In partnership with PATTERN, WFYI celebrates the fashion and creativity showcased in church-goers apparel. Explore the way that congregants use clothing and style to express themselves and their beliefs.
PATTERN writer Alecia White reflected on her own experience and spoke with members of the Indianapolis Black church community about their stories and how fasion plays a role every Sunday.
Photos by Jake Moran/Aesthetic Artist Management
My Apostolic upbringing included love, laughter, and church. On Sunday mornings, we got up early, my mom combed my hair, and we put on some of our best clothes, which were crisply ironed by my tailor father. I recall my mother yelling out for me to be sure I “stretched out my tights” so that they would fit properly not to scuff my shiny patent leather shoes. These are regular Sunday memories, don’t let me get started on Easter… the hot comb, wide laced socks, and big bows were traditional.
My parents made sure I learned that church attire was to be my best, Sunday’s best, because that’s what we were to offer the Lord. Nowadays, I don’t get up so early to stretch out my tights and that hot comb is no more, but I still have an appreciation for wearing my Sunday’s best when going to worship the Lord, though I have learned that it doesn’t necessarily pertain to attire, but my heart’s posture in worship.
Everyone has their own memories and thoughts when it comes to their church experiences and I had the opportunity to speak with a few avid church goers to find out what “Sunday’s Best” means to them.
First, I had the pleasure of speaking with Rev. Dr. Leroy Wadlington, pastor of Pilgrim Baptist Church, here in Indianapolis, Indiana. Originally from the south, Pastor Wadlington explained that traditionally, the black church was the center of the community and Sundays were the only time that they were able to dress up.
“We didn’t go to the “honky tonk clubs”, so church was where we dressed up to go. I lived and grew up on a farm and church was our social outlet. You wore your best clothes and gave God your very best.”
If there is one thing that Pastor Wadlington wants everyone to recognize about the black church’s history, it is that it’s is ever evolving. “All those things that we hold so dear, if they are hindering someone’s worship, we need to let them go. Sometimes we have to methodically change the culture and understand that It’s not about the attire, it’s about serving and worshipping God.”
Reverend Charlo Burrell Sr., pastor of Greater St. James Missionary Baptist Church is an Indianapolis native. Pastor Burrell’s take on Sunday’s Best has nothing to do with attire but getting the best out of the service. “I think we stigmatize Sunday’s Best. Many times, people don’t come to church because they may not have what we have to wear. We get the best when we come to God seeking who He is.”
I asked Pastor Burrell to share what he wished people recognized and his response was “the willingness to serve.” He says many think the church is just a place for super holy people to go worship. “They don’t understand that the church is there to help the community and it’s on the church to get out there and let them know. Our goal is to heal on the inside out.”
My next interviewee was singer/songwriter/producer, G. Randy Weston. Mr. Weston, originally from Asheville, NC, now resides in Indianapolis, IN and is a member of All Nations Worship Assembly, Chicago, IL. Randy has attended and served in the church throughout his life. In fact, he credits much of his first musical exposure to the church.
When asked what Sunday’s Best means to him, Randy responded, “It’s a mindset for the day we set aside to worship God corporately and present Him our best everything, inside and out.” Sunday’s Best also relates to his reasoning for attending church. “I go to church to corporately and publicly share my affection and gratitude to God.”
With the rich history of the black church at the forefront, I also asked Mr. Weston to share something that he wished people recognized about the black church and he replied, “How it unified us more than divided us.” The black church was always one of the pillars that brought blacks together. “It’s so weird because it is one of the biggest dividers of us now.”
Sariah Borom, a Creative Fellow for Pattern Magazine was also raised going to church. “I remember getting dressed for church in the frilly dresses, tights, and patent leather shoes. When I think Sunday’s Best, I kind of just think of back in the day, people got to dress up and come together as a community. I think dresses, big church hats, and suits.”
With the many different reasons to attend church, Sariah says, “I go to church because church is great community. My favorite part is during praise and worship and hearing the word broken down to get a different perspective.” All these reasons are part of her historical take on the black church. “I want people to recognize that it was way more than what you see on the surface. More than big hats and patent leather shoes. It was always for black people to come together and share their love for God.”
Sunday’s Best, no matter the generation or the church, jeans or a suit, gym shoes or patent leather, has always been about offering the best we have to God.