Friday, March 24, 2006

Ministerial Attire

I had occasion to talk about dressing for the ministry with a group of seminarians recently, which was a kind of fulfillment of my secret desire to host a show like "What Not To Wear." You've seen it, right? You trust and love Stacy and Clinton, right?

I was a bit nervous about leading this session because I did not want to come across as hopelessly shallow and/or judgmental, because who am I? Just a little fat chick with a penchant for Franco Sarto shoes and liquid black eyeliner.

But they LOVED it, and we had such fun analyzing outfits, talking about the necessity of a good tailor, the comfort in having some classic, timeless pieces in the closet, why not to wear casual sandals while officiating weddings or funerals, and why not to preach in drippy sleeves (you might set yourself on fire during some chalice ritual). We talked about hair and make-up and panty hose and the Norelco nose hair trimmer, which is your friend.

We determined the following truths:

1. If you insist on wearing sandals, have a pedicure. Men, too. Feet are intimate. We do not want your hairy fungus toes near us at a meeting, and we do not want to see them peeking out of the bottom of your vestments. We know Jesus wore sandals. He probably also bathed once a month, and you wouldn't do that to us, would you? Also, he is Jesus. You are not.
P.S. This does not give you permission to simply add socks to your sandals.

2. Don't be afraid to accessorize!
P.S. Don't over-accessorize. And don't get too matchy-matchy. Your necklace does not need to match your earrings and shoes. Gentlemen, what do I have to do to make you stop wearing bolero ties? Nothing says "Hey, what's your sign?" like a bolero tie. If you don't live in the Southwest, we should not be seeing any bolero ties on you, unless you're wearing them ironically with an otherwise very spiffy outfit from the 21st century. [They're called bolo ties. Sorry. - P.B.]

3. We are living in an extremely beauty and body-conscious culture. You do not need to dress like a sexless, shapeless being. You can be a human being with a body and not go overboard into "sexy." Ladies, it's high time to lose the long, shapeless A-line skirts. They've been OUT since 1985. Anything above the knee, however, is too short.

4. Church going is an entirely voluntary option in today's society. In most parts of the country, no one will look askance at you if you do not attend church. So clergy can no longer slide by assuming their and their congregation's relevance to today's world. If clergypeople believe their ministries are hip and relevant to today's world, they should look hip and relevant. Even if you wear a collar, you should have a hair style of some kind, and there's no need to persist with those aviator frames you bought in 1972 because they looked so good on Lee Majors or the guy on "Welcome Back, Kotter."

5. If you wear a chalice necklace, there's no need to wear chalice earrings. And vice versa.
P.S. Sticking a chalice around your neck does not mean you're "dressed." Did you shine your shoes? Are your pants appropriately hemmed? Did you check that your blouse isn't gaping at the bosom? Are there sweat stains at your armpits? Have you asked anyone you trust if your perfume is too strong? Have you trimmed your beard and if necessary, your eyebrows? (Milo O'Shea can get away with crazy stickin' out eyebrows. It just makes you look eccentric and distracts from your eyes). Have you cleaned your spectacles and gotten off the smudges? You know you were up 'til 3:00 a.m. working on your sermon. Your congregation shouldn't be able to tell. That's why God made ice packs and concealer (which works just as well on male skin as on female).

6. Just because you're on your feet a lot does not mean you need to move into Cobbie Cuddlers. Women, heels are not just a torture implement designed by the patriarchy. They are also elegant as hell and very much in fashion. A little 1" heel won't kill you. I can stand around all day and run for the bus in my 2" pointy-toed Franco Sarto cowboy boots. They look smokin' and they're comfortable. My personal rule is: I don't get into orthopedic shoes (or the rough facsimile thereof) until I'm eligible for Medicare.

7. Eyebrows! According to my very small sampling, 50% of female ministers over 40 have invisible eyebrows due to gray or just fading. Eyebrows frame the face. Invest in a $1.99 Maybelline eye pencil and experiment. You'll be glad you did. Men, see my above point about Milo O'Shea.

8. I know we're feminists who believe everyone is beautiful without make-up and facials. I agree wholeheartedly. However, without make-up, my beauty resembles that of Ernest Borgnine. As Sister of PeaceBang says, "You don't have to wear your political convictions." If you look fresh, vibrant and camera-ready from the pulpit with nothing on your face but Ivory soap, God bless you. I require a bit of concealer, a luminizing powder from Revlon on the cheekbones and eyelids, blush, lipstick/gloss, mascara and eyeliner. I also pencil in my brows (see #7). You know why? I am a PUBLIC leader. Which means that PEOPLE need to look at me. If only *I* (or my mother) have to look at me, I'm gorgeous with a freshly scrubbed face.
Wait, scratch that. Even my mother would say, "Sweetie, you need a little lipstick."

9. T-shirts are OUT. Again, you don't need to wear your political convictions. If you're 22 and have a great figure, maybe you can rock that "Free Leonard Peltier" shirt under a fitted blazer with a pair of bootcut black trousers, but if not, then not. Unless you're meeting with the youth group, in which case they don't know who Leonard Peltier is. Get with it.

10. If you're clothes-phobic and you have no idea what looks good on you, or what basics to shop for, take a friend. Take PeaceBang. That's what she's here for.

11. So, would it kill you to look at a fashion magazine once in awhile?


Blogger Adam Tierney-Eliot said...

I love this. I do not have anything else to say but I love this post! Thank You

Blogger This Girl Remembers said...

Love your post, in almost every point that you make, but I do have to say that my personal response to #8 is: Meh.

I don't wear makeup. Just never started to, and just can't see the point now of all the fuss and bother, since everyone's used to my everyday un-madeup face anyhow. Now, I'm not a minister, but I am a DRE, so have a professional presence to keep up, too. And I do take being professional very seriously. But I honestly don't see why someone's going to decide whether to take me seriously as a professional based on whether I'm wearing eyeliner and lipstick.

Could I look "better" with it? Probably. But, you know, I don't see me anyway, so who would I be doing it for, really? (Reminds me of a song my mom used to sing when she was in a silly mood: "I know how ugly I are/I know my face ain't no star/But I don't mind it/For I am behind it/It's the folks up front get the jar." I'm just not so sure I care enough about looking "better" to bother. I like me fine the way I am on my own. And I certainly haven't suffered in the job (have one I love) or the relationship (have one I love, too) departments for it.

Don't get me wrong; I'm not anti-makeup. Many women (and men, let's be fair) look lovely with it, and feel better about themselves with it, and I say more power to them! Just not my thing. And not at all convinced that it should be.

Blogger greenseagirl said...

Oh, dear. Long, A-line skirts have been out since 1985? How did I miss that? I'm pretty sure everything I own (skirt-wise) IS either to my ankles or above my knee. Maybe I can kidnap my sister once she gets back from Spring break for a wardrobe consultation...
But at least I know that aviator frames are a "don't".

Blogger Jaume de Marcos Andreu said...

Being a lay leader (although having been in three leadership seminars, two of them as a student and one as a teacher), I wear a nice stole I bought from Uni-Uniques only when we welcome new members to our tiny congregation (it means a lot!) and when there is some solemn ocassion, such as a public interfaith gathering where I want UUism to be as visible as possible (and no, I don't put a chalice pin on when I wear my chalice stole, it's stupidly redundant). Ah! And it's one of those few days that I also wear a jacket and tie! (I think I should do this more often... the tie I mean, not the stole ;-)).

Blogger PeaceBang said...

Greensea, you happen to look adorable in your granny skirts. Carry on. It's a "look" for you, which brings me to my perhaps 12th item: If you have a "look," work it! and it doesn't have to be about fashion.

TGR: The face up close is a dear thing unadorned. Far away, we can lose eyes,lips and bone structure without a little aid from Max Factor. For those who preach, it can never hurt to try a bit of cosmetic help. As for me, I'm drab and colorless without it. Even with fabulous red hair, I'm drab and colorless sans make-up: everything fades. This is about age. When I was 18, I had rosy lips and cheeks like every other dewy lass.

Blogger boyinthebands said...

Speaking to PB's last point: for eighteen years I wore a beard to sharpen and define my moon-round face. It kinda worked. When I got these glasses, with their decisive blowline, I immediately shaved.

Blogger boyinthebands said...

Make that "browline"

Blogger Kim said...

I think it's a bolo tie rather than a bolero tie.
I wore lavender-grey eye shadow for years, because I REALLY need Shadow (not color, not accent, shadow. I have very prominent eyes.) Then it started to make my eyes itch. I tried other brands, other kinds. It appears to be the color I am sensitive to. No other color looks good on me (I am pale with a pink and blue complexion, greying auburn hair.) Any suggestions?

Blogger Peregrinato said...

Yet again, I howl out loud in laughter. P.S., by boyfriend looks great in makeup.

Blogger ronia the resilient said...

I LOVE what not to wear.
And I LOVE that you had this conversation with seminarians.
It is an important conversation that sometimes is overlooked and yet people worry about it ALL THE TIME.

I'm sooo glad I'm not the only minister who thinks about this sort of thing.

And I checked in with our BANJO-playing friend, who is on sabbatical and has not yet checked his email.

So be of good faith,
and he will email you soon. He was excited about you playing BANJO! and hopes to play with you at GA.


Blogger PeaceBang said...

Kim, can you send me a photo? I need to see what color eyes you have. I'm wondering if you have tried one of the blendable eye pens, CoverGirl makes one that has a little bit of a cooling factor in it and seems very gentle. It may be that one of the gray tones would work for your needs, or even the right blue, which is actually "in" right now.

Blogger PeaceBang said...

Also, Kim, it occurs to me that if you have brown eyes and a pink complexion, a pink-toned eyeshadow may be very pretty. You do have to try different shades, of course, but a kind of fawn browny pink might be nice with smudgy brown pencil. Mac makes a gorgeous brown eyeliner with hints of gold in it called "Teddy." The Body Shop makes an excellent smudger that lasts forever.

Blogger Kim said...

I'll try to get my computer expert to help me send you a photo. My eyes are usually green, sometimes blue, occasionally grey. Any pink toned anything around my eyes makes me look like I've been crying. The brown eyeliner with gold sounds interesting.... I've worn brown (as long as it has no pink tones), but greyish is better.
I'll work on the photo....
I'm really bad with computers -- or any technology. Can't get used to cell phones either.

Blogger eeka said...

This is fabulous. I did want to mention though that the term you want is "bolo tie," not "bolero tie." And yes, they're awful.


Blogger Lyss said...

As a jew I feel a bit odd laughing while reading this very funny post. But I think that some of my tribe might also heed your advice.

Blogger PeaceBang said...

Of COURSE you should laugh, as a Jew or as anyone else! Why not? I know some frumpy rabbis, too -- oy, do I!

Blogger LaReinaCobre said...

Holy crap, I'd better get my face together for when I meet you at GA!

Blogger PeaceBang said...

Sweetie, you're in your twenties and gorgeous. You don't need to get anything about your face together to meet ANYONE. I'm certain you don't have nose hairs, either. Or egg crusted in the corner of your beard. Or lank greasy hair held in place by sixty-two bobby pins that glint in the light every time you turn your head in the pulpit. And I just KNOW you aren't walking around in a purple muu-muu or a corduroy jumper with a turtle-neck on (which just screams "Minister Mom" and not in a good way)

Blogger Shava said...

If a color bothers you, try some of the organic eye shadows -- a lot of them avoid some synthetic colors and use clay pigments. Of course, it could be the clay pigment that gets you.

Now my dad, when he was a minister, held on to the horn-rimmed arch-nerd 50's thing with the pocket protector with 8 writing utensils in it for WAAAAAY too long. And now, he'd just look like the verizon guy...:)

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Are you ever in the Bay Area? I started SKSM in the fall and have realized that I need to learn to dress like a "grown up." I'm 24 and still work in a job where jeans are required (sawdust, glue, paint, etc), but want to start expanding my wardrobe with clothes that will be appropriate for ministry. The PCD just told me I look a little young for parish ministry. Would you be willing to do something like this at SKSM if you are ever in the area? I can be reached at oceanwavebec at myway dot com. Thanks.


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