My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ,
In recent years, some Roman Catholic, Protestant and other Christian-based communities with their origins in the Evangelical movement have advertised themselves as having a "relaxed" or "carefree" environment of worship. This often extends to promoting a "casual" dress code at places of worship and fellowship. In fact, churches where a more formal dress code is the norm are often criticized for being too rigid or elitist.
Those of the Orthodox Christian faith have a much different perspective on the matter of dress. We believe that our divine services are a not a personal representation of our opinion or attitudes, but rather a means to worship God; to glorify, honor, revere and show our love to Christ and His Church. Our holy services depict not a raw outburst of emotion but a sense of awe and deep love and respect of our faith, even if we ourselves cannot attain complete perfection of a Christian life.
Likewise, our dress at church is an example of our attempt to further fulfill our commitment to faith. Though styles and social norms for dress and appearance have changed drastically since the time of Christ, the underlying concept has remained the same: show reverence and love of our faith through modest but respectable dress and appearance.
It is most important to remember that every Christian should use discernment and good judgment when he enters the consecrated place of worship. The church, the house of God, is not just an ordinary place. One enters the holy place of worship with humility, with a sense of unworthiness, with the understanding that one is in the presence of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the King of kings. The celebrant priest prays:
"Look down, O Lord Jesus Christ our God, from Thy Holy dwelling place, and from the Throne of Glory of Thy Kingdom, and come to sanctify us, Thou Who sittest on High with the Father, and art here invisibly present with us. And do Thou deign by Thy Mighty hand to give to us of Thy Immaculate Body and of Thy Precious Blood, and through us to all the people." (Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom)
If we were invited by any earthly king or queen, how would we be dressed? How should we, Christian men and women, dress for the King of Heaven? Our conduct and our dress reveal our inner beliefs, values, and convictions.
In the Orthodox Christian Tradition, men and women, are separated in church. In early Christian history, there was a special place for women who came to worship, it was called 'genekonites" "a place for women." Women and men were separated from each other, so that could avoid being distracted by the other. Their focus was meant to be on prayer, repentance, reconciliation and worship. Nothing else.
Why do Orthodox women wear skirts or dresses?
There is a biblical commandment in the Old Testament to promote segregation, which prohibits men wearing any female garments and forbids women from wearing any clothing designated for men. In biblical times women did not wear pants (Deuteronomy 22:5). Therefore pants are considered clothing designated for men, and women are not to wear it. It is also considered immodest.
Orthodox men and women should understand the reason and make every effort to adhere to the instructions of our Holy Orthodox Church. It is most important to remember that Orthodox spiritual ascesis, obedience is always expected and necessary if one is to succeed spiritually.
With sincere agape in Christ,