Why We Should Dress Up for Church in a Sacred Manner

Grateful Woman

I love dressing comfortably! I love cotton shirts, capris, flip flops and a messy bun. The most stand-out-ish thing about my style of dress is my bright toe nail polish. I didn’t always used to be this way. My high heeled, poofy haired pictures from the 80’s reveal my coiffed past.

Ironically, the event that transformed me was serving a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I served in amazing Scotland. I loved my mission—the place, the people I met, and especially raising my voice that Jesus Christ lives and His Gospel is on the earth. But, my “style” changed drastically and quickly. We were asked as missionaries to not wear loud fingernail polish, so I didn’t wear any nail polish on my fingernails. My hair is naturally straight, so my poofy hairdo didn’t last a minute in Scotland’s rainy climate, so I adjusted with a ponytail or barrette. Rain washed away all semblance of make up in about 5 minutes, so I just put on mascara. And wearing pantyhose for 18 months took its toll on my free spirit…but, I still wore them on my mission to be obedient. (I haven’t worn a full pair of pantyhose since 1993.)

My reverence for the sacred didn’t change, however. I approach sacred things with singleness of heart, and a skirt.

1-The Sacrament is Holy

Woman dressed up for the sacrament

Sacrament meeting enables me to partake of the sacrament—the bread and water representing the body and blood of Jesus Christ. As I worthily partake, in an attitude of repentance and seeking grace, the effects of the Savior’s atonement cleanses me from sin and I am clean again, like when I was baptized! I wear a dress to church because I’m the first to admit that I am more casual in my thoughts in capris and a hoody, and more focused on worship when I dress up for church in my best. At this most sacred time, I want to remember Him. I want Him to know that I remember Him. His atonement for me was not a casual event. I can’t imagine approaching the sacrament in casual clothes.

Elder Dallin H. Oaks shared similar thoughts:

How we dress is an important indicator of our attitude and preparation for any activity in which we will engage. If we are going swimming or hiking or playing on the beach, our clothing, including our footwear, will indicate this. The same should be true of how we dress when we are to participate in the ordinance of the sacrament. It is like going to the temple. Our manner of dress indicates the degree to which we understand and honor the ordinance in which we will participate.

2-An Example of the Believers

Woman dress up for church

I’m the oldest of 8 children and heard more than once, “You need to be the example to your brothers and sisters.” I’m not sure that I ever totally lived up to the lofty charge, but that parental counsel/warning stuck with me. Because sharing the depth I feel for the sacrament and Jesus’ saving grace defies words, one way I can portray its importance to me to others is by “dressing up” for church. I do the hair and the face and I wear a skirt.

Ralph Waldo Emerson is believed to have said, “What you do speaks so loud that I cannot hear what you say” (see Ralph Keyes, The Quote Verifier [2006], 56). I react to others this way and can’t expect what I say to be more impactful than what I do.

Elder M. Russell Ballard spoke of the importance of example, too:

If the mothers wear flip-flops and other casual clothing to sacrament meeting, so do their daughters. Mothers, your example is extremely important to your daughters—even if they don’t acknowledge it.

Elder L. Tom Perry added a caution against casualness at church:

I believe He also desires us to dress appropriately. Our youth may think the old saying “Sunday best” is outdated. Still, we know that when Sunday dress deteriorates to everyday attire, attitudes and actions follow. Of course, it may not be necessary for our children to wear formal Sunday attire until the sun goes down. However, by the clothing we encourage them to wear and the activities we plan, we help them prepare for the sacrament and enjoy its blessings throughout the day.

3. An Attitude of Gratitude


Woman dressing up for church

Besides knowing that the church is true, I go to church every Sunday because I’m grateful to be filled to the brim by the Holy Ghost. I am re-energized. I love listening to the experiences of others in lessons and talks. The Holy Ghost gives thoughts and promptings of things I should do, repent of, or change. I am not really “social” during the week and get my social fill at church feeling the peaceful happiness of knowing I am not alone in my faith. It’s just an all-around great recharging time. The Apostle Paul spoke of how true worship leads to that cup-o’er-flowing joy. “Being enriched in every thing to all bountifulness, which causeth through us thanksgiving to God” (2 Corinthians 9:11). Every church meeting reminds me of my blessings! I hear children singing praise. I hear stories of struggles overcome. I partake of the sacrament.

I recently read an interesting article quoting Jennifer Fulwiler.

Jennifer Fulwiler, who wrote an article for the National Catholic Register titled, “Why Don’t We Dress up Anymore,” says her great-grandfather would put on a coat and tie just to go grocery shopping.

The reasons why people stopped dressing up could fill a book. Yet Fulwiler offers one explanation that’s seldom mentioned – lack of gratitude.

Fulwiler’s revelation came one day as she watched scruffily dressed people board a plane. She flashed back to a black-and-white photo she had seen of her grandparents boarding a plane in the 1940s. Most of the passengers were dressed in suits and ties and dresses because air travel was such a privilege at the time.

“We dress up for what we’re grateful for,” she says. “We’re such a wealthy, spoiled culture that we feel like we have a right to fly on airplanes,” says Fulwiler, author of “Something Other than God,” which details her journey from atheism to Christianity.

Church is like air travel now – it’s no longer a big deal because people have lost their sense of awe before God, Fulwiler says.

Have we really lost our sense of awe before God our Creator and King? And is it really evidenced by what we wear? Then you can be sure that I will always dress up for church!

Oh Lord my God
When I in awesome wonder
Consider all the worlds
Thy hands have made
I see the stars
I hear the rolling thunder
Thy power throughout
The universe displayed

When through the woods
And forest glades I wander
And hear the birds
Sing sweetly in the trees;
When I look down
From lofty mountain grandeur
And hear the brook
And feel the gentle breeze;

And when I think,
That God, His Son not sparing
Sent Him to die,
I scarce can take it in;
That on the cross,
My burden gladly bearing
He bled and died
To take away my sin

When Christ shall come
With shouts of acclamation
And take me home
What joy shall fill my heart
Then I shall bow
In humble adoration
And there proclaim,
“My God! How great Thou art”

Then sings my soul
My Savior, God, to Thee
How great Thou art!
How great Thou art!
(“How Great Thou Art”, Hymn 86)

I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I love exploring the world, experiencing nature, assimilating truth, and hanging out with my husband. One of my life goals is to visit every LDS temple in the world. I've been to 101.