Until about 4 years ago, I usually wore jeans and a hoodie/sweater to Sunday Mass. After all, jeans were nicer than my usual soccer shorts or sweatpants, and I was comfortable in that. I figured that the point was not what I wore to Sunday Mass, but rather that I was there every week, participating fully, actively, and consciously. My parish seemed to be on my page, wardrobe-wise. Some people dressed up, but most people dressed casually, and it wasn't uncommon for some kid to show up in his or her full soccer uniform, right down to the cleats. "Come as you are," was my policy and that seemed sufficient.
Junior year of college, I transferred to a school where everyone dressed up for Sunday Mass. Girls wore skirts, dresses, heels, cardigans, and jewelry. Boys wore dress pants and collared shirts. A guy in a tie and blazer would be much more on the bandwagon than a guy in a tee shirt. It was different than what I was used to.
It made me think, though. Which is better? "Come as you are" or "Bring your best to God"?
...Kind of. I thought a lot about appropriate Sunday Mass wardrobe and here's what I've got. There are pretty much 3 basic questions I ask:
Is it modest?
This is the most basic one. If my clothes invite anyone to lust, then it's not appropriate to wear anywhere, including Mass. Disqualifications include skin tight, too short, featuring cleavage, or words on the butt.
Does it reflect the importance of the event?
When people do or attend something important, we dress up. Think of an audience with the Pope, a graduation, a wedding, meeting the President. The most important day in the liturgical calendar is Easter Sunday, and we've always dressed accordingly. Every Sunday, year round, is a "little Easter." Sundays are not counted in the 40 days of Lent because we are celebrating the Resurrection. Every Sunday is a re-celebration of Easter Sunday. That's a big deal, so I wear something nicer than I would wear if I were going to the mall or a friend's house.
Is it reverent?
Mary, Jesus' Mother, always magnifies the Lord and leads us to him. John the Baptist announces and prepares the way for Jesus' ministry on earth: "He [Jesus] must increase; I must decrease." Did you ever wonder why priests wear a humeral veil during Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament? Part of the reason priests wear that when they handle a monstrance that holds Jesus' Precious Body, is to draw attention to the Eucharistic Lord and away from themselves. We are all called to direct everyone's attention to Jesus, and what we wear speaks even when we're silent. If my clothes will encourage anyone to look more at me than at him, I won't wear it to Mass.
The end result is that I wear a dress or skirt (sometimes dress pants/dress shirt) Sunday Mass. Cardigans are key. My shoes are a little more casual: usually Toms (not flip-flops), and sometimes I wear heels. If, due to some unfortunate, unavoidable, unforeseen circumstance, I am not able to dress up for Mass, then I go with the "come as you are" principle (For that reason, I give people the benefit of the doubt. For all I know, they were out of town the night before, had car trouble, couldn't get home to change before Mass, and can't go to any of the other Masses because Great Aunt Ruth needs their help all day.).
In closing, here's an interesting video about what priests wear to Mass, what the vestments symbolize, and what priests pray when they vest. Enjoy!
Do you have any tips on Mass wardrobe? Is appropriate attire for weekday Mass different than Sunday Mass?