“Decorum: 1)whatever is suitable or proper; propriety; fitness 2) propriety and good taste in behavior, speech, dress, etc. 3) an act or requirement of polite behavior” Webster’s Dictionary
Recently I attended a wedding and a funeral in the same week. At both events, I was startled by the clothing worn by a few people. At the wedding, which was formal, several 20-something young men came in jeans and tee shirts, and one young couple arrived looking like they were headed to Home Depot or a Saturday hike. He was in cargo shorts and a tee.
I felt offended that these young adults don’t have the sense of “ceremony” or “decorum” in their dress and behavior. To me, that means that they know how to dress appropriately for an occasion, and if the occasion is special, to bump their dress code up a step.
When a bride and groom and their parents spend a small fortune on the wedding, unless it is at the beach and the invitation reads “casual attire”, I believe it shows good manners to dress up for the celebration. Can you not put on your best clothes for the most important day in your friend’s life? Especially when you have had your own wedding and know how it feels to be feted?
At the funeral, some of the extended family wore graphic tees and jeans and hoodies. Really? Old sweatshirts and jeans at your uncle’s funeral? Can’t you do better than this as a sign of respect?
I can hear all the objections and arguments in my head, and you can remind me of more. I know that ‘the clothes don’t make the man’, and that ‘it’s not what’s on the outside, it’s what’s on the inside that counts’. I am not promoting superficiality or hypocrisy. I just think it’s sad that our culture, except perhaps the upper-income levels, doesn’t know how to dress up anymore. And it’s not about the money. These young people have plenty of resources.
When I was a kid (Oh, here she goes again, I can hear some of you groaning). No, seriously, when I was a kid people dressed up to go to church. In fact, people dressed up to go downtown shopping. People dressed up to fly in an airplane. I remember hats and high heels at the airport. (Clearly, we have come to our senses in some regards.) We went to school in school clothes and we came home and changed to play clothes to keep the school clothes nice. Nowadays, teachers are happy when the child’s hair is combed and he doesn’t smell bad.
I know the defense of “lowering” (excuse the word bias) the church dress code is that people want to be real, and somehow dressing up is putting on airs and hypocritical. If we go in our “everyday clothes” (by that they mean weekend clothes, not business casual) it’s a statement that our faith is an ‘everyday’ affair, not just for show on Sundays. It’s about being transparent, who we really are when we gather together for worship. I agree with those sentiments but I don’t think those values are limited to sloppy apparel. Let’s not polarize the congregation. In the mindset of the dress-up days, I think people were wanting to ‘do our best for the Lord’, polishing shoes and ironing ruffles on Saturday night for the coming “Lord’s Day”. It was a day to set apart from the ordinary.
I don’t care if people wear jeans to church or not. I am glad if they are getting up to go to church! Some congregations are purposely casual, meeting in storefront commercial buildings to take the ‘sting’ out of going to church in a traditional way that may have offended them. That’s great. Apostle Paul said he had become “all things to all men in order that he by some means might reach some”.
So, what am I fussing about?
It’s not a fuss, really. It’s a worry. I am worrying that our culture has forgotten how to CELEBRATE and in so doing is losing the distinctions of specialness, of what makes one day different from another and one occasion unique over others. I know it is more practical nowadays for little girls to wear pants when they go to a birthday party at the Gymboree. I just hope there are still party dresses somewhere in their lives. A few years ago I was shopping for a dress and was dismayed that Mervyn’s had quit carrying adult dresses. Period. What?
I don’t want to be thought a reactionary or an old fuddy duddy, quivering “In my day…” All I am saying is that:
Dressing up on the outside creates a sense of specialness on the inside, that this occasion is a big deal, that we are celebratory.
I like it when a man puts on a coat and tie for a special occasion.
I think it is good to show respect for other people’s special occasions by dressing appropriately.
I think we should instill in our youth a sense of appropriateness in behavior as well as clothing. But that is another big subject.
I really invite your comments and you don’t have to agree with me. I would like the dialogue. If you set up a Google account you can respond.