Fundy Fashion

Time stands still in fundyland. Walk into the average fundamentalist church and you’ll be able to easily spot suits and ties from the 70’s, women’s hair styles from the 80’s, and carpet colors that were last popular during the Eisenhower administration. And they shall not be moved.

The strange thing about this time warp, however, is that not all fundy churches freeze at the exact same moment. Exactly how far out of the mainstream a local church remains can vary from height-of-fashion-twenty-years-ago all the way to now-back-in-style-again! Of course, if the hair and clothes of the general populace does swing around to match the fundies, they’ll immediately have to leap into some other decade out of self defense.

One can only imagine that fundamentalists dress and decorate to reflect whatever era the Holy Spirit last visited in hopes that He’ll recognize them when he comes back.

98 thoughts on “Fundy Fashion”

  1. One can only imagine that fundamentalists dress and decorate to reflect whatever era the Holy Spirit last visited in hopes that HeÒ€ℒll recognize them when he comes back.

    Exactly, they are stuck at the last Revival, trying to get it back.

    1. In Northern Ireland, where I’m from, that would be the 1920’s when there was a Revival, under the preaching of WP Nicholson. That would be just about the right era for a lot of churches here, at least the more progressive ones…(Ok, I’m being sarcastic – sort of). That revival appraently happened mostly in Belfast – the last Great revival to affect the whole Province as in 1859, and I have been in a couple of churches that are happy to stay there…

      1. My comments are not so much about fashion, but attitudes and way way things were done in the Golden Era aka “The Good Old Days”. Fashion does play an important part though, since a Christian’s Holiness is reflected in his/her appearance

        1. Appearance, and experience mean more to a Fundie than Truth and Love. Shadows over substance, Feelings over Faith. It’s how “Church” is done. From one emotional fix to the next. Always looking for that “good” preaching that will step on one’s toes and give one some experience to prove what they have is real. Some emotional/spiritual experience to validate their being in their place, their sacrificial giving and their multitude of works.

  2. It matters how old the congregants are.

    At my ex-church, the Bojo’s from the 80’s dressed like the late 70’s but all the old people dressed like it was 1965. Some exceptions were women who looked 1990-ish with their semi-long hair and a couple women who converted to fundy-ism late, so their wardrobe was all over the place.

    If you REALLY payed attention, you’d notice that the ladies would cycle between 3 or 4 church outfits over and over again. Most of them were outdated.

    1. PS: I also made the fatal mistake of wearing black on Easter Sunday. Death glares from flower pasteled ladies isn’t the greatest way to celebrate the resurrection.

  3. from the forum:

    They are stuck at the point of the last Revival trying to get that feeling back, trying to relive that mountain-top experience. Using the Old Paths to recreate that moment for God so He will recognize where they were when, whatever nano-sin it was crept in and separated God from them.
    “See, god, see? We’re doing it just like we used to. Please love us again… Please come back and give us another experience… Please feed us again”


    1. That would be funny if it wasn’t so sad. Reminds me of that quote from “Auntie Mame”: “Life is a banquet, and most poor suckers are starving to death.”

  4. When it comes to the decor of the church,changing it can be downright dangerous. The last remodel in 1976 caused a church split,it can take 30 to 50 years to build membership back up after something like that! We actually had a lady at our former church beg us to pray that her pick for carpeting would be chosen because the other shade of green would send visitors the wrong message and thus be a bad witness. 😐

    1. I know of one church that, last time I was there, had the sanctuary carpeted in a sort of radioactive green color. The pastor hated it, but they couldn’t get rid of it. I strongly suspect that some member of the church was a carpet dealer who couldn’t get rid of that roll, and so donated it to the church. That was at least a decade ago, though, and I think they actually have changed the floor color by now.

    2. The church my husband is pastoring now had a darkish, “burnt orange” carpet from around 1964 (older than my husband and I). Anytime we mentioned how ugly it was and how we’d like to get a new one, the deacons would say it was in good condition and no rips or tears or stains (partly because they’d guard the doors like hawks to make sure no one brought in coffee. It made us want to sneak in at night and start ripping carpet! 😈 We never did. Eventually a younger woman who’d newly joined and gotten a legacy from a relative donated money to the church to replace the carpet. Yay!

      1. The image of you and your husband sneaking in during the night to rip out carpet made me laugh.

  5. at my church we don’t have this problem. In fact this issue with dress steams more from WHO is wearing it and how tight it is. Not so much old fashion dress but a strict dress code and they will judge yoi up and down and make you feel like absolute crap. Show up in your sunday best and nothing else πŸ™„

  6. It goes back to whenever the mog (or former mog) said things were “perfect” in the church. May or may not have been the last revival, but it definitely goes back to the old guy in the pulpit, either the one that comes back every Homecoming Sunday to drool and rant for 30 minutes while the congregation says “Amen” at random intervals, or the one that has been in the pulpit for 50 years and is now in danger of becoming one with the carpet he’s been standing on since the Kennedy administration. Any change runs the risk of disrespecting the old paths; Pastor So-and-So chose that color carpet, and we’re not changing!

    Talk to anyone in Greenville, SC, about the downward spiral of Tabernacle Baptist Church. Harold Sightler is idolized over there, and all the old people in the church have blocked every last change because “Pastor Sightler built this church from the ground up, and we’re not changing anything he’s done!”

    He being dead yet speaketh.

  7. I’ve got nothing against people who don’t choose to spend their money on new clothes (I’m one of them, in fact), but buying new clothes that were in style 20 or 40 or 50 years ago seems odd, and some Fundies seem to do just that.

  8. IÒ€ℒve got nothing against people who donÒ€ℒt choose to spend their money on new clothes (IÒ€ℒm one of them, in fact)

    Me too. But when I do finally wear the elbows out of my dress shirts, I do try to buy new ones that were made sometime in this century.

    And I may shop at Goodwill from time to time but I avoid picking up plaid ties and powder blue suit coats.

    1. Darrell had quite the wardrobe in college, but, of course, he was just trying to blend in.

      I should find that photo of him in his powder blue suit! πŸ˜€

    2. “And I may shop at Goodwill from time to time”

      Come on people of SFL! We can’t have our leader rummaging through the discount rack at Goodwill to look his Sunday best. Click on the “Donate-A-Buck to support SFL”. And I challenge you all to Donate-MORE-Than-A-Buck. Just think of it has Faith Promise Week.
      Don’t forget to fill out your Faith Promise cards and drop them in the offeering plate. πŸ˜†

        1. I love going to thrift stores. Unfortunately, I spend all my times looking through the books and usually run out of time to look at the clothes.

        2. me too.

          I also used to get some great deals on electronics when I lived near the “rich” neighborhoods in New York.

          In Georgia the deals aren’t usually so great.

        3. Oh, honey, here around Lake Norman, you go to Goodwill and you’d be amazed at what you’ll find. This cashier at Goodwill told me that people will get designer clothes there and then take them to one of those places where they buy that stuff, and make a profit on it.

  9. I’ve always thought it’s funny that the Amish picked a particular era and stuck with it while fundamentalist separatists are all over the place style-wise. In some churches, as long as you’re clothes aren’t CURRENTLY fashionable, you’re fine. You can look like the 70s, 80s, or 90s (or even earlier).

    I’ll admit I’m probably not always up on the latest styles, but I did stop many years ago doing the pouffy bangs that were popular when I was in college!

    1. The problem with having those pouffy bangs is that they don’t make hairspray the way they used to. Not enough cement hold.

        1. I loved my floral dresses! (I liked Laura Ashley but couldn’t usually afford them.) And I had quite a collection of hairbows although I never did banana clips. It’s so disappointing that when I was young and slim I dressed like … THAT! πŸ˜†

        2. When you looked your absolute best you dressed the worst. That’s wouldn’t be disappointing to you?

        3. exactly pastor’s wife. I mourn the fact that I dressed in the big baggy clothes and to-the-floor prairie skirts when I young and in shape. Waaa.

  10. And so the trustees were meeting about the opening above the sanctuary leading to the bell tower that simply poured cold air over the congregation all winter long. The building was over a half century old at that time. They argued back and forth for hours. The final word came when the aged head of the board stood up and said “If it was good enough for my father, it’s good enough for me!”

  11. At the first IFB church my now-husband dragged me to, I had the experience of three blue-haired old women sitting behind me and making nasty remarks about my clothing because I was wearing jeans and a sweater in February. I guess the 400-pound mog jumping up and down, shouting, stomping, and banging his fists on the pulpit wasn’t entertaining enough for them that day.

    Did it change the way I dress? Yeah, I guess it did. Now instead of making a conscious effort to look nice I just throw on whatever I feel like, go to church, and dare anyone to say anything. Fortunately we’re not in an IFB church now.

      1. Whew. I had the feeling no matter how much it looked like a 1970s polaroid it just could actually be.

      2. Is it really from Saved, Sanctified , and Soulwinning Baptist Church? I hope that is a made up name.

        1. Of course it is! I, with my other proper fundie ladies, teach the Superior Christian Women Spectacular over there.


  12. This is part of the reason why all of those standards never made sense to me. There never seemed to be a particular reason to dress the way they chose it was more of a generational thing. We were allowed to dress in clothing our parents would have thought was cool in their childhood. And our children would probably just repeat the cycle. When you really got down to the nitty gritty it seemed like fundamentalism was a freeze shot of the 50-60’s with a little bit of the 70’s creeping in when I got into grade school and a little bit of 80’s creeping in when I was in college.

    It goes to show that one man’s heresy is another man’s dogma. When your entire movement is based upon reactions to popular culture rather than the Bible this will always be true.

    1. “When your entire movement is based upon reactions to popular culture rather than the Bible this will always be true.”

      Brilliant. Because that’s basically what most of fundamentalism is. Just reactions to popular culture, or at least popular culture from 10-20 years ago.

    2. I went to a non-IFB Christian school where the girls wore skirts (except in the winter). This was in the 80’s. All the girls wore nylons with their dresses, and it looked very nice. However, my mom would not let me wear nylons because in her day, only high school seniors who worked in the office would wear nylons. The fact that this was during the 40’s made no difference! No nylons for junior high or senior high girls!! I got so teased about it, but my mom’s attitude was that I shouldn’t care what the other girls said, I should just do what was right. (Easy for her to say–nobody was picking on her.) She simply would not believe that all the girls my age were wearing nylons instead of socks. I begged and begged her to come to school and see for herself, and one day she did, but it made no difference because that was not how it was in her day. The whole thing was so humiliating that I finally talked to the school counselor about it and, after quite a bit of discussion, I was allowed to wear them 2x/week while I was in 8th grade. By the time I was a senior I think she had forgotten all about the controversey.

      1. It was monumental in my public school in 1970 when girls were allowed to wear PANTS to school. ‘course miniskirts were the norm (no more than 5″ above the knee while kneeling) so us guys were really dissapointed in the new rule… 😈

        1. Back in the 1960s, a friend of my mother’s was angry when the principal of our public elementary school told her that her daughter was not allowed to wear pants to school. She threatened to send her daughter to school WITHOUT pants. Not long after that, girls started wearing pants at school and nobody said anything.

  13. If I understand IFB the pinnacle was the 70’s. All the hero’s were thriving, Hyles, Lee, Vick, BJ, Rice etc… I know several fundies that are so stuck in the 70’s when IFB was on top of thier game that they want to go back sooo bad and they want to drag everyone with them.
    The internet has helped spread the truth about them. Now they can do as i did. Research and learn from the privacy of their own home. IFB can’t keep folks in the dark and be thier only source of teaching.
    It makes them more irrelevant every day.

  14. I don’t know anyone who wants a return to 70s styles. Muttonchop sideburns, anyone? Or how about doubleknit pantsuits, ladies? Personally, I’m glad those styles are gone.

    But I do wish I hadn’t been forced to live through the casual age. I’m glad to see it winding down now. I’ve noticed that many young women dress up in cocktail dresses or evening gowns for the theater or symphony; it’s mostly only my generation (boomers) that still shows up in jeans. I would like to see that trend extend to church services.

      1. with elbow pads! Don’t foget the extra groovy elbow pads and wide lapels.
        And ties made from flannel graph material


  15. In another generation, they’ll be looking down on kids who don’t have any tattoos or stretched piercings. After all it’s a tradition that’s been around since our childhood!

  16. It’s true that one benefit of dressing modestly as opposed to dressing fashionably is that the clothing is timeless. When we were at Family Camp one year, my brother made the comment that he felt like he were back in an episode of Leave It To Beaver! How nice it would have been to live back in the time when we dressed modestly and with taste. That’s the year we almost lost my Father because one of the buttons on his shirt got tangled in the volleyball net during an intense game of Big Ball Volleyball. He didn’t want to be immodest and take his shirt off, so we had to wait until one of the moms moved quickly and gracefully back to her cabin for her sewing kit. It is not easy to run gracefully in Keds, let me tell you that! That night, the Evangelist used Dad as an example in his sermon “To Die Is Gain”. Each of his points was “For me to _______ is Christ, to die is gain.” So, he addressed memorizing Scripture, guarding our testimony, and being modest in our appearance. He told us, in his point about modesty, how economists have proven that the more skin that is covered by clothing, the more likely they are to be prepared for a falling economy or recession. God knew what he was doing when he said to cover it up!

    1. “… the more skin that is covered by clothing, the more likely they are to be prepared for a falling economy or recession.”

      Yes. That way, when it comes down to eating our clothes, we’ll have more to eat.

    2. I would think in a recession that if the hemline theory holds water we are going to really need the gals to start hiking their skirts up a bit! πŸ™‚

    1. Great idea. I’m going to one next week with my sister.

      (Modest dress at a Renaissance festival? πŸ˜† πŸ˜† πŸ˜† )

      1. The Renaissance festival near me has an incredible variety of clothing styles. I love the fully detailed, historically accurate costumes, but there are also plenty of goths in combat boots with tattered black fairy wings, people with devil’s horns, or women in belly-dancer type outfits. I just bought an awesome Renaissance style dress that I want to lose weight for so I can look more like a lovely maiden and less like a plump matronly woman (although at my age, the lovely maiden is probably out of reach! lol)

        I do somehow have to find something for my husband to wear. I can’t walk around the festival in a gown while he wears jeans and a t-shirt! Tights are probably out, but maybe a puffy shirt? πŸ™‚

        1. I don’t know. I think Renaissance Festival and I think of having to wear one of those dresses with my upper half pushed up like Ye Olde Whore.

          I don’t need to feel that naked.

        2. True – that’s one look! But you can also do the Elizabethan ruffled collar look – completely covered up! You’d fit in at a fundy church covered from chin to toe (although the laced corset might make them uncomfortable).

    2. Wasn’t the fashion of his day for prominent (stuffed) and brightly colored bulges directly over the penis? Or was that before or after his time?

        1. Nope, I had my centuries wrong; codpieces were considerably earlier. Men often wore striped puffy shorts over tights, however. Here’s a page by a group that really does try to dress in Ye Olde Way a la the subjects of King James:

  17. Time stands still in fundyland.

    Seriously. I still remember my childhood epiphany that all the people I had seen either at Bob Jones or in its promotional materials looked like they were still dressing to the mid-80s.

    This also applies to Fundy cars. I saw lots of mid-70s to mid-80s conversion vans and station wagons in the BJU parking lots while I was there. Bonus points for wood paneling.

  18. My theory is that the fashion problem at fundy churches stems from the fact that they shop at thrift stores. The average fundy youth minister and his wife may be in absolute poverty, so shopping at the thrift store is a necessity.

    I like to shop at thrift stores, but have sworn to my daughters to never buy a dress from one. I have zero fashion sense, so if I buy something I like, the likelihood that it is from the 80’s is extremely high.

    1. “I have zero fashion sense, so if I buy something I like, the likelihood that it is from the 80s is extremely high.” Oh, me too! I often question my judgment when I like something; I wish my sister lived closer because she’s REALLY good at knowing what’s in and what’s not! And she’d tell me if I look like I belong on “what not to wear.”

      And, yes, one of the reasons I shop at thrift stores is to save money. Our church paid us fairly (at least before the split), but one-income families are often going to find it tight. So I save on clothes by shopping at thrift stores when I can, so I can afford trips to the museum or renting a pontoon boat for a trip on the lake for my birthday!

      1. To develop fashion sense, I highly recommend watching “What Not To Wear.” I had no sense of fashion before then, but now I know exactly what kinds of elements to look for in clothing. Also, if you can stand it (and if it is still airing), Project Runway will make you look at clothes in a whole new way. You might not want to watch it while the kids are up, though.

        1. I really enjoyed “What Not to Wear” when we had cable. It really was interesting to see how different cuts of clothes could make people look a lot better!

    2. I do a lot of shopping at thrift and discount stores too. I have no problem with it. My problem is when it becomes a thing of pride. Not “Look at the great outfit I got for only $3!” pride but “Look at me, I’m out of fashion so I must be very godly!”

      1. A dear friend of mine has the former kind of pride. She loves to tell you how little she paid for her clothes.
        “This shirt was 15 cents at a garage sale!”
        “I got these shoes for one dollar at the bargain-basement-going-out-of-busines-fire sale at the department store.”

        It’s a harmless kind of pride, though, I think.

        1. The Lades Who Opine once told me that my toddler daughter was always SO exquisitely dressed! At the time, she was wearing a top and overalls that were bought at two garage sales six weeks apart for a total cost of $1.60, plus Wal-Mart shoes and socks. Finding a bargain at a garage sale is a nice little thrill.

        2. Hey! Don’t get me started on the terrific bargains I find at the Talbot’s Outlet Store during a clearance sale!

  19. I think it goes along with the image of stern-ness, and preserving the old ways, not being worldly, not following fashion, not standing out. Dressing that way makes you feel different-more spiritual, more pure.

  20. When I was a teenager, late 80’s early 90’s I had nothing in the current fashion. My Mother told me that most fashions were ok as long as we wore it 10 years after everybody else, which was no help to me at all in walking the school halls in my prairie skirts and button up blouses.

    At PCC I felt “in” for once in my life wearing the same dresses and fashions all the other girls at college were wearing. Of course, no one outside of our bubble were wearing those clothes, but that was ok. I see my friends from college occasionally and those that have married the preacher boys at PCC are wearing the same dresses and have the same hairstyles they did 15 years ago. they just look a lot older, having lost their freshness in bearing 5+ kids, homeschooling, and being the perfect pastor’s wife/hostess.

  21. Old Fashioned Sunday anyone? The day we shed out out of style clothes to wear even more out of style clothes. That is alway a fun one to explain to outsiders.
    My younger brother was born on saturday the day before old fashioned sunday. Of course we didn’t miss church, so after church my large family dressed in hoop skirts and bonnets paraded through the hospital halls to visit my mother and my new baby brother. People must have thought someone hired a performing troup to cheer someone up. πŸ™„

  22. Hey 20 yrs ago fashion is better then all the hipster /metro fashion sense I see at the local non descrip non denominational cookie cutter churches.
    Bowie said it best “Not sure if your a boy or a girl”

  23. and if all eras fail…a long ankle length floral skirt will will somehow stick through times for the ladies…

  24. Today in BJU chapel, Dr. Bob Wood said that one of the main reasons why fewer people are getting saved today is because Christians don’t dress like they ought to. :O

    1. Feel GUILT! What you have on is causing people to go to hell! (Boy, the Holy Spirit isn’t very powerful if that’s all it takes to thwart his saving powers!)

    1. Men didn’t wear underpants then, either, as I understand it.

      The women in the photos seem to have forgotten their corsets.

      The article also says that cotton gins “were not common” in 1775. They were nonexistent. Eli Whitney invented the cotton gin as we know it in 1793. Various tools for separating cotton lint from its seeds existed before then, but they were not practical for mass production of cotton cloth.

  25. *rolls on the ground writhing*

    At my old super weird fundy church, we weren’t around normal, up-to-date people, so we girls dressed in the old lady section once we hit teens. Elastic, mid-calf length skirts, ankle length denim, jacket dresses, oh gosh I’m giving myself horrid flashbacks. All of our pictures from that (very long) era are just….awkward.

    Even though my current fundy church is….fundy, the majority dress very stylishly and modern. Just with skirts. There are, er, notable exceptions however.

    Ahh love thrift stores! But only for stuff that actually looks normal, not faded stretched t-shirts πŸ˜›

    1. How’s about the formidable 10 snap elastic bras and granny underpants? You know, just so you wouldn’t be tempted to feel attractive under all that hideousness…

  26. It might do us good to remember that quite a few fundy church members don’t have allot of money to keep up with every modern fashion trend. I’m just happy that they go to church at all.

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