Degree Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Apparel, Events and Hospitality Management


Apparel, Merchandising, and Design

First Advisor

Sara Marcketti




This study explored church dress of African American women. The purpose of this study was to explore the reasons why African American women today wear church dress and the significance of this dress. Through an oral history approach, ten participants ranging in age from 70 to 100 years old provided narrative which revealed major influencers on their style and what they have worn throughout their life span. The study explored the women’s experiences within the African American church and the importance it played in the lives of the community providing social, political, and educational support. Oral narratives were analyzed using open and axial coding by the researcher. Symbolic interactionist theory helped in understanding the meanings behind the women’s methods of assembly of garments and accessories. The participants disclosed how garments were acquired and the attachment of status to the methods of acquisition. Evaluation of the data revealed that church denomination did not play as important a role for the participants in this study, however, their mode of dress was used as an outward manifestation of their inner beliefs to present their best to God. Their stories further revealed strong opinions about post-modern church dress and how society influences what is considered proper dress for church. The stories told by these women of their lives through dress explained how their clothing was symbolic of strong religious beliefs as well as a way of life for proper women and disclosed meanings about their self-concept related to dress. Age seemed to be the most significant theme that linked the ideas of church dress.


Copyright Owner

Beverly Ann Kemp Gatterson



File Format


File Size

134 pages