Thanks, everyone, for sending me the link to this article about two women (one ordained — the other, I’m not sure, even though she is pictured in clericals) who have opened an online boutique called “Collared” for the sale of edgier, more femme clericals.
I’m not sure if the Rev. Sandra Sykes and Mandy Strevens are aware that “collared” is a popular term in the kink community for a submissive in a Domme/sub relationship, so that made me laugh. If it was intentional, ladies, well played! All clergy are in a kind of D/s relationship with God, but I’m not sure I appreciate the gendered implication of women clergy as being the “subs” in any power equation. It sure will be fun when prospective customers google “Collared,” though! Weeeee!
THAT said, let’s talk about clergy image and style and all those wonderful subjects we tackle here on BTFM.
It has been sort of fun/sort of frustrating to see this article passed around on Facebook and commented upon in all the usual ways:
“I could never take a priest seriously if she was dressed like this!”
“I don’t care WHAT my rector wears; I care about her theology!”
“Why should religious leaders be drab? God isn’t drab! The Church has a magnificent aesthetic tradition that pays homage and praise to God’s attributes!”
This last commenter, of course, is singing PB’s song.
I agree wholeheartedly that the traditional “dog collar” (as it is referred to by the author of the article) is utilitarian, restricting and most certainly fair game for reconsideration and re-design. There’s nothing much we can do with the style of the collar itself, and you know how dizzy and nauseated PeaceBang gets when creative clergy try to, but it’s wonderful to see more designers providing alternatives to the Ye Ole Boys Club of Ministry Clericals.
Here are the two founders. I would have advised against the head tilt, which communicates uncertainty and insecurity. Look straight ahead, women! Launch that company!
This image is much better. Confident. Relaxed smiles. Ready to do business with you, and two people you’d feel comfortable asking if a certain garment makes your butt look big.
Also, that maroon top is FABULOUS!! It’s PERFECT! I want one! Yay for that clergy blouse, and let’s see more of that!!!
This is the photo that was used as the thumbnail in all the social media coverage, natch, because it’s the most obviously girlie and thus, controversial. Click bait! Women in pink dresses storming the barricades of traditionally male bastions of power! Let’s have a look. Click to enlarge.
I want to talk about the choice of photo first. Kids, this is why PeaceBang is always imploring you to take control of your photo sessions (in a nice way) and to work with the photographer to create images that reflect well on you individually, on the church, and on the ministry. This pose conveys almost a bizarre level of insecurity (“I can’t keep my hands still. Is this dress okay? Is this hem okay? Is the fabric clinging too much to my midsection? Is the crick rising and can I get acrosst it in time to save the cows and not unbecomingly drench myself?)
I don’t even KNOW what this pose is, but let’s call it “Little Girls Pees Herself At Birthday Party And Is Two Seconds From Bawling” and move along. You get the point. Don’t ever allow an image of yourself looking this nervous get out. Know what to do with your hands, your posture, your eyes, and your head. Work on it, memorize it, and tell the photographer what you want.
The garment is another ball of wax entirely.
My read on it is that it’s an unfortunate color choice for women in authority, as what could signal “I’m just a wee unthreatening girlie thing” more completely and unconsciously than baby pink?
Add to that the A-line waistless cut and the fairly wide 3/4 length sleeves and I’m afraid you’re on the way to the perfect pattern for angels costumes for the Christmas Eve pageant. It’s a really cute dress, but do you want to activate little girl angel archetypes in your work? I don’t.
The fabric and cut won’t be at all flattering for any figures but the most youthful and/or slim, but Strevens and Sykes are definitely onto something here. I would love to see this in a merlot color, or in a charcoal. The light color is also very difficult because it will show bra cups (this is NOT a dress for the abundant of bosom) and any tiny coffee stain you procure at the staff meeting.
I have written before about the painfully cute Instagram style of posing and how it infantilizes grown women, and how much that puzzles and distresses me, and here we have a PERFECT SPECIMEN of what I’m talking about! Again, please avoid the little twisted foot pose and stand up straight, or place one leg slightly in back of the other, or work with a stylist to find poses that won’t leech away your power and authority.
As for the garment, I find it confusing. If a pastor came to visit me in the hospital wearing this, I would not understand what was going on. It’s too unfinished to be a dress. It’s too long to be a tunic (and thank God that it is that long if it’s to be worn with leggings, because the other alternative would be to be using LEGGINGS AS PANTS, which we all know is an epidemic of the Dark Lord). It’s got a tunic-y sort of hem, so is it a shirt? Is it some sort of hip, mini-skirt version of an alb, and did my pastor just come straight from church?
I think the designers are trying to avoid using belted styles, as perhaps they feel that belts add an unwelcome second circle of restriction around the waist when the wearer has already got one around her neck. I understand that choice, but I think that this garment needs some more design attention if it’s to work to clothe ministers. Keep the tunic length and bring it up about 6-8″ so it can be worn with tailored trousers or a pencil skirt, perhaps. Make it in a distinctly non-liturgical fabric and add side pockets, and bring it a few inches longer to be worn at knee length as a shift dress, maybe.
The body-skimming cut is very nice, and that’s hard to do.
I hope this isn’t the last we see of Sykes & Strevens and Collared. Pay them a visit (are you kidding? I’m not Googling them! Why would I deny you the pleasure? Fifty Shades of Ministry!). Let’s hope they do well bringing some feminine flair to clericals. I wish them all the best and a Kiss Of Peace.