Alternatives To Unstructured A-Line And Babydoll Dresses

Are you working on Christmas Eve’s Order of Worship? Dripping wax into the part of the Menorah that holds the candles so that they will STAY IN PLACE, DARNIT? Are you frantically baking cookies for your staff gifts (add some cardamom to your ordinary Snickerdoodle and voila, you have a special recipe!).
Well, DROP ALL THAT and let us discuss winter girlie attire! As always, PeaceBang has a healthy dose of opinions to share. Click on the images to enlarge them!

This is a darling look. I love this look.

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However, because it is “darling,” I do no love this look for ministers. It’s chic as all heck for women in many professions but I think not the best choice for ours.

Here’s why: the cut of the unstructured A-line dress (and its close cousin, the babydoll dress) is an unmistakable — even if unconscious — callback to youth: actual childhood garments such a nightgowns, smocks and chemises worn by children for centuries, and more recently in fashion history, by young women during the sexual revolution of the 60’s. Give me my white vinyl go-go boots!
They are both, therefore, infantilizing garments and do not belong on religious leaders who want to consciously claim full authority. In my experience, the babydoll and A-line dress almost always undercuts the woman wearing them. I am inevitably left with the uncomfortable sense that the wearer has unresolved issues around being a Grown Lady.

Also, unstructured A-lines pull up around the bust and butt. For an even slightly curvy body, there is no way to know what happens to the hemline when one is moving. I have seen women wearing A-line dresses show a lot more inner thigh than they planned on revealing when the skirt hiked up around their derriere when they extended their arm to reach for something. Who needs to be worried about that?

Of course any of us can can be both a cute girl and a minister, but wearing a garment that is closely associated with oversized lollipops creates cognitive dissonance.

Here’s another unstructured A-line dress, with fabulous over the knee boots:

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Chic, beautiful, love the neutral palette. But not appropriate for clergy. It’s too unstructured and the sillhouette is too associated with babyhood. That may not be what you think of consciously when you see it, but costuming doesn’t work on the conscious level.
At first glance, totally cool young woman about town.
Unconsciously, nightgown, baby smock, whispy, gaminesque. No buttons or zippers, because babies have no manual dexterity to manage them!

I am especially cringey when I see clergy women pair Roman or tab collars with A-line dresses. Talk about cognitive dissonance! I want to say “Honey, are you preaching or are you ready to blow out alllll the candles on your big girl birthday cake?”

This is the sort of thing I mean. Cute dress from Modcloth (and I do mean CUTE, so stay away from cute accessories and hair-dos if you favor this cut), but not with clericals stuffed underneath.
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I love Modcloth, but I lay a lot of blame on them for the spectacle of grown women walking around dressed in too-short, infantilizing frocks. I actually have a candy print sundress from them, but can you imagine expecting to be taken seriously in the workplace in this?
Save it for vacation. Save it for settings within which you have zero authority or responsibility and don’t want any:

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Another ModCloth warning: many of their dresses are cut so tight and short as to give the impression that one is wearing hand-me-downs much shrunken over years of use and washing. It’s a ridiculous aesthetic, cheap and again, undermining of women’s power.

And then you have these Sister Wife schmattas. ModCloth, find a happy medium! These are so drab.

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If you love a good tights-boots-skirt look, I think separates are a great option.
This is the general idea, although the wide gap of leg is not a good look for clergy. This isn’t about body shaming or hemline policing, it’s about understanding unconscious associations, formality of workplace environments and your desire to be regarded as a grounded, mature adult (and also to be regarded as someone whose panties don’t show when you reach up to get candles off the high shelf in the usher’s closet).

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The skirt for you should be at the knee or maybe an inch above.

Separates are workhorse! Make them work for you! This next outfit would be a great workday option if you swapped out the high-heeled booties for some flat riding boots.

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If unstructured A-line dresses are YOUR JAM, a few recommendations: wear them in rich colors, make sure the fabric is substantial enough that the dress falls well and isn’t pulling or clinging in awkward ways, keep the necklines solid, accessorize with layers, bold jewelry and a great haircut, keep your boots sturdy, shiny and fabulous, don’t pair them with cutesy leggings or hose, and carry a structured, professional bag. As PeaceBang always says, craft your image consciously so that you aren’t unconsciously communicating anything you don’t want to communicate.

One Reply to “Alternatives To Unstructured A-Line And Babydoll Dresses”

  1. Thank you for this reprieve from the Christmas Eve frenzy. I love seeing my female congregants of all ages in these with leggings and flats. You go, gals. Not for me. I think the first model makes your point with her one toe waifishly turned in. I hope her school bus arrives soon.

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