Sunday, April 18, 2010

Muscle Tee Shirts, Tight Jeans and Cleavage: Has Gospel Really Gone Wild?

In a recent commentary in Jet magazine, free lance columnist Katti Gray wrote that there are so many gospel artists showing skin and wearing body-conscious clothing, it's as if gospel has "gone wild." I have been looking at this change of wardrobe, if you will, for more than a decade and have found individuals have very strong opinions on both sides.

In my book chapter entitled "Muscle Tee Shirts, Tight Jeans and Cleavage," Tracey Artis of "I Hear Music in the Air" music promotions and the annual conference of the same name had this to say when I interviewed her:

"There is a general trend to be “free style” rather than dressed for church. But if a Yolanda Adams is singing a ballad, I prefer to see her in a gown. When you begin to talk about the church, there is a standard wardrobe that is not offensive. I don’t want to see [female] artists in pantsuits. If you are before God’s people in church, remember I’m from the church; that’s my experience, so come before me with a dress or skirt on."

But with so many on stage, in the choir, and in the audience wearing less conservative clothing--pantsuits, jeans, thigh high skirts, belly shirts, and push up bras--there are clearly those who think differently from Ms. Artis.

Here is what Tina Campbell of Mary Mary said during an interview with National Public Radio (April 2009) about how some people see her and her sister Erica:

“Sometimes, people think we’re a little bit sexy. I don’t have a problem with that,” she says. “I would like to think that I’m sexy. I have a husband who I would like to think that every time he sees me. Truth be known, I’m a woman. I would love to be appealing to men. It is not my endeavor [to] entice, to cause anyone to lust.”

Believe it or not, this whole discussion of who is and what is sexy is not new to gospel. Mother Willie Mae Ford Smith, Sam Cooke, and even Mahalia Jackson had fans who found them appealing. And to paraphrase Steve Harvey, "If Christians aren't sexy, where are all of these little Christians coming from?"

So, how much is enough and how much is too little when it comes to attire? And can the gospel and sexy attire really go hand in hand? My Sunday morning radio neighbor, Pastor Marvin L. Winans, says no: "You can't sell sex and Jesus."

If gospel artists dress too conservatively, will their young audience members tune them out? If some see their clothing as too sexy, will they lose their core church following?

Or should we make this easy and tell all of the singers put on a church robe and call it a day? LOL!

What do YOU think?


  1. Well said! Back in the day, Mahalia Jackson was derided by some ministers who called her "snake hips" for shaking it while she sang and lifting her hem to do a holy dance. Columbia Records recast Ms. Jackson's exuberance in conservative, Eisenhower Era-appropriate restraint, but those who saw her in the '30s and '40s will testify to the fact that Jackson was anything but restrained!

    1. Interestingly, as a result of that many churches made Mahalia and other female gospel singers of that generation wear robes to cover the curves and "shaking" body parts. The men of course had to wear suits or they may have opted for robes.

  2. I believe that there is a balance between dressing sexy and dressing conservative, and I believe mary mary has done that very well. Mary mary's core audience is younger and appeal to their hairstyles, their dress and their makeup. Unfortunately this is the way things go. There is a time and place for everything, and robes have their place, just like summer dresses, short sleeve shirts, and gym shoes have their place. Groups like Mary Mary, tye tribett, kirk franklin, and out of eden have conveyed freedom in Christ through their fashion. No bondage to tradition! And I completely agree with the stance their taking

  3. question: since when did Jesus need 'trendy' clothing, hair, make up, etc.2 help Him out? That is a slap in the face of the cross. Trends come and go, we're not about keeping up with what the WORLD is doing 2 draw their own crowd.. is that not backwards? to copy them? its the anointing of the holyspirit that breaks and DESTROYS yokes in ppl's lives. not lipstick, not skinny jeans, or robes, or a suit. When your life is CONCECRATED- you will NOT, first of all, ACT inappropriately, and neither will u dress that way. The holyspirit will keep u in check. and He's the one that should get the glory out of our lives. if we're dressing a certain way n order 2 keep a 'crowd' coming, then.. have we not made room for our fleshly efforts 2 get the glory? ppl of God, let's make our 'Christianity' and ministry an everyday 'LIFEstyle'. not a dress code.