Visit our new site at revgalblogpals.org.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Ask the Matriarch Crowd Sourcing Clericals

From Stitches of Ayr
Recently one of our ring members linked on Facebook to a Canadian company I'd not heard of before. (Possibly for the mannequins, as seen in the image.) The blouses at Stitches of Ayr are bamboo and eco-cotton, or some kind of moisture-wicking material and come in an array of bright colors and fancy patterns. What do you think, RevGals?

Our Ask the Matriarch queue was empty this week, so I thought this might be a good space to discuss collars and other clerical garb. As a UCC pastor who got started in the land of Congregationalists, I have worn a collar exactly once, and only because one of our Preacher Party participants sent it to me. But I have moved to a new area where the desirability of having a collar on hand might be different, particularly to wear to public events where I want to be identifiable as a member of the clergy, and I could use your advice.

Let's crowd source:

  1. Do you wear a collar?
  2. If so, what kind?
  3. What's your best source?
  4. Where do you find your clergy shirts/blouses?
  5. Bonus question: What's the oddest reaction you've gotten when identified by your garb?
Please share your answers and resources in the comments. And if you have a ministry question for our Matriarch panel, please send it to askthematriarch@gmail.com

49 comments:

  1. I do not wear clericals. I think it is unPresbyterian. Of course, Presbyterians differ with me on this. In most of the places I've been Presbyterians do not wear clericals (except maybe to protests). In Memphis, I may be the lone female Presbyterian that doesn't wear a collar.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I'm with Maggie. I find clericals distancing and off-putting, and not Presbyterian at all. (I'm never sure whether that sense is Presby or 1960s. I feel exactly the same way about doctors and their white coats!) In this geographic area, I have never seen a female Presby clergywoman wearing clericals unless she was from out of town. Men wear them occasionally. I'm not sure what I would do if I moved to a part of the country where clericals were more customary for Presbies. When I attended the prayer breakfast in the rural area where my church is, the Lutheran woman in our group wore a collar with her very elegant suit, saying that otherwise in that community it would never occur to anyone that she is a clergywoman. She had a point.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I haven't purchased from them - yet - but these look interesting, especially for those who don't wear clericals all of the time.

    http://www.spiritualapparel.com

    Robin Smith

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Robin, I'm going to look right now!

      Delete
  4. I have never actually seen in person a Stitches of Ayr clergy shirt, but I think they look fantastic. I usually wear a stole or a collar/stole to protests, marches, and when I do a memorial service where robing doesn't really work (e.g. a small service in a nursing home.) I like the option of wearing a collar, frankly.

    The weirdest reaction I had to wearing my collar was a Boston Pride Parade! I had my clergy shirt on, and a rainbow stole, and jeans. I was rushing to my group along a crowded sidewalk of Pride revelers, and as a I passed by this guy, he looked at me and said, "OMG, that is great! I love your costume, so ironic!"....I laughed, and said, "It's real, though! God loves you!" Cracked me up. But also made me a little sad....

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, that's a smiley and a frowny.

      Delete
    2. That's so interesting, that instant reaction. Great response on your part!

      Delete
  5. As Episcopal Vocational Deacon, wear a collar all the time. Usually an Anglican collar, although do have a couple of tab collar shirts. Usually get from WomenSpirit (womenspirit.com)- love their 'Janie' - a dickie with darts and elastic to hold below bra line. Wear with sweaters all winter.

    Usually get, 'Mommy, why don't we have girl priests' when pumping gas. Do weekly homeless ministry in additional Legislative Liaison to state and federal government and am amazed when, after long period of time, get asked if I am a pastor with amazement in eyes at response.

    We have a long way to go.

    deniray+

    ReplyDelete
  6. I have a few clergy blouses, all from WomenSpirit. I wasn't planning to get them, but the local dementia unit, where I lead worship twice a month, asked if I could look more like a minister, so I wear it to help the residents see that this is church time.
    as I have them, I also wear them on some other ocasions, all up less than once a week. I bought one, then when the Asussie dollar was high, I bought 2 more on special. glad I did as the Aussie dollar is dropping compared to the US dollar.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. pearl, that's a great illustration of why it can matter. Thanks for sharing.

      Delete
  7. While it's legit to consider clericals to be "Un-Whatever Denomination" you are, please remember this is an ecumenical group and the point here is to share sources for those who do wear, or want to find, clerical blouses, collars, etc. Thanks.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oops. Sorry. That part of me that loves a debate reared her head!

      Delete
    2. S'all right. We're going at it re: the creeds on Facebook this morning, too. Seems to be that kind of week? I just don't want us to shut each other down.

      Delete
  8. I've never worn one, but it isn't because of my denomination. I never wear collars up around my neck. It isn't a good look for me. Are there any V neck clericals?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ha! The image in my mind now is, quite literally, priceless.

      Delete
    2. I don't like the collar around the neck either, but wear clericals on occasion. I've found if I wear a full collar a couple of inches bigger than I need (see my post further down re how to make that work with a clerical), it works better for me. Still not a good look, but at least it's more comfortable and I don't look like I'm choking!

      Delete
  9. I've worn a variety of things - shirts I've purchased (one men's shirt that I bought too large and had tailored is my favorite), shirts I've altered by chopping off the regular collar and adding a button in the back, three dickie things from Almy and the Janie. I wear them to the hospital primarily and to funerals. I find I like the dickie things from Almy the best b/c I can rip them off the fastest! The collar make me feel like I'm being choked. The worse reception I get is at the Catholic hospitals. And since I'm short and rather round, the collar makes me easily identifiable at gathering where people don't know me - like at the funerals.

    ReplyDelete
  10. I do love my womenspirit robes.
    https://www.womenspirit.com/ProductDetails.aspx?CATID=26&PID=10

    ReplyDelete
  11. I mostly wear my collar to protests, while lobbying in Sacramento and on visits to one local hospital where I need to be easily identified as clergy. Altogether I probably wear a collar less than 6 times a year
    Just this week I got a new sleeveless tab collar shirt from WomenSpirit. The fit is good, customer service is excellent and the price is reasonable.

    ReplyDelete
  12. I come from a Presbyterian church where all the pastors wear collars all the time. My first call was in a church where the Head of Staff didn't wear a collar, so neither did I. Now I'm in the minority in my area--just about everyone else wears them. I think they look weird on me, so I continue to choose not to wear a collar. Though I do sometimes wish I owned one for protesting, I confess.

    If I did have to wear one, you can bet I'd be all over the most comfortable shirt option I could find, because I really hate having things around my neck, so the rest of the shirt better be really freaking awesome.

    (incidentally, the lutheran pastor in my town is also a woman who looks GREAT in a collar. lucky.)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Do you suppose our male colleagues ask that question, too? I surely asked it the one time I went out in public in a collar.
      Maybe our next mug should read, "Does this collar make my chin look big?"

      Delete
    2. Or "does this collar may my neck look short." - or totally disappear - which is my problem!

      Delete
  13. I'm an Episcopal priest, and wearing a collar is more common in our tradition than not. I wear a clergy shirt most days, rather like a uniform-- whenever I'm "on duty." It's not a matter of claiming authority, so much as a reminder that I am under authority. Most come from WomenSpirit-- good value, as they've worn well over the years.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Jane Ellen+, that's a great distinction. I hope you'll drop by the Facebook group discussion and share it there. Not claiming authority, but under authority...

      Delete
    2. Jane Ellen you raise a great point. My understanding is that the origins of the collar go back to the shackles of the slave, which makes the idea of wearing it quite different than claiming authority or privilege.

      Delete
  14. I wear a collar almost every Sunday and for services and visitations at hospitals and events...during the week I don't...in fact I often wear gym clothes during lunch! I like not having to choose! BUT I have never heard about Stitches of AYR and would love to learn more...they look very nice. Women's Spirit are great but so over priced unless you get them on sale.

    ReplyDelete
  15. I usually only wear a collar when officiating at funerals, weddings, baptisms or official community events. I have a short sleeve grey and black from Augsburg or Cokesbury - I like the Friar Tuck and Abbey. Yes, they are men's clergy shirts, since finding a plus size clergy women's shirt that fits the bust is not a simple thing. Perhaps, in recent years that has changed. I did try one once and it was still too snug. I prefer sleeves so that if I get warm, I can take the jacket or cardigan off and not expose my ample upper arms. It would be nice to have a women's shirt fit.
    When I was a prison chaplain, I made my own from regular blouses sewing down the collars - I had plaids and florals. This was back in the late '80's though. I also prefer cotton and natural fibers as they breathe better.
    As I remember, I was told once, "You look too young to be a minister," while wearing a collar. That was, of course, twenty years ago. I would love to hear that comment today!!!!!!!!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I wonder about fit, too. I'm short! If I wear a clerical blouse or shirt, I don't want to look like I'm doing dress-up from my grandfather's closet.

      Delete
    2. Martha -
      I often take mine to be altered once I get them - all of the ones I have ever ordered needed to be shortened since I hate tucking in. Most need some shaping because they are very boxy.
      Amy

      Delete
  16. Sources: WomenSpirit all the way! Beautiful clothing, good quality.

    As for whether it's unPresbyterian or not: this Presbyterian absolutely and unapologetically wears a collar when: presiding/ preaching on Sunday mornings; officiating at funerals/ weddings; occasionally when going to the hospital/ nursing home/ icu; when attending a protest or community event (such as our annual Pride Flag Raising) when it is incredibly important to bear witness to the fact that Christians, even people 'of the cloth', are in support of the agenda of inclusiveness.

    I believe it is mostly regional in nature. Lots of my Presby colleagues collar up in these parts. We have the freedom to choose what works liturgically-- which is, itself, very Presbyterian.

    ReplyDelete
  17. What a great discussion! Thanks for the anecdotes and the recommendations, and the theology, too.

    ReplyDelete
  18. As a retired Episcopal priest, I have worn the collared shirts for most of my career. At first it was to show that I was clergy. It was important to show that women could be priest in that culture. I like the idea of a uniform too since I am never confident on what to wear, but that comes from my old RC nunny days.

    But I do not like the division that it creates. There are times when I 'use' the collar as to witness for the Church. But the collar can be a confusing symbol these days. Many of the unchurched do not understand its symbol at all so the witness is mostly moot. However in this diocese, women have not been allowed to be ordained until 4 years ago, so the witness may still be necessary.

    The important thing is to learn how and when to "use" the collar. It has incredible power in churches that are unhesitatingly hierarchical. It is the hardest thing for a new priest to learn.

    Presently I have worn the collar on Sundays because my rector prefers that we do. But with his retirement, I am contemplating wearing civvies for the sake of the parish so that they can find the priesthood in themselves rather that in the ordained.

    ReplyDelete
  19. I wear a collar every Sunday and to 'high church' events such as ordinations. When I lead worship, weddings and funerals, I wear the collar. in my area, most of my colleagues are male and wear collars, more as a uniform, an instant connector and identifier.
    For me, I was a lay minister and the collar helped the transition from calling me my name to calling me Pastor. I wear casual dress clothes most of the time, but I always, when 'working', wear a clergy cross. As the pastor above, it helps me remember that I am serving, that I am under authority, not THE authority. The cross is a gentle reminder and I have different ones for different seasons of the church year...quite girly, I was told by a male colleague who wears the same one year round. :)
    I buy Friar Tuck as they are the most comfortable with my long waist and bosom. The Lydia (Augsburg Fortress) collared shirts are WAY to short and expect everyone to be proportioned like Barbie. I am so glad to hear of other sites to try; Not many females in my area to compare notes with so THANK YOU for this topic.
    I guess my real thoughts are that the Pastor is distinct in our calling, as is the electrician, the farmer, the teacher and as such, it is ok to denote that with our attire. It's not to overwhelm or off put someone, just to state, as the Sonic Carhop's shirt does, that I hold a certain calling right now and share that without words by my attire. It's ultimately one's presentation of self, as with any calling, that proclaims what you believe and how you live it out. The shirt can set the tone, but it's not the end of the song. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Wondering what a clergy cross looks like and where you get yours

      Delete
  20. Two stories:

    1) When I was getting ordained my husband wanted to buy me a collar as a gift. He called Friar Tuck and they said (quote): "No sir, we do not make clergyman shirts for women."

    2) I occasionally wore the above "clergyman" shirt -- for weddings and funerals. One time I had a fender bender and gently bumped the car ahead of me at a light. When I got out of the car, the other driver (who was a woman) became visibly flustered and said "Oh Father! Forget it!" and got back in her car and drove away!

    ReplyDelete
  21. I am expecting to buy one of these soon: http://www.spiritualapparel.com

    They are pricey, but the fact of the matter is that I don't like blouses at all, anywhichway or how. I'm a T-shirt, Turtleneck, sweater wearing gal--it's got to be soft and stretchy. So, while I have a handful of clergy blouses, I never wear them. I do have both an Almy dickie and a Womenspirit Janie, as well, but I manage to get them all twisted up and looking funny, so there you have it.

    I wear collars more in the summer than any other time, as I supply for a lot

    ReplyDelete
  22. I, too, am an Episcopal priest. When I was in full-time parish ministry, I wore a collar on the days I was serving at the altar or preaching--and to the hospital. Now that I work in a day shelter and serve as the diocese's Missioner to the Homeless, I wear a collar most of the time. Then again I work in a mostly Hispanic part of the world. I think folks here read a collar as a statement of compassion and concern on the part of the church.

    I wear a collar but I have NEVER worn a clergy shirt. At first I wore those "Dicky-Janies" from WomenSpirit. Then I had some made for me. Now I wear this lovely soft light-weight "Dicky-Janey" and attach a cotton broadcloth collar to it. It's all about comfort and the look of my wardrobe which I didn't want to change at ordination.

    ReplyDelete
  23. I own one rather ill-fitting clergy shirt, Episcopal collar. I only wear it (wore, as I'm not currently serving a church) in instances when a robe/stole combo was not a good choice: funeral home visitation, hospital/hospice/nursing home visitation,graveside in the dead of winter, or court. I suppose if I wore one daily it would need to be more of a t-shirt or shell variety, because I hate the way mine looks and feels.

    ReplyDelete
  24. I like the look of this shirt!

    I have a few womenspirit shirts that I wear on a few occasions. Visits to long-term care facilities, community events, and funerals to name a few. The place I have found the collar most useful is in the ICU and ER wards.

    I've been thankful to have such a simple visual cue that lets the family and friends know who I am and why I am there. It saves all of the awkward glances around the room to see if anyone else knows me. I get to skip all that and get right to the needs of the day.

    ReplyDelete
  25. I wear a collar when leading worship, or in situations where I need to be identified as a pastor. That said, I usually wear one once a week, unless there are special services or a funeral.

    I actually prefer the full collar to the tab collar - I've found I can wear one slightly bigger than my neck size which makes it more comfortable. Plus, the full collar looks better with my suits. I do wear both.

    I experimented with colored clericals, but I have found that black, white, and off-white work best for me, since I always wear the shirt under a sweater, jacket, or under a dress.

    If your'e a busty gal, stay away from Friar Tuck and Lydia - the shirts are cut much to straight for us! Finding large enough and roomy enough shirts in plus sizes has been next to impossible. Almost all my clericals have been purchased at the denominational warehouse sale or were on the seminary free table - alas, sources not available to me any longer!

    I've altered the free/cheap shirts to make my own dickies - men's shirts work great for this! I've got a couple where I've cut off the sleeves and the sides to make a true dickie (great, because they are a lot longer than a store bought dickie!), but my favorites were the ones where I took out the sleeves, and shortened the length. I did need to take a dart to close up the armholes a bit, but now I have dickie/shells to wear under jackets (better for changing into robes, and cooler than the sleeved shirts for under jackets.

    If you can find shirts with mandarin style collars, they work wonderfully for the full collars - you only have to add a button in the back. I found one shirt in that style at Lane Bryant last year, and snapped them up - they are the best fitting clerical shirts I own.

    Clergy Chicks (fb) had a thread with all sorts of information on how to convert regular blouses to clericals - which is where I got most of my information on how to do this.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Somewhere on the revgal facebook page, I did a "how to" convert a women's blouse to a clergy shirt - it's easy to do.

      Delete
  26. As an ordinand dreading the (probably required of me in due course) adoption of clerical wear, this has been an interesting thread for me to read.

    A friend of mine recently got some clericals here: http://www.casualpriest.com/tops/
    They're expensive, but - unsusually, at least for us ladies in the uk - they're absolutely lovely!

    Another site well worth a look on this subject is http://beautytipsforministers.com

    ReplyDelete
  27. As an RN who loved her scrubs, a black clergy shirt and comfortable black slacks work for me any day I am working. I like the cotton sleeveless WomenSpirit shirt - I change out the jackets I wear over it to add color and texture. I am curious about the one pictured above - if it is made of the travel knit material, I might have to try one.

    I just wore one to lunch yesterday with Sarah Miller to show her how hideous the sleeves on it are- got it from Wipple - asked for 3/4 sleeves and got them. They are gathered around a cuff - very precious - ugh. The shirt fits OK though so I will take it and have it altered.

    Almy shells are OK but tend to wear out after about a year of daily wear - and I have to have those altered to shorten and shape them. That adds about $30 to each shirt. The material is thin.

    I am very picky - and I admit it.

    ReplyDelete
  28. As a Lutheran seminarian, I wear a black clergy shirt every time that I preach. Also, as a young woman, I tend to be mistaken for a college student or much younger than I am, so if I am functioning in a leadership capacity, I always wear clericals. My shirts have come from Women Spirit (knit blouse with 3/4 sleeves is my favorite), but this site, https://www.facebook.com/clergyimage, is great as well.

    I haven't ordered from this site, https://www.facebook.com/houseofilonaclergy, but they have some interesting designs.

    ReplyDelete
  29. I am an Episcopal priest and wear a collar (Anglican) every work day. WomenSpirit isn't bad. I've converted mock turtleneck knit shirts and I've also worn dickeys or Janies under knit v-neck shirts (like the ones Chico's sells with 3/4 sleeves). I've found that I get more info and more respect when I am dressed in my clergy shirt at hospitals and at government offices.

    ReplyDelete
  30. I have one of these http://www.spiritualapparel.com The only thing I don't like about it is that it says to spot clean only and I found it impossible to keep it clean that way....I actually put it in the washing machine now in a lingerie bag. Since I lost weight I find it virtually impossible to find a shirt that fits plus this lets me wear a greater variety of outfits. I've also worn the janie from Women's Spirit which is okay, For me, the dickie from Almy is useless---doesn't stay wehre it is supposed to.

    I live near the Almy showroom, and the sale people there told me recently that Almy hired a designer and will be coming out with a new line of women's shirts in the fall. Their track record so far isn't so great, but we'll see....

    Like Jane Ellen, wearing a collar reminds me that I am under authority--reminds me whose I am. And for me, wearing a collar has opened the door to some fascinating conversations that i wouldn't have had otherwise.

    ReplyDelete
  31. Per my tradition (Episcopal) I always wear a collar (neckband style) when doing anything sacramental or liturgical, though for less formal situations I've worn clergy shirts w/jeans. I often wear it out in public; I believe it reminds people that the church is a presence in the local community, and helps me remember who I am and what I am about. It also lets people know that women do exercise ordained leadership in the church. Most of my clergy apparel is from WomenSpirit.

    I once went into a local Starbucks wearing clericals. The barista looked at me and said, "Wow! You look just like a minister!"

    ReplyDelete
  32. As an Episcopal priest, I wear clergy shirts on the days that I'm at church or working in a church capacity. On days off I wear whatever I want. Some of my shirts are tab but most are full collar. I have shirts I like from Women Spirit (3/4 sleeve, sleeveless), from Clergy Image (she has a Facebook page), and from Stitches of Ayr.

    ReplyDelete

You don't want to comment here; instead, come visit our new blog, revgalblogpals.org. We'll see you there!

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.