There are lots of women entering ministry these days, which is a wonderful thing. Every Sunday they have to decide what to wear, so here are some thoughts about that.
If you’re a clergywoman you might want to check out the spirited discussion over at RevGalBlogPals about preaching outfits. Since I’ve had to choose “what to wear” to lead worship nearly 1,000 times, I have some pretty specific opinions! It took a lot of trial and error to feel comfortable in my own skin. After all, there’s a lot of baggage about how a woman looks, and what she wears, and some of those things go double for women who are spiritual leaders. These concerns may seem trivial, unless you’re walking down a church aisle wearing a microphone.
Here’s my current thinking on the subject, in case it’s helpful for others who are pondering such mundane but important details:
~ In my tradition, it’s common to wear a pulpit robe, except in the heat of the summer. I’m glad because it simplifies decisions.
~ For me, a good preaching outfit works year-round, since I usually opt for short sleeves, or elbow-length. Preaching is hard work, I’ve been known to break a sweat. (Even if that isn’t ladylike.)
~ I find dresses to be more comfortable than skirt/blouse combos. Although a black skirt is a great wardrobe-extender. To my mind, the perfect outfit is a dress.
~ I prefer an above-the-knee length, which is modest but not frumpy.
~ The fullness of the skirt is key. If it’s too tight it might ride up. If it’s too full it says party, not preaching. So you want that body-skimming fit.
~ I prefer a dark fabric in a solid color, or a forgettable print. Hopefully a washable fabric.
~ To me, it’s reasonable to have four dresses to rotate each month, a modest working wardrobe. (I don’t know that I’d want to serve a church where that wasn’t sufficient.)
~ I don’t wear suit jackets because they were designed for a man’s triangular torso, not a woman’s curvy one. In the cooler months when I need a layer for after the robe comes off, I opt for a cardigan.
~ I wear very simple jewelry, usually just a pair of gold or silver hoop earrings and a cross necklace. If people compliment my earrings after the worship service, I know they were too noticeable. Earrings are fun but distracting.
~ I wear more eye makeup on Sundays than on weekdays, to help make my facial expressions more “readable” from a distance.
~ Shoes are my hardest item. In the winter I wear knee-high boots with heels. The rest of the time I wear basic pumps, which I hate! (Oh the things we do for Jesus.) Although in more casual environments I have gone bare-legged in the summer, with a heeled sandal.
I would love to buy a new preaching robe, as the one I have is getting threadbare! I bought it long ago. These days it’s possible to find preaching robes that are fitted to a woman’s shape, and I must admit — this is something I would like to have!
How about you? What’s your perfect preaching outfit?