Dress code for the church

By: Modesto P. Sa-onoy

LAST MONTH I attended a wedding at a posh subdivision in Metro Manila. It was all formal – men in black suits and white shirts and ladies in long gowns were specified. The reception at a Makati hotel was expensive with all-white roses, imported white tulips, formal luncheon with printed menu, etc. In brief, it was all according to the rules – the dress code and the luncheon servings.

A dress code is common in ceremonies and even in ordinary business hours because the attire presents the level of education and social values. In the military and navy organizations, they represent the pride and discipline of the unit in peaceful and war times.

Last Tuesday I watched a movie where an Indian waiter was denied the day’s work in a top rating hotel because he was wearing sandals which was common in India where the hotel was located. Important figures were to dine that day. The chef told him to observe the dress code for waiters as there are dress codes for cooks and bell boys. The poor waiter borrowed a pair of shoes that did not fit his feet well so that he had to work with pain.

I wrote before about the proper attire inside a church on Sundays and during Mass but somehow people have not learned the value of presenting themselves before the altar for worship. The priest wears the vestments for the celebration, the color changing with the feast of the day. The colors speak for themselves as each represents the focus of the liturgy and calls attention to the feast or intentions of the Mass.

The faithful are not required to wear the liturgical color of the day but they are expected to at least be decently attired to show their reverence for the ceremonies or to dress for the occasion. Before when the color of the funeral Mass was black, people, mostly women, came in black. Now that it is white, they attend the Requiem Mass in white. With the change into purple, however, they still came in white to express joy at the Resurrection rather than of penance.

There was a time when women were not allowed to wear pants. That was before the Second Vatican Council. But before the Council began, the fashion revolution erupted in 1961 with the introduction of the mini-skirt and the shift from slacks to pants for women. There was still reticence among the women in the Philippines until some brave souls decided to expose more leg skin and the madness spread.

I recall a Mass for the alumni in La Consolacion College where Bacolod Bishop Manuel Yap celebrated. He saw the daring alumni wearing pants. In his homily, the bishop quoted the Bible that said, “it is not good for a woman to wear the apparel of man”. There were lots of red faces that morning. Indeed, St. Joan of Arc was burned at the stake as a witch because she wore the armor of a knight when she led the French army against the British. When Bishop Yap died, the “pants revolution” invaded the churches and schools even inside the classroom although schools generally still require women to wear skirts for their uniforms.

The wearing of denim pants or maong, also caught on and became widespread because these pants are practical. Then the maong shorts became popular and now the shorts had shortened some more and exposed not just the thigh but two inches below the butt. I thought when I went to Taiwan in 2010 that the girls there would be more modest only to find that the shortest shorts were allowed inside the classroom. Now denims are torn for unfathomable reason but that this style is on the wane.

While people can dress in whatever way they like either for fashion or comfort when shopping or just going around the mall or the nearby stories, it is entirely different when attending the Mass which is a solemn occasion, more solemn than any other gathering of people. Still many refused to follow the dress code inside the church.

In the Indian hotel I mentioned above, the chef was adamant with the formal attire. Why can’t our priests or parish councils do the same – insisting on the proper attire for church? Would that drive the women away?