An interesting comment appeared in my combox related to the proper way to dress in church. The gist of the message was that at times people “dress so far out of the fashions that it draws attention to yourself and distracts others from prayer”. In contrast, simplicity should be preferred, then the well dressed person is also a simply dressed person.
I agree with what precedes, if we first agree about definitions.
I call elegance the way a person of both sexes, but particularly a man, dresses in order to enhance his appearance in a stylish but traditionally accepted way. Elegance changes only extremely slowly, and the well dressed man of 1913 did not dress – considering the time which elapsed – much differently than the well dressed man in 2013 does. In fact, even elements like morning suits and frock jackets are still seen, even today.
The matter is a bit different for women, as the Downton Abbey lady would dress much differently than her modern counterpart; but in every age, men and women were able to distinguish between a well-dressed woman and a gaudy, inappropriate one. Similarly, whilst fashion always played a role in female dress, there has always been an underlying standard of beautiful modesty and simplicity. A good girl of today might appear in church dressed not much differently than the girls in the “little house in the prairie”, and kudos to them.
It is generally said that elegance is for men, and fashion is for women and homosexuals. Fashion changes continuously, and has elements of flash that can easily be misplaced in a woman, and look outright disturbing in a man. The “faggot look” you see so often today among boys and young men (those strange faggoty trousers, the v-shirts, and the generally effeminate look and demeanour) is a prime example.
The elegant man never follows fashion, because fashion is not manly. The elegant woman always pays attention that she follows a conservative, decent, modest fashion, though her sex will be allowed some more leeway.
This, elegant men and women do because, having been properly raised, they know that proper appearance is a way we show respect to other people. Whilst the modern slob ideology puts comfort and the self before everything, the old mentality gives right of way to proper appearance as a way to show proper manners. This is, I was raised to believe, a matter of basic respect and decency. Decency fully forgotten in times in which people think they can walk around in flip-flops “because it's more comfortable”; and if one is not ashamed of the flip-flops on the road, it won't be long before the flip-flops visit the church.
At the same time, I do not believe much in the modern rhetoric of “overdressing”. In a world in which slob is the new elegant, no man should be cowed into uniforming himself to the general decay in appearance. A man should be always properly dressed according to his means, instead of following the modern fads of “leisure Fridays” which end up meaning jeans and t-shirt in the office, or worse. Least of all should a real man be persuaded to go around like a bum because “nowadays everyone does it. Don't be an “everyone”. Be a proper man.
Now, we live in times when the general flattening towards the worst of everything may let one appear “overdressed”, who simply cares about proper appearance. More power to him, say I, and may his clothes always fit him well.
This does not mean, though, that elegance should be confused with bad taste. The Earl of Grantham will always be appropriately dressed for church, exactly as Elton John will never be. Extravagance isn't elegance, and it indicates bad taste, if not outright faggotry.
My conclusions are therefore as follows:
1. The elegant man will always be appropriately dressed in church, and the more elegant, the better. No one would say one could be overdressed in the presence of the Queen; the more so in the presence of Jesus.
2. Elegance doesn't mean being unduly flashy, or outright vulgar.
3. If an elegantly dressed man is considered “overdressed” in church, this is more likely to say something about how underdressed the people around him are, and about the extent to which slobbish dressing has become mainstream.
Proper appearance is a matter of respect for our neighbour. Proper appearance in Church – according to one's means and basic common sense – should go without saying. I find it very good – and very natural – that such a beautifully conservative mentality should find expression among the supporters of the Mass of the Ages.
I have already written about the decision of the Colombo’s Cathedral to impose a rigorous dress code with obligation for women to use the veil during Mass.
Father Z posted an interesting poll meant at knowing whether his reader thinks that a) a head covering should be worn and b) in this case, whether this should be made mandatory.
You can go directly to the site and click your way to the poll, where you will be able to vote even if not registered.
Interestingly enough, the YES to the head covering variations are majority among both sexes, with in both cases those preferring to leave freedom of choice being more numerous than those preferring that it be obligatory as it was in the past.
I was very pleased to read Fr Z confirming that the habit of covering the head among churchgoing women seems to be coming back again as this confirms my anecdotal observations both at the Oratory and elsewhere.
I have voted for the mandatory covering of the head for the following reasons:
1) I don’t think that this is the kind of obligation that could let anyone feel uncomfortable. It is an obligation out of love and those actions of which we make obligations out of love are the most beautiful ones.
2) Men have the obligation, not the choice, of uncovering their head when in church. Rightly so. The resurgence of male headgear (from formal hats to baseball caps to, well, hoods) hasn’t had any effect on this very simple, natural rule.
3) The women’s obligation of covering one’s head in church was a tradition of the past. Beautiful concept, tradition. Something passed from generation to generation …… before the V II generation decided that hey, it was not good enough anymore. In my eyes, whenever one recovers Church customs of the past one can never go wrong. If it was good in my grandmother’s time, it can’t be wrong now and if my grandmother never wondered whether the veil or hat should be mandatory I don’t think we should wonder now. You see, my grandmother lived in time when Christianity was more important than individual freedom. Food for thought.
4) Head covering is considered a traditional sign of modesty for women even outside of mass (see photo). Whilst one doesn’t advocate women always having to cover their heads, it is clear that if the covering of a woman’s head is a sign of modesty, the church is the natural place for it.
I salute the return of this beautiful tradition, then. I see in it another small step towards the recovery of liturgical sanity. Let us hope that this old custom may spread more and more in the decades to come.
Beautiful and very encouraging news from Si Lanka. As Rorate Coeli reports, in Colombo’s cathedral women are now required to use the veil during Mass.
This is in the wider contest of a discussion of appropriate dress in places of worship, which is now being examined at government level with the aim of creating a dress code uniformly applicable across faiths (I am curious about that; but we shall see how it works), but the news from Colombo’s cathedral is a true indication of how things are slowly, but surely changing. How different this is from the feminist abortionist nuns of the United States, how distant from the home-made Catholicism of ageing “progressives”. These are young countries, and their young people will grow to re-edify the building of Catholicism so gravely damaged and desecrated by the hordes of now old or dying hippies and assorted rebel nuns.
One could say that to make the veil mandatory is a step too far. But if one is serious about the reintroduction of old Catholic customs (which carry with them, as every liberal so-called catholic will tell you, the by them intensely dreaded restoration of authentic Catholic mentality) a bit of energy can’t be, surely, wrong.
Every news like this one is another daffodil blooming in front of our eyes after the long, harsh winter started in the mid-Sixties.