TW: Bullying, Spiritual and Emotional Abuse, Misogyny
“Church dress,” isn’t an item of clothing, it’s a concept. It’s a phrase from childhood, although I still hear it a lot when I watch Fashion Haul vids. I was dragged up in Black-led Evangelical & Pentecostal churches; it’s where the majority of Black folks went on a Sunday, whether they were a believer or not. Church is where people went to find marriage partners, strike business deals, and reinforce the idolised1950’s West Indian way of life 20 odd years later. For many Black people, dressing up for church was far more important than the sermon being preached. And a big church hat was the most important thing of all.
When I attended church I would always see the kids from school who bullied me incessantly; the choir teenagers who made my life a misery; the senior church officers who were bloody hypocrites. Church dress was a way for attendees to indulge in fashion at a time when images of stylish Black people in the UK was in very short supply. Black women were supposed to be eye candy but modest at the same time. A dress or skirt that went below the knees; no trousers or trainers, no make up or jewellery allowed (one church banned wedding rings and lip gloss).
I think back to how I used to live & I grow angry at the excuses, erasure & threats used to control church goers. I avoided church & stopped calling myself a Christian for years after I ran away. I’m still on the lookout for a church that is accepting but… Black-led churches are mostly homophobic, Queer-led churches (like MCC) are hugely biphobic. White-led churches like Church of England are generally clueless about what minorities experience. And a special mention has to go the Quakers, who are all of the above, and incredibly classist too!
God doesn’t care what you wear to church. If you wanna dress up, great! If you wanna dress casually, go for it! All this policing is on us. We can stop doing that shit right now.