Religious Dress Codes

by Apr 10, 2013 4:13 pm Tags: , , , , , ,

Religion is a collection of beliefs, culture systems and worldviews that relates to spirituality and moral values. Almost all religions have a sacred history behind them that explains the meaning of life. With each religion comes different practices and beliefs that the groups are encouraged to follow, whether it's diet, prayer or a dress code. Following these rules shows devotion and respect. In this case we will be looking at the dress codes of some of the world’s more widely practiced religious groups.


Christianity is the largest religion in the world with more than 2 billion followers. Christians center their beliefs on the life of Jesus of Nazareth, who was a teacher and healer of first-century Palestine. The teachings of Jesus focused on the kingdom of God, love of God and love of neighbor. Christian belief and practice centers around the resurrection of Christ and the doctrine of the Trinity, meaning one God is viewed as having three Persons: Father, the Son (Christ) and the Holy Spirit. Christianity has been divided into three branches over the centuries: Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy and Protestantism. The sacred text for Christians is the Bible.

Unlike other religions, Christianity doesn’t require a strict dress code but if we take a look at what the Bible says about clothing it has always been God’s code to cover our nakedness. Clothes were not designed to reveal ones body shape or draw attention to body parts but instead take attention away. More importantly, passages from the Bible suggest that women dress modestly, with decency and propriety and that inner beauty is more important than outer beauty.

Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. (1 Peter 3:3-4)

It’s usually every Sunday in Church or important holidays such as Easter and Christmas when you’ll see Christian women dressed modestly in skirts that go to the knees and shirts and sweaters that cover the arms and chest. Men can be seen wearing suits and ties. Many Christians will continue to have their own style while still staying modest and pretty while others may be judged for wearing clothes that are too revealing.


Hinduism derives from the word “India” and is an ancient religion with no origin date or founder. It refers to a large variety of religious traditions and philosophies that developed in India. Many Hindus believe in reincarnation, observe festive holidays, value the practice of meditation and worship one or more deities.

Hindus have special requirements based on their tradition, scriptures, culture and belief system. One of those requirements is a dress code. Men and women wear forehead markings. Women who are married have a red dot (bindi) and orthodox men have a religious marking (tilak). In today’s society, the bindi no longer represents marriage but has become fashionable among young girls who wear it in different colors. Women who are married wear a mangalsutra around their neck, which is a necklace tied around the bride’s neck by the groom on the day of the wedding. Though today many Hindu girls and women wear bangles it was also used as a symbol of marriage. Men are allowed to sport a sikha – a tuft of hair like ponytail – on the back of their heads.

As for traditional clothing, some Hindu men wear a dhoti kurta, a chaddar which can be wrapped around the shoulders and torso during cold weather and a churidar during worship, prayer or festival days. For women, a traditional dress is known as a sari or a salwarkameez. In India you will still see a lot of women wearing the sari, the salwarkameez consists of two parts: a tunic (kameez) that covers loose trousers (salwar). During worship or other appropriate times, women will cover their heads.


Islam is the second most followed religion in the world next to Christianity and is based on revelations received by the prophet Muhammad in the seventh century, which were recorded in Islam’s sacred text, the Quran. The Five Pillars of Islam: faith, prayer, fasting, pilgrimage and giving alms, define Islamic practices. As a faith, Islam means complete and sincere surrender to God so one can live in peace and tranquility.

Like many other religions, Islam promotes modesty among its men and women that comes with a dress code. Men and women alike are expected to dress with dignity - simple and modest. Men must remain covered in loose and unrevealing clothing from navel to knee (Awrah). Their pants or lower garments should always be worn above the ankle.

Muslim women must cover their hair with a Hijab and when it comes to clothing all that can be left remaining are the hands and face. Clothing must hang loose, the material cannot be see-through and the design must not contain bold designs that attract attention. Clothing cannot resemble that of men. Many women will wear maxi dresses and wear a cardigan on top or wear abaya on top of the dress. Muslim women also wear jilbaab, a long, loose-fitting outer garment.

Though women have to remain covered, they can be fashionable and those who are married are encouraged to look their best for their husbands. Around husbands women will wear make-up, jewelry and their finest clothing.


Judaism is one of the oldest religions, founded nearly four thousand years ago and is the religious beliefs and practices of Jews. It is believed that the people of Israel are God’s chosen people, who must serve as a light for other nations. There are different divisions within Judaism: Orthodox Judaism, which is the most conservative and retains nearly all traditional practices and rituals, whereas Reform Jews retain their Jewish identity and some traditions but take an approach to different Jewish beliefs and practices.

Typical attire associated with the religion is the "kippah," a brimless skullcap that is slightly rounded. Many Jewish men wear this while praying, eating, studying religious texts or reciting blessings. It can also be worn at all times. For women there are also "kippot," which range in size. Men wear a tzitzit, knotted fringes worn on special four corner garments called tallit. Wearing this is a direct commandment from the Torah.

Modest attire is also required among Jewish men and women. Women are required to wear clothing that completely covers the chest. If a skirt is being worn it must go past the knees and shirts must cover the elbows. Women who become married must cover their hair with a scarf, hat, snood (head cover) or wig. Women are also forbidden from wearing pants or swimming attire such as two piece bathing suits. Instead there are sites that provide Jewish women with swim attire that fits the dress code. Men usually wear black jackets, pants, shoes and a white shirt. On Shabbat, a streimel (fur-lined, round hat) is worn.

8 thoughts on “Religious Dress Codes

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