The Pastor’s Wife’s Simple Guide to Getting Dressed

This post: how should a pastor’s wife dress?

I am a pastor’s wife. I love dressing well. I sometimes have opinions about things.

Well, I guess I always have opinions.

But this post isn’t about my opinions. (You’re welcome.)

It’s all about questions.

Questions about pastor’s wives dressing in slacks, getting tattoos and wearing pantyhose.

Why?

Because these are real questions I’ve been asked by real women. Women who are serving alongside their husbands in ministry, trying to wade through

  • cultural opinions,
  • church opinions,
  • and their own opinions

about what they should (or shouldn’t) wear on Sunday mornings.

So many opinions.

Like I said, I have my opinions. What I don’t have are pat answers for how a pastor’s wife “should” dress.

But questions like these make me realize that a lot of people in our culture wonder this:

Does it matter how a woman who is ‘godly’ dresses?

Or, to put it another way:

Is there some sort of pastor’s wife dress code?

Some would say yes.

Others contest, no way.

I’ll let you read this post and then decide for yourself.

Bottom line: vocational ministry is a profession, so dress like a professional.
Pastor’s wife etiquette includes the wardrobe. | photo credit: Alexandra Lammerink

—————

And as you read, please keep in mind…

This blog has a lot of international readers across several continents; I understand that the dynamics of what’s discussed in this post varies culturally.

(Please know I want to hear your thoughts on this topic too.)

I recently posted this question,

How should a pastor’s wife dress?

over in my private FB group for pastor’s wives. (Not a member yet? Click here to subscribe + receive an invitation to join both the FB group + our private membership community.)

I got lots of responses from the 1K+ ministry wives over there (you’ll find some of their comments sprinkled throughout this post).

There are a lot of differing opinions on this topic and it can get complicated in a hurry.

Since I don’t like complicated things, we’re going to keep it easy. Here’s a simple guide to getting dressed for the pastor’s wife.

Five things:

#1 Modesty Matters (+ not just for the pastor’s wife)

According to most of the PWs in our online community, modesty in the church is still a big deal. And this extends past just the pastor’s wife’s outfits.

The Bible says modest apparel. I think that’s the standard for all women.

Sherri

Of course, the topic of modesty begs more questions + more answers:

  • Do Bible verses about modesty really mean what people say they do?
  • Does the Bible actually tell us how to be modest?
  • Has the purity culture gone too far?

I’m not going to answer all those questions for you because I’m not The Boss.

But I do want to examine a Scripture that is often revered as the Holy Grail of modesty:

Women should adorn themselves modestly and appropriately and sensibly in seemly apparel, not with elaborate hair arrangement or gold or pearls or expensive clothing.”

I Timothy 2:9

Scripture isn’t saying “don’t braid your hair, don’t wear jewelry, and don’t wear nice clothes.”

It does use some language regarding how a Christian woman should dress:

Modestly.

Appropriately.

Sensibly.

The context suggests that there are clothes (and attitudes, and actions) that are not modest, appropriate, or sensible.

Modest dress, no chest showing; nice, presentable, no ripped or stained clothes. To be honest, every woman should dress this way- not just a pastor’s wife.

Jackie
Ultimately, our calling is dressing for His glory.
Ultimately, our calling is dressing for His glory. (photo credit: Tamara Bellis)

Bottom line: there is no exact description of “modesty” in the Bible.

Perhaps this is intentional.

Scripture transcends time and culture, and believers are expected to be led by the Holy Spirit- not simply a set of rules, and not according to cultural norms.

Dress like you want other women to dress in front of your husband.

Leah

#2 You’re a Leader, Sister

This point may not make me very popular, but I feel like younger American pastor’s wives, especially, need to hear this.

A lot has been said about the expectations that are placed on pastor’s wives. And I largely agree.

It’s true: you are not an icon of spirituality or perfection.

You are, however, a leader.

There is much room for personal style (we’ll get to that next).

But it’s important to understand that we very much set the pace for the women in our churches.

Are we responsible for how the women in our church dress?

Of course not. Every man and woman is responsible for their own choices and their own personal sanctification.

But we are leaders.

Let’s lead others toward integrity, femininity, and authenticity.

Bottom line: vocational ministry is a profession, so dress like a professional.

I think it’s necessary to understand that as a pastor‘s wife you are a leader.

Imagine you are in a business. You want it to run well and you want others to both love and respect you, and trust your leadership.

I think after coming out of so much bondage, people are fighting to run away from a certain ‘vibe.’ But there’s something to be said for looking like you are put together, whatever your version of that may be.

Leah

Will this look the same for every woman?

Absolutely not.

But bringing your unique kind of professionalism to the role is worth the effort.

Dress in a way that pleases God first and husband second. We generally set the standard for other women in our church.

Krista

#3 Embrace Your Personal Style

If modesty + professionalism (be that casual or dressy) are the foundations, let’s get to the fun stuff:

Personal taste and style!

There’s so much to be said about dressing well. In fact, I’ve devoted entire posts to this topic over on my lifestyle blog, Kristys Cottage.

Click + save (Pin, “share” or print) the posts below:

There is no reason for a pastor's wife to not wear fun clothes, heels, or earrings that dangle! She can be 'in style' and still be modest.
Embrace what you love. | photo credit: Gabrielle Henderson

The pastor’s wives chime in:

There is no reason for a pastor’s wife to not wear fun clothes, heels, or earrings that dangle! She can be ‘in style’ and still be modest.

Ashley

Dress modestly, with your own creative style!

Leslie

Dress in a way that fully expresses who we are. Clothes are a way to share and celebrate our individuality and we can model that and encourage other women to be fully themselves, and to celebrate that in how they choose to dress.

Rosie

#4 Dress for comfort- yours and theirs

Comfort was mentioned a lot over in the FB group:

As in, dressing in a way to make your congregation feel comfortable in your presence.

Consider the following from a pastor’s wife:

My husband used to minister at a very formal church, suit and tie required. I wore dresses/skirts/dress pants. I was raised that way, so I didn’t think a lot about it.

We now worship with a much more casual church, and people almost seemed offended by that kind of clothing. My kids and I got enough ‘preppy’ type comments that we quit wearing our former ‘church’ clothes.

What I’d call ‘Sunday best’ is sometimes associated with a white-collar work environment, high income, and stodgy traditionalism. On the other hand, wearing jeans to church would be considered disrespectful in some congregations.

I don’t like drawing attention to myself, so I try to dress in a way I feel is modest and attractive, but fits in with what’s the norm at my church.

Molly

Personally, I enjoy dressing a bit more formally– which suites our bigger- city, traditional church (and my personality) just fine.

But I feel like this pastor’s wife expresses a beautiful heart of service toward the congregation she serves.

Jeremy and I have served in a rural church, and it’s true that the culture is different than in more populated areas.

Speaking of cultures, this point is especially true if you’re serving an international congregation.

Bottom line: we are called to love well. We can reflect that in how we dress.

The pastor’s wives chime in:

If we are dressing how we are comfortable, it will help lighten the stigma of ‘I don’t have anything nice to wear to church’ feeling, and people will see you as how you are- not some label.

Shelley

We live in a rural area and dressy attire can make some people uncomfortable… In my experience, real is better, and I’m not a dressy kind of girl.

Emily

If I dressed very casually at the traditional church, I think people might naturally feel a bit less comfortable, and same if I dressed up at the casual church. I think clothing portrays a lot more than just modesty.

Jennise

The Ultimate Dress Code

Getting back to our question, How should a pastor’s wife dress?

Let’s sum it up:

  1. Modesty is a Biblical expectation for all.
  2. Lead by example.
  3. Embrace your personal style.
  4. Dress so that you can love your church family well.

Modest outfits are not always just long or loose, but it also means ‘appropriate’ to every occasion.

Joyce
Dress so that people notice your smile.
Hey, Beautiful. | photo credit: Alexandra Lammerink

Lastly, there’s the topic of honor… and really, this is the heart of the matter.

That every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honor That no man go beyond and defraud his brother in any matter.

I Thessalonians 4:3-7

 Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’

I Peter 5:5

Strength and honor are her clothing, and she can laugh at the days to come.

Proverb 31:25

This code of honor transcends personality, culture, gender and generations.

It will be different for each woman because we all have unique backgrounds, personalities, church affiliations, and even cultures.

I think it’s important that we give other pastor’s wives, and the women in our churches, permission to live by their personal convictions. No judgment toward those who have fewer convictions, and no judgment toward those who have more.

Bottom line: The “pastor’s wife dress code” is simply a code of honor.

We honor

  • God
  • our role
  • our husband
  • our sisters in Christ
  • and ourselves

by loving well, giving grace, and dressing well.

Dress so that people notice your smile.

Myndi

Your turn.

How should a pastor’s wife dress? Drop a comment and let me know what you think.

5 thoughts on “The Pastor’s Wife’s Simple Guide to Getting Dressed”

  1. I was a pastor’s wife for 65 years. I dressed to compliment my husband’s calling. He never had to be ashamed nor offended by my appearance. After all, when we seek to please God first, everything falls in its proper place.

    Reply
  2. I find that being a wife of a pastor, people have an unreachable expectation of a pastors wife. I find that a wife must be comfortable in her own skin, but at the same time not too comfortable as it is that fits her perspective but to be conscious of her calling, of being an example for other women that are following her. to not allow anyone to cause her to lose perspective of who she is. It is wise to be a studier of the word of the Lord and other issues that can be an advantage.

    Reply
  3. Wow, I love your post and the other ladies’ comments. I love them because these all state the core essence of a feminine dress code as a Chrisitan. We come to church to worship God, to honor God, and to represent Him through our lifestyle. So pleasing God should be our priority. I like your perspective is well balanced, especially those quotes. Fitting in what’s the norm in the church and not drawing people’s attention to me. I believe in dressing up modestly, sensibly, and in moderately relatively bright colors so I don’t put down the cheerful atmosphere of worship. Thank you for the post again!

    Reply
  4. As a Pastors wife I believe we do have to be an example and to dress in the way it pleases God and not draw attention to ourselves or cause others to sin. So modesty is the only option here for me. God called us into holiness and we need to be an example to all young ladies in the church and let them not dress as if they are forsale. So yes we must read and allow God to lead and guide us into all truth

    Reply

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