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Forced into Their Sunday Best

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Son: Why do I have to wear this?
Mother: Because the Queen has come of age! It's coronation day.
Son: That's not my fault!

Characters (usually children) are forced to wear smart-looking clothes (their Sunday best) and hate it. They usually change out of these clothes as soon as possible.

The term "Sunday Best" refers to Western Christian society where people often dress up in tidy clothes for the Sunday service. This was far more common in the past when people only had limited clothing, they had the set they wore in the week and their Sunday best for special occasions (and Sundays).

If related to cartoon characters, may be one of the few exceptions to their Limited Wardrobe. This trope, however, is about anyone being forced to wear smart clothing for an occasion.

The reasons for this hate can include:

  • They think they look stupid/people will laugh at them. Worse, they may know that their peers will laugh at them, especially if they don't have to get dressed up.
  • It inhibits their normal behavior (can't risk damaging the clothing).
  • It is grossly impractical.
  • It represents everything they hate about something (e.g., the upper classes, or control freakery).
  • It itches or is otherwise uncomfortable.
  • It is too girly for a Tomboy or too similar to a dress for a boy.

Some of these reasons are interchangeable. Truth in Television for many kids (and occasionally adults) at formal events, like weddings.

See also Doomed New Clothes. Compare Sudden School Uniform and Hated Item Makeover. Contrast slightly Sharp-Dressed Man, where the character usually enjoys such nice clothes.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Dragon Ball:
    • Chichi forces Gohan into a Little Lord Fauntleroy-type outfit for his trip to Namek on Dragon Ball Z. Gohan changes out of it soon as they are out of her sight. He's stuck with the haircut, though.
    • In Dragon Ball Z: Broly – The Legendary Super Saiyan, Goku has this attitude about the suit Chichi makes him wear for a school interview for Gohan; as soon as he teleports to King Kai's planet he sheds the outfit in favor of his normal dogi. In the Dragon Ball Z Abridged adaptation, Chichi remarks that she intentionally scheduled the interview on the same day as Korin and Yajirobe's wedding because getting Goku into a suit is like trying to give a cat a bath.
    • In one episode of Dragon Ball Super, Chichi forces Goku to take a job working security for a world invention conference and Goku must wear a suit to look the part. He almost immediately rips off the suit's sleeves and wanders off.
  • England buys a suit for a teenage America in the America Cleans Out his Storage episode in Hetalia: Axis Powers, and he looks adorably embarrassed by it.

    Audio Plays 
  • In the Big Finish Doctor Who story The Uncertainty Principle, the Doctor insists that Jamie and Zoe wear smart clothes when visiting the Institute, much to their disapproval. As it turns out, he had a very practical purpose in mind.

    Comic Books 
  • Lucky Luke:
    • In one story, Luke drees up for a meeting with several Washington politician. Jolly Jumper laughs his heart out on seeing him, until he learns he's getting a fancy saddle too. And when Luke gets to the meeting it turns out all the politicians are in their shirtsleeves, feet on the table, etc.
    • Inverted in "Sarah Bernhardt": When touring a coal-mining town where the inhabitants are all solid black silhouettes, Luke does the same to go unnoticed... unfortunately, it turns out everyone had cleaned up and dressed up for the occasion.
    • In "Bride of Lucky Luke", Luke has to take care of Jenny, an Irishwoman whose would-be husband is in prison. Among the many things she forces him to do, he has to wear a pink tuxedo.

    Comic Strips 
  • Calvin and Hobbes: This happens several times to Calvin. If he's not happy about it, nobody gets to be happy about it.
    Calvin's Dad: We can't send [photos of Calvin in his best clothes making a face on every one] in our Christmas cards . People will think they're sacrilegeous.
    Calvin's Mom: Well, these DO look like Calvin... except for the combed hair.
  • Dennis the Menace: Dennis Mitchell hates being put in his Sunday best.
  • Jon has often dressed Garfield up and told people he is his son to get into restaurants. Garfield is not amused.
  • At Elizabeth's wedding in For Better or for Worse, her father was complaining about having to get dressed up for it, and that he didn't even know what a cummerbund was.
  • Lucky Luke:
    • In one story, Luke dresses up for a meeting with several Washington politician. Jolly Jumper laughs his heart out on seeing him, until he learns he's getting a fancy saddle too. And when Luke gets to the meeting it turns out all the politicians are in their shirtsleeves, feet on the table, etc.
    • Inverted in "Sarah Bernhardt": When touring a coal-mining town where the inhabitants are all solid black silhouettes, Luke does the same to go unnoticed... unfortunately, it turns out everyone had cleaned up and dressed up for the occasion.
  • PreTeena: Teena and Jeri, whose parents ensure they are regular churchgoers. Teena does not like dressing girly; Jeri does not like dressing conservatively. One Sunday strip has the girls lamenting the fact other people can get away with dressing extremely casually for church.

    Fan Works 
  • In Lady Black, Lord Potter Tonks' mother tries to get her to buy a fancy dress for her investiture into the Wizengamot, with little success.
    Ted: Really, Andy, you think you're going to get her to wear something like that? Have you really forgotten all those Easters when my folks were alive?
    Andromeda: No, I haven't. I haven't forgotten, I just hoped she was past that by now.
    Ted: Right. Good one. Remember when you bought her that little yellow dress with the ducks on it?
    Andromeda: Of course, her first bit of accidental magic. As soon as I put it on her she changed it into her grubby trousers and a T-shirt.
  • The Frozen fanfic Frozen Wight makes a Brick Joke out of the boy who had complained about having to dress up for Elsa's coronation, by having him complain again about having to dress up whenever Elsa is giving a public address.
  • In Love Triangle Harry and Hermione's son sets his tie on fire via accidental magic.

    Films — Animation 
  • Shrek and Fiona have to wear ridiculous finery as acting rulers of Far Far Away in Shrek the Third. It's especially hard on Shrek, who is unused to palace life.
  • In the Frozen franchise:
    • Frozen, the camera tracks through Arendelle and introduces us to the Duke of Weselton and Kristoff. At one point, we see a boy complain to his mother about being forced to dress up for Elsa's coronation.
      Son: Why do I have to wear this?
      Mother: Because the Queen has come of age! It's coronation day.
      Son: That's not my fault!
    • There's a tiny one in Olaf's Frozen Adventure during "Ring in the Season". As Kristoff and Sven are carting the Yule Bell into the castle courtyard, Kristoff is dressed up in a royal blue suit like other castle servants. However, he's also tugging at his collar and grimacing, indicating he’s uncomfortable being so dressed up for a formal event. In fact, after the ceremony, and everyone abruptly going home for their holiday traditions, Kristoff stays around, switches out his jacket for a ceremonial troll headdress and moss robe like we saw in the original Frozen film, as he tries to cheer the sisters up with his own troll holiday celebrating the life of Flemingrad.
    • Frozen II: Kristoff and Olaf reluctantly wear formal clothes for the unveiling of statues of Agnarr and Iduna. Kristoff says he can bear it for an hour, but Olaf eventually tears his outfit off, saying he can't stand it.
  • Merida on Brave has to wear a confining dress while attending the archery tournament for her hand. When she infiltrates the competition, she has to tear apart the dress just so she can move around.
  • Wreck-It Ralph: Vanellope reacts this way to her princess attire once Sugar Rush resets. She has to lift up the cumbersome skirt just to turn around, and can't wait to glitch out of it. She's wearing it again at Felix and Calhoun's wedding, and is seen pulling on the collar.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Nanny McPhee: The Brown children are forced into their best clothes when their Great-Aunt Adelaide visits. They then force their clothes onto the animals, since they were only told to put their best clothes on, but not on whom the clothes had to go.
  • Harry Potter and Ron Weasley are forced into formal robes for the Yule Ball. Especially Ron, since his are horribly outdated hand-me-downs.
  • In Beauty and the Beast (2017), Mme. de Garderobe doesn't just offer Belle a fancy dress to wear to dinner as in the animated version, but forcibly dresses her in a lavish 18th-century gown and wig. For several reasons (the sheer overdone gaudiness of the outfit, the fact that Belle has no desire to look nice for the Beast, and the fact that this version of Belle is more of a tomboy than the original and less fashionable to begin with – "I'm not a princess," she objects), Belle is none too happy and promptly remakes the gown into a rope ladder to try to escape the castle. When she eventually does wear elegant gowns of her own free will, they're much simpler and more modern, presumably because Garderobe has learned to respect her tastes.
  • In Star Trek: Insurrection, Picard is trying to get into his dress uniform with Dr. Crusher's help and complaining that the collar is too tight. He also grumbles that the Federation is in the midst of the Dominion War and that the Enterprise is meant to be exploring the galaxy but that the crew has been relegated to conducting fancy diplomatic activities.

  • The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876): Happens to Tom Sawyer, much to his chagrin; his cousin Mary makes him dress appropriately for Sunday School, including wearing shoes. After being taken in by the Widow Douglas, Huckleberry Finn must also suffer from this.
  • In Discworld, Sam Vimes is often forced to wear his knightly regalia of red tights, impractical shiny breastplate, and a helmet with a damned plume in it, rather than battered chainmail, in Jingo. By the end of the book, he's a duke, with an even more impractical outfit that he's forced to wear in The Fifth Elephant.
  • In P. G. Wodehouse's Blandings Castle short story, "Lord Emsworth and the Girl Friend", the eponymous peer is forced, over his strenuous objections, to put on a top hat, frock coat, and a stiff collar to preside at a public fête held on the grounds of Blandings Castle.
  • Also referenced by Bertie Wooster (via the narration) in "Jeeves and the Unbidden Guest":
    She [Lady Malvern] made me feel as if I were ten years old and had been brought into the drawing-room in my Sunday clothes to say how-d'you-do.
  • While not "forced", Lauchlan of Mix Beer With Liquor And You Will Get Sicker hates wearing his best clothes. He describes himself as thuggish and lopsided in them and compares himself to a circus animal stuffed into human clothing for the entertainment of the crowd.
  • Happens twice in Harry Potter: Once for the Yule Ball (mostly concerning Ron and his hideous maroon robes), and again for Bill and Fleur's wedding (in which case its Fred and George complaining).
    Fred: When I get married, I won't be bothering with any of this nonsense. You can all wear what you like, and I'll put a full body-bind curse on Mum until it's over.
  • Starfighters of Adumar states that starfighter pilots in the New Republic hate the dress uniform for Starfighter Command, which was designed without any input from the people who would be wearing it, and will generally wear anything else if they can get away with it. It's hard to blame them; the uniform consists of a jacket and boots over a sleeveless body stocking.
  • In chapter eight of Heinlein's Double Star, Emperor Willem complains about having to either take a long route back from the throne room or "parade through semi-public corridors dressed like a circus horse," then adds that "I never wear anything but underwear under those silly robes." Lorenzo replies "I doubt if they are as uncomfortable as this monkey jacket I am wearing, Sire."
  • Storm from the Shadows: Commodore Terekhov hates wearing mess dress note . His steward and his flag lieutenant have to gang up on him to get him into the uniform on one occasion.
  • Beauty: A Retelling of Beauty and the Beast: Beauty, a homely, scrappy girl used to doing outdoor peasants' chores, dislikes the elegant clothes offered to her in the Beast's castle and purposefully chooses the plainest ones available. Finally her invisible maidservants physically force her into an especially elegant, lacy gown and jewelry. She puts up a fight in a scene that's both funny and poignant — because the main reason why she resists is that she thinks she's not pretty enough to dress that way.
  • In Jennifer Weiner's Mrs Everything, tomboy Jo hates having to wear "girly" clothes. When she is forced to wear her best dress when the family moves into their new house, she manages to rip it beyond repair.
  • In the Diary of a Wimpy Kid book Hard Luck, Greg and Rodrick hate being dressed in nice clothes for church and are happy to take them off once they come home. On Easter the family goes from a church service to a relative's house and Greg has to keep the nice clothes on, much to his dismay.
  • Slug Days Stories: In Penguin Days, Lauren is going to be a flower girl at her Auntie Joss and Uncle Charlie's wedding, but she hates the scratchy purple dress Joss picked out. Luckily for her, she vomits on the dress and then falls into the cattle pen while wearing it, so her mom has to take her shopping for another one. She picks out a new purple dress that doesn't match the other flower girls' dresses but is much softer and more comfortable.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Gilmore Girls makes ample use of this trope. Subverted in one episode, in which Emily Gilmore buys her daughter and granddaughter fancy dresses; her daughter Lorelai alters the dresses because she and her daughter Rory dislike them.
  • Star Trek:
    • Star Trek: The Original Series:
      • In the episode "Journey To Babel", McCoy complains about having to wear his dress uniform. About to greet the Vulcan Ambassador, he asks Spock how to do the Vulcan salute. After Spock demonstrates it and the good Doctor tries to imitate the gesture, McCoy grumbles, "That hurts worse than the uniform!"
      • In "The Savage Curtain", McCoy and Scotty complain about the dress uniforms again, but mostly because they can't see why Kirk is going through the trouble for someone who's obviously an alien and not the real Abraham Lincoln.
    • Worf, in Star Trek: The Next Generation, grumps about having to wear the dress uniform when preparing to greet some ambassadors and complains it looks like a dress. Riker scolds him for expressing an outmoded, sexist attitude... besides, Worf looks good in a dress.
  • Name a television series in which the main characters are either military or police officers. Sooner or later they'll have to put on their dress uniforms, and they will always complain about having to do so.
  • In the Angel episode "Waiting in the Wings", Gunn is initially very concerned that he will look silly when dressed up for the ballet. He is, of course, GORGEOUS, as Fred quickly points out.
  • Leave It to Beaver:
    • One time, Beaver has to take dancing lessons and was forced to wear his Sunday clothes to the classes. He didn't know which was worse.
    • Another episode had June going out of town and the boys being looked after by an old-fashioned aunt, who makes Beav go to school in a short-pants suit complete with knee socks, necktie, and beanie cap.
  • Keeping Up Appearances:
    • Onslow once has to wear a jacket and a shirt with a tie for his grandchild's baptism. He keeps on fumbling with the tie and claims that he feels as if he were the first member of his family to be hanged.
    • Hyacinth sometimes insists that Richard wears a suit or tie for manual tasks, such as gardening, or mending the church hall electrics.
  • In the early episodes of The Beverly Hillbillies, Elly May didn't like having to wear a dress. It was partly because she was afraid people would make fun of her, and also because she's tomboyish and likes to play games that would mess up the clothes. Once she played football wearing a ball gown and ruined it because she thought ball gowns were made to play ball in.
  • When Branson marries into the Crawley family on Downton Abbey, he is forced to wear morning dress for an event. He isn't happy, but the Dowager Countess is having none of it. Several minutes later we see him suitably attired.
    Branson: You see I don't approve of these costumes; I see them as the uniform of oppression and I should be uncomfortable wearing them.
    Violet: Have you quite finished?
  • In the Step by Step episode Never on Sunday Frank does this to his kids when he makes them go to church with Carol and her kids.
  • Played for Laughs in Ted Lasso when a soccer team full of grown men is wrangled into formal clothing by their captain Isaac for their team owner's father's funeral. A particularly common complaint is the dress shoes. At the funeral, Jamie comforts a miserable and uncomfortable Dani by saying dress shoes weren't made for people like them.
    Isaac: Oi! So, we are going to this funeral as a team. That means ties, shirts, and no trainers.
    [the team breaks out into protest]
    Zoreaux: Okay. But what if they're like, really nice Yeezys?
    Isaac: What color?
    Zoreaux: Bright red. [Isaac glares at him] ...Okay, I'll wear some dress shoes.

    Video Games 
  • EXTRAPOWER: Attack of Darkforce: During the cruise ship leg of their journey, the hero party blends in by dressing in glamorous suits and dresses. Platinum takes extra sadistic pleasure in cleaning up Crown and Fool to the point where nobody recognizes them at first. Partially because they are normally a pair of Monster Clown with evil grins and garishly bright makeup and outfits. Partially because the change makes them so subdued and depressed that they get taken for a pair of sad children. Unfortunately for Platinum and the gang, her Bullying the Dragon occurs shortly before they break free from their Power Limiter.
  • In the Mass Effect 3 Citadel DLC, the party has to infiltrate a charity event at a casino. If the player picks Wrex as their date, the first words out of his mouth as he walks into the casino are "I look ridiculous." He doesn't like wearing something he can't fight in.
  • Examining yourself in Sunday Afternoon gives you the description:
    You've been thoroughly scrubbed and ironed and starched into your least comfortable set of clothes. One day, when you are either Prime Minister or Archbishop of Canterbury — depending on whether you listen to Mother or Father — you're going to outlaw starch or declare it anathema or both.
  • It is a Running Gag in The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt that Geralt hates wearing formal clothing, as he has to several times throughout the game. He considers them uncomfortable.

    Visual Novels 
  • Amy from Double Homework, although a princess, hates dressing in royal gowns. When the protagonist first sees her in one, she tells him that her Requisite Royal Regalia are basically her uniform, and not reflective of who she is.
  • At the beginning of Melody, the title character hates, hates, hates dressing up and balks whenever she has to wear something more formal than a t-shirt and jeans. She even has to borrow all such clothing from her mother’s closet, as she doesn’t have any of her own.

    Web Animation 
  • Homestar Runner: The early short "A Mother's Day Message" had Strong Bad forced to wish viewers a "Happy Freakin' Mother's Day" while wearing an old-timey little boy's sailor suit. Apparently, he lost a bet.

    Web Comics 
  • The group from Fey Winds are forced to dress up to go undercover; two of them find the costumes embarrassing and impractical. Cue stripping off said clothes for a fight scene.
  • On occasion, Dubious Company's Tiren is forced into formalwear. She has several logical, practical reasons against wearing them.
    Tiren: Great. Can I take this... whatever I'm wearing off and put on normal clothes?
    Mary: But you look so stunning!
  • In Original Life local Tomboy Charlene is forced by her mother to wear a dress to a church and is very annoyed both by its "girliness" and by limitations on the pose resulting from lack of pants.
  • Played for Drama in Venus Envy- transgirl Zoe is forced by her parents to dress up for church, but they insist that she wear nice male clothes- a suit and no makeup.

    Western Animation 
  • Recess: In "One Stayed Clean", the kids have to wear smart clothes all day for their school picture. Unfortunately, there are many kids who are keen to get their clothes dirty before then.
  • The Simpsons: Bart and Lisa Simpson have special clothes for church. Bart also has his spiky hair forced into a parting. Their dislike of their outfits is notable in "In Marge We Trust" where they (and Homer) get undressed the moment they get back home.
  • ReBoot: In preparation for Bob and Dot's wedding, Matrix is being fitted for a suit. In frustration, he rips off the suit's sleeves before becoming envious of Bob, who will be wearing a Guardian dress uniform.
  • On Jimmy Two-Shoes, when Heloise's Auntie Pomigranite comes to visit, she's forced into very frilly, very un-Heloise-like clothes.
  • Ed, Edd n Eddy: At the beginning of "Oath to an Ed", the Eds find themselves stuck with new clothes bought by their parents. They're hilariously too stiff, so they throw them in the lake in hopes of softening them up, only for them to literally disintegrate.
  • The Powerpuff Girls (1998): In the episode "Octi Gone", Buttercup bristles at having to wear a fancy dress for the Professor's dinner party.
  • Codename: Kids Next Door: "Operation: C.A.N.N.O.N." introduces The Proper Patrol, who attacks with rays that transform kids' clothes into "proper" clothes. Which can simply be switched normally immediately after.
  • PB&J Otter are forced into their Sunday best in "Picture Perfect." This is a big problem for Peanut and Jelly because they have to try to keep a constant eye on Baby Butter, who loves being Covered in Mud.
  • In Caillou's Holiday Movie, Caillou is forced into his Sunday best for Christmas Eve dinner with Grandma and Grandpa and doesn't understand why at first because Grandpa and Grandma come over to visit all the time.
  • In the My Dad the Rock Star episode "Rebel Without a Nose Ring" Rock Zilla has to wear a suit and tie to Willy's school meeting. The tie ends up choking him from being so tight.

    Real Life 
  • Footwear example: Teenagers reportedly loathe Clarks brand shoes for school in the United Kingdom, as they are perceived as "uncool" despite the brand being popular with parents and school districts alike due to them being durable and modest enough to be deemed acceptable at school. Not even the "Bootleg" line aimed specifically at teens appealed to them either, apparently.
  • Some revisionist historians of the Cold War eagerly seized on quotes from Harry Truman saying he hated meeting with the Soviets. Turns out he was complaining about having to put on formal wear.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Pressed Into Formal Wear


The Night Dress

To get access to a night club, Ann is taken to a clothing shop where she's not pleased that she has to wear a skirt while Ayane eagerly watches.

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