Dream symbols: Clothes and what they mean

The biblical symbolism of different types of clothes in night dreams, plus real dream examples.

We’ve all had dreams about getting dressed or changing clothes; dreams of getting new shoes or not being able to find anything to wear. I bet you have had some dreams like that! But have you ever wondered what they mean?

This article explores the most common meanings of clothes – with biblical references – and pointers so you can interpret them in your own dreams.

I approach dream interpretation from a biblical perspective. My belief is that our dreams can come from God, and understanding them is best understood within the context of an ongoing relationship with Him.

The symbolic meaning of clothes

Firstly, if you have just come across this post and are new to dream interpretation, it is worth mentioning that dreams are symbolic in nature. You might find it helpful to read Understand your dreams: A bible-based introduction to dream language and my 3-step dream interpretation method to give you a foundation.

Secondly, remember that dreams are personal, so the meanings that I suggest may not apply to your specific dream. But please feel free to use my ideas as a springboard to thinking and praying about dreams yourself. Don’t take my ideas as gospel, but rather let them help you start to think metaphorically.

Clothes are rather an essential part of life! Everyone needs them – for modesty at least – as well as for warmth or protection from the sun.

Our clothes say a lot about us. They can provide clues about our job, our cultural background, or how wealthy we are. They can be a fashion statement – or designed for a particular purpose.

There are many different types of clothes, so it will be impossible to cover every type. But this article covers general principles with lots of ideas and examples – to get you thinking symbolically. Hopefully you can extrapolate the principles to your own dreams.

What could clothes symbolise?

In bible times, clothes were sometimes used an outward expression of circumstances, or to convey what was going on internally.

For example, sackcloth was worn during periods of mourning. The sackcloth material was scratchy and uncomfortable. The outer discomfort represented the internal emotional discomfort that the wearer was experiencing.

Clothes were also torn, which was a dramatic gesture that pointed to the intensity of their internal emotions. Their heart was torn on the inside, so their clothes were torn on the outside!

  • Genesis 37:34, NASB So Jacob tore his clothes, and put on a sackcloth undergarment over his waist, and mourned for his son many days.

In dreams, the visual imagery of clothing is used in a similar way to speak metaphorically about internal qualities and circumstances.

Reference: Why People in the Bible Tore Their Clothes at https://www.learnreligions.com/why-people-in-the-bible-tore-their-clothes-363391

Clothes can represent our spiritual state

Clothes can be used as a visual representation of our spiritual state. Here are some examples from the bible:

In particular, white clothes and clean/dirty clothes are particularly symbolic of spiritual condition.

White clothes in dreams

Spiritually speaking, white clothes can represent purity, godliness, holiness and righteousness (being right before God):

In addition, if a person appears in your dream dressed in white garments, it could indicate the presence of God (i.e. it could be Jesus, the Holy Spirit, an angel from God, or a godly person).

In a negative context, white clothes can represent being religious, or indicate the presence of a religious spirit – which is something that appears to be from God but actually isn’t.

Real dream example: Dressed in white
I dreamed that Jesus was mentoring me and releasing fire into my body. Afterwards I joined some other people, and we were all dressed in white.
The clue here came from the colour white, combined with the sense of refining fire. The dream was telling me that Jesus was about to lead me through a time of testing, for the purpose of cleansing/purification in an area of my life. This dream helped me persevere through the following season – which was quite tough – but I knew it would be worth it!

Clothes can represent an inner quality or ability

Symbolically, clothes can reflect an inner quality of a person, e.g. a character trait, attitude, personality, or gift/ability.

Here are some positive and negative biblical examples to illustrate this:

  • Psalm 109:18, NASB But he clothed himself with cursing as with his garment…
  • Psalm 109:29, NASB …they cover themselves with their own shame as with a robe.
  • Job 40:10, NASB Adorn yourself with pride and dignity, And clothe yourself with honor and majesty.
  • Colossians 3:12, NASB …put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.

The atmosphere of the dream, the context of what is happening in the dream, plus the state of the clothes and your feeling about them – can help identify whether it is a good quality to put on or an unhelpful quality to take off.

If you dream of coloured clothes, check out what the colour means – and that could help you identify the quality it represents. For example, depending on whether the context is positive or negative:

Real dream example: A blue swimming costume
I dreamed I was wearing a blue swimming costume, and someone commented, ‘You look good in blue’.
Blue commonly represents heavenly revelation, and swimming can also be about engaging in spiritual activity (water can be the Holy Spirit). This dream was at a time when I was first learning to understand my dreams and hear God’s voice, so it was a big encouragement that this was something I was called to do, and that I should carry on!

Clothes can represent a role, job or calling

Some clothes are designed for specific jobs! There are plenty of examples in the bible. The priests had specific robes; there were special garments for royalty and leaders; they had clothes for brides; best clothes were for attending weddings, and other clothes were for going to battle.

We also have clothes for specific purposes, which in a dream could represent being called to do something related to those clothes. Here are some examples to get you started:

  • Work clothes or uniform can symbolise the work (job or ministry) we are called to do. The type of clothes would indicate what type of work it is.
  • Clothes can symbolise a call to action, e.g., a nurse’s uniform could be about caring for someone or a call to nursing as a profession.
  • Clothes could represent a spiritual activity, e.g., a swimming costume could be moving in spiritual things, and army clothes could be a calling to engage in spiritual battle.

So clothes can be useful as a clue about what we are called to do in the current/coming season of our life.

Picture of man in suit with text: God planned in advance our destiny and good works we would do to fulfil it, Ephersians 2:10 The Passion Translation

Clothes can represent a people group, nation or culture

Clothes can be a status symbol – or suggest belonging to a particular people group or nation; they can also be suggestive of wealth, culture, social standing, or point of view. Some groups intentionally use clothes as an identifier. We pick up clues from the condition, style and brand.

In bible times, wealthy people could be easily identified because they could afford expensive dyes and wore brightly coloured clothes. Today, certain brands have the same association.

  • Luke 16:19, NASB “Now there was a rich man, and he habitually dressed in purple and fine linen…”

The apostle Paul dreamed of a man from Macedonia and understood it to be a calling to go to that area. Somehow, he knew that the man was Macedonian; maybe it was from his clothes!

  • Acts 16:9, NASB And a vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing and pleading with him, and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.”

Dreams are personal, so consider whether the clothes have personal or cultural connotations to you. What do you think when you see them? Do they make you think of a particular people group, point of view, or type of person? That could be what they represent in your dream.

But remember, some of these could potentially represent an inner quality too. For example, considering clothes associated with wealth/poverty, we might have a ‘poverty mentality’, or be rich/poor in our relationship with God.

Clothes can represent provision or being equipped

Clothes in a dream could be about having provision/equipping for a situation or task. This could potentially be all kinds of things for example:

  • The necessary finances
  • Practical provision
  • A spiritual gift, mantle or anointing
  • Knowledge or understanding
  • Training or equipping

Having the right clothes: We normally wear clothes so we can do something. If we have the right (and proper fitting) clothes for the job, then we are ready/equipped to do it.

Lacking clothes: Conversely, if we are lacking clothes, or they are not quite right, then it could mean that we are not equipped/ready for whatever we need (or are trying) to do.

It takes wisdom to know whether we are lacking what we need because we are trying to do something we are not called to do, or whether we need to seek God for what we need. That is why dreams about clothes can be very helpful! The action relating to the clothes will be the main clue.

Be encouraged that God does not ask us to do something without providing what we need to do it – whether that is practical or spiritual.

  • Matthew 6:30, NASB But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you?

Real dream example: A suit too big
I dreamed I saw one of my sons wearing a suit that was slightly too big for him (like a teenager wearing an adult suit). I felt incredible pride and love as I looked at him, and had the thought that he would grow into the suit soon, maybe after a year.
I felt this dream was literally about that son, as he was nearing the end of his schooling and having a difficult time deciding what career to follow (symbolised by the suit), so I was concerned about him. The dream helped me understand that he was not ready yet to decide on a career or to leave home to study; I realised I should give him another year – and then he would be ready. That is what happened. The dream did remind me of how proud I felt of him – and I was able to tell him so.

Actions relating to clothes in dreams

In this section we will explore some of the most common actions relating to clothes in dreams.

Changing clothes in dreams

The bible often mentions people changing clothes when their circumstance or situation was changing. The act of changing reflected preparation or readiness for the new thing. Here are a few examples:

  • 2 Samuel 12:20, NASB So David got up from the ground, washed, anointed himself, and changed his clothes; and he went into the house of the Lord and worshiped.
  • 2 Kings 25:20, NASB So Jehoiachin changed his prison clothes, and had his meals in the king’s presence…
  • Luke 15:22, NASB But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet…

Changing clothes in a dream can represent a change in any of the areas we have previously discussed (e.g., spiritual condition, attitude, role, cirumstances). It can also be about letting go of old ways of thinking and doing things (taking clothes off), in order to make room for new ways (putting clothes on).

It is common to dream of changing clothes when we are going through (or preparing to go through) some sort of transition or change in life season.

Picture of a lady holding up a couple of outfits, with the text: It is common to dream of changing clothes when going through a transition or change of season

Getting dressed in dreams

Getting dressed, or putting on new clothes in a dream, can be like changing clothes, in the sense of putting on something new in the ways we have already discussed above.

But it can also indicate preparation or getting ready for something. When we are dressed, we are ready! If we are not dressed or still in our nightwear, we are not ready!

For example, the dream message could be advising us to relax and be patient because we need more preparation time – or it could be exhorting us to ‘wake up’ and get ready!

Or, if we are struggling to get dressed, it could be highlighting our feeling of being unprepared or resisting the change – so we can seek God for His perspective and help. The context of the dream and the action/feeling will provide the relevant clues.

  • Isaiah 52:1, NASB Awake, awake, Clothe yourself in your strength, Zion; Clothe yourself with your beautiful garments…
  • Acts 12:8, NASB And the angel said to him, “Put on your belt and strap on your sandals… Wrap your cloak around you and follow me.”

Being naked in dreams

Being naked or unclothed could be about being unprepared or unequipped – in any of the areas we have already discussed (essentially needing to get dressed/ready in some way).

But it could also be about feeling ashamed, exposed or vulnerable.

This could be a positive or negative thing, depending on the atmosphere, feeling and context of the dream.

Being vulnerable is not always a bad thing, for example if we are a teacher or leader, or in a role that involves encouraging other people. In those circumstances, choosing to be honest or vulnerable about our struggles can help the people around us. I am a church leader and have dreams like this all the time!

In a negative context, dreams of being naked can encourage us to talk to God about our situation and feelings – to see how we should respond and to seek His perspective. We can ask for help from others if necessary.

Picture of wrapping in a blanket with text: nakedness in dreams: Vulnerability, or feeling ashamed or exposed

Looking for something to wear in dreams

It is very common to dream of trying to find the right thing to wear. Maybe we are searching through our wardrobe, or shopping for clothes.

I find dreams like this are most commonly about our identity, purpose or calling, and often relates to what we should do next – or what we are preparing to move into. Check out the earlier section on what-could-clothes-symbolise for specific ideas.

Often I dream that I can’t find the right clothes, which is usually when I am uncertain or lacking confidence about what I am meant to do.

Sometimes we do find the right clothes in the dream, which will provide clues about the meaning and the way forward. But sometimes we don’t, and God may just be encouraging us to be at peace for now because we are not ready, or it’s not the right time.

Washing clothes in dreams

Linked to whiteness (see above), having clean clothes, or washing clothes, is biblically symbolic of being spiritually cleansed or forgiven, and being made right before God. Essentially, white clothes have had the stains removed.

Conversely, stained or dirty clothes, or clothes that need to go in the wash, are the opposite – indicating that some sort of spiritual cleansing, change of thinking (repentance), or transformation process is needed.

Personally, I have found that dreaming of clothes in the washing machine usually symbolises God taking me through some kind of transformation process, or teaching me things (changing my thinking). Having clothes in the tumble drier or hanging out to dry indicates me needing time for those new ideas and changes to sink in or become established – before I can move on.

Real dream example: Clothes in the washing machine
I dreamed I had some clothes in the washing machine at my friend’s house. It was time for me to go home. I decided to leave those clothes in the wash, go home, and put more clothes on to wash at home. I could come back and collect the clothes from their house later.
I had this dream early January. Having clothes in the wash represented a situation I had been struggling with and praying about over Christmas – and God was using it to do a work in me. This dream was telling me that it was now time to move on and leave that situation with God! He had other things He wanted to do in my life right now (represented by going home and putting more clothes in the wash).

How to work out what clothes mean

I have previously written in more depth about how to work out what dreams symbols mean in this article: 10 simple clues for understanding dream symbols. You will probably benefit from reading it if you are new to dream symbolism.

I have built on that article to identify some specific questions which can help with interpreting clothes:

  • Do these clothes have a specific meaning in the bible?
  • Do they have a personal meaning to you?
  • Do they have a cultural meaning?
  • What is the normal purpose of these clothes?
  • What would someone normally do when wearing these clothes?
  • What material are they made of?
  • What colour are they?
  • Is there a wordplay (for example on a brand or shop name)?
  • Is there anything noteworthy or unusual about them?
  • What is happening in the dream relating to the clothes?
  • Are the clothes appropriate for the purpose they are being worn for?

It is important to always take the dream element within the context of the whole dream. The ultimate aim is to be able to relate the dream to a real-life situation we are facing. If you want to know more, check out my 3-step dream interpretation method.

Picture of the 3-step dream interpretation method
white background

Specific clothes and their meaning

There are many types of clothes. In this section I will suggest meanings for some common types of clothes. This is most relevant when it is a specific item of clothing that features in the dream (rather than a whole outfit or style of clothes).

In many cases, the meaning of the item of clothing is linked to the function of the part of the body it is worn on.

Remember, these are only suggestions; any of the items could mean something different in your dream! Hopefully they will spark off some ideas.

Coat or cloak: This is often used in dreams like a mantle is used in the bible – to represent a spiritual anointing for something. Coats can also provide protection or warmth in difficult conditions, or disguise, depending on the dream context.

Gloves: These are worn on our hands, which we use for work, serving others, helping, and in friendship. So they could represent equipping for any of those types of task. See also right and left.

Hats: We often talk about wearing different hats, by which we mean different roles we are called to do. Hats are often associated with specific activities. Hats are also on our head, so could reflect our mind and the state of our thinking.

Scarf: A scarf is worn around our neck which can be about preseverance. It can be long in length, suggesting endurance – or something which has been in our life for a long time. They are also worn in cold weather, so if that is the context it could be about being prepared for difficult times.

Shirt: Shirts can be ssociated with specific activities. A smart shirt could be about something relating to work or business. (Also see tops).

Shoes: Shoes are about walking, so are often about what we are called to do or walk in. They can indicate whether we are equipped/ready to do that thing or not – depending on the context! Shoes can be associated with specific activities.

Skirt: A skirt covers our legs, so it can be about a role or something we are called to do. Like trousers, it can be too long or too short. A short skirt can be about feeling exposed.

Socks: We wear socks on our feet, so, like shoes, they can be about our daily walk (the things we are doing or called to do). If the emphasis is on not having shoes, that might be more important than the socks.

Top: Tops are important because they are a foundational part of our attire, and are generally the main thing people see when they look at us. They can speak of our identity and heart. The colour, style and detail are important – see the earlier notes on what clothes could symbolise; a top could be any of those things.

The armlength of tops can relate to our work (see gloves) in the same way that trouser length can relate to our walk (see trousers and shoes). Arms are generally about strength and having the ability to do something.

Trousers: We wear trousers on our legs, so they are commonly about what we are called to do or walk in, or the way we do things. Trousers can be too long (indicating we need to grow some more in that area or we are not ready to do something), or too short (maybe suggesting we feel insufficient or unprepared, or that we have outgrown a role).

Underwear: This can represent our underlying condition or foundations; in other words, what is going on beneath what others can see (or in our subconscious).

Conclusion

We have learnt that clothes in dreams can visually represent what is going on internally. This can be things like spiritual state, character, attitude, gifting/ability, or some other quality.

Clothes can also indicate something we are called to do, like a role, job or ministry. They can be associated with a particular place, culture or people group. Or they can represent our circumstances, including provision or being equipped for something.

Here are a few closing thoughts:

  • Clothing in a dream could represent any number of things, depending on the context. The above ideas should give you a good starting point. 
  • I believe that only God can tell us what a symbol means in a specific dream, so it is helpful to talk to Him about it.
  • Consider the colour, atmosphere and context of the dream to see whether the clothing is being used in a positive or negative sense.
  • In addition to the meanings that I have shared, remember that it could mean something personal or culturally significant to you, that isn’t mentioned here.

Once you understand what the clothes mean in your dream, make sure to keep a record for future reference! And most importantly – don’t give up! It takes time to learn your own personal dream language.

I hope you have found this article helpful. If you want to know more, do subscribe to my emails below to receive regular dream interpretation tips.

The purpose of this blog is to provide solid biblical foundations for interpreting dreams, change mindsets in the church, and encourage others to make their own dream journey. I am primarily a writer and bible teacher – who loves dreams, and I hope you will be inspired to learn to interpret your own dreams.

It is not currently my aim to routinely engage in dream interpretations or provide training, except through writing blog posts. You can read my most up to date position on interpreting dreams here: Requests for dream interpretations.

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