Sunday, May 23, 2010

What to wear?

I just spent the last 2 hours packing for a trip to annual conference, the yearly meeting of the regional body of my denomination. Because I'm a preacher's kid, I started going to these things when I was about 10. Of course, as a kid, the requirements for my clothing were that I had some, that they were clean, and that they not have holes in them. Now that I am going as a clergy-person, the situation is somewhat more complex.
I am thrilled that we're not a stuffy, "nothing but suits" group of people, but at the same time, there would be some comfort in knowing exactly what is expected! Clothing at Annual Conference tends to range from hawaian shirts and khakis to three piece suits, and nearly everything in between- and that's just the men! So, the thing that I realized is that when there are no rules (written or unwritten) about what one should wear, the pressure actually intensifies.
Why? Because then what you wear is not merely your adaptation of the "uniform" but is, in fact, a bold statement, and for me, fashion might be the trickiest form of non-verbal communication.
Does a suit say "I respect the importance of what we're doing here" or "I take myself far too seriously" or perhaps, "I'm scared and I hope this suit will distract you from noticing I'm clueless"
If I go for a more trendy, casual professional look, does it denote that I am "young and energetic" or does it say that I'm "not quite grown up yet"
Then there is the element of being a woman, and the attempt to embrace femininity and my natural shape, without being overly sexy or inappropriate.

I know that anumma has hosted some discussion on the issue over at his blog

and there is a blog I frequent devoted to nothing but clergy fashion and appearances,

I'm curious how others, whether you are clergy or not, handle wardrobe decisions in settings where there are no set "rules."


  1. I like your post. It's definitely a big dilemma. I dress to make myself comfortable and confident. In an AC situation I would dress up more than my day to day because a little extra makes me confident. I would also add some definite fashion because looking attractive and fancy makes me comfortable. And really, it all starts with shopping. I buy multiples of items that work really well. Then i can bring similar outfits on trips and know I'll look good every day. And then i can mix and match outfits too. That's just as muddy as what you already knew... but it's my best advice!

  2. You're so right! A major addition to the complication at Annual Conference this year is that it is held in a big arena where the Air Conditioning is always on 'Polar freeze" but it will of course be warm outside. somehow, I managed to find outfits I will feel confident in. ( I think) and I threw in a dress I love as a back up in case I get dressed one day and "don't know what I was thinking"

  3. I also find that if one isn't sure if one is dressy enough, one's not as confident as one could be. So I agree with both of you, when in doubt, dress a little nicer. But pick your favorite clothes, so that you'll still enjoy wearing them!

    -Rachel J

  4. I solve the problem by having the exact same dilemma as you are having and then packing to wear exactly what I would wear every day if I hadn't had the dilemma in the first place (which has somehow never taught me to avoid the crisis from the beginning). I like to joke about the "Minnesota uniform"... when in doubt, khakis and a sweater are the fallback (works in Iowa too). Plus I'm crabby if I'm uncomfortable, so I tend toward slightly less dressy, more cheerful, and more feeling like myself. They won't care as much what I'm wearing if I'm positive and confident. I hope.

  5. Allison,
    falling back to what you wear every day works because you dress appropriately for your age and profession. My everday clothing over the last 2 years has gone from maternity clothes, to my recovery uniform of yoga pants and t-shirts, to this year which has been everything from cute new clothes to the grad school hoodie. I feel rather confident that by next year, after a year of dressing for work everyday the crisis level will be more "orange" than "red"