Back by popular demand, here is the second installment of the Sacrament Meeting Edition of “What Not to Wear” – Women’s Edition.
Hopefully we all had some time to get the last threadjack discussion out of our systems. Obviously there are some who find it entirely inappropriate to discuss fashion tips for church. If this is you, join the discussion in Part I. The horse may be dead, but you might find people to kick it with you. Still, I can’t wait to see what we can turn this post into.
I will start again with my disclaimers (with some added explanation) about my perspective on what is and is not appropriate for church:
1. I attend a small ward in Queens, NY. I am just happy that people actually show up at church and personally could not care less about what they are wearing. For some reason, on the last post this made me a hypocrite, but I still stand by this statement.
2. I believe appropriateness is relative. It is based on, among other factors, age, geographic location, body type, and personality. These things make it particularly hard to give any fashion advice to a diverse group of women such as those I know read T&S. This is also why you can really only judge your own appropriateness for any occasion.
3. To me, appropriateness doesn’t necessarily come down to the appropriateness of each piece in the outfit; it comes from the sum of all the parts, including overall grooming and cleanliness. This rule will come into play when I deal with the whole t-shirt, denim and flip-flop issue.
4. Based on the comments to the welcome post, many people visiting this site might find what I choose to wear to church completely inappropriate. I wear denim. I wear flip-flops. I wear ponytails. I wear t-shirts. And much to my mother’s chagrin, I never wear pantyhose.
5. For me, “Sunday Best”, means putting effort into my dress and appearance. Because of my firm belief in the power clothing has on mindset, preparing myself physically is one aspect of my spiritual preparation for church.
Now, with all that said, I went through all the past comments from the women and hopefully I can answer some of you questions and hand out some free fashion advice. Please use this advice with care as I do not want to be blamed for the downfall of Zion (at least not again).
-T-shirts: I am not sure what everyone else here would define as a t-shirt so I am not quick to say “No T-shirts”. Save any shirt with words, stains, or holes for the weekdays or Saturday. A “t-shirt” that is fitted (mostly meaning the shoulder seams fall at the shoulders) and is not of the Hanes Undershirt variety, can definitely work if some attention is given to other details like: jewelry and other accessories, skirt choice, shoe choice, and a possible third piece (sweater, jacket, vest, etc.). I don’t think a t-shirt works with a denim skirt, flip-flops and ponytail. Casual + casual + casual + casual = way too casual for church. There are also a ton of knit shirts (which some would think are t-shirts) out there with beautiful embellishments that look just as nice as any button up shirt.
-Denim: I love denim. I wear denim to church. I won’t condemn it. But we also must remember — All denim is not created equal. The classic “jean style” denim is similar to the t-shirt issue because by itself, it can be very casual and should not be worn with other casual pieces. I have this great dark denim blazer that actually adds respectability to any outfit (my husband also own this great wool/denim suit which is not the dressiest suit in his closet, but is still classy.)
-It is really hard to find modest dresses (especially in the summer). In the winter, opt for a cropped cardigan or wrap sweater worn over a sleeveless dress. Don’t wear a t-shirt under a sleeveless dress (very ’90’s YW)–unless it is a jumper style.
-Oh, I almost forgot–don’t wear jumpers. I don’t care what your body shape, they are just not attractive. On a practical note, they do make a good nursery worker uniform.
-It is really easy to find skirts of modest length right now. So pick up some basics that will last a few years (through the dry spell when hemlines move up) as well as some “fashiony” ones.
-Now is the time to buy yourself a blazer. They come in a wide variety of fabrics, colors and prices. A blazer can dress up jeans during the week as well as give your church outfit a confidence boost when you have to teach R.S. or give a talk in sacrament meeting (a “third piece” of clothing can give the wearer some perceived “authority”).
-If a suit feels too “corporate”, try breaking it apart and mixing it with other pieces in your wardrobe: Wear the jacket with a soft floral skirt, or the skirt with an embellished sweater.
-Buy and wear clothing that is the right size – no matter what kind of clothes they are. Don’t just go by the size on the label. There are no sizing standards set up in the fashion industry so that basically means that every company can decide what a size 8 means. So try things on!
Hosiery and footwear
-There was definitely a time when bare legs were just not acceptable (which is why my mom has a hard time with mine–but last time I talked to her, she is coming to grips with it). Nowadays, it is much more acceptable with some caveats: bare legs should be clean-shaven, properly moisturized and free of any scrapes, bruises, etc. If your legs don’t fall into this category on a Sunday morning, put on pantyhose or tights (if it’s summer, I would opt for a lightweight, long skirt instead). My own advice just got me thinking I should have worn a long skirt last week to church when I had about 200 chigger bites all over my feet and ankles from girls camp – my legs were SCARY.
-While I hate pantyhose, I love tights (in the fall and winter). You can find them in a wide range of colors, patterns and textures which makes them great (and inexpensive) way to update any classic wardrobe piece.
-Just like my advice to the men, never underestimate the power of your shoes. Make sure your shoes are clean and your boots and dressy shoes are polished.
-Let’s talk about flip-flops. I have already admitted that I wear them. Most of the time, they will look far too casual for church but can be less “offensive” when worn with really long skirts in the summer where they will not get too much attention. Never wear flip-flops with a denim skirt and t-shirt!
-Dr. Marten shoes (I think this issue is pretty regional-don’t hate me UT-based family): I understand that they are comfortable, and they last forever, but they can look just as casual as flip-flops (especially when paired with denim and khaki – and they don’t really go with anything else). They are also not flattering to the female leg. If you must wear them, take the flip-flop advice and wear them with long skirts.
-One of the best things a woman can do for herself is to buy a great pair of high heels. I am not talking about spikes, or chunkies, or super-uncomfortable strappies; just a great classic pair of heels (you will usually get the most wear out of black ones). Heels not only make a women’s legs look great, they require the wearer to have better posture and walk with a more “ladylike” stride.
-I believe accessories to be the easiest way to dress up any outfit. There is no ironing, polishing, washing or drying involved. They are also the most inexpensive way to liven up the clothing already hanging in your closet.
-If you have holes in your ears, fill them with a nice pair of earrings.
-To “dress-up” a plain t-shirt, wear a necklace with a large pendant.
-A long, colorful, fabric scarf is a great and versatile accessory. Wear it in your hair, as a belt, around your neck, tie it on your bag–the possibilities are endless.
-If you must wear your hair in a ponytail, ditch the scrunchie, plain elastic, or anything else you might pull from your seven-year-old daughter’s hair accessory drawer. Lower the ponytail to the nape of the neck and use a nice clip or a more sophisticated embellished elastic (like a flower or rhinestones). This will make the ponytail look more deliberate (even if you did it because you ran out of time to do anything else).
Keeping clothes clean
Now that I have been a mom for three years, I understand how practical it is to have clothing that is easy to take care of– this is mostly evidenced by all the “dry-clean only” dresses and skirts that have been slowly pushed to the very rear of my tiny closet and now hang with my leather jeans (another item that does not mix very well with children). But being a mom does not mean that we have to be reduced to sweatpants during the week and denim, khaki and t-shirts for church. There are plenty of things available that are washable and dryable that can look really nice. They might require pulling out the iron (which I hate just as much as the next person), but it won’t kill anyone. It will also take a little more planning. If we could all take a moment to sing the Primary song titled “Saturday”. It is a great reminder that preparations for Sunday worship include very temporal things (although I think the idea of “brushing” your clothes is a little outdated).
My other advice on keeping clothes clean is to work on becoming a stain-fighting champion. I take great pride in my ability to get out almost any stain I am faced with. It takes a lot of practice, trial and error. Here is where to start:
1. Treat stains immediately
2. Look to make sure a stain is gone before putting it into the dryer (aka: stain setter)
3. Carry around Shout Wipes . At the least, they buy you time on stain treatment if you are out and about.
4. If you are not sure how to treat a stain you can try this site (I like the homespun ideas best).
Once you become more confident in your “stain fighting” you will feel more comfortable wearing nicer clothing when you have children.
My final advice to the men was basically — go shopping. I based this advice on what I think is a very valid stereotype of men – they don’t like to go clothes shopping. Thus, they are content to run their clothes into the ground in order to avoid having to actually step into a store. Once again, I am going to stereotype and say that women generally enjoy shopping, but don’t do it for other reasons (can’t find the time, like to buy things for their children instead, poor body image, etc, etc). Whatever the reason, my advice is still the same, get out and go shopping. The more you can take a quick look around the stores, the more likely you are to: find a good deal, discover the sometimes elusive, cute, modest clothes, and generally soak up the visual fashion information that will help you form new outfits from the clothes already in your closet.
My last thought: Whether or not you are “into” fashion, everyone must realize that clothing speaks. It is an effective tool for shaping others perceptions and your own attitude. If we all try to have this in mind as we get dressed for church each Sunday, I think we will all be able to make more appropriate choices in our church attire apart from any specific fashion advice I or anyone else may give.
P.S. I posted a comment regarding “mommy clothes” here. Add those tips to the ones about accessories here, and you will be well on your way to avoiding SAHM “frumpiness”.