Three-Quarter Length Sleeves

PeaceBang is a short, chunky gal with short, chunky arms and will not be seen in public in anything sleeveless (and neither should you be, clergygals — not when you’re on duty, anyway). I inevitably have to get the arms of blazers and jackets shortened and therefore tend to jump for joy when I find three-quarter length sleeve blouses. They are terrific-o!

However, I have noticed one thing: when I stand with my arms at my sides with a sleeve that ends right at my waist, and the sleeves wing out a bit (as they tend to do when the bouse is cotton and the cuff is wide), I manage to add another 10″ or so to my waist line. Oh happy day! Just what I need!

Not that this will keep me from wearing three-quarter length sleeved blouses, mind you, but it certainly will keep me from being photographed in one, unless I can do something creative with my arms (raise them up in a fetching “hallelujah” pose, maybe? Weeping all the while, like Tammye Faye?). Just a tiny vanity tip from Yours Truly, pigeons.

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?
Thanks!

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?

On Puppies

I wrote in the last post that when shopping for white blouses, we should check the rear view for “puppies.”

“Puppies” is the endearing term that MotherBang uses for those little unruly rolls of fat that bulge out of the bra straps and that ruin the elegant line of our clothing. They are the bane of the roly-poly, and we do have to be mindful of them. The expression “sloppy fat” should be one we assiduously try to avoid being appropriately applied to us.

I see a lot of sloppy fat out there, and have certainly been less vigilant myself than I should be in wearing constraining undergarments at all times. As I have said before, I am a veritable meatball of a gal and have pretty much given up trying to achieve a smooth silhouette. However, I do try to avoid wearing outfits that egregiously highlight my roly-poly attributes. It’s a challenge.

That said, I believe it is still better to wear body-conscious clothes with some SHAPE to them than to try to camoflauge everything in enormous tentage. Hanes Her Way makes some marvelous undies that are cotton and spandex, and PeaceBang wears the industrial strength version every day herself, and the version that comes way up over the tummy when wearing more fitted blouses that could be all about a blobby midsection if I wasn’t careful. I buy them at the Hanes outlet, as they don’t seem to be widely available anywhere else, and I am devoted to the cotton-spandex combo. I buy them five or six at a time and they are indestructible, darlings. At almost $20 apiece, they should be.

These look pretty good, as I can’t seem to find my exact product anywhere on the Net: http://www.essentialapparel.com/index.cfm/a/catalog.prodshow/vid/3306/catid/39

This is an awesome item:
http://www.jms.com/cgi-bin/ncommerce/ProductDisplay?prnbr=12958&cgnbr=40B1000000

Every chunky minister should have a few key body smoothing items in her closet. Do lay in some Spanx and control top hose and a body smoother. And remember that good posture takes off ten pounds! Which is beauty magazine nonsense, but PeaceBang WANTS TO BELIEVE IT!
Watch my wishful thinking at work!

Does God Call Us To Comfort In Any Wise?

When I had gone fully into elastic waistbands and full, hempen floppy look during my ministry in Maryland, I believed that comfort came first. I am a strong feminist, and I knew I could look appropriate and professional in comfortable clothes.

I had a few really sharp items for appearances at the state house or into Washington, DC for political activism, or for guest lecturing or conferences. I didn’t feel that it was necessary to compete in any sartorial way with really put-together professional women. I was, after all, a minister. A spiritual leader. Why should I make an effort to project any image in particular?

I believe that it is a point of feminist pride for most women to say, “I value comfort over fashion.” I am definitely not knocking Zorra for saying this in a recent comment, but grateful to her for reminding me how often I hear this among the clergy, and how strongly I protest its underlying sense of superiority and difference from other public leaders.

Let me say something about feminism and comfort. I believe that women in powerful positions should look powerful, or at least in control of their image and mindful of it. I believe that women in ministry have huge issues with power — ambivalence about its appropriateness, in the first place — and reflect that in their comfy Mother Earth outfits.

I don’t believe that we do justice to our calling by looking intentionally unconcerned with the dictates of fashion.

Place a female executive and a female cleric side by side (or a male executive and a male cleric, for that matter), and see who looks ready to lead, to make decisions, to command respect, and to take responsibility. It won’t be the guy in the tie with the children’s hands motif. It won’t be the woman in the batik muu-muu with the enormous pendant, the floppy cotton pants, and the sandals, with the big scrubbed face and the flat, unstyled hair.

Ministers today tend to visually project comfort, giving church-goers and religious seekers the idea that religious life is unthreatening and that it will require nothing of them beyond a juice-and-cookies kind of warmth and fellowship.

I don’t think this does justice to our calling or to the urgent relevance we assign to an engaged religious life.

I made a conscious decision when I moved to Massachusetts to tighten up, to buy some belts and zip-button trousers, to find a tailor, to wear heels, to hold myself accountable to fit into clothes of a determinate size rather than fill my closet with fat-accomodating “comfortable” items. I still have plenty of comfortable things, and I don’t spend a lot of time dressing up for every day, but I’m so glad I caught myself before I became another projector of the Church-Is-Like-Going-To-Grandma-And-Grandpa’s image.

I think this issue is dead serious, so I’ll refrain from my usual PeaceBang snarkiness. My readers can flood the comments section with testimonials about the beauty of their batik muu-muu or the theological justification for their Birkenstocks, and that’s fine. I hear you. I know you, and I love you. But I am trying to change the tide here, and that’s not going to happen by our individual defense of what is currently a woefully dowdy group of people who have a woefully dowdy public image.

Simply put, I don’t believe God calls us to comfort in the work of ministry.

P.S. When you wear structured clothing on a regular basis, they become comfortable. I can walk just as briskly in a fitted skirt as I can in a huge A-line tent. It took some getting used to, and yes, I have to be more ladylike getting in and out of the car. That’s not a bad thing. Heels are comfortable now. I purchase them carefully, with an eye for comfort and swifness of movement, and I possess many pairs that I can spend the day in with no pain at all.

Best of all, when I’ve put some effort into my outfit, I can stand side by side with any public leader in any profession and feel an equal, not like the One So Holy She Is Beyond Fashion, which actually translates to other people as One So Out Of It She’s Dressed Like a Frump.

Banish Elastic Waists!

L’il Flava just said something about Comfort Pants recommended by Caroline Divine with which I must concur:

“There’s comfort and then there’s schlummpage.”

Even in black, yoga or workout pants are not appropriate professional wear. Big, floppy cotton pants with no shape to them (and tapered ankles don’t count as “shape”) are one of the most obvious ways to separate frumpy from fab. I KNOW we all love our floppy cotton pants from Flax and other hempy companies. I’m just saying that they’re not doing anyone looking for a sharp look any favors.

Ladies, PeaceBang is a fat, short girl with short legs and a serious jungle pouch. It is hard work for her to find pants, but she works assiduously to avoid anything with an elastic waist and a huge, floppy cotton butt. She doesn’t always succeed, but dammit, she puts in the effort. She insists on wearing pants that button and zip because she knows that if she doesn’t, it’s too easy to become a big, soft marshmallow and flumf around in clothes resembling sweatsuits, with so much material that the tushie is all over the place and you can’t even find the thighs inside the legs of the pants.

As Sister of PeaceBang once said, “The bigger the shirt, the bigger the girl.” Her point was, “don’t try to hide a chunky body inside huge, shapeless garments. We all know it’s in there.”

Pants are notoriously hard to find and to fit. That’s why you should spend serious time and effort finding cuts that work for you, plan to get them tailored when necessary, and buy two or three pairs when you find some goodies.

P.S. Just because skinny jeans are totally in this year doesn’t mean you should wear them. Tapered legs are also very au courant, but if you’re not slim and long of leg, and have an otherwise very au courant wardrobe, don’t bother. Stay with the classics, and if you’re short and have chubby legs, stick with bootcut trousers.