Dressing For Conferences

PeaceBang has had two fashion inquiries today:

1. What should UU lay people wear to GA?
2. How do we pack for a collegial conference when we would not like to be numbered among the Frumpy Servants of the Lord?

1. ChaliceChick asked me this off-line, saying that her typical weekend wear is
t-shirts, jeans and boots. Apparently a minister friend of hers recommended business casual.

CC, dear, I have two thoughts. The first is that since you’re not a minister or a workshop presenter and therefore not making a professional appearance, you probably don’t need to go as far as business casual. That said, there’s nothing quite so depressing than watching the Jumbotron at the Service of the Living Tradition and seeing one fashion disaster after the next, or arriving at GA to throngs of ill-clad fellow UUs.

My personal heart’s desire?
1. no environmentally or politically themed T-shirts
2. nothing batik
3. death to Birkenstocks!
4. no ungroomed facial hair or scraggly ponytails on the men
5. everyone limited to ONE chalice item

When we gather together as Unitarian Universalists in one city, we do make a group impression. My advice? Dress in such a way as to help us make a good group impression. If that means taking a step up from jeans and a t-shirt (and you know it does), pack accordingly.

And people, hotel rooms do have irons in them. And hair dryers.

2. Conferences are easy if you have a sense of your own style and don’t feel that it’s necessary to pack only practical items (i.e., polyester garments that go sproing when you pull on them). I love practical items. It’s just hard to make an entire outfit, let alone five or six, from that terrific swingy jacket you got from Chico’s. (We all have one of those, right? You couldn’t wrinkle it even if you scrinched it into a tiny ball and sat on it through the entire flight, right?)

PeaceBang is all about planning in advance. Around this time of year she starts to think about packing for GA and carefully strategizing the maximum number of outfits out of the minimum number of garments. She combs through all her accessories and begins to consider which ones to take. She mulls over shoe choices. She does all this while working out or driving. You can do it, too. You can’t always be thinking about your sermons. C’mon.

What persona are you trying to communicate? Sober religious leader? Then pack all solid colors with a few crisp blouses and get out the Barbara Bush pearls. Creative, fun religious leader? Pack one camel suit and wear it with red cowboy boots and huge gold hoops and red lipstick. Change your blouse every day and just wear the hell out of that suit.

My point is, find your look and make a statement in some way. No one expects a fabulous new outfit every day — for heaven’s sake, we’re all traveling — so feel free to repeat. Don’t WORRY what the so-called A-listers are wearing. YOU are on God’s A+ list! The key to confident self-presentation is to find your own look and never, ever feel like you have to compete with anyone else. Be your own fabulous self. I find that if there’s a question of over-dressing or under-dressing, I opt for over-dressing.
In the Black church, the ladies say that they like to dress up for the Lord. I couldn’t agree more. Dressing up shows respect. If I arrive at an event in a skirt and heels and everyone else is in Izods and capris, I figure I’m just showing some propers. Nothing wrong with that.

Hotels and conference centers are over air-conditioned. There are lots of lovely silk/cotton blend cardigans on the shelves right now. They look nice with a shell underneath. PeaceBang understands that it’s hot in the summertime but she is never, ever seen in sleeveless garb unless it’s in the privacy of her own hammock. Despite her deep loyalty to working out with weights, PeaceBang’s upper arms still resemble her great-Baba Billo’s, which is to say that the most appropriate word for them would be Slovak for “jiggly hamhocks.”

The secret to successful conference dressing, my doves, is ALL IN THE DETAILS.

Get thee to a hairdresser and colorist two weeks in advance of the gathering so you have time to learn how to do your hair, and pack your hair products.
PeaceBang usually packs minimal clothing but lots of make-up and products because she finds them comforting to have around. Also necessary, as her hotel roommate can attest.

Visit your manicurist for hands and feet two days before departure. Pack a tiny bottle of Febreze so you can freshen your clothes when needed. Use that iron.
Pack Emergen-C packets for those mornings you feel less than your best, and because hotel rooms are notoriously dry, don’t forget your richest moisturizer!

Lipstick! Mascara! Light make-up if you need it to look polished.

And your mother wasn’t lying when she said that a big smile was the most important accessory you could ever own.

PeaceBang recommends:

Emergenc-C vitamin C packets
Travel size Febreze and Shout stain remover packets
A clothespin to hang up hand-washed dainties
Travel size Aveda hair and skin care products (expensive but worth it)

4 Replies to “Dressing For Conferences”

  1. I’d nix the Shout stain remover packs and pick up a Tide stain removing pen instead. I put one in Hubby’s Christmas stocking (he can’t abide a shirt stain) and he now never goes out without one.

    He’s even been known to slide one discretely across a restaurant table and direct me to the men’s room to banish a dot of palak paneer.

    And I like to do “small laundry” (socks and underpants) and the occasional shirt when I’m travelling. I hate carrying dirty clothes more than carrying too many. A 100ml tube of Austin House Bio Suds does the trick. I got one ages ago at AAA.

  2. So…my biggest hassle about planning a week at GA is shoes. I just refuse to pack more than one pair of dress shoes, which limits my wardrobe, or so I thought, to all blue, or all black, or all tans skirts and pants. But do I remember you saying lately that black dress shoes and tan pants are ok? Can you say more about that?

  3. If you’re an adult sponsor for YRUU youth at GA, you need to keep that in mind when packing.

    If you’re planning on participating in youth caucus workshops or youth caucus worships in the evenings, you need to keep comfort in mind. Specifically, you should ensure that you have clothes that allow for sitting on the floor.

    Youth conference t-shirts are a good way for a youth advisor to be visible to your congregation’s youth and other youth from your district.

  4. FWIW, I was going to follow those listed rules anyway. (I only OWN one chalice item, after all.)

    I pretty much never wear T-shirts with slogans on them, though I have considered having a red shirt with the following text in black:


    and Marriages.

    It’s just that simple.



    made up especially for GA.

    (I’m soon going to be moving to a new address.)

    I can’t imagine I will get around to it, though.


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