Adorned in Christ, how should we dress for Holy Week?

I have a quandary. I never know how much or how little to dress up for church.

With Palm Sunday and Easter coming up, I'm thinking about it more than ever.

By nature, I like simple clothing, no makeup and little to no jewelry. However, for church, I like to make an effort to dress distinctively. It is a different day than the work-a-day weekdays, and errands-busy Saturday. It is the Lord's Day. I want to look my best to show God His value to me.

However, the verse in 1 Timothy 2:9 says
"likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire,"
First, I need to discover what this means in context. Is there a historical reason for this? We know that the richer people of the times wore purple. (Acts 16:14, Luke 16:19). It was the most expensive kind of garment because it was the most expensive kind of dye. It had to be processed from tiny mollusks. Wearing purple in those days was a deliberate statement of "I'm rich," rather than a personal choice of "I like purple." Do we do that today? Make clothing purchases that deliberately show our wealth and status, rather than having been purchased simply because it was a nice garment?
"Tyrian Purple,” the purple dye of the ancients mentioned in texts dating back to about 1600 B.C., was produced from the mucus of the hypobranchial gland of various species of marine mollusks, notably Murex. It took some 12,000 shellfish to extract 1.5 grams of the pure dye." (source History, Shellfish, Royalty, and the Color Purple)
As for other adornments, the women used to treat their hair with fine curls and interweave jewels or pearls into them. The hair of a Roman woman or lady was dressed in plaited braids and worn at the back of the head as shown.

Roman women also wore headdresses especially if they had an important position in society. The image below shows the headdresses worn by Roman empresses.

Ladies would interweave jewels, pearls, or gold into their hair in complicated patterns-
Barnes Notes:
That women adorn themselves - The apostle by the use of the word "adorn" (κοσμεῖν kosmein), shows that he is not opposed to ornament or adorning, provided it be of the right kind. The world, as God has made it, is full of beauty, and he has shown in each flower that he is not opposed to true ornament. There are multitudes of things which, so far as we can see, appear to be designed for mere ornament, or are made merely because they are beautiful. Religion does not forbid true adorning. It differs from the world only on the question what "is" true ornament.
Hmmm. So true. God loves beauty. Barnes continues:
"Not with broidered hair - Margin, "plaited." Females in the East pay much more attention to the hair than is commonly done with us. It is plaited with great care, and arranged in various forms, according to the prevailing fashion, and often ornamented with spangles or with silver wire or tissue interwoven; see the notes on Isaiah 3:24. The sense here is, that Christian females are not to imitate those of the world in their careful attention to the ornaments of the head. It cannot be supposed that the mere braiding of the hair is forbidden, but only that careful attention to the manner of doing it, and to the ornaments usually worn in it, which characterized worldly females."
OK, so the message seems to be 'don't go overboard.' I can understand that. At some point, a lengthy bout in front of the mirror will begin to transfer attraction for the self instead of the One who is being dressed for. More Barnes:
Any external decoration which occupies the mind more than the virtues of the heart, and which engrosses the time and attention more, we may be certain is wrong. The apparel should be such as not to attract attention. It is a poor ambition to decorate a dying body with gold and pearls. It should not be forgotten that the body thus adorned will soon need other habiliments, and will occupy a position where gold and pearls would be a mockery. When the heart is right; when there is true and supreme love for religion, it is usually not difficult to regulate the subject of dress.
That is why Peter says,
"Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear" (1 Peter 3:3)

For the holy days, Palm Sunday and Easter, and all the Sabbath days, I think we should dress in clothes that match the occasion and the place. We should never dress like the world. Of course we understand that means not so casually and also not so formally that we are rarified dandies, but modestly and separate from how the world dresses.

I have church clothes but they aren't all that fancy. My personal tastes and my personal finances do not allow for finery such as I used to wear in the days when I was flush but unsaved. I've sold much of my jewelry to pay the bills and what I do still have I rarely wear. I just feel funny about putting it all on. I certainly don't wear clothes that show my body immodestly. But I am sure that there are some who think I don't dress up enough.

If I wear finery and my jewelry, am I consumed with how it makes me look? Am I trying to be an object of attention rather than blending in so that Jesus would stand out in the church service more than the flash of my jewelry? Or should I wear it so that I am dressing for my groom on a holy day that is separate from the days I dress for work, my boss, and my peers?

I think the happy medium is to dress in a way that doesn't cause anyone to stumble, that is modest, and reflects Jesus in my heart rather than adorning an empty shell. This goes for men, too. He knows the heart. Christ is the adornment. I loved what Barnes said above, "It is a poor ambition to decorate a dying body with gold and pearls. It should not be forgotten that the body thus adorned will soon need other habiliments, and will occupy a position where gold and pearls would be a mockery."

Dress for Holy week with Him in mind. As GotQuestions advises,
"We would all benefit from a "spiritual bath" to confess and get rid of sin before we go to church. This is making ourselves pure. For some people, clean is their "best." For others, their heart tells them that wearing their best is showing God His value to them. For still others, there needs to be a caution that their best isn't merely showing off.
It is always the heart God is looking at, rather than the exterior. However, what we wear to worship our holy, pure God may be an indication of where our hearts are. If you have never considered it before, ask yourself, "Does it matter to me how I look when I am going to worship the King of Kings and Lord of Lords? More importantly, does it matter to Him?" We must all be the judge of that for ourselves. It's a personal choice, keeping in mind that having a proper attitude toward God Himself is important preparation for worship at church.


  1. I have felt the same in regards to how to dress for church in general. I go to a church where casual clothing is acceptable and there is a wide range in style varying from dressed-up suit and tie to dressed-down blue jeans and t-shirts. I think if your attitude toward it is this: That you dress in a manner that you feel is respectful toward God and in a manner that is also respectful of others around you (ie. not intentionally trying to provoke lustful feelings in others). An author of a book (can't remember exactly what title) I once read addressed this issue in favor of dressing up as that author saw herself as an ambassador of Christ and as such thought it was important to dress well (not opulently but not shabbily) in order to pay respect to God.

  2. very good article Elizabeth

    I like what this lady Mary Crawley said: She said ""Once you get a hold of how much God loves you, and what it cost Him to redeem you, you will never have a problem with your self-image. My self-worth is tied up in the character of God. He says that I am of great worth, not that I'm worthy but I am of great worth. Why because of CHRIST"

    the best answer apart from the Bible of course that I've every heard is -"If your clothing is a frame for your face from which the glory of Christ springs forth, it is of GOD. but if your clothing is just a frame for your BODY it is sensual and God hates it."

  3. Sarah and Linda,

    Thank you so much for your great comments. I love it when articulate readers such as yourself offer good ideas that make me think.

    1. And we love it when articulate writers such as you offer such God honoring articles that make us think.. "As iron sharpens iron so one man sharpens another"

      All blessings to the Lord!

    2. I agree and love to read your blog every day! Keep up the good work!

  4. Yes, this is a challenge for ladies. The older I get the more time it could potentially take me to both find suitable clothing to wear and to make myself presentable. I wish that I had kept clothes from years ago both because of the quality of the clothing back then and also because of the styles - you could still find things that were pretty and femninine without being provocative. I too feel that we ought to dress neatly and as befits a godly woman. Personally I think jeans are out for church. Don't have a problem with them otherwise. Dress like a woman, ladies. Think of others, not just the men and what wouldn't cause them to stumble. But set an example for the younger women and girls too. They are looking up to you and will likely follow your example. God made us male and female and I think the way that we dress is a way to reflect that, showing the differences between men and women. The world wants to blur the lines between male and female. We have the chance to show our feminity and God's workmanship, reflecting His creation and creative order. God is a God of order and beauty and we can reflect that too.

    1. thank you for the reminder about how to set an example for the younger ones


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