In the Episcopal Church, it is common for clergy to wear a clerical collar, which poses some interesting issues for female clergy. Guys have it a little easier because they can basically just swap out their regular shirt for a clerical shirt. One of the blessings and curses of being a woman is that we have more flexibility in professional dress: dresses, skirt suits, dress pants, blouses, etc. The options are limitless, but having to work a professional wardrobe around a collar can be a bit trying. Additionally, nice, well-made, professional clothes are not inexpensive. While investing in the basics is certainly worthwhile, sometimes you need to buy more than one pair of pants at a time.
Fortunately, nowadays, companies like WomenSpirit, who specialize in clergywear for women, exist. Instead of shirts tailored for men, it’s now possible to order a variety of styles of shirts that come with a collar that are actually made to fit a woman’s body shape.
I know that I’m not what people envision when they think about a priest. I’m young. I’m female. I try to be relatively hip, fashionable, and fun. I have two tattooes, and my belly button pierced. As a pear-shaped person, I like to dress in a way that emphasizes my waist but skims over my heavier hips and thighs. I would say that my personal style is professional but feminine. I have a style-crush on Emma Pillsbury from Glee, with a little less fuss.
Fortunately, the basic Emma template makes a great option for a clergy “uniform”. Pumps + skirt + cardigan over a “janie” or sleeveless shell works well. I also love that Emma wears a lot of color and accessorizes well. It’s easy to stick with basic black, but perhaps even a fun brooch can jazz it up a little bit. Even though I still feel like I’m might get struck by lightning when I put on my collar, here’s what the top half of the Emma-template might look like, as worn with a black knee-length skirt:
I think that this will give me a template with which to work, swapping out dress pants for the skirt or a blazer for the cardigan. I also purchased two Tahari skirt suits from SteinMart, which is my happy place. I’m always able to find professional, well-fitting clothes for a great price there.
Shoes pose another issue. My mom is always saying that she is searching for a purse that is bigger on the inside than it is on the outside. I’m searching for a shoe that is as comfortable as a flat but with a heel. No frump allowed. As bad as high heels are for your body, a little lift (1 1/2” – 2” heel) helps me feel more confident, particularly when I’m preaching. Closed-toe is certainly preferred for serving at the altar or making pastoral visits at the hospital, and I like something fashionable but not so distracting that you receive comments on your shoes rather than your sermon.
I love these. They’re $69 on Zappos and come in other colors. If the heel were slightly shorter, these would be perfect.
It’s definitely going to take some trial and error to figure out what works and is flattering with the clerical collar. I also have blogs like Beauty Tips for Ministers to help me with the task of looking put together while in the trenches of ministry. I know there are things I haven’t even considered that I’ll likely run into. This doesn’t even cover vestments!
How would you describe your style?