The above warning was given to me when I first met Orthodoxy in 1986. Today [2009] it is even more perilous, even more difficult to find the Royal Path. For one thing there is a far greater abundance of misinformation. And many materials are missing, and other materials are being rapidly rewritten. For another thing there are fewer than ever guides remaining on the Royal Path, especially who speak English. Hopefully this website will be a place where Newcomers to the Faith can keep at least one foot on solid ground, while they are "exploring."

blog owner: Joanna Higginbotham


jurisdiction: ROCA under Vladyka Agafangel

who did not submit to the RocorMP union in 2007


18 June 2013

How should Orthodox Laymen dress?

St. Philaret stressed modesty.  In his times [the 1960's] immodest dress became popular [mini-skirts] along with immodest behaviors.  

Modesty is still the norm and the aim for us, both in church and out of church.  In church women should wear a head-covering, long skirt, and shirt with sleeves.  Men should wear long pants and shirt with sleeves, and men do not wear hats in church.  Long sleeves are ideal, but not always worn by everyone in hot churches.  Usually people wear shoes in church, but in some churches shoes are left on the porch.  Do whatever everyone else is doing.  We want to dress to blend in and not to be a distraction. 

Both inside and outside church all black attire is reserved for clergy and monastics.  A woman can add a colored scarf or belt to a black dress, a man can add a colored tie to a black shirt & pants outfit.  A reason for this is because laymen must never dress in such a way that they could be mistaken for clergy or a Reader or a monastic.

Outside of church:

We never wear crosses as jewelry.  Only our baptismal cross is worn, and it is kept inside the shirt.   Wedding rings on the right hand.

Hair and beards should also be neat, modest, simple.   Only clergy can get away with full unkempt beards, [except for Old Believers].   Men should not use their hair as an adornment, this is a shame to them.  [St. Paul, I Cor.]  Women's hair styles should be simple, not "plaited".

St. John of S&SF disliked make-up on women.  He would hand the ladies a handkerchief to wipe off lipstick before communing them.  Likewise, women wearing lipstick should not kiss icons.

The Bible tells us that men and women should have their own distinctive way of dressing.  Women should not wear men's clothing and vice versa.   No rules exist (that I know of) for these modern times, concerning such things as "slack suits" made especially for women, but women should wear skirts anyway, in church.   Some Orthodox women wear skirts all the time, inside and outside of Church; and if they need slacks for warmth, they wear them under their skirt.

One matushka I know always also wears a head covering even in public.  Women like to carry a scarf in their purse or glove compartment in case an unexpected opportunity arises to enter a church or to pray with other Orthodox.  Pious women cover their heads for their prayers at home at their prayer corners.


  1. It's Ok for a widow to wear all black clothing. My grandmother and aunt always wore black in church. I know the custom for Greeks when I was a kid was for a woman to at wear all black for a year if she became a widow. Some widows wore black in public for the rest of their lives. I remember even widowers or male family members would wear a black armband or women to wear all black for a year as a sign of mourning for a close family member. I haven't seen this done for many years in the USA and am unsure if this custom is still followed in Greece.
    As far as men wearing all black and especially wearing a pectoral cross if their not a priest that I've never seen done except by ill informed and show off type converts that are trying too hard to prove to everyone that they are really pious Orthodox. I have seen this done by someone recently

  2. Thank you, Minas, I had forgotten about the exception of the widows. This custom does seem to be forgotten – what a shame.

    The (Slav) priest whom I heard this from had told it to my teen-age daughter.


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