M.Div., B.O.


Great balls o’ fire! Didn’t know that, did you? Because unlike PeaceBang, you have never, for instance, preached an ordination sermon at the end of August in Pittsburgh and actually needed to change your entire outfit afterwards because you could LITERALLY wring sweat out of your skirt. And unlike PeaceBang, you have never kept a hair dryer in your office for summer weddings and funerals so that you could officiate, blow dry your hair and then appear at the reception looking like an almost-normal human being. Unlike PeaceBang, you have never tucked a lightweight cotton hand towel into the back waistband of your pantyhose to catch the sweat that runs down your back before it drips down your legs and pools into your pumps.
You have never done these things because you are a LADY, and ladies don’t sweat, they glisten.

If that’s you, just move along then. Go be delicate, dry and fragrant somewhere else.

Here is a letter from a lady minister who not only glistens, she sweats. And she has a delicate problem caused by the necessity of wearing unnatural fibers:

I only wear my collar on Sundays and other holidays. I tend to wear a sleeveless shell with a cardigan or jacket. Here’s my problem- the man-made materials of my shirts eventually retain the smell of body odor and have to be thrown away! What are my other options? I prefer a wash and wear, because I do not iron.
I’ve had this problem with both the Almy and the WomenSpirit sleeveless clerical blouses.

Any thoughts?

My first thought, darling, is MITCHUM, which I think is the best deody-o made.
My second thought is “I’m glad I don’t wear a collar.” I’m quite partial to cotton, you see.
My third thought is, why not try those perspiration shields you can find in some of the older drugstores? Couldn’t hurt. It seems simply awful to spend all that money on the clerical shirts only to have to discard them. Would a good Woolite rinse after each wash prolong their life longer? Febreze?

Perspiring, clericals-wearing colleagues, chime in!

22 Replies to “M.Div., B.O.”

  1. Feel your pain, sista.

    I use a product found only in my grocery store, called ZOUT. I also have used Murphy’s Oil Soap. Not kidding. It works on this and on baby poop stains. A little hard on the fabric after a while, but it gets the smell and the white deodorant film that clings to that polyester OFF. With both products, you don’t use them as a detergent, just as a spot-treatment before laundering. (If you let it soak in for a while before you launder, that will definitely aid in the de-stinkifying process.)

    Good luck.

  2. I have had success with a spot-treatment product whose name I cannot recall…but the bottle is split vertically into two halves, and when you squirt the product on, the two liquids combine and do this little bubbly-action thing on the underarm stain. Gimmicky, yes, but it seems to work!

    Lately I’ve had trouble finding it and have been using OxyClean, which is close but not quite as effective.

  3. There are some special laundry treatments for athletic clothes that might help with this. Usually doing laundry regularly and presoaking when needed works like a charm.

    The cotton collars look a little rustic–I wouldn’t wear them for dressy occasions myself. They aren’t really white either. I sure wish there was a cooler option!

    One thing I have done is make a sleeveless shell out of a cotton mock neck. The nice thing here is that the bit of cotton under the plastic collar is more comfortable.

  4. For perspiration odor, Vodka is your best friend and surest weapon. I kid you not.

    My pre-ministry career was as a costume designer and wardrobe supervisor. As part of that job, I was responsible for the nurture of many a vintage gown or morning coat. I also worked at many a low-budget enterprise that did not have the dinero to support regular drycleaning of costumes. And mostly, it was summer stock, so even the ladiest-like of divas were well past “glistening” after a two-show Sunday!

    So, git-cher-self some vodka–the cheaper the better. My favorite was always the one that says “Made in New Hampshire” on the red and gold label in tiny letters above the cyrillic characters. Mix 3 parts vodka with 1 part water in a spray bottle. You can use straight vodka, but you’ll have to replace the bottle sooner! You want a spray bottle with a fine mist setting, because a steady stream will leave water spots on your finer fabrics.

    Hang the garment inside out, and liberally mist the area with the vodka/water solution. Let stand until the vodka has evaporated (taking the stinky smell with it) and you’re good to go. Note: you will NOT end up smelling like a cheap drunk, the vodka smell evaporates, too. This works best on perspiration odor, but will also help with musty/mildew smells.

    This technique does not, of course, work for those who eschew alcoholic beverages. And I will say that the hardest part of my job was always convincing the financial powers-that-be to process the reimbursement for the wardrobe department’s liquor store receipts.


  5. I wear a lot of synthetic fibers for backpacking since it works better than cotton for outdoor activities. After sweating profusely in the middle of a South Carolina humid summer eight mile hike my shirts will reek and the synthetic material will hold onto the smell. To combat this I add shampoo to my laundry and let it soak. I don’t know why shampoo works but it does.

  6. Vermont Country Store sells disposable underarm liners (for almost $1 apiece, yowza) and reusable cotton bra shields, sweating ladies.

  7. If the ironing is what is causing all the problems, make wrinkle releaser out of water and liquid fabric softener (2 teaspoons of the fabric softener in a 16 oz bottle, the fill with water). For clothes you wear occasionally, mist them with this, and hang in the bathroom while you shower. Once they are fully dry, hang in the closet where the clothes won’t get smooshed and re-wrinkled.

  8. I swear by white vinegar- gets smells out, gets hard water stains out if you rinse the clothes in it (and a little distilled water) I also hear baking soda works, but have not used it in laundry–the vinegar smell goes away as well- as for sweat, I found that the “prescripton” strength sold in the grocery store works very well, but I feel as if I have been hermetically sealed- that said, I save it for real do or die scenarios (the outdoor wedding in August sun….) and use it 2-3 days priuor to the event- also- (and I wont admit HOW I know this) antibacterial hand rinse (Purell, etc) will take the smell off you- becasuse BO is caused by bacteria, not the sweat itself….but dont know what effect it has on clothing-

  9. There are better versions of the cotton collars — a good laundry will starch and iron them so they last and are comfy.

  10. Totally agree with Nancy, nothing is better than white vinegar for getting odors out of fabrics. Pre-soak your sweaty garments in cold water with about 1/2 cup of white vinegar, then wash as usual. I would also avoid putting them in the dryer – the heat seems to make odors worse. Don’t worry, you will not smell like salad once your garments are dry!

    Also, anything sleeveless is going to make you sweat more, no matter how good your antiperspirant.

  11. If you can’t find dress sheilds, you can use pantyliners. I know, a little weird, but they work and the are cheap. Just peel and stick to the underarm of your blouse.

    I was a fashion major in college. We put on several fashion shows, borrowed clothes from local shops, they had to be returned in pristine condition. We always got some raised eyebrows from the male models, lol!

  12. Yep, I second the pantyliner idea.
    Sounds weired but works. Just make sure the “glue line” is broad enough to secure it safely at its place.

  13. You could also tackle the illness instead of the symptoms, and attempt to alter your level of perspiration. There are several different brands of “clinical strength” underarm deodorant now, and they’ve done wonders for me. You have to apply them as you’re going to bed, because when you lay down the pores under your arms open up or some such, and the stuff is more readily absorbed. I realize that sounds pretty questionable, but it really truly works. I tried the stuff in desperation after ruining a closetful of shirts during a summer when I had to walk 20 minutes to get to work. It takes a few days for the full effect to kick in, but after consistent use my underarms would stay completely dry on the muggiest of days.

    Of course, since perspiration is actually a necessary function, some of that sweat ends up coming out elsewhere…I noticed increased sweat on my forehead and upper lip, but nothing freaky.

    [Auntie PeaceBang just wants to add her .02 cents on altering perspiration, which as Wintry Mix says, IS a necessary function. IF you use the serious industrial strength anti-perspirants, please save them only for the rare occasion. Better to sweat and smell than to clog up your pores on a regular basis and retain toxins. Thanks for all your amazing tips, pigeons! – PB]

  14. Find a local seamstress!! If you are close to a city of any size, there is probably a woman or man who would make you a set of shirts using the fabric of your choice (natural!!) The cost will even out (you won’t be tossing out stinky shirts) and you’ll feel and look wonderful.
    Every major pattern designer has patterns for clerical shirts; go to the fabric store, find the pattern, choose the material that looks and feels good (ask for assistance if you’re new to this) and go make friends with someone who would love the extra cash in this “made-made” recession. You’ll have the extra benefit of having the shirt tailored to your own feminine body type.

  15. Love you PeaceBang!
    I swear by white vinegar. I keep a spray bottle with undiluted white vinegar in the laundry room. As I do my laundry I spray the underarms of my blouses and throw them into the wash. Cheapest and easiest. I too sweat and use the shields from Old Vermont Country store in my jackets and robe. Thanks for the towel in the back tip. Preach It women of faith.

  16. I know that Harcourts (www.harcourts.com) sells cotton clergy shirts, made to order. They’re pricey, but may be worth the cost to wear natural fabrics. Their customer service has (in my experience) been excellent – I would recommend them.

  17. Mitchum–absolute (better than the vodka!)
    Polyester shirts–give ’em up. God made laundries for a reason, too…find one that will do cotton shirts for <$1
    COTTON colors–also absolute

    And always, always, have an extra shirt in the same drawer as your extra pair of nylons!

    This is how I do it, anyhow.

  18. Elizabeth wrote that every major pattern designer has a pattern for a clergy shirt. I looked unsuccessfully. Can you say more, Elizabeth, about which designers have them? I want to make my own tab collar clergy blouses.

  19. For a completely different and very expensive option, I know that British vestment makers that will make clerical blouses in 100% cotton fabric. Be aware that these require “industrial strength” ironing!

    Wippel’s do the kind of full-collar shirts that I think most American Protestants prefer: the are at http://www.wippell.com

    I believe that the two companies below only do slip-in collar blouses which have become the standard in Britain.

    J&M Sewing do the blouses in standard British sizes. They are at: https://www.jandmsewing.com

    Cross Design (http://www.crossdesignsltd.com/) tailor make them to your measurements and have blouses with princess seams. They also make clerical tee shirts, which I love and they do fantabulous feminine cassocks. This is a very small company and your bespoke pattern is produced by the owner. It will take weeks, if not months, to produce your items, so be aware.

  20. Febreze has a new-ish product that comes in a steely gray spray bottle. It’s called Febreze Sport. It takes odors out of polyester and other fabrics. Don’t know where the odor goes — it just goes away. Lasts for at least a month. It is great for all the stuff that just gets odor-y after a while but is too good to throw away. Spray it on wet or dry fabric and let it dry. I can’t tell that there’s any residual odor from the product itself.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.