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South Texas Living

Reminiscing: When going to church meant wearing your Sunday best

Reminiscing: When going to church meant wearing your Sunday best
Julia Castro, with hymnal in hand, on her way to Sunday services at El Mesias Methodist Church in May 1955

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Julia Castro
Apple Pie and Salsa
February 15, 2012
1 comment

Growing up, I would see my sisters, Tabita and Rebecca, applying Coty powder to their faces, and rouge and lipstick. Tabita also used mascara. Later, Dalila also used the Coty powder and lipstick. By the time I started using makeup, there was the pancake makeup. It came in a compact like the pressed powder we use today, but it was the foundation. Instead of a powder puff, it came with a sponge which you moistened to rub it over the makeup and apply it to your face.

This makeup did not come in a lot of different shades so you had to choose carefully so as not to put something on your face that was either too dark or too light, in which case you might end up with a pasty-looking face. I would buy my cosmetics from a lady who rode around all over town on a little motorized “car,” if you could call it that. Her name was Mrs. Pooley, and she sold Avon by going door to door.

I guess I started using makeup at about the same time I started wearing high heels and going to dances. Of course, you didn’t wear high-heeled shoes without stockings. There were no pantyhose back then. The stockings came all the way up your thighs. And the way we held them up was with a garter belt which hugged your hips. It had little straps hanging down with clips attached which you used to hook the stockings to hold them in place. The stockings had seams in the back, which on my skinny legs would shift sideways. I had to keep looking at the back of my legs to see if they were straight.

Later, they started making them seamless, and I was a lot more comfortable with those. Then for a while sheer black hose were very popular. Some had little black motifs around the ankle so that it looked like you had tattoos. I would wear them to a dance but not to church.

And that brings me to another topic, that of a tradition that has practically vanished -- when going to church meant wearing your “Sunday best.” When we were young, Mamá had at least two outfits for us kids to wear to church, while the rest of our clothes were meant for school, even if they were all homemade. Mamá made all her dresses, but she had at least one dress of a nicer material than the ones she wore at home. She never owned a hat, but she wore a small turban on her head when she did go to church. It was a given -- people wore their best clothes when they went to church. They didn’t have to be elegant or expensive, so long as they were the best you had. Some women wore hats. Men either wore suits or dress shirts and ties.

I wore a hat sometimes when I attended El Mesias Methodist Church, but after I started going to Sacred Heart Church I wore a hat all the time, as did all the other women. Later, some of us started wearing veils. Eventually, we got away from wearing both hats and veils. And we started dressing more casual. I am guilty of that too. We started wearing slacks. They are so much more comfortable. We can get away with wearing knee-high hose. And they’re so much warmer in cold weather. But I still feel more dressed up when I wear a dress.

You still see some women wearing dresses or skirts all the time. And some men still wear suits or dress shirts and ties. Some women still wear hats and others their veils, and I commend them for it. Even with our kids we continued the tradition of wearing “Sunday best.” The girls had their special Sunday dresses, even if I sewed them myself. And the boys, when they were very young, wore black pants and white shirts and little bow ties. Saturday nights I spent time polishing their black leather Sunday shoes. As the kids grew older, things changed as they developed their own style of dressing. But we always made sure that what they wore was appropriate for church.

My niece, Lola, recently lost her husband. As a gesture of love and respect for “Red,” all the females in the immediate family wore black hats the day of the funeral. It was a beautiful sight to behold. Lola has always loved hats. In fact, her sisters lovingly call her their Hedda Hopper -- the famous columnist also known for her amazing hats. Nothing makes a woman feel more dressed up as wearing a hat.

George Weigel, who writes a column for Today’s Catholic, recently wrote, “ ... might we all reconsider our vesture at Sunday Mass? Dressing in one’s Sunday best was not an affectation. It was an acknowledgement of one’s baptismal dignity. Let’s reclaim that dignity and its expression in our Sunday best.”

I have focused on hats, for some reason. Feeling nostalgic again, I guess. I believe Mr. Weigel is more concerned with the trend of “dressing down,” a reversal of what it used to be.

Julia Castro, a retired Head Start teacher and mother of 10, lives in Floresville with her husband, Henry.

Your Opinions and Comments

Wilson County  
February 16, 2012 3:27pm
So true an article. Our Sunday best has definitely changed over the years as well as our behavior in Church. Everything has gotten so casual including our behavior in Church on Sunday morning. Where is more prayer time in ... More ›

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