The following is from an 1839 article by Alexander Campbell, “Worshipping Assembles — No. I / The Appearance of Things”:
Our meetings of all sorts are greatly defective in many respects, and in none more visibly than in the dress and manners of the professed worshippers. The present costumes and general displays are in extremely bad taste. They are so in the judgment of all well informed men of sense, out of the church; and certainly of all persons in the church of unquestionable piety.
There’s a congruity between the persons, places, and employments, which can never be violated without detriment and disgust, if there are any persons of good education present. To see worshippers appear in church as at a marriage feast, a presidential levee, a theatre, a dance — either in dress, manners, or general demeanor — strikes all persons of reflection as snow in summer or a plaudit in the midst of a prayer.
… On the Sabbath and in the cathedral, the nobility dress in their plainest garb. They reserve their splendid equipage, their courtly attire, their gems and coronets, their glittering decorations for courts and carnivals, for tilts and tournaments, and appear in the sanctuary as though they sought not to be worshipped, but to worship God. But we frequent the houses of prayer and the places of worship with all our “finery” upon us, as though our synagogues were theatres for fashion — and the “Ladies Book,” rather than the New Testament, was the guide to our devotions. …
Kings and Prophets, the saints and the martyrs of other times, were oftener seen in sackcloth and ashes than in the gaudy fashions of a flippant and irreverent age. …
“Slovenly neglect and rustic coarseness,” though also incongruous with good Christian taste, are nevertheless more tolerable in Christian assemblies, than the gaiety and style now in vogue amongst the American communities … .
Then let him change his apparel, sell his finery and gold to those who can afford no higher honors, no brighter glories — give the proceeds to the poor, and dress himself according to the Christian mirror, in the plainest and most unassuming garb, and try himself kneeling or lying upon the earth, in some deep cavern, in some lonely alcove, in some deep forest, or in the secret chamber in the lonely hour of even, or at midnight, and see how he feels in divine converse with his Divine Father, or seated thus among the faithful at the communion board, compared with himself on former occasions, with all the pride of fashion thickly set upon him.