Blurred Lines

“Render your heart and not your garments” – said by the person whose church-going attire is objectionable to some.

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Everybody knows that you can find information on just about any topic on the internet, but I was surprised to learn that a search about “how to dress for a funeral in Antigua” actually led someone to my blog. Given the fact that in the last few weeks I’ve been a bit preoccupied with death and funerals, it really shouldn’t come as a surprise.

I’m pretty sure that neither this nor this answered the person’s question but I was quite intrigued and it led me to the topic of how, we in the Caribbean typically dress when we go to church.

Traditionally, we put on our best clothes – women in their frocks and men in their two piece suits. We outfit our girls in their prettiest dresses and put our boys in long pants, a buttoned down shirt and a pair of “hard” shoes.

It wasn’t always like that, because I remember my mother telling me that in her early years, she had only one pair of shoes made of canvas material which she wore to church. She didn’t have to tell me that the best and most appropriate dress would be saved for that special day of the week.

Things have significantly improved since then and we now have a plethora of clothing choices for work, for making a trip into town and for going to church. Dressing up is important – so much so that whenever our babies are baptized we dress the poor things in so many clothes that it’s no wonder they’re bawling before the water even hits their foreheads.

Whenever I travelled to North America, I saw that church attire was much the same as it is here, but there were a few times when I would attend a service where the people came in whatever they put on after they woke up that morning. So even though I was taken aback – in my head I’d be hearing the oft quoted passage about man being busy looking at the outside while God was only looking at the heart.

Lately, there’s been a definite shift towards comfort. After all it’s hot here and air conditioned places of worship are few and far between. More and more men are feeling less inclined to wear a suit and tie ‘cause Lord knows any slight discomfort is bound to compete with the preacher for attention. But men’s attempts at dressing down don’t garner much attention.

On the other hand women’s attempts at being more comfortable can end up as the subject of a sermon. If we didn’t remember anything else one preacher said, we were asked to remember the 4 B’s – which stood for breast, back, belly and bottom. In short (the pun that’s in here somewhere, not intended), we were to make sure that these four areas were properly covered when we came into church.

Now, I’ve always enjoyed this particular minister’s sermons but it was clear that seeing too many of the above-named parts exposed when he looked out into the congregation caused him to go seriously off-topic. I’d been aware of the shift, but I guess I was backsliding a bit because I wasn’t aware that it had become an epidemic. Nonetheless, although I  wasn’t exactly sure how to feel about his attempt at plain (and public) speaking, it was probably a good thing that I hadn’t chosen that day to debut a new dress which was shorter than usual.

Most of the time, dressing appropriately is really a matter of observing what other people do for a particular occasion – which is probably what the person seeking information about funeral attire was hoping to find out. But it’s clear that he or she could run into trouble depending on who he or she asked, since we all have different ideas about what’s considered “appropriate”.

When I had a newspaper column I remember touching on the issue of dressing for a funeral. I’d concluded that since black was a customary colour, some people’s outfits did double duty – where a garment that was clearly bought for the club was pressed into service for a funeral. The problem normally arose when cut and fit weren’t given any consideration.

Since then I’ve noticed that black as the appropriate hue for a funeral is being tossed out the window as well, as some announcements ask that the people attending wear “festive” colours – thereby increasing the opportunities for lots of us to wear our Valentine’s outfits more than once a year.

So what to wear? That all depends on who you ask.


4 thoughts on “Blurred Lines

  1. It gets confusing, doesn’t it? I wore colour to my husbands funeral – I wanted to celebrate his life and his release after the, to my mind, colourless years of waiting, knowing that this was to happen.

    Liked this post a lot.

    1. Thanks a lot for your comment. I know someone who requested that the attendees at her husband’s funeral not wear black – but rather lighter, (not brighter) colours precisely because she didn’t want to be depressed anymore.

  2. I too have noticed more and more people wearing their casual clothes to church over the last several years especially as more contemporary services are gaining popularity. You do feel a tad silly in your Sunday best when the preacher is rocking out on a drum set.

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