Abundant-Bodied Petite Pastor Cries For Help

Dear PeaceBang,
I found your blog not too long ago while I was looking for some vestments tailored for women…a difficult search as we both know.

I’m in my first call as a Lutheran pastor in the Washington, D.C. area – brand new to the area – and I’ve found reading your blog is like having a friend who knows my pain! 🙂

Anyway, to my dilemma…
I’m under 30, single, short (5’2) and plus sized (18). I have found that one of the most flattering looks for me really is a suit jacket…tailored, emphasizes that I do indeed have a waist, covers up really ugly clergy shirts, helps people older than me take me seriously, etc.
BUT…it is now approaching the humid summer months of swampy D.C. and I can’t go on wearing things over my clergy shirts just to “create smooth and clean lines”. Any thoughts on summer looks for clergy in more formal offices who already have challenges finding clothes that fit their petite and wide frame?

Oh honey, I so feel your pain!!
MAN, do you I feel your pain. We’re the same approximate size! We can swap clothes! But first, your dilemma.

I think the Belt is going to have to be your good friend. A belt, you see, will give you that waist that you want, and will neaten up the icky blouse. Also, finding excellent skirts and trousers will really keep you sane — and I’m taking skirts that don’t drown your bottom half in tons of fabrics (try the Style, Inc. line or “inc.” — they make nice professional skirts for chunky short chicks like us), but are have clean lines and to which you can add a smart belt and great shoes.

Definitely show some leg. I wear Spanx-like tummy-thigh trimmer shorts under skirts so I am free of pantyhose. I fake-tan my legs and it all looks fine.

As far as trousers go, make sure they FIT AT THE WAIST AND BUTT and THIGHS and have a nice gentle flare at the bottom. You’ll (we) need that balance. I don’t know if you have the dreaded tummy bulge that I have (my torso is basically a set of tires balanced on top of each other), but get a good slimmer, tuck that bloody shirt in, and add a nice belt. Don’t wear a big pendant and a belt — you’ll cut yourself all up. Either pendant or belt, not both. Wear nice earrings, do up your face, keep your hair looking shiny and great, carry fresh white hankies to dab at your face in that humid heat, and you’ll be great.

I give myself dispensation to wear an open-toed shoe when I have to wear a collar in the summer. I wear 3″ platform sandals, tuck my shirt into black flared trousers, wear biggish earrings and decide just to funk it up. Also, a nice thick wristwatch provides some balance, too.

Sorry to be so rambly!
Let me know how it goes!

Love, PeaceBang


Readers of all shapes and sizes,
Belts are very fashionable right now, and they really can add a nice, polished dimension to a simple outfit. Gals, got a clean, unwrinkled nice tee-shirt and a terrific pair of trousers? Add a lovely belt, some nice earrings, a chunky bracelet and voila, you got yourself an outfit.

Guys, got some pressed khakis and an Oxford? Add a belt and you’ll look even more ready for your day!

Tip for full-figured gals: a belted, fitted shell looks very nice under a blazer or cardigan. It adds a waist, but only if the belt isn’t too wide (super wide belts are in right now, but don’t be fooled — you’ll just look dissected).

P.S. Dears, I’m having a hard time finding elegant, well-fitting shells lately — everything’s either the tacky, ribbed “wife-beater” style (I’m sorry, I know it’s an offensive name) or a camisole with spaghetti straps and a too-low neckline. Any tips?

14 Replies to “Abundant-Bodied Petite Pastor Cries For Help”

  1. I’m on the opposite end of the height spectrum, and male, but I certainly understand the shirt problem. What is it with clergy tailors who use the cheapest black broadcloth?

    But I’m writing about “wife beaters” — I’ve seen them described in men’s catalogs as “A shirts” — which is how I describe them, sometimes with detail, to avoid calling them w–e b—s.

  2. Belts:

    I like how they feel. I also tend to need them to keep trousers up.

    Unfortunately, they partially roll at the back, under the back loop.

    Is there a way to prevent this without going all Cunegonde?

    I’m not seeing trousers without a central back loop.

  3. I understand that there are some clergy shirts/blouses that are hemmed to be worn outside the trousers/skirt. As a fellow petite 18-ish woman, though, I can appreciate that those would probably reach halfway to the knees, without alteration.

    Would it be possible to purchase the collars only, and find a tailor or dressmaker to make your blouses for you? They could then be perfectly fitted to you. Since shirts worn outside the skirt/trousers are fashionable right now, I think that would look both young and fresh. I’m not a huge fan of 3/4 sleeves, probably because my arms are the shortest part of me and they come nearly to my wrist, but again, if you get them custom-made for you, that problem could be solved. And there’s nothing wrong with short-sleeve blouses. Custom sewing would fix the too-long problem many of us “shorties” have with short sleeves coming to our elbows, too.

    If color is an option for you, I’d go with lighter colors and pair them with skirts and trousers you’re comfortable in. I’d pay close attention to your shoes, as PB has suggested. I think it’s past time for female clergy who “collar” to have some feminine-looking, well-made choices–even if they have to commission such garments from garment professionals! Good luck, dear.

    As for the shell thing, I just this evening found some nice ones at Syms, along with (too much) other wonderful things. Do you have a Syms in your area? It seemed that half their blouses were silk, there were some nice colors, and I saw both sleeveless and short-sleeve ones that I’d be proud to wear–for LOW prices.

    I’m OK on tops for now, so I didn’t buy any of those. But I found some great Aigner fall shoes for $30, a $7 tote for work in the cutest Pucci-style print, a gorgeous silk scarf…bunch of stuff, including $5.99 unabridged audiobooks! Since I commute so much between two jobs, that’s how I do a lot of my “reading.” Love, love, LOVE Syms!

  4. Oh, forgot to mention that shells are super-simple to sew and probably wouldn’t cost a huge amount to have a dressmaker make some for you. The goods aren’t very expensive because shells don’t take much yardage. You can pick out your own fabric and pattern, the thread will be sure to match, and the lighting in fabric stores is invariably better than in department stores, so you can see accurately how the color will really look. Plus, you know it will be made very well and no scratchy tags in the back!

  5. Guys–Wear a belt with those khakis, please! Men should always wear a belt or suspenders with their dress clothes…and I will forego my opinion on suspenders so as not to offend anyone visiting from 1920.


  6. I have been thinking about this belt with a shell thing, and not too wide a belt, but I am a visual person. Do you have any pictures?

  7. Argh! We don’t have a web address for the young Lutheran! I was going to invite her to a cool conference I’m planning for fresh faced female pastors like herself….perhaps she’ll see this—click through, please!

    All advertising aside, clergy shirts are just awful. The little dickey/janey things are okay, because they widen up your options, but then you get a line in a most unfortunate location. (Who invents these things? Oh, yeah, men.)

    BUT, womenspirit is open to clergy shirt suggestions. I just wrote in and asked them to make petites. I hate spending 60 bucks for an ugly shirt and then having to pay 20 more to have it shortened so I don’t look like I’m dressed up in mommy’s clothes. If you are similarly vertically challenged, write them too! They’ve made a nice one! That has a waist! And is meant to be worn outside! But it’s so freaking long that I had to send it back. maybe soon….

    In the meantime, I just hope our DC friend will find lots of airconditioning in DC this summer.

  8. Land’s End has some that are reasonably priced – 9.50 in petites and 12.50 in plus sizes:
    My experience with them is that the cotton will continue to always look nice (no pilling) – and the arm holes are not too large so that you show off the bra cup – and the neck looks flattering – not too low – these are great for the 105 degree days around here –

  9. I also look better with another layer, but due to stated 105 degree heat that is typical in the summer, I collect sheer overshirts from various places – around here ususally from Chico’s, Kohl’s, JC Penney’s, etc – whoever has a good sale – they can be hard to find but are worth the search – I cannot bring myself to wear a tucked-in shirt without an overlayer of some sort – here’s an example:

    I’m not comfortable in sleeveless, so this bridges the gap of the sleeveless and the waistless – and looks nice with slacks or skirts. You can get one like them in colors to match clergy shirts as well.

  10. Jackie, I don’t. But then I was wracking my brain and realized that I’m actually wearing a shell with a belt during my “Nightline” appearance, which you can view by clicking the link that’s in “PeaceBang Appearances.” The whole segment is like 3 minutes. It’s one example, anyway!

  11. Yes, clergy shirts fit like a sack with buttons. I do the blazer thing, but have also found that a nice sweater vest will do the trick. There’s light-weight ones at Target and Old Navy right now, I think; they are longish, but I think it helps me to look like I have a waist and am not wearing my father’s dress shirt.

  12. I found some really pretty waffle-weave semi-sheer shirts at T.J. Maxx the other day when I was looking for summer-weight shirts to wear as jackets. They’re almost perfect. It made me wonder, though, how widespread it is for shirts meant to be worn outside the skirt/trousers to be hemmed with “tails”? I mean, lower in front and back and higher on the sides. I looked at other shirts just to see, and I didn’t find a single one that was hemmed straight or straight with side vents, like “outside” blouses used to be designed.

    I bought my waffle-weave “tail” shirts anyway and even wore the pink one over a black-and-pink print dress yesterday; I got compliments on it. I saw another sheer shirt being worn as a jacket among the ladies and hers, too, was “tailed.”

    Just wonderin’.

  13. I don’t know. My mom does that look a lot, and it seems to me that many of the shirts she wears as a jacket have “tails.” If it looks good and the shirt hangs well, I can’t think that it matters.

    I am ALWAYS on the look-out for good outer layers! Scarcer than hen’s teeth.

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