressing up is a small sacrifice

Looking sharp takes effort. Putting on a well pressed suit and tie, rather than a wrinkled t-shirt, takes time. Shaving, rather than sporting a scruffy five-o-clock shadow, takes a little bit of effort. Combing your hair, rather than letting it stand on end, requires a small amount of work. It is exactly these little sacrifices of time and effort, though, that tell other people that they are worth it.

Trust me, I know it’s not easy for men. We naturally don’t want to make that effort. I guarantee that if you do, though, you will feel like a million bucks. You will feel more manly and more confident.

Dress up for mass!

Even if you don’t think dressing sharp is worth it for every day activities, there is one place you should never slum it. Ever. And that is holy mass.

Manly Catholic gentlemen.

Catholic gentlemen.

Jesus, the Kings of kings, is at your parish. Angels tremble before him, demons flee from him, and he makes himself present on the altar at every mass. Do you really want to meet him in flip flops and cargo shorts? Do you really want to tell Jesus, “You weren’t worth dressing up for?”

We struggle as a society to understand royalty. We have a warped view of equality that tells us that no one, no matter who they are, is worthy of honor and respect. This is simply wrong. St. Paul says to “give honor to whom honor is due.” And if anyone is worthy of honor, it is Jesus Christ, our priest and king.

I know, I know. Nobody else does it. In fact, the mass at your parish may not be very reverent (I hope it is). But that is no excuse. Part of being a man is doing the right thing, even if it isn’t popular. Be strong, swim upstream. 

Priests, consider explaining the significance of the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, and then gently encouraging your congregants to show respect in how they dress.

Legalism is not the answer

While I think every man should dress up for mass, I’m not about to prescribe exactly what you should wear. It’s not my place to recommend a three piece suit, a certain color of pants, or wingtip shoes. While I won’t tell you what to wear, I will suggest three basic rules on how to dress for mass.

1. Your outfit should take effort – When choosing what to wear for mass, don’t go for what is most comfortable and easy. In fact, make it a little uncomfortable. For example, if you have been wearing Crocs to mass, try wearing some nice leather shoes instead. If you have been wearing a polo shirt, try a dress shirt. If you have been wearing a tie, try adding a sport coat. In other words, put forth some effort and make a small sacrifice.

2. Your attire should be above average – We all live in different places, and our culture has much to do with what constitutes respectful dress. A ranch hand in rural Montana or poor migrant worker is not held to the same standards as a wealthy Wall Street executive. No matter where we live, though, we should all have “Sunday best”—clothes we wear that are nicer than what we wear every day. If you’re wearing the same thing to mass that you do when going to the movies, there is a problem.

3. Do it for love – Most importantly, love should be our motivation. The moment we start doing things for reasons other than love, we are wasting our time. I have heard a lot of people say, “God looks on the heart. He sees that I love him even if I don’t dress up.” WRONG. Love always manifests itself outwardly through acts of self-giving. Love is not a feeling, it is a choice to sacrifice yourself or something you value for someone else. As I said earlier, dressing up is a very small sacrifice. Tell Jesus you love him and respect him by making a sacrifice of effort when choosing your attire or grooming for mass. The more you don’t feel like dressing up, the more valuable your sacrifice of time and attention will mean to Jesus.

Conclusion

While the world may tell us that nothing is worth dressing up for, that should never apply to the Catholic gentleman. We should show respect to ourselves and others by making an effort—especially for holy mass. We must be courageously counter-cultural in our dress, even if we get funny looks.

What is the attire like at your local parish? What is one way you can dress up more for mass?

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Sam Guzman

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99 People Replies to “Dress Up for Mass!”

  1. Nathan

    I am constantly amazed by the attire I see at church. I cannot speak for other countries, but here in America, very few people are in a position that they cannot afford one set of dress clothes. I buy all mine at Goodwill for almost nothing, and I have a pair of shoes I have taken care of for twenty years now. I go dressed up as often as I can as a way to show God that I take His liturgy seriously and with reverence. Taking the Eucharist in cargo shorts and a Hawaiian shirt is offensive to me because it signals to me that you don’t care anymore about that than a breakfast at Denny’s. If you truly cannot afford the clothes then absolutely, God doesn’t care and neither do I. But let’s be honest here, for a country whose poor look rich to the poor of the third world, where most of the world lives, the majority can afford some dress clothes. It’s the effort and intention behind the clothes that God cares about, not the textiles, cost, or manufacturer of those clothes. Just like all we do as Christians is more about what we do from our hearts than about what we actually do. Some can do more through their means than others, but if their hearts are lacking or their intentions misplaced, then they might as well come to mass in cargo shorts and Hawaiian shirts too, regardless of wealth.

  2. I am so glad to read all those comments in favour of dressing up to go to Mass.I am a

    fifty something male whose parents despite being poor wore their very best on a

    Sunday : mum in her Sunday hats and dad in his black suit and tie and ,being of

    Scottish heritage sometimes kilt ,a cultural expression of respect.I was therefore also

    brought up to dress up on Sunday to attend holy mass.My tie gave way to an open

    necked black Ben Sherman and black flares in the mid seventies but it was still ,in my

    eyes formal.Despite great peer and mainstream cultural pressure I insist on wearing

    ,modest , dress clothes for mass. I wore a tie for many years to Sunday mass but

    stopped due to this very same pressure, while my parish became more and more

    casual in dress terms up to the point that it is now downright sloppy.I wear formal

    clothes,be it now without a tie, to mass every week .I do this as this is my outward

    manifestation for my deep love for Jesus and the fact that holy mass is such a special

    occassion : a real spiritual treat which I am priveledged to attend.This is THE most

    wonderous of occassions Which I look forward to every week.I have to say that through

    the years as western society veered more and more towards casual behavior and dress

    , that I have ,at church , recieved some very unpleasant and even spiteful remarks

    concerning my choice of dressWhat I find hard to comprehend is that individuals who

    perpetuate such behaviour find that far more acceptable as church etiquette than the

    wearing of nice clothes.I firmly believe that at mass one should dress suitabily and also

    act in both a reverend and decent manner,civil and polite to other fellow parishioners

    outside at the door of the church while silently respecting the great beauty of holiness

    of the events inside.If people dress in a smart but casual attire; good jeans with a dress

    shirt for example then that is acceptable but I feel the Catholic church has gone far too

    much to the extreme with unsuitable sports clothes and even less suitable logos now

    being the only form of dress “allowed” and a sheer complete intolerance of formal attire

    that these days acompanies it.No ties or mantillas welcome . I have also noticed the

    very sloppy trend in dress that also prevails in many tradional churches or at masses of

    the extraordinary form .I have also seen several women wearing mantillas at such

    events while dressed sloppily in denims , t shirts ,onezees and trainers.Of course God

    loves us for what we are and of course sartorial elegance is nothing to do with

    salvation but dressing up at mass is a deep personal expression of our great love ,after

    the great suffering he went through in order to redeem us.What deeply saddens me is

    that even on festive days such as the joyous feast of Easter it is now no longer

    acceptable in many parishes to wear ones very best suit and tie and never mind the

    almost vanished tradition of Easter bonnets that once manifested the festive nature of

    the day:an outward expression of the inner happiness gifted to us by Christ.

  3. Sam

    There is NEVER a reason for a gentleman not to dress as well as his circumstances allow – whether that’s a morning suit and bowler or a lounge suit. Slacks, tie, jacket, and a fedora are a must for any man, at ALL times. It not only shows respect for yourself, but for those that have to look at you.

  4. Ellen

    I agree with the article, but for all those arguing the point, perhaps it would be simple enough to say: offer the best of yourself, be that what it may – and at least show respect with your dress and manner. I believe there is no relationship comparable to that of created with creator therefore we cannot align this argument with anything here on earth, with any relationship or event. We are meeting our Lord Jesus in the Eucharist. I hesitate to think that one who offered His very life for us, for our sins, would feel like His sacrifice were at least respected if you did not apply some effort in your dress or approach him with due reverence, including through the way you look. I think the article is saying that we should step it up a notch or two – at least – from our day to day attire and simply do the best with what we have. Our Lord will know if we bother to put in effort for Him or not, it matters not what others think. I suggest the standards will indeed vary from location to location, but each of us simply offering our best effort is the point, as I see it. I am a mother of soon to be six children. Over the years my dress has changed due to external factors: pregnancy and breastfeeding both having a major impact (changing body too!). Further, the more our family has expanded the less I have to spend on clothes for myself. My personal attire is not what I wish it could be, I have a seriously reduced set of options but I still try to put together something that is the best I can offer at any given time. Don’t make it complicated, just be your best!

    1. Joe Ricciardi

      Most certainly many opinions on this. I can only say that years ago I felt a call to wear my Sunday best as a way of showing to the kids attending that a man can come to Mass looking sharp, yet fall on his knees, bow his head, and sing the hymns. On hot days I knew this was penitential. When my son would ask, “Why do you wear a suit to church, Dad” I knew it was my way of teaching the faith, reverence, humility. He’s 15 and dressed in his Sunday best by choice, not a suit, but above average for a teen. So for me, this has been a spiritual practice, and very often, a sacrifice. I would rather be in shorts many days! Mostly, I know that wearing a suit has accompanied me on many sinful paths so now I offer it for goodness.

  5. J

    Its pretty simple, flip flops and shorts at church is not ok, not matter what one may believe, it’s not respectful. Be modest, and dress the best as your means allows. That not asking much when you come to God’s house, the creator of the Universe.

  6. Matthew Barnard

    As a millennial, I don’t show my respect by dressing up. I don’t find it necessarily respectful if someone else dresses up. I think there are more genuine ways of showing respect than putting slacks on.

  7. LAL

    Ann stated “The Holy Eucharist is the source and summit of the Christian life!! We should recognize that going to Mass IS NOT for us. Mass isn’t about how comfortable WE are or what WE get out of it. The focus isn’t on us, it is on our King, our Lord and Savior. When we are in the true presence of the King, our dress should reflect it.”
    Thank you Ann, such beautiful words, and I couldn’t agree with you more.
    Dress for the Lord! What other event can be more special than receiving the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ?

    God does not judge us based on how well we dress, but he will NEVER be offended if you wear a Suit and Tie, as long as you are doing it for HIS greater glory. No you don’t need a 3-piece Armani or some designer ‘Name brand.’
    Put together a Jacket and Pants, 2 button dress shirts – one long-sleeved, and one short-sleeved – and a dress tie or two, with a pair of shoes that will pass as ‘Dress Shoes, and you now have your Mass attire. You can do this with well under $50.

    Will the salvation of your soul depend on you having a coat and tie at Mass every Sunday? Absolutely not.
    But your efforts, your sacrifice and the intentions of your heart will say much.
    Our Father is all to aware of our motivations and why we do things. He knows our hearts before we do.
    Take the time, take the effort, set aside the money, make the sacrifice.
    It’s a little thing – but it will mean so much. To Abba, and to You. And to your Family.
    What it will say to your Wife and your Children, and the questions they will ask will allow a sharing moment with your Family that will speak volumes.

    “Part of being a Man, a Husband and a Father, is doing the right thing. Even if some don’t understand. Be strong.”

    Just discovered this post…

    God Bless You All

    LAL

  8. Juan Carlos

    Ever since I was young my dad always made it a point to dress up for mass. My brother and I were never allowed to wear jeans or tshirts or even polos. Shorts were out of question. Growing up I never understood what was the big deal and when I got to my teenage years I really tried to rebel and see what was the least formal I could get away with. When I was 18 I had a huge re-conversion that deepened my faith and relationship with God and suddenly dressing up for mass made complete sense! I was putting on my best not to show off or impress anyone but for HIM! To show God that hey I’m coming for this special time with you and I am going to make an effort to prepare myself. Also When you dress up it makes you feel like you are not at an ordinary “gathering”. I am 25 now and I notice that people look at me weird when I am at mass. Especially the older generations who stopped dressing up. And that is okay because i do this For God and not for other people. Also I am a confirmation teacher and I see our youth going to mass in t shirts and torn jeans or even dirty sweaters and pajama pants and those are the kids that talk during the homily or are falling asleep or being disrespectful. If you wear clothes that you don’t wear regularly you feel uncomfortable and in this case that is a good thing. It makes you more aware of the mysteries that are happening that yes we are experiencing something truly out of this world. This comes first from the parents. If the parents don’t dress up and have a reason for dressing themselves than the next generation will not adopt this habit. And like it says so eloquently in this post, we must show God the respect he deserves especially in his house.

    God Bless

  9. Tom

    My wife wears a dress and I wear a sport coat and slacks and tie. No excuses for being poor here,we shop at the Thrift Store. People ask why we are so dressed up on Sunday? We tell them that we are dressed for the KING ! When will women stop dressing like men and become Woman again? What is with stretch pants ? What would people think if a man wore stretch pants and a sleeveless low cut shirt to Mass ?

  10. Lawrence

    I just discovered this site, and am delighted with the “dressing up” – that is, the dignity and courtesy – demonstrated in discourse by all here. Thank you, gentlefolk all. I hope that I may be accepted in your company.

  11. Mr. Guzman, we’ve sent you an e-mail request. Please take a look when you get a chance. Thank you!

  12. Joe Rodriguez

    I believe the overall point is to have respect for the Lord and His house. Dress is certainly not the only measure of respect, but it is one way to show respect. If He is not deserving of our effort then please tell me who is.

  13. David

    Note: I’m taking a bit of a different approach here.
    All of this talk about clothing reminds me of two things:
    1) There was a church [the denomination is immaterial] near where I lived many years ago. Each week after their service I’d see them file out of the building to their black cars with the black-wall tyres — the men and boys wearing solid black three-piece suits; the women and girls wearing floor-length solid black dresses with long sleeves, high collars, and gloves. The only problem I had with it was that all of them had the most dour expressions on their faces… as if they’d been sucking on particularly sour lemons the whole time. I’m not doubting their respect for God and His house… clearly they had a lot of it. I’m not even complaining about their choice of apparel, even if to my eyes it seemed a wee bit extreme. The thought I kept having was “If this is what they look like *after* spending time with God, then it sure doesn’t seem like a ‘walking advert for God’, does it?”
    2) I’m also reminded of the epistle of Paul to the Colossians [chapter 3] where, after we’re told to put off the works of darkness, we’re told to put on (clothe ourselves, the Amplified Translation says) such things as compassion, kindness, humility, and so on. Dressing up the outside doesn’t mean as much if the inside isn’t taken care of, too.

  14. Kelly L

    Back in the day, when most folk had limited clothing, they kept one nice outfit for church, weddings and funerals. I’m sure that those in the church were used to seeing those same clothes every Sunday, but they were dressing up with respect for God, not each other.

  15. JohnAF

    I have never thought of this but you’re right! At mass, we are in the real presence of Jesus. And I don’t think we would like to be in the presence of Jesus with a cheap shirt that advertises a brand. Great thoughts. I will definitely realize the presence of Jesus at Mass and dress up for him! Thanks for a great blog.

  16. papag

    I wonder what St. Francis of Assisi wore to mass. Maybe it’s different for everybody, and apart from people attending the Holy Mass immodestly dressed and having naked parts showing that shouldn’t be (I’ve heard they regulate that type of thing in Rome), or vulgar slogans printed on their clothes, maybe we ought to mind our own business.

    That just might be the most respectful thing you could do for Jesus. A person can be humble and respectful in plain clothes as well as in fancier dress clothes; and of course, a person can also be quite proud and arrogant and offensive to God in dress clothes as well as in plain clothes. Modesty, humility, gentleness, kindness, and then maybe a little more humility, and hopefully then we’ll be properly attired for the great gift we are about to receive from the Lord Our God.

  17. Patty

    Here is the key to what “dressing up” for Mass entails: Give God better than the least you can do. Throughout the Bible, we read that He wants our first fruits, the widow’s mite, for us to NOT be lukewarm. In other words, He wants our effort; He wants us to sacrifce for Him. I would also point out this: a favorite quote of many people is, “Preach the gospel at all times; when necessary use words.” What kind of gospel are we preaching when we approach God in our holy liturgy with an external indication of reverence that is the same as what we show to lounging on our sofa drinking beer and watching football. My dear Catholic brothers and sisters, please, give God better than the least you can do.

  18. Andre

    At the very least I always wear a tie, slacks and dress shoes. For cooler weather and special masses I wear a suit. When I am there for KofC Duties I am usually in a Tuxedo. I try not judge anyone else for not dressing up, however some times it’s hard seeing people who look as if they either just fell out of Walmart or if the young women were pole dancing at a strip joint.
    I dress up because this is just my feeling when attending mass should be something special. I also do want to make sure I am setting an example for my son.

    1. Patty

      Here is the key to what “dressing up” for Mass entails: Give God better than the least you can do. Throughout the Bible, we read that He wants our first fruits, the widow’s mite, for us to NOT be lukewarm. In other words, He wants our effort; He wants us to sacrifce for Him. I would also point out this: a favorite quote of many people is, “Preach the gospel at all times; when necessary use words.” What kind of gospel are we preaching when we approach God in our holy liturgy with an external indication of reverence that is the same as what we show to lounging on our sofa drinking beer and watching football. My dear Catholic brothers and sisters, please, give God better than the least you can do.

  19. Stephen

    John 21:7 Thats my criteria.

  20. Alice

    I love this article!

    I grew up in a small town in Texas and we were fairly poor, but when we attended church on Sundays it was very important to wear your Sunday Best. Sunday Best meant so many things depending on the person, work, and income. Even farm hand would clean up and wear their best coveralls. It might not have been a suit, but you could tell that they dressed with purpose. .

    Through University, I definitely started slacking on how I dressed for Mass and developed the “It’s better I’m here in jeans than not at all” mentality. It wasn’t until I got married that I took a hard look at how I was dressing. My husband and I sat down and had many talks about what clothing was appropriate for everyday and for Church. We are a one income family and even though we don’t have a lot of money we made sure that he had a suit and I had a nice dress for Sundays and Holy Days. When we starting dressing up for Mass, our approach to it really changed. It no longer felt like an obligation, but something we looked forward to.

    I know it’s easy for people to get into the habit of dressing casual for Church. As others had said, our society has become very casual. But also, like others had said, if you would dress up for the President, a wedding, et cetera than why wouldn’t you dress up for Church? The ‘God doesn’t care what I wear’ is a weak argument to be lazy in our relationship with Him. Perhaps, it stems from people not fully recognizing the real presence of God at mass.

    Lastly, there is something very attractive and super masculine about a man who dresses in a suit for Church.

  21. Miguel Nevarez

    Love this article!!!

  22. Phill

    I see people saying, ‘People may not have the decent clothes to dress up for Mass’. Our Lord knows what you have to wear. You must respect Our Lord not jut by dress, but by reverance during the Mass a well. The church I attend is very disrespectful towards Our Lord. The people come in shorts, flip flops, and tank-tops. The girls have cleavage showing. Do they not know who they are in the presence of? If they do, then shame. But if Our Lord was visibally present, the last thing they would wear is a tank top with cleavage hanging out, or cargo shorts showing their hairy legs.

  23. Amy

    What i’m trying to say is that the way you dress CAN demonstrate how grateful you are to receive the blessed sacrament. I’m saying dress up despite secular standards, of course God isn’t going to judge you based on how well you dress, but he is never going to be offended by how well you dress as long as you are doing it for His greater glory. Give God your 100 percent 100 percent of the time, you don’t have to show how grateful you are to be receiving the blessed sacrament with the way you dress, God can see it in your heart, but why not? Show the world, especially the secular world how important the sacrament is every way you can.
    Clothing isn’t secular, its a part of humanity, everyone wears it, its a sign of our sinfulness and everyone knows that, even if it’s just an inkling in their hearts. Fashion, IS a secular external matter and has little place in the church.
    Is that more like what you originally meant? If so, I agree but it took me a little while to get there. That’s what communication is for I guess :p

  24. Sorry for a few typos in the response…

  25. Yes, there certainly is something secular about secular dress: religious dress is habits and vestments. A sacrament is an external sign of an internal grace: the Church has never taught that getting dressed is such a thing (although the receiving of the religious habit is something close).

    The notion that external appears are just as important the internal is flatly false: just for starters, Jesus talked about the Pharisees being like whitewashed tombs–beautiful on the outside, but full of filth on the inside. The Church has never claimed that anything other than mortal sin–which is an internal stain, if unforgiven–sends you to hell: not Dockers! “Unworthy reception” is limited to receiving while a state of unconfessed mortal sin: not chinos!

    Next we come to the one valid point that you made: those around you. In dressing, we should give consideration to not giving scandal to others…not being a stumbling block to the extent we can reasonably avoid it. You also implied that the mass has a certain atmosphere on a natural leave: if we showed up with beach attire, that would affect us on the natural level…so I’m not recommending going dressed in distracting clothing here, nor clothing which is noticeably inferior to what you normally wear. In light of that, your observation of the wealthy person who wears their finest attire to go to the theater, but wear a t-shirt and sandals to Mass, is not applicable–in addition to being something which does not exist in the real world.

    It is emphatically false that we can tell the internal thought process of another: because we are not God. Therefore, people cannot any infallible moral certainty concerning who is dressing one’s “best” for our Lord, and who is just trying to show off. Indeed, as I understand you, we ALL ought to be wearing designer outfits if we can afford them. All women should be wearing formal gowns, and all men tuxedoes of the finest make (again, if we can afford it). Because you certainly seem to be claiming that it is external, secular standards which God looks at: NOT our hearts and souls. Again, yes, we should always seek to present to God our finest, but that simply is not defined by secular standards of fashion: which is why religious habits are not fine, and why St. Paul specifically warned women about wearing finery.

  26. Dennis

    What you should wear is simple: how would you dress if a famous saint were handing out the Eucharist? How would you dress to receive the true Body and Blood of our Lord? The outfit should demonstrate how grateful you are and how much you respect the Church and your priest.

    1. I don’t believe that dress–an external, secular matter–can possibly demonstrate how grateful I am to receive the Eucharist, and how much I respect the Church. Dress is not only inadequate, but it is going in entirely the wrong direction.

      The dress of most people receiving from a saint is a plain, modest habit.

      1. Amy

        There is nothing secular about dress. External appearances are just as important as internal. A sacrament after all is an outward sign. Our life is defined by outward appearances in as much as it is by inner spiritual. How you appear on the outside to receive the blessed sacrament is just as important as how you appear inwardly. It sends a message to everyone around you and sets an example for them. If you are a wealthy person and the members of the parish see you in your finest attire to go to the theater but you wear a t-shirt and sandals to receive communion, what kind of message does that send?

        Furthermore, people can tell the difference when you are dressing your best for Our Lord and when you are just trying to show off. My mother once told me that there was a member of our parish that only came to show off how well and expensively she dressed, but she never told us who it was. I could never even venture a guess because everyone dressed well and behaved with reverence. If you are in the presences of God, then you better be in your finest. Spiritually, and physically, and no one who is truly there for God will try to judge you for it, or become offended.

  27. Here’s the problem. I have a tuxedo. In fact, if dress is the measure of my respect for God, then I could afford something much more expensive than the tuxedo that I have.

    The Bible speaks of fancy dress–regarding women. It says, not to do it. Is that because women are in a different category, or because women are more prone to dress for natural beauty in secular terms?

    We speak of dressing up to meet the President: yes, that would be a secular setting going by secular standards. We would be meeting him for secular (relatively superficial) reasons. God is different: he is not secular, and so the standards are not secular…which is why religious dress plainly (except in the case of a priest saying the Mass).

    I am not suggesting that it is wrong to dress up: anything we do for God with good intention is good. Nor am I suggesting dressing in a way that is distracting to other attendees. But I am suggesting that I have encountered the strong emphasis on the fashion show more in Protestant settings before my conversion…and I’m suggesting to not focus on this issue regarding others.

  28. JTLiuzza

    The author is more charitable than I am by characterizing the phenomenon as “society becoming more casual.” I would say we have become a nation of slobs.

    The “God doesn’t care what I wear” and “let’s be inclusive” rhetoric is nonsense. It provides slobs justification for remaining slobs and hasn’t served Western civilization, the Church, or individual souls very well.

    Dressing properly at Mass is not just about respecting the Lord who is there in the Holy Eucharist. It is most certainly about that. But there is also another reason. A reason that should compel the Catholic to dress properly and not like a slob wherever he is.

    You are made in His likeness and image. You are not a slob. You are a soul that God Himself made and for whom He suffered His passion. You are a great treasure to the Lord of all. You bet God cares what you wear, not only at Mass but everywhere. In fact, Our Lady of Fatima reminded us of such.

    In my town, as well pretty much every town in the USA, there is a Goodwill or some other thrift store. You can get a suitable sports jacket there for $5 or so as well as other items that won’t break even the most meager of budgets.

    There is no excuse. And God indeed does care.

  29. Episteme

    As a Catholic, I’ve gotten more and more involved in lay ministry over recent years, going from being an usher at Sunday masses to being an extraordinary minister of holy communion most weeks (either assigned or filling in for any absences, since I’m already on my feet as an usher) to now being a lector at weekday dawn masses more than half of the week (alternating with another man). Plus, with being an officer in my parish’s Knights of Columbus council, I’ve grown to be — even as a single thirty-something (not the traditional ‘authority figure’ in a parish) a man who has to present a clean gentlemanly image. I always, from my teen years on, dressed well for my state in life at mass, but now — given what I do at mass and being prepared always to fill in as needed — I’m everyday dressed in a jacket and tie. Mind you, those tend to be clothing that I’ve bought on discount racks and clearance sales at places (some of those sportcoats were only $10-20), but I’ve made sure to combine elements of outfits (including my favorite, the pocket square) to make the ensemble look far nicer in total than each piece in individual.

    Folks always ask, especially on weekdays, if I’m dressed to go to the office after mass. I explain that I actually work from home currently (due to home my company is currently downsized into a smaller location, so many of us telecommute), so my dressing up is purely for mass and for stopping at another church for my daily Eucharistic Adoration later in the day. As I point out, and you point out, I personally feel more comfortable being in the Real Presence of the King of the Universe in a nicer outfit — plus, I spend most masses (given my work in the parish) around liturgical elements and would look out of place were I not more dressed up. To the comments that a tie is uncomfortable to wear, I joke to myself that so is a cross, but He didn’t complain… 😉

    (The funny thing is that myself and a few other Knights and men in St. Vincent dePaul have together over the past year made deliberate concentrated efforts — without commenting on anything — to dress up more at mass and while serving as ushers or while doing public charity around the church. We’ve actually noticed that more other men in the pews have been dressing up: even if just in polos and khakis, but often in button-downs and jackets where they used to wear tee shirts — we figure that it’s a tough time to get money and even recruits, so we’ve been surreptitiously been working on parish morale and especially that sort of masculine identity among some of our corner-case parishioners via the miracle of how a jacket makes a man feel…)

  30. Rob

    This article smacks too much of pride. And, the premise of the article is more about Culture than Christianity. I think this article is more at home in a Men’s magazine or a Victorian newspaper, than a Christian blog. Christ did not walk this earth in the finest of attire. He wore sandals and a simple robe (not even ornate dress for his time). John the Baptist, St. Francis and many other great saints of the Church also dressed simply. Look at our current Pope for a modern example. Does he put much emphasis on dressing your best or looking above average? No! In fact, he has made a specific point to dress simply and to live simply. Furthermore, he has admonished Church leaders, who have adorned themselves with trappings of wealth. This article would have you believe that if you don’t adorn yourself with fine garments you have no love, respect, or honor for Christ. This sentiment is not only anti-canonical, but frankly un-Christian.

  31. CC

    This is such a difficult issue for many, including myself. I completely agree that one should attend Mass in a spirit of reverence, showing that reverence in any and every way possible–including one’s attire. It’s how I was raised, and it’s how I dressed…until I moved to a far rural parish in Alaska where even just nice jeans and a cable knit sweater elicited reactions of “Was there a funeral or something? Why are you so dressed up?”

    To be clear, the parish was Christ-centered and our priest reminds me more of Christ than anyone else I’ve met, so it wasn’t a general laziness or lack of reverence.

    It’s just that the idea of “dressing up” as most people in the Lower 48 (or just in a metropolitan area in general) just does not resonate with the culture there, and they even take it as a show of DISrespect to be overly dressed for weddings, Mass, meeting the governor, or any other example of a situation where you’d want to communicate respect. Wearing a suit and tie to Mass there would be the equivalent of someone coming to church in New York in a ball gown–it’s show-offy, separates you from the rest of the community, and is distracting.

    I’m not saying it’s right, I’m guess I’m just wondering out loud: how, as members of the Body of Christ, shall we properly show respect to God in what we wear while also being in community and solidarity with our church community and culture as we come to the table together at Mass?

  32. Jeffrey

    Well for me personally, I am a server at Holy Mass almost every Mass I go to at my parish, and I rarely go to another parish. That being said I usually wear a nice clean pair of black jeans with a collared shirt (usually plaid in colour) and a blazer, though I will take it (my blazer and collared shirt) off in the Sacristy where I put on my Cassock and Surplice to serve at Holy Mass. If I ever were to not be serving though I would put on a dress shirt with probably a bolo tie (simply because of my western choice of style, hence the jeans and plaid shirt). I believe that if we dress up to go to a wedding, funeral, First Communion, Confirmation, fancy dinner party, etc because these are “special occasions”, why would we not also dress up to go to Holy Mass? Is Mass not special? Are we not celebrating something extraordinary? Well there’s my two cents. Feel free to weigh in on it!

  33. Andy

    Excellent. Dress is an important aspect of non-verbal communication.

    In the military, we have several uniforms, some for work, some for office and dress uniforms for special events. As laymen (members of the Church Militant), what other event can be more special than receiving the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of our GOD? Who cares what other people think about you if you dress right for Mass, if your focus is on the Eucharist, your demeanor will reflect the love you have for Him.

  34. Jesus tells us to come as we are. He wore sandals, he preached on mountain tops, in boats and anywhere there were people, sick and poor. Yes I want to present myself clean before the Lord, but to dress up and go to a million dollar church is not something I feel comfortable about. ‘Come as you are’

  35. Lisa

    Definitely one of the things I do not understand..scruffy jeans or shorts with sandals or flip flops, tee shirts with tacky slogans. Even more odd when EM’s or Lectors look like they can’t wait to get back to the beach. I think it’s respectful when entering the Church where Christ is present to make an effort. You don’t need a tux or tie or a formal gown, just something neat and modest.

  36. Scott

    I used to subscribe to the idea that God knows what is in my heart, so why does what’s on my back matter? Then I read an article that resonated with me that was similar to this one. The author asked, how would you dress if you were meeting the leader of your nation? I doubt it would be in yesterdays shirt, shorts and flip flops. How much more important is it to dress up then when going to see the King of Kings? I don’t have much money but I am able to dress nicely for Mass and here in the US most people can afford a nice outfit, they just choose not too.

    1. Nat

      Hi Scott, not sure if you saw my above article, but in it a leader of one of the other churches addresses this issue.. how would you respond to it? here she says you dress up for the president, but if you were the presidents daughter you would not care what you were wearing and feel comfortable talkign to your father in any clothes. .. indirectly saying that traditional churches do not really have the personal relationship of God as Father?
      http://www.alexseeley.com/blog/

  37. Reblogged this on CPO Unltd and commented:
    A great article for men on why we should dress for Mass. As my daughter, Ariana, would say, “Looking FIERCE for Jesus!”

  38. nairb

    My problem with this article is that it presumes God views us as if He we’re interviewing a potential employee. Whether we love God in our lives isn’t exactly evident from what kind of clothes we wear(there, I said it.) I’ve seen people show up to mass and bow at communion in jeans. I’ve also seen people dress up and talk immediately after mass with no respect given to the sacrament.
    For me, there’s two rules for how someone should dress at mass. 1. Don’t dress to impress. It’s not about you, and your attire shouldn’t be someone else’s focus, be it overly casual or overly formal. You shouldn’t want to stand out one way or another. If people are looking at YOUR clothes, they aren’t focused on Christ.
    2. Don’t dress immodestly. This goes fod inside and outside mass.

  39. Nat

    how would you respond to this article? where she says you dress up for the president, but if you were the presidents daughter you would not care what you were wearing and feel comfortable talkign to your father in any clothes. .. indirectly saying that traditional churches do not really have the personal relationship of God as Father?
    http://www.alexseeley.com/blog/

    1. Andy

      Easy, when I’m in heaven, I won’t care what I wear. God is not JUST Father but Creator and Judge. If we are to Honor thy father and mother, then dressing appropriately in their house is one way of doing so. How much more so if whose house we go to is the Divine Father, Creator and Judge.

  40. Lucien Mafera

    God doesn’t care about your cloth as long as you are a good disciple and spreading his word .

  41. I’d add that somewhere like Texas (where I live), a (clean) pair of jeans, dress shirt, and a sports coat, and maybe a tie or bola is considered dressed up enough to meet the governor or even POTUS. With boots and cowboy hat, of course! But, then, Texas is a bit more rural and blue collar than the East Coast still.

  42. JoAnn Murray

    It says in the Bible, “Give to the Lord, the glory due his holy name. Worship the Lord in holy attire.” Psalm 29:1-2.

    The Lord God in the Old Testament carefully details how his temple is to be built and adorned and the garments of his priests.

    We must present ourselves to him with care and respect

    When the little boy next door to us complained when he had to come in from the yard in order to change clothes to go to dinner at a friend’s house, his mother said to him,”because that is how we show respect for the invitation.”

  43. Hi there,

    I absolutely love this article! You put everything I had been thinking of, perfectly. It’s really too bad that this trend of dressing increasingly casual is becoming more and more prevalent in society, especially within the Church.

    I have also noticed, though some may consider it unrelated, that music for the Holy Mass is, in some churches, becoming more and more less traditional. My home parish, has been known for decades for being “charismatic” and known for it’s use of contemporary worship for Mass. Recently, however, our pastors have decided to change that, including more traditional music, more chants, no colloquial songs. Many parishioners have left the parish due to the changes. I, personally, am so grateful because it shows that the Mass is not the same as a worship concert, but rather, in a most beautiful manner, points us to the sublimity of the Lord, and the great sacrifice of the altar.

    Grace & Peace,
    Christine (Ottawa, CANADA)

  44. LT

    What to do when the Parish Priest is casual in his attire?

    1. You want to know what I really think? I’m going to be very blunt. Leave the parish and find one where the priest takes his holy orders and participation in the high priesthood of Christ seriously.

      1. oh how i long for the days of the cassock…

      2. I’m not sure if jumping off the cruise ship because you don’t like the captain (or his attire) is the best approach.

        I’m also not sure about a priest being “casual in his attire” is the same as not taking “his holy orders and participation in the high priesthood of Christ seriously.”

  45. Adriana Wee

    I think most people think that the 1hr or so Sunday masses are just a ‘responsibility’ to see The Lord. Therefore, most mass goers dress for ‘after mass’. This includes me, and I’m ashamed to admit. But that’s the truth. Round neck T-shirt & jeans. Very top casual. I thought it was ok, until I realized alota movies actually showed how much going to church means, the RESPECT.
    When I got older, I noticed a new trend of people started during mass; Spaghetti top with hot pants or even a strikingly tight pants with tight tops on the ladies, round neck t-shirts with 3/4 pants or torn jeans with beach slippers for the men, let alone all the smoochings n huggings during mass time. I stopped going to church after a few months as I felt that I sinned myself even more for quietly making remarks about these people who shows the real ‘no respect’ for the church n people around them. I thought to myself that ‘my young child should best not see these people’. Also, the distraction I’m getting from looking out these people!
    I really hope that even if we dont have much money to buy clothes just for mass, proper polo shirts or buttoned up shirts are still ok. Even if we would like to fit it up with jeans are ok, so long as they aren’t torn-out jeans. Ladies should really STOP the spaghetti straps (eventho u’re clearly just a GRO at a pub/club) or the barebacks or off shoulders. I know mass is just an hour long n u gotta rush off to UR pub/club for work (evening masses), but come on! Urgh! I really do not expect wears like tie/coat or summer dresses, but appropriate wears pls.
    I suggest the Catholic Church should introduce ‘Proper Attire’ board on notice boards or front door of church so if anyone representing the church sees them inside, they cud go up to the person n speak to them quietly (without embarrassing them) n tell them to stand outside the church as the church has places for families, adults n children, n we really DO NOT want their so called ‘dressing culture/lifestyle’ to penetrate the minds of our young.
    There again, this is just my 2cents…

  46. Ann

    As a young Catholic woman, I have such a deep appreciation for people who dress up for mass. Sure, God may not “care” what clothes we wear to mass, but we should! While clothing is not the focus at all at the holy mass, we should reflect in our demeanor, posture, and, yes, even clothing that we are aware of what is taking place and give it due reverence. The Holy Eucharist is the source and summit of the Christian life!! We should recognize that going to Mass IS NOT for us. Mass isn’t about how comfortable WE are or what WE get out of it. The focus isn’t on us, it is on our King, our Lord and Savior. When we are in the true presence of the King, our dress should reflect it. Money constraints aside, the only real reason we could ever have for dressing down for Mass is laziness and selfishness. Come, live in the light, and let us embrace those small sacrifices of putting effort into how we dress for the Lord. Thank you, Catholic Gentleman, for your beautiful words.

  47. I have been fascinated with the 1920s and 1930s since I was a child. I would love to be able to wear some tweed plus fours or a good quality seer sucker suit every day if could, let alone every Sunday. I can’t afford such things, let alone a custom tailored suit. I live near my basilica and mass is on everyday. I wish I could spare myself some of my more casual clothes but unfortunately not everyone can afford such items and accessories. I suppose the question is this; is the house of the Lord a corporate office where merchants and businessmen peddle their wares or is it a house of prayer and worship? We are the Universal Church after all.

  48. Bill

    Our church needs to be open to everyone no matter the dress. I wear jeans to Sunday Mass and dress up for Holy days. Jesus wasn’t in a tie when he started our church and preached to everyone that would listen.

    1. Openness is not the issue, appropriateness is.

  49. This is a a great article and with points well made. Here’s an article I wrote on the same topic with a slightly different approach.

    http://fromthebackofthechurch.blogspot.com/2012/08/does-god-care-what-we-wear-to-church_19.html

  50. I just ran across your blog from a friend who posted this on Facebook. As a woman, I agree. The mass if suppose to be set aside from our normal life. Shouldn’t we dress as though we are attending something that is extraordinary? I agree that it shouldn’t be flashy but appropriate. The Church has guidelines for how to dress. I think the important thing is that you are not drawing attention to yourself and you are dressing with dignity.

  51. J.O.Z

    Lawl God cares about how i look? about the clothes i wear and whats on the outside? Oh ok i thought it was your attitude and actions that dictated how close you were with God. Many of the greatest pastors dress like they would any other day to show the world God doesnt care about petty things like that. Sorry, just the truth.

    1. Robert Jackman

      Yes He looks on the inside, but if the inside is right, it will effect the outside. If you care, it will show.

    2. Robert Jackman

      The folks who wear basketball shoes and a team jersey spend more on their clothes than I do wearing a sportcoat and slacks. Also, look at their other expendatures. This is not a promotion of exclusivity. The slumps have excluded themselves by having priorities that are out of whack.

  52. NRC

    Do you really think that God and Christ care what we wear so long as it is not excessively immodest? And if we do not think that he does, then dressing up is not an act of self-giving. It would be that only if he cared. Better a modern day Mary Magdalene with a pure heart than a mean, corrupted, uncharitable socialite in a (sleeved) dress with matching purse and shoes.

    1. JMF

      NRC – so you won’t mind when I show up to your wedding in jeans, right? Because on the inside, I take your wedding very seriously, and that’s all that matters.

    2. AA Cunningham

      If the Priest, Deacon and servers can dress appropriately then there’s no excuse for the congregation not to.

    3. The point is to dress appropriately according to one’s station in life. It’s possible to wear “Sunday Best” without spending a fortune. And, the interior should be reflected by the exterior.

    4. Amgel Cop

      yeah, because the dude who walks in wearing his boxers most likely has a pure heart.

  53. Joey X

    I come from a poor inner city parish in Philadelphia, and I can tell you that throughout the entirety of my life, everyone has always dressed up for mass. It isn’t even just Catholics, my father’s family is protestant and almost no one wears casual clothes to church. Growing up, we had “dress down month” for August which mean we could wear slacks, a button-down and no tie rather than suit or jacket and tie!

    1. PuprDoo

      Have you visited the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The soldiers who guard the tomb are neatly and appropriately dressed leaving NO doubt to the observer something special is going on. How about the Elite Navy Seals who devote long hours to their profession … I’ll bet a years pay they are appropriately dressed due to their SPECIAL mission. There is NO give in how these and many more profession show up for work. If you had a choice would you be a patient in a hospital known for it’s expertise and with this I’ll guarantee you they are appropriately dressed) as apposed to a hospital known for it’s laxness and ‘dressed down’ appearance. Mass IS a VERY special hour. Nothing more, nothing less. When one has that special garment for a special occasion what does it say when they choose other than the special garment instead choose :

      @ dress apparel with spaghetti straps and cleavage
      @ the stylish slacks with holes
      @ flip flops
      @ shorts just below the buttocks

      Lets stop with the excuses and show the world that something special IS happening when we enter our Catholic Church. We should dress appropriate not because God won’t accept us if we don’t but . . . out of RESPECT.

      1. PuprDoo

        Sorry. My post was meant for NRC.

  54. Joseph Baby

    Why are people bringing up poverty? Is that even a concern? People don’t dress up because they are tools. Millionaires don’t dress like the monopoly man anymore, they dress mostly like bums these days. It’s an epidemic and it’s not just affecting Mass.

  55. I live in Texas, and it gets pretty hot during the summer. That’s no excuse, though, for ushers at my parish to wear T-shirts and shorts in my opinion.

    I’ll just stop here because I could go on and on…

    1. Joe

      I’m in Texas myself and I agree it does get very hot here. I believe during the summer here it’s best to wear a polo, dress slacks, and shoes. All can be purchased at Goodwill or Savers for probably below $30 if not already owned. Keep in mind I live in the city and not in a rural area, I’m sure you could make an argument for dressing differently in a rural area. This is just my opinion.

  56. Felicitas Naguit

    A very good reminder to all professing Christians/Catholics out there. Let’s dress up to the nines during Mass and Holy events. This for God’s glory and not to man.

  57. PuprDoo

    Not everyone has the cloths to dress up (for Mass)? I agree. Places so poor that all they have is what they are wearing day after day, when they show up for Mass, you know they are there because they want to be. What do you say for the family that shows up in designer casual clothing? Or the young lady showing up in a beautiful sun dress? I’m not sure the argument for not having money for proper clothing. A pack of cigarettes cost more than a respectable outfit bought at a Goodwill store. When one has money to buy cigarettes and lottery tickets I’m thinking they have enough money to buy an outfit at the thrift store. More times than not there is something in the closet for those special occasions. What does it say when we show up at a fancy gathering with that outfit on and something of the casual varity for Mass?

    1. Amen to that PD. I have been not to proud to buy clothes at the Salvation Army or Goodwill store. I have a condition–call it man-o-pause–
      I cannot wear a jacket or any coat indoors. Even long sleeve shirts usually make me very warm.
      But to go to church I dress at least dressy casual. I think it’s great to wear your best to worship: for God, for the rest of the assembly,
      and importantly for your wife and family.
      tks for bringing up this topic

  58. No, I don’t, I try to dress up nice enough to be presentable to God but also cognisant of the masses who attend mass…not everyone has the clothes to dress up…be INclusive…not Exclusive..

    1. jose

      How would you go to a job interview? I do not think “nice enough” and “cognisant” of the masses who are waiting their turn for their interview.
      Clothes to dress up are bought in department stores (you do not need a taylor). Clothes can be used to attend job interviews.
      They are a cheap way to show respect in any important event and to add distinction to yourself. (provided you do not become vain).
      Some people get married dressed as Elvis Presley (wig included). This is an option.
      Most people prefer to dress properly at these occasions. Also to attend Mass, because this is a sacred thing, not a stag party.
      It is not for nothing that the French philosoper Pascal said: if you want to believe in God, get on your knees and pray.
      Whith dress is the same.
      And you will help other parishioners to deep in their faith simply dressing up (for God).

    2. Obama

      “You will always have the poor but you will not always have me…” as the poor women poured precious oil on the head of Jesus.

    3. In my congregation, the poorer folk tend to out-dress the richer folk on Sunday. It’s not about inclusion.

      I think the post nicely summarizes that what a mindful presentation of one’s self is will be different for each of us, but it still must be mindful.

    4. Tess

      Never dress down, always dress with respect for Our Lord. No one needs to wear gold cuff links or tie clasp, but a respectable suite, shirt and tie need not make one feel that they are making others uncomfortable.
      Doing it for the proper reasons – Our Lord is present, I owe Him my best.

      1. thomas

        Some do not even have that

    5. I’m not saying you’re wrong, but one of the biggest things I noticed when I toured a ton of parishes in Ohio a couple years ago was this: the richest parishes had the cheapest vestments/chalices and wore casual clothes. The poorest parishes had the most ornate and beautiful vestments/chalices and wore–although much cheaper–more formal clothes. Don’t be shamed by your wealth. Just let what you have give glory to God.

    6. Why would you assume that dressing up for mass is offensive to those who have less than you? Are you dressing up to flaunt or show-off? Does dressing well mean you have to be in designer clothes or Rolex watches? In our part of the world (the Philippines) the masses are more dressed than the affluent mass-goers. That says a lot about who has their priorities straight.

      1. Arthur Ritis.

        Dear dbobcan,
        will you go for a audience with the President of your country in flipflops, Tshirt & shorts ?????. No! you will not, bcos you respect your President. Dressing up appropriately for Sunday Mass is showing the same respect & honour to almighty God & his son Jesus. In this case, the President of the Philippines is only ( king) of the Philippines. Almighty God is king of the entire world. You need to get your priorities straight & i pray the Holy Trinity will help you. God be with you.

      2. Rafael

        The point is: dress up modestly, but with simplicity. Meaning, no shorts, no undershirts, and please, no sexually explicit statement shirts. A shirt with sleeves, pants and sandals is fine already.


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