I can’t find the e-mail right now (this is a theme with me lately, oui?) but I know that one of my little lambs just wrote a long, frustrated letter asking for help packing for our General Assembly. It was much like a letter I got not long before the Festival Of Homiletics asking essentially the same question: “What’s the dress code?”
Let’s keep this as simple as possible.
If you’re presenting, dress to the top of your game, which means to the most polished and beautiful version of your public image. If that’s Social Justice Earth Mother, make sure your flowy skirts are a lovely fabric and fit well. Get your hair trimmed to get rid of any stragglies. Get a pedicure and wear sandals, but nice sandals. If your public leader image is Corporate Power Pastor, wear a great suit and wingtips. Work it. Shave and get your hair did. Get a man manicure and buff your nails. If your public leader image is Hipster Church and Social Media Maven, wear a jacket without a tie. Get a hair cut. Find some really snappy shoes. Make sure you’re impeccably groomed no matter how cool you want to appear.
If you’re a conferee who is not presenting and not interviewing, dress for a day at the office. We’ve talked enough here about how to dress that you should know by now how to dress comfortably but still neatly, and like a grown-up. I personally LOVE seeing my colleagues so much better dressed than they were fifteen years ago — it warms the cockles of my heart to see such beauty and care among us. I love seeing some of my younger pigeons in sports jackets and dresses, looking all fine. It makes me very happy and I think it reflects well on our religious communities when we are nicely dressed at conferences. It shows respect for self and others.
But given that suitcases now cost $25 to put on the bloody plane, I encourage all of us to find ways to pack simply and lightly. If that means obsessing for a month about exactly which pair of pants to take, it’s probably worth the agony. I myself just booked conference travel between Boston and Louisville with very short connections that will have me running to make my flights. I may very well limit myself to a carry-on and just kiss my cute shoes goodbye as they sit this one out. After the spring I’ve had I’ll just be happy to sit around in a very boring outfit with comfortable shoes and listen to other people with interesting things to say. If you forced me to pack right now I bet I’d throw in white pants and black pants, a navy blazer and a couple of cardigans, a pair of oxfords and a pair of sandals, skip all the contact lens solution and all the hair products and say, “Here I am. I just got through Candidating Week,bought a house by myself, said farewell to my congregation of ten years and started to pack up the parsonage. This is as good as it gets.”
But of course I will make every attempt to at least have cute accessories. A girl can’t completely let herself go!