Happy Saturday eve, dumplings.
What a cold, windy, witchy evening! Oooh, HALLOWEEN! I am going as a frozen-to-death Victorian Christmas caroler. We are going to be extremely creepy. You understand that I live a few minutes from Salem and this is a BIG DEAL because Salem is the #1 fabulous Halloween destination. There is currently a 40% chance or rain showers on Friday night and I’m fretting like a bride with invitations out for an outdoor wedding.
ANYWAY, what I really want to talk about is my noodling around with robe designs. I preach in a beautiful contemporary space that lends itself to a different design aesthetic than my former parish ministry setting (19th century New England steepled meetinghouse). In my former parish, I preached from a formal wineglass pulpit, whereas now I lead worship from a simple wooden pulpit level with the congregation. I had been working off a jerry-rigged metal stand stacked on wooden blocks, and we just had a woodworker construct a proper one to match the pulpit table.
I know you’re going to want to know who made that cool stole. It is a cutwork felt design by Sarah Brogdon of Illinois, Fashions By Sarah.
[Click to enlarge]
I have been in conversation with Patty Fitzpatrick of WomenSpirit, about robe options for those of us who would like to add some non-traditional liturgical vestments to our worship wardrobe. I’m interested in it for myself but also because I know that a lot of you are interested in summer options, less formal options, and nodding to other cultural influences than the Reformation in our pulpit attire.
That said, I feel that it is very important not to feel automatically entitled to use garments from other traditions, as in, “Wow, that kimono style is so kewl, let me just get one made in a size 2X and I’m good to go!”
Kimonos have a cultural context that I know nothing about, but must respect. Maybe adapting that style for liturgical use would be okay. Maybe it wouldn’t.
Likewise, a kantha or kurta with a stole over it might look nifty in my space, but what associations might there be with such garments, whose textiles speak a language of their own that I do not know? It requires research.
What makes a liturgical garment a liturgical garment? Are we obligated to wear recognizable Western designs?
In some traditions and places, yes. In others, you may have more leeway to interpret and re-design.
I feel that a liturgical garment should be recognizable as an item set apart for the priestly or ritualistic functions of the ministry. It should be worn only for those occasions and set apart from street clothes. For this reason, if I purchased a robe-style dress from a vendor for use in the pulpit, weddings, funerals or committals, I would not wear that dress elsewhere. I’m Biblical that way (Also, I always do committals in a black suit or black overcoat) with a stole.
I have been researching this slowly in my spare time, learning about traditional robes and textiles little bit by little bit and talking with Patty about making small adjustments to her line of robes so that clients have more choices. I ask her, Hey Patty, can we remove the mandarin collar from one style, make it up in a unique textile, and add a second pocket? She has been great to talk to and really wants to offer robes that you all want to own and use and love.
I look at catalogues like Marketplace Handwork of india for inspiration, which is where I found this wrap dress. This is the sort of construction that interests me. I love the sense of modified alb it has with strong diagonal lines and a neckline that can accommodate clericals or a variety of options. Could be adapted.
My church was designed by a Chinese architect and has strong Asian influences. This has made me curious about the traditional garments of Chinese religions. So many, so beautiful. When I was serving in a parish that was gathered in 1642, I gravitated toward Cotton Mather’s closet and colonial influences. Preaching tabs!
Let’s talk about your dream robe. Mine is made of natural fibers, is washable, has pockets big enough to fit a mic pack, has some waist definition, isn’t black (a big change for me!), has a flattering neckline, and is made of a fabric that doesn’t cause stoles to slip around on it. It zips, buttons or ties closed (snaps tend to kick open when I move), and has personal meaning.
The robe I am wearing in the photo was made for me by someone I love a lot out of antique tablecloths from Eastern Europe, WWII era. It is very special to me.
What robe would you love to own that hasn’t been designed yet?