Oh, how it changes... I remember my Methodist grandfather always talking about saving "something for good"... keep one pair of socks and underpants and shirt and trousers brand new - because you just never knew what life would throw at you and when you would need to put on your "Sunday best."
For my mother, a woman of mixed feelings about all things religious, "Sunday best" meant you would wear a hat, with feathers, perhaps. And high, high heels and silky, satiny finery. In our case, that was only twice a year spent showing up in any actual church - Easter and Christmas. But "Sunday best" meant finery, regardless of the god/church part.
I paid more attention to religion when I became a parent. It seemed like hearing from someone, other than me, once a week about how to be a good human was a good thing. One year I had a shepherd AND an angel in the Christmas pageant. I was challenged with morality questions about pets' deaths and fairness issues on the playground. I found it comfortable to defer to men and women wearing robes. My little family wore our best clothes and shoes. We cleaned up well enough. We often extended the family time into a late breakfast or lunch. The predictability of a ritual was good for all of us.
By the time the kids hit high school, "Sunday best" was more an expression of the good clothes than an actual description of time spent anywhere on any day. It was difficult to corral any two of us to do anything with any regularity... except movie time. If I paid for dinner and a movie, the kids would always find time to join me. We worshiped at the big screen often during their high school and college years. We had conversations about what we watched and what it meant and how it applied to our day to day-ness. I treasure the memory of those crazy movie dates that often happened on Sunday afternoons.
Now, as adults with families of their own, there isn't much occasion for their children, my grandchildren, to dress in any Sunday best. They are solid families with a clear sense of right and wrong and the need to serve others but there is no formal religious training involved in the process.
I see to it that The Grands have one "fancy outfit," when we do our back-to-school shopping. They wear them sometimes to holiday dinners or birthday celebrations for meaningful adults. Maybe a school event. Maybe for no real reason, which is fine by me.
My "Sunday Best" varies. My job requires a few nice clothes a handful of times a year. I guess I think of those as my "good clothes." I have nothing that has never been worn, waiting for some special occasion. But "Sunday best" clothes have taken on an entirely different meaning in the past decade or so... My Sunday wardrobe is rarely seen beyond the confines of my own yard... oh, I might forget and wander into Home Depot or Park City Nursery in those clothes but no one there seems to notice.
They are soft, like chamois cloths. Cotton pants and tops worn thin by so many washings and so much wear. The pink and purple hippie pants, as my kids call them; I have no recollection of exactly where they came from but vaguely I think from a trip I took long ago and far away. At the elastic-gathered waistband, they have worn through to show just the elastic, on the inside. Frayed edges. The purple paint I used to spray paint the yard chairs years ago stayed on them but you can't tell, I swear. It just blends in with all the other splashes of purple.
The tops vary wildly with the weather and my mood. There are thin shirts with long sleeves and hoods. Thick, short sleeved shirts with logos from long-forgotten restaurants or book stores or bands that blew through town. Sometimes I throw my tattered, faded Orvis denim shirt over all of it and roll up the sleeves that were always too long. This is the go-to outfit when I know I don't have to "be" anywhere else but home. Footwear is weather dependent... fat socks... sandals... barefoot on wet grass.
There is an alternate version of "Sunday what-feels-best clothes." More hippie pants with an elastic waist worn thin but these are in primary colors with black swirled around a lot. This allows for the wardrobe of black T-shirts I have amassed to be paired up frequently with the happy pants. These are worn more often in the winter and fall. It seems fitting. These pants too, are perfect for yard work and porch napping. For filling the birdfeeders and digging in the garden. For strolling the hood and visiting with the ever-tolerant neighbors....
These two pairs of pants really are my Sunday best now. They always put me in the best mood. I do the best things in them. They scream SUNDAY when I see them folded on the shelf.
I don't know if I will ever again be in the mindset when I need/want to have a fancy outfit that only goes out on occasion, to be "something for good." I do know that when I get to be "off duty" on a Sunday, I gravitate every time to one of my pairs of tired, old, faded hippie pants. Best, that's how I color the day. I am able to be so-very-casual as to approach sloppy slobdom, and just not care one whit. I have such a Sunday on the horizon this very Sunday in the Park...
Teri Orr is a former editor of The Park Record. She is the director of the organization that provides programming for the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Center for the Performing Arts.