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The History of the Easter Dress and Why Culture Prioritizes It

Vivian Bricker

Contributing Writer
Published: Mar 02, 2022
The History of the Easter Dress and Why Culture Prioritizes It

Whether you choose to wear an Easter dress this year or not, make sure your heart is in the right place when you celebrate the resurrection of our Lord

A common practice among women during Easter is to wear an official Easter dress. I grew up with this tradition. Mom would dress my two sisters and me in bright pastel dresses each year on Easter morning. I have always been quite the tomboy, so I never enjoyed wearing a dress. I would do anything to get out of having to wear a dress on any holiday, including Easter. Maybe you were the same way, or maybe you enjoy dressing up in an Easter dress like my two older sisters. Either way, let's discuss the history of the Easter dress and why our culture prioritizes it. 

The History of the Easter Dress

Before the holiday of Easter was taken over by Christianity, it was originally a pagan holiday in celebration of Spring. Christians replaced the once pagan holiday of Easter with the celebration of Jesus’ resurrection. In fact, many Christians prefer to call Easter “Resurrection Day” in order to eliminate any connection between the celebration of Jesus’ resurrection and the pagan holiday of the past. 

In the beginning years of Christianity, new believers would wear white linen robes to symbolize their new birth in Christ and to identify themselves with Jesus’ resurrection (“Easter Fashion: A History and a Look Ahead,” Fabrictopia, 2022). In A.D. 300, Emperor Constantine, a self-declared Christian, created a decree that all of his men were to wear their newest and nicest clothes on Easter and to eliminate the clothes that the people had worn during the previous weeks of Lent (“Easter Fashion: A History and a Look Ahead,” Fabrictopia, 2022). Fast forward into the present day of the 21st century, the Easter dress is associated with fashion, beauty, and tradition. 

As we can tell from the history of the Easter dress, it stemmed back to symbolize rebirth in Christ. Wearing white linen robes would have been associated with purity and identifying oneself with the resurrection of Christ. In the past, men and women would both have worn white fine linen for Easter in celebration of the resurrection of Jesus. However, in the modern-day, only women wear dresses in celebration of Jesus’ resurrection. While many women wear Easter dresses in celebration of Jesus’ resurrection, sadly many women only wear an Easter dress to keep up appearances. Wearing an Easter dress comes from the traditional ancient practice of new believers wearing white linen robes to celebrate the resurrection; however, it is not required for Christians to wear a certain dress or outfit to celebrate the resurrection of our Lord.

Why Our Culture Prioritizes Wearing an Easter Dress

Over time, the Easter dress became more of a fashion statement rather than a symbol of Jesus’ resurrection. Our culture prioritizes wearing Easter dresses because it is based on tradition. Particularly in the South, families prioritize wearing Easter dresses because it can be seen as a status symbol or even a “religious” symbol. There are many women in the South, as well as across the globe, who wear Easter dresses for the right reasons; however, there are many who wear them simply to keep up appearances. 

Easter dresses are prioritized because they are seen as acceptable, appealing, and orderly. As Christians, wearing an Easter dress does not make us anymore “holy” or “religious” as another Christian who chooses to not wear an Easter dress. What we choose to wear on Easter does not affect our overall salvation nor our worth in God’s eyes. In the past, such as during the Victorian age and colonial ages, women were not allowed to wear pants. Women wearing pants were viewed as rebellious and unladylike. While it is true that Deuteronomy 22:5 tells us that a woman should not wear men’s clothes, it does not mean women cannot wear pants. 

During the Old Testament and New Testament times, men and women both would have worn tunics. Therefore, when Deuteronomy 22:5 tells us that women should not wear men’s clothing, it does not mean women cannot wear pants. Rather, it attests to the fact that cross-dressing should not occur among God’s people. Wearing pants is not cross-dressing for a woman. Unfortunately, in the past, church members and other individuals associated women with breaking God’s commands in the Bible if they wore pants. In the same way, over time, our culture has prioritized women wearing Easter dresses to uphold tradition and to be socially acceptable. 

Do I Have to Wear an Easter Dress?

As previously mentioned, no you do not have to wear an Easter dress if you do not want to. You are not sinning or disobeying God if you choose to not wear an Easter dress on Resurrection Sunday. The importance of Easter or Resurrection Sunday is to celebrate the resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. It does not matter what we choose to wear as what matters is our heart motives. 

A person can choose to dress up in a fancy pastel Easter dress for Resurrection Day, but with an impure motive, such as to keep up appearances or to look socially acceptable, their fashion-forward trend is worthless. Another person may choose to wear casual clothes on Resurrection Day, yet they are truly worshiping and celebrating God in their heart with true and honest motives. 

As believers, we have freedom in Christ (Galatians 5:1), which means we have the freedom to choose what we will wear not only on Resurrection Day but also on every day of the year. Ultimately, our clothing choices and fashion choices all come down to our heart motives. Our culture has prioritized women wearing Easter dresses because of social standards, status, and tradition; however, if a person wears an Easter dress, it should be done for the right reasons. 

I know personally when I was growing up that it was deemed respectful and “right” at religious holidays, such as Easter and Christmas, to wear special dresses, and you were seen as disrespectful or a problem if you did not conform. Now that I am an adult, I know that a person doesn’t have to wear an Easter dress to symbolize their relationship with Christ because whether we wear an Easter dress or not, we are still children of God. The Lord does not love us less if we do not wear a dress on Easter. I was brought up with the incorrect view that if I didn’t wear an Easter dress, then God would be mad at me. This is, yet again, an erroneous view because God does not base His love of us on what we do, say, or wear. His love is agape love, which will never change and never end. 

Thus, you do not have to wear an Easter dress this year or any year if you choose. The history of the Easter dress stretches back to the early days of Christianity, in which new believers would wear brand new white robes; however, in the modern-day, individuals have altered the Easter dress into being a social standard or a tradition imposed on believers by the church. As Christians, we know that God loves us no matter what—even if we do not wear an Easter dress. Whether you choose to wear an Easter dress this year or not, make sure your heart is in the right place when you celebrate the resurrection of our Lord. 

Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/Bychykhin_Olexandr


Vivian Bricker loves Jesus, studying the Word of God, and helping others in their walk with Christ. She has earned a Bachelor of Arts and Master's degree in Christian Ministry with a deep academic emphasis in theology. Her favorite things to do are spending time with her family and friends, reading, and spending time outside. When she is not writing, she is embarking on other adventures.

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