"They should not wear trousers, see-through dresses, or clothes that expose the breasts and show too much skin. Tight garments must also be avoided," the guidelines said. Wearing a traditional Mizo 'puan' (a piece of cloth women wrap around their waists reaching their ankles) is termed "respectable" and encouraged by the church.
The men, who got away with simpler rules, were told by the SEC to wear clean shoes and respectable suits to maintain the sanctity of the church. The committee also encouraged use of cosmetics for women, but advised against going over the top. Wedding dresses for brides should be beautiful and respectable, the committee added.
The Presbyterian Church's decision to issue a dress code did not come out of the blue as the strictly patriarchal Mizo society has always frowned upon dresses they considered 'indecent', with some people even suggesting that incidents of rape have increased due to indecent dressing.
Former chief minister Pu Laldenga had told government employees in 1987 that though law-enforcement officials would not tolerate "indecent exposure" as described in the IPC, no one should impose a dress code for women.
Recently, after pressure from student bodies, the state education department issued a dress code for students, which says that the skirts should be at least knee length. Some church-goers have lamented that Sunday wear have become extremely expensive and that the aisles of the houses of worship have become almost like red carpets for fashion shows.
Not only the church, society-based organizations like the Young Mizo Association (YMA) have expressed strong dislike for girls who attend funeral services wearing tights though no diktats have been issued. Many YMA branches have made appeals to girls to wear Mizo "puan" on a particular day in a week.