Beauty is Relative… And Regional

Today I am wearing a white blouse with lovely detailing (set-in waist, thin, pretty lines of embroidered thread woven througought in slimming patterns), a lavender tulip skirt that flares at the knees, and 4″ cork sandals. Also beaded earrings.

In Massachusetts this is normal girlie get-up. It may be a bit froo-froo for clergy, but I had a hot lunch date today with my staff and I wanted to be cute for them. Thank you for asking: I did have a glass of champagne with my oysters. We have long, hard winters here in New England and when we finally get to sit outside in the harbor and look at the boats, we think it’s worth a 2-martini lunch. Which both my secretary and office manager did have.
Apple-tinis, bless their hearts.

Anyway, if I was living in Portland, Oregon or Berkeley, California, I would have more likely been wearing a denim skirt and a fleece pullover and some rubbery Keene sandals. And I would have been considered appropriately dressed. Because Outdoorsy Chic is very big on the Other Coast, and you can be clad in an outfit you bought entirely at Eastern Mountain Sports (EMS) and be assured you’ll fit into most gatherings.

(Or is it EMI? I feel like it’s EMI. Eastern Mountain … Indoors? No, that can’t be right. I’m sorry, I try not to associate any more than is absolutely necessary with businesses that encourage people to think that sleeping outdoors is a good idea).

Darling readers, you know how PeaceBang feels about camping gear passing for professional wear, even if she did succumb to a FMBT (Fleeting Moment of Bad Taste) and feature a lumberjack shirt on a recent post of casual-wear recommendations for men.

PeaceBang feels that ministry should come with as much flair and elegance as we can individually muster. If you live in Land of the Lumberjacks and snowshoe your way to pastoral calls, perhaps flannel plaid is just what you should be wearing. There is a regional element to all of this, of course.

However, do you remember in all those dear old “Little House on the Prairie” episodes when the pioneers would spend all week in their overalls and wide-brim hats, toiling in the fields (and Laura and Mary would bring them cool ginger water) and getting grimy in a kind of sexy, manly, Michael Landon-ish way? But then when they went to Meeting on Sunday they took their weekly bath and got all combed and shined up, and put on their stiff Sunday best (which in Laura’s case, meant bright blue hair ribbons on her pigtails)? And they looked kind of shiny and special, even if they weren’t terribly comfortable and certainly not fashionable?

I think we should be shiny and special in some secular equivalent of our Sunday best every day. We should communicate shiny Sunday specialness when we dress every day, to represent the blessing of the Sabbath spirit whenever we walk into a room or into the office.

I confess, PeaceBangers, that I attended a board meeting last night in a pair of striped casual cotton pants, black flat shoes, and a black Johnny-collar t-shirt. No earrings, even. For a board meeting, acceptable enough. But last night we added a surprise dinner for two of our departing members; one of whom was a brilliant and amazing chair of our board for the past two years. The way I feel about those two people, I should have been wearing a bugle-beaded gown and a tiara. They are that special. I should have dressed up more to honor them. If either of them read this, they would roar with laughter and give me big bear hugs.

But you know, with all the joy and pride I feel in my governing board, and how much I adore them and am grateful for them, I could have, you know, represented better.

I’ve gotten off topic, but now I’m all emotional. You can’t imagine how cute these people are. And the men were all wearing beautiful, crisp summer shirts in lovely colors — some with ties! — and every single one of them was ironed perfectly.
God, I’m going to cry.

7 Replies to “Beauty is Relative… And Regional”

  1. If one was on the other coast, one would buy one’s Keens and polarfleeces from REI, not EMS. EMS is sort of an East Coast thing. But not to worry….you were emotionally wrought up in those summer shirts.

  2. I love to see the ministers from Hawaii at UU gatherings. There is where the big flower shirt is right on target.

    The regional aspect also is related to the church culture. For instance, in the South, many congregations came out of the fellowship movement and as such tend to be much more casual and are more comfortable when the minister is too. Though whether it is advisable for the minister to dress to match the comfort of the parishioners is another conversation.

    PB, I do like your shiny Sabbath image and the use of Little House as an example. Thanks!

  3. I know Portland has a terrible rep for dressing, but I’ve seen women dressed up here quite a bit. I wear heels and skirts most days. Though not 4″ heels!

    The thing I like about Portland is that no one looks at you funny when you are dressed up, and no one looks at you funny when you are dressed down.

  4. Your Board members wear….ties?? Neckties?? Like, on a weeknight?Wow. The East and West coasts really are sartorial leagues apart.

    Here in California, it’s considered “dressy” if men wear long pants between March and November. It doesn’t flatter every man (who knew that knees don’t age well?), so I will not dwell on the sight of our older, more wrinkly men during summer months. Let’s just say, “longer inseam, deary.”

    I myself, as their more formal young woman clergyperson, try not to show my knees much at all in their presence. I tried to get classy for last night’s Board meeting by wearing a pair of strappy, beady wedge thong sandals with my capri pants and crisp, flouncy blouse, but nearly broke my neck making a trip to the copier. I think I’ll stick to my Dankso’s from here out.

  5. I totally agree with you about the regional thing. Southern California seems to me to be a region unto itself. I notice that female clergy can get away with wearing lower-cut and tighter-cut clothes here than in other regions because women in general are wearing *such* tight skimpy things. We look like nuns in comparison.

    And if I see one more 48-year-old mom out shopping in her skin-tight chamisole, belly button fully exposed, with sweatpants that say “juicy” on her butt, I’ll… I’ll… kindly look the other way until she drives off in her big white Escalade SUV. Then I’ll roll my eyes. 🙂

  6. Beauty is not only regional for ministers here, it also varies greatly depending on the size of church/type of community one works and lives in.

    I have collegues in urban, taller steeple churches who are wearing snappy suits with sensible shoes every time I see them. ~ugh~

    Out here in the exurbs where I am (I call it rural-burban) if I wore a suit, folks would get mighty twitchy wondering where my next big job interview is.

    Clergy cute for me this summer is usually a nice swingy, slightly-below-the-knee skirt with a cute knit top and a v-neck cardigan, with 2″ wedge sandals, and always, always a pedicure. I also wear earings every single day, and my cute irridescent fused glass cross. Once in a while I wear some cropped pants–I have some nice gaucho-style ones that are flattering–but never those peg-leg capris that end right at the fullest part of my calf. ~shudder~

    The overall effect is casual, I guess, but I try to look as if I make an effort. It flies up here in the upper-midsize-city midwest.

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