Sunday Best, Sunday Best, Sunday Best. What an oddly familiar yet strangely alien pairing of words. There’s some fashion history buried in there somewhere – and I’ll unravel that in a minute. But to me, she of the here and now, Young Lady of London 2012, Sunday Best is something of a contradiction in terms.
Sunday is the day that I crash, you see. There is no ‘Best’ about it. It is the last day of the week and a regrettable yet inevitable consequence of the previous six.
Far from being an occasion where I might don my very finest attire, I often don’t even make it out of my pyjamas on a Sunday. The idea of changing into something more appropriate for daylight hours seems quite, quite pointless if I plan to go no further than my living room.
So about the house I potter in my pjs, bemoaning my state of fatigue to anyone who’ll listen and attempting (but rarely completing) the same series of tedious chores that present themselves to me every week, every Sunday.
Monotony is a truly abhorrent trait. And it is a trait so horribly present in the aforementioned chores (washing, tidying, cleaning etc etc…) that I sometimes wish Sunday would disappear from the calendar altogether.
An alternative to the expulsion of Sundays would come in the form of a first-rate manservant and perhaps a young and eager maid (I’d have none of these disillusioned folk we’re presented with on the likes of Downton Abbey – my servants would know their place and stick to it).
Call me old-fashioned but I have always felt a certain need for domestic help. Having one or two servants (for that is all I would need) would alleviate so much of the hassle from my life and make the very act of living a more pleasant experience. It would leave me to live Sunday with the same glorious abandon as I live Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday. AND I’d have a neat pile of fresh clothes, a sparkling house and breakfast in bed at the end of it. Now show me a young lady who wouldn’t agree to that as a set-up!
But I digress. Back to topic: where did this ‘Sunday Best’ come from? And where has it gone?
Well, there isn’t an awful lot on the old www about this so I’ve had to go for the traditional method of enquiry amongst real people.
My findings? It was Sunday Service and all that jazz that triggered it. (Well, maybe not the jazz, actually. There might well have been Hymns, though). Yep, that’s where dressing your very best on a Sunday seems to have come from: Sunday Service. Everyone wanted to look their best before God – and as God presumably only ever saw you on a Sunday (scrap all those references to his omnipresence in the Bible…), then the idea of Sunday Best is suddenly glaringly obvious, n’est pas? Hmmm.
Obviously, respectability went hand in hand with dressing in ones’ Sunday Best. For the gentlemen-folk, there would have been no jeans hanging waaaaaaay too low – you know, the sort that compel boys to walk with their legs wide apart so they don’t loose their trousers completely… (Eugh). For the ladies, there would have been no plunging necklines or teeny tiny rara skirts. Oh no. Definitely not.
Men would have worn a suit jacket and tie and women would have worn something high-necked, prim and very proper.
So has the devolution of Sunday Best come about because attending church plays less and less of a role in society? Or is the temptation to wear low-hanging trousers and rara skirts too great amongst the folk of today? And what of my pyjama wearing antics?
I’d say yes to the first and possibly to the second observation. As for the third, there has always been a burgeoning desire amongst people (religious included) to make Sunday a day for hanging out in pyjamas. I’m quite sure of it. Who in their right mind would choose formal-wear over flannelette? One only need take a look at Norman Rockwell’s painting from 1959 to see that Pyjama Sunday is not a 21st century invention. And I know which person in the picture I’d rather be. I’m not sure it’s any more acceptable to wear your pyjamas all day long now than it was then but as I’ve no-one to answer to at this point in my life, I’m going to jolly well carry on doing it.
Long Live Pyjama Sunday.
Au Revoir Sunday Best.