Don’t stress about what to wear to a baptism or christening. Here are five tips for looking your best.
This post was updated on Oct. 7, 2023.
After getting dressed for my niece’s baptism years ago, I asked my grandmother what she thought of my outfit.
She looked me up and down and then asked, “Where are your stockings?”
I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t have any and I didn’t have time to buy any before we had to be at the church.
I mumbled something about not wearing them and then sought out my mom for help.
My mom sighed and said, “Well, I guess one of us has to wear them. I’ll go put mine on.”
My mom took one for the team that day so I didn’t have to wear stockings. And I haven’t worn them to any other baptisms, either.
But while pantyhose aren’t something you need to wear to a baptism, there are some standards you should follow to make sure you’re dressed appropriately for the occasion.
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When In Doubt
When in doubt, dress up for a baptism. It’s better to be overdressed than underdressed.
And if you can’t decide if an outfit is appropriate, it probably isn’t. It’s better to err on the side of caution and be overdressed and modest.
And if you’re really not sure what you should wear, ask the mother of the child being baptized or the person being baptized if he or she is an adult.
But It Depends
What to wear depends largely on the type of church and the location.
Different denominations and even different churches within the same denomination have varying levels of formality.
I could get away with a much more casual outfit at the Catholic church in my hometown in rural Western New York, but the same outfit might not be appropriate for my parents’ church in South Carolina. Our current church in Southern California is in a wealthy beach town so we see a wide variety of attire.
But remember – just because others dress down doesn’t mean you can’t dress up!
NOTE: While some baptisms do take place outdoors (not Catholic ones), this blog post will focus on a what to wear to a baptism in a church.
5 Tips For What To Wear to a Baptism
While there’s no formal dress code for baptisms, most outfits will fall into the dressy casual category.
Keeping that dress code in mind, here are five tips for what to wear to a baptism.
1. Show Respect
While a baptism is less formal than a wedding, it’s still a special celebration that deserves respect.
What you should wear:
- Dresses or skirts that hit mid-thigh or longer
- Tops with a tasteful neckline
- Tops and dresses with sleeves or a sweater/shawl that covers your shoulders*
- Dressy pants and tops
- Dressy pumps, heels, or sandals
*NOTE: Covering your shoulders is more important for a Catholic baptism, and it varies depending on the church and the priest. It may not be an issue for a non-Catholic church; however, I’d wear at least sleeveless or very wide straps.
What you shouldn’t wear:
- Short dresses or skirts
- Ripped or frayed clothing
- Very tight clothing
- Revealing tops
- Sheer tops
- Sneakers or flip flops
- Spaghetti straps or other necklines/straps that show a lot of skin
2. Think About Your Role
If you’re the mother or the godmother, you have an important role in the service so you may want to dress up a bit more than you would if you were just a guest.
You will also be in photos, so avoid any outfits that are flashy and will make you stand out. Remember that the baby/child/person being baptized should be the center of attention. Consider wearing solid colors, neutrals, or muted prints that will complement other people in photos.
Also wear comfortable shoes that are easy to walk in since you will be standing for periods of time and possibly holding the baby or child being baptized.
3. Don’t Stress About the Color
The color of your outfit doesn’t matter as much as the style and appearance of your outfit. In other words, it doesn’t matter what color you wear as long as your outfit is tasteful and respectful (i.e., no ripped jeans, sexy dresses, etc.).
With that being said, many women like to wear light-colored clothing like white, ivory, and pastels or pops of color because baptisms are a joyful celebration. And yes, you can wear black to a christening, although some women avoid it because people associate black with funerals.
I wore a navy blue tunic dress to my son’s baptism. While the dress was a darker color, the nautical style was appropriate for summer and worked well with my husband’s suit.
4. Dress For the Season and the Weather
Baptisms occur year round, so choose fabrics that match the season.
In the spring and summer, choose light, breathable fabrics like linen and cotton. In the fall and winter, opt for warmer fabrics like wool, cashmere, and ponte knits.
And layers are a good idea no matter the season. Churches can be cold during the summer and warm during the winter so you may need to add or remove layers.
5. Dress Like Yourself
You should like what you wear because you’ll be the most comfortable. However, some events, like baptisms, might require you to wear something that’s a little different from your normal attire.
The good news is that you can dress appropriately while still adding your own personal style.
If you don’t like wearing dresses, wear trousers and a nice top. If you like wearing loud prints, carry a fun purse instead. If your dress has an open back, wear a sweater over it.
And remember that you can always change for the after-party.
Women’s Outfit Ideas for a Baptism
Here are some ideas for what to wear to a baptism. Another option is to rent a dress from Rent the Runway.
1. Monotone Trousers + Sweater
Shop This Outfit
2. Classic Shift Dress
Shop This Outfit
3. Warm Sweater Dress
Shop This Outfit
Men attending a baptism, especially a father or godfather, can’t go wrong with a suit and tie. Some churches are less formal, but a suit is always a good idea.
Male guests can be less formal by wearing a dress shirt and slacks. Suits, blazers, sport coats, and ties are optional for male guests (but highly recommended).
Teenage boys should follow the same guidelines as adult male guests.
Kids can get away with more casual options than adults, but their outfits should still be tasteful and respectful.
Boys should wear dress shirts or polo shirts with slacks. They can also wear suits (because overdressed is better than underdressed). Girls should wear dresses with nice shoes or sandals.
Teenage girls should follow the same attire guidelines as women.
Frequently Asked Questions About What To Wear to a Baptism
Still have questions? Below are some frequently asked questions and their answers about what to wear to a christening.
1. Is it OK to wear jeans to a christening?
No, you shouldn’t wear jeans to a christening. While there are probably some instances when you could, it’s better to skip the jeans and opt for a dress or nice trousers.
2. What color shouldn’t you wear to a baptism?
There really aren’t any colors that you can’t wear to a baptism, but you may want to consider saving your flashy outfits for another day.
3. Can you wear black to a Catholic baptism?
Yes, you can wear black to a Catholic baptism, although some people choose not to because it reminds them of funeral attire.
Some black outfits scream funeral more than others do. You can soften the black with feminine details like bows, ruffles, and lace.
4. Can you wear white to a baptism?
Unlike weddings, it’s perfectly acceptable to wear white or ivory to a baptism, especially if you’re the mother.
5. What do you wear to a baptism in winter?
If you’re attending a winter baptism, some clothing options include:
- a sweater with a midi skirt and boots
- a sweater with trousers and loafers
- a sweater dress with heels or boots
- a ponte knit dress with heels
- a button up with trousers
And make sure you dress in layers because you never know if a church will be hot or cold!
Final Thoughts on What To Wear to a Baptism
While you should dress respectfully for a baptism, the most important thing is celebrating this beautiful sacrament with family and friends.
Preferably not in pantyhose.
This post is about what to wear to a baptism.