4 Questions to Ask as You Dress for Mass

When you wake up in the morning, how do you decide what to wear? Most of us take into account what’s happening that day, who will be there, and what the goal of the day is. Whether it’s for work at the office, a date, a wedding, a hike, or staying at home, we dress accordingly. So, when it comes to Sunday Mass, we should dress accordingly. If Mass matters, then what we wear matters. But what does that look like? If you haven’t thought about it in a while, here are a few guidelines to help you choose what to wear to Mass.

What occasions do these clothes fit?

Before deciding what to wear at Mass, think about the event. What’s happening? Mass is about worshiping God. It’s important enough that Catholics are required to go every week. We believe that a miracle happens every Mass wherein our God comes to us in the form of bread and wine. So, it makes sense to dress up for Mass more than you would for say, a sporting event or a day of errands.

As far as practicalities go, it can be helpful to look at the rules for entering churches in Rome. In Rome, you can’t enter a Catholic church if you are wearing shorts or tank tops The basic rule is that your knees and shoulders must be covered, and you must wear shoes. Following those rules is a decent way to respect the church space where ever Mass is held.

What does this say in the culture I live in?

If you are tempted to wear an evening gown or tuxedo to Sunday Mass (I mean, you are meeting the king of kings after all), remember to consider the norms of the current time and place where you live. Your “Sunday Best” usually doesn’t mean cocktail attire. And if you are struggling to decide what is appropriate, that’s probably a good thing — that means that Mass is important enough for you to think about dressing appropriately.

Keep in mind that some geographical places and communities are more formal and others are less formal. Temperature can play a big role in that, as well as cultural traditions. Pay attention to the norms where you are. When in doubt, go dressier.

Is it about me … or Him?

On the one hand, it doesn’t matter if you look terrible or amazing — Mass will go on. But on the other hand, be wary of investing too much effort into how you look at Mass. Don’t wear something to purposefully draw attention to yourself. Be respectful of the other people attending Mass, and dress for what you’re doing: praising God.

And a final note for any of us who get distracted by what other people wear: we are not the Sunday Fashion police. If you are constantly frustrated by what people wear to Mass, remember that it is not your place to judge. Maybe those people who look like they just rolled out of bed really did. Praise God they made it to Mass! Maybe they’re traveling. Maybe what they are wearing is the nicest outfit they own—even if it doesn’t seem like it to you. Maybe they recently gained or lost a lot of weight and they don’t have much that fits right now. Maybe they just haven’t put much thought into what they wear to Mass.

Whatever the case may be, if they’re distracting you from participating in Mass, you need to work on that flaw in yourself. Try sitting in the front row, or as close to the front row as possible, so you can only see a few people. Close your eyes and pray when everyone lines up for Communion so you are physically unable to see what people are wearing. And pray for the grace to stay focused on Mass, because that’s why we should all be there.

This appeared at Aleteia.

Cecilia Pigg

Cecilia Pigg was a Gregorian Fellow and 2015 graduate of Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas. A former editor of Catholic Match newsletter, she is a wife and mother living in Topeka, Kansas, and writes weekly for Aleteia.