A couple weeks ago I was officiating a wedding. It was blast! But it was such a conundrum figuring out what to wear. And in talking with other women preachers there are a series of wardrobe issues that men don’t have to think about, but are a part of every women’s speaking experience. So here are a series of issues that women preachers must consider.
The Preaching Bra– Though I am ardently committed to spreading the word on the importance of a well fitting bra, this is not about that. This is about the fact that no woman preacher wants to “smuggle grapes” when she is preaching. This is my friend Ana’s way of describing nipples showing through a shirt. There are already so many gender issues to consider when preaching and in Christian circles anything that reminds people that you have breasts is a crime. Nipple shadow while preaching is to the Christian context what Janet Jackson’s infamous Super Bowl wardrobe malfunction was to secular world. So step one is making sure you are wearing a hefty bra that will not let anything peak through.
Women who have recently smuggled grapes.
No dude is pondering nipple issues when picking his preaching outfit. Because there are essentially two things that men preach in. ( I’m not going to get into different cultural takes on this issue in this post.)
Casual Preacher Guy and Formal Preacher Guy
I’m amusing myself by using Mark Driscoll and Joel Olsteen as my examples.
Next up- Pants suit or dress? This is for more traditional preaching context such as churches and conferences. I don’t feel this ponderous when preaching at the average InterVarsity Large Group meeting.
Pants suit. The problem with this is that it’s easy to look a bit maculine. And looking butch is almost as great a crime as nipple shadow in traditional contexts. You want to be authoritative, but not masculine. Feminine, but not girly. Dressing for preaching requires threading a LOT of needles. And especially as a younger woman, a pants suit can feel like being David in Saul’s armor. ( Love how I just made an OT reference in the midst of a post on lady fashion.) Plus I’m scarred by how much flack Hillary got for all her pants suits. But pants with a blouse can be an option.
The skirt suit is also a possibility. But that makes me feel way over 40 and like a Republican candidates wife. And I’m not rich, I’m in ministry, so I don’t have a budget for a beautifully tailored outfit.
And you want to be age appropriate. Not too old and not too young.
Sorry Joyce Meyer- you went too casual and too young.
So lets say you pick a dress. But when wearing a dress there are a variety of factors. It can’t be too frilly or dressy- it needs to be professional. How short is too short? Will you be on a raised stage? Will people in the front row be able to see up your dress? Should you wear panty hose? Is this pump too dressy, too flashy, too “I’m superficial and into the flesh?”
And a final consideration- to show arms or not to show arms. If people can be scandalized by Michelle Obama showing arms, you know people in the church can too. I felt like it was important to cover my shoulders when officiating ( no gripe there, I’m down with dressing conservatively for that context.) But finding a dress that covers your arms and doesn’t make you look like a nun is… difficult.
Now of course a skirt and blouse are also an option and it’s a good option for the following reason.
Lets say you have chosen a professional, conservative, but still stylish dress of some sort. You have made the decision about how much arm to show and put on your preaching bra. And then the sound guy hands you the microphone and tells you to clip the battery pack to your waist. Sorry hombre, I’m not wearing pants. I have no place to clip this thing. You gaze into each others eyes trying to make it clear that you think this is the other persons problem to solve.
If you have gone with a blouse and skirt or blouse and pants option there is always the awkward decision of where to place the microphone. If you rock anything larger than a C cup it can feel like a lapel mic is a device created to draw attention to your bosom. If you’re wearing a silk blouse, the mic will flop around and there will be lots of awkward swishing noises. You will look down at the mic, and then you and the congregation will all be gazing at your bosom- a beautiful analogy for resting on the bosom of the Lord.
And even if you pick the perfect outfit. What about sitting down?
Recently I attended a conference where all the men preached- standing up. But then when two women speakers came out they brought out two comfy living room type chairs and the women sat. I have a lot of problems with this approach to speakers. Men stand and preach truth. Women sit and have little Jesus chats. But that’s beside this particular point.
Lets say that you have been chosen to be on a panel. A dress that is great when you are standing becomes a suggestive, leg revealing, skank festival when you sit down.
Looks like this.
Sitting on a stool is tricky. You have to cross your legs if you are wearing a skirt just to make sure that you don’t pull a Britney Spears panty flash. But when you cross your legs, suddenly that tasteful dress is up on your mid thigh. HARLOT!
And if you’ve got any upper thigh cottage cheese issue, you will spend the rest of the time trying to tuck your thigh and ass fat back under your leg- in the name of Jesus.
There are a lot of other issues on this topic; ethnicity, jewelry, hair, shoes, and modesty. But this is my first pass. Do you have any lady leader wardrobe issues? Tell me about them!