Dress / Holy Mass / Virtue

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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48 thoughts on “Dress Up for Mass!

  1. 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..

    • 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.

      • 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.

    • 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.

    • 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.

    • 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.

  2. 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?

  3. 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.

  4. 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…

    • 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.

  5. Pingback: Dress up for Mass?! Absurd.

  6. 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.

  7. 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!

    • 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.

  8. 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.

    • 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.

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

    • 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.

  9. 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.

    • 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.

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

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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.

  14. 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…

      • 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.”

  15. Pingback: Jeans or a Suit? 4 Things a Man Should Wear to Mass - Austin CNM | Austin CNM

  16. Pingback: Helping Men Dress for Mass | SoulPainter.com

  17. 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)

  18. 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.”

  19. 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.

  20. 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/

  21. 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.

  22. 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.

    • 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/

  23. 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.

  24. Pingback: Blog for Catholic Parents | Faith, Parenting, Relationships & Culture | YDisciple | Dress Up for Mass!

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