31 days: wardrobe

Being the Pastor’s Wife means you’re under a microscope of sorts, especially if your husband is the Pastor in a small town. I remember having a conversation with one of my dear friends whose husband is an officer in the Marines about wardrobe and how we as wives portray our husbands. It’s a sad reality, but it’s true. She said that when she’s out in public on base, she has to make sure she’s not dressed in her gym clothes or even her pajama bottoms. I thought it was silly, until I realized that it’s the same thing for me now. Society sees us wives as representatives of our husbands and so we must at the least dress the part, not to mention act the part (another post in the future).

This has been a big adjustment to me as most of my days now are spent at home, so I rarely get “dressed” unless I know that I’m going to be out and about. I typically can be seen at my house in shorts and a t-shirt, sometimes even just gym shorts and yoga pants. Now that I’m pregnant again, and I’m mourning the idea of wearing maternity clothes again, at least for the moment, I really just want to wear yoga pants and t-shirts all the time.

Since 2006 I have worked in a church setting that prided itself on “come as you are” style of worship, meaning we encouraged people to wear whatever they want. Although on staff for many years, if I felt like wearing jeans to church, I did. If I felt like dressing up, I did. If I felt like wearing shorts & a youth t-shirt (as a youth leader), I did. When I took the position at the church in Charlotte, I both wore a robe when I was leading worship (meaning what I wore didn’t matter all that much) and I was pregnant so I was in maternity clothes for most of my time there. After we left the staff positions, the church where we worshipped for several months was very much “come as you are” in that even the pastor wore jeans on most Sundays, so we could wear whatever we wanted. This came in handy to me since most of my clothes were in storage (pending the move to KY) and being post-baby I wore khaki shorts and a cute top for Easter Sunday.

Right now the weather is early Fall weather, meaning that it might be very cold when you leave the house but by the time church is over, it’s nice and warm. This makes wardrobes quite the challenge, especially when there is the very real possibility that you will be wearing your son at some point during the service since it’s his nap time. This past Sunday I decided on a maxi-dress and short sweater, then realized that my feet would be cold in sandals so I put on my pink Toms. Yes, I chose to wear Toms to church. The outfit worked well together, but I kept thinking…I’m the pastor’s wife and I’m wearing Toms to church. But hey, then again I thought, at least we’re all dressed, fed and out the door on time without a stinky diaper or any major food wearings this morning. It’s a trade-off, right?

One of the younger congregants came up to me and actually thanked me for wearing my Toms to church on Sunday since she was wearing hers. She said that if the preacher’s wife was doing it, then she felt better about doing it herself.

It got me thinking…since when did we become so stuck on what we wear for church? Isn’t the purpose of worship to focus on God and not each other or ourselves? Don’t we “robe” our choir and our Pastors so that the focus is on what they are delivering rather than what they are wearing? (On a side note, one thing I love about my husband as Pastor is that he chooses not to wear a robe on Sundays, rather he wears slacks with a shirt and a stole.)

In seminary we ladies were always discouraged from wearing anything red while in the pulpit, especially if it was going to be visible even while wearing the robe. Yet, the gentlemen could wear bow ties and bright ties if they wanted, which were still visible under the robe. Why is what a woman wears such a hot topic of conversation?

Wardrobe is something that I struggle with on a day-to-day basis because I tend to think about as we buy clothes for Luke and on the rare times that I go shopping now. I do feel that Luke needs to be dressed better than his normal rompers for Sundays since he is in the spotlight as well. Despite the reality that he will probably drool all over the clothes, he’s crawling all over the floors and when we eat, he gets food and milk/juice all over his shirts, too, I still feel that he should be dressed in his “Sunday best” for church each week. And of course, on the days he does go to school, he’s in his cuter rompers than when we stay at home the other days of the week. I do want to seem put together, even if it is only in the outfit Luke, hubby or I are wearing.

Why are appearances so important to us as a society? If we don’t dress well enough we’re talked about it, and if we over-dress we’re talked about as well. We’ve seen during the political conventions that the candidate’s wives were critiqued for their wardrobes, even down to the amount of money each spent on the clothes. I’m afraid that we focus so much on what others wear, and even what we wear ourselves, because we are insecure and uncomfortable with ourselves. I know that for me, trying to make sure we all look put together is part of my insecurity of not seeming like I have a handle on myself and my role as mom. Now that I’m the Pastor’s wife, I feel somewhat insecure about my ability to appropriately represent my husband, so one way that I feel I can do it fairly well is in how I dress…even if “just be yourself” really does mean jeans and a t-shirt…on a Sunday morning.

What are your thoughts about wardrobe, representing yourself and others, and how to dress for worship?

7 thoughts on “31 days: wardrobe

  1. Just studied this in Matthew 6 yesterday (so timely and a great reminder for my tendency to want what I don’t need):
    28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

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  2. I am loving this series. I remember debating many years ago whether I could wear knee-high boots to church as the youth minister’s wife. And now that we have left our casual come-as-you-are church for a more formal one, I once again find myself debating whether I need to step up my sons’ wardrobes (my daughter’s dresses are just easier). I experience less pressure since I am just the Associate Pastor’s wife (and since our pastor is a female), and I have a feeling that most of it is in my head, but I would be lying to say that I don’t struggle with it each week.

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    1. Thanks for following and reading along…your thoughts and comments are very helpful to me, too. If you think of any topics you’d like me to mull over, let me know and I’ll see what I have to say about them. I’m sure I can find something…

      I think you have a bit more leeway in your situation with a female pastor (I’d love to know where you are…) since she’s really the one “on the chopping block” so to speak, but I agree with the comment that it’s in our heads. There is something about representing the husband that makes me stop and think a bit longer and harder than I would have if it was just me. But then again, I we also have just left a very ugly church situation where the pastor’s wife was essentially useless and I want to be considered a better wife than what we experienced.

      Again…it’s in my head, but somehow I feel my heart tugging at me about it, too.

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      1. I am loving your series! I just read days 3 and 4 and wanted to cry. You have an amazing gift of capturing very human struggles. And your write-up on permission is exactly what I needed today as I struggle with very selfish thoughts on why my job always seems secondary.

        We’re part of a Baptist Church in Virginia. It is certainly easier for me with a female pastor as I can often use her for cues, be it in attire, family care, etc. (It also helps that she attended college with us and we have children of similar ages.)

        We had an experience several years ago with a very ugly church situation. It took a while to return to church ministry after experiencing being the outsiders, but God has healed us in his time. And when this church opportunity arose, it was completely unexpected and threw us for a whirlwind, but it was also right. But now, being back in church ministry and still with the scars of the past, I find your posts to be a daily blessing. Thank you for taking the time to share.

        And on a frivolous note, we spent part of my childhood in Hawaii where church attire was always casual. So after returning, my mother never got us back into shirt/ties and pantyhose. I still struggle with wearing shoes. 😉

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  3. I think it depends on the church where M is working. Is it a formal church? Will the congregants take offense if you’re dressed in jeans or a less dressy dress (or Toms)? If they will, then I think to some degree you have to follow the norm out of respect for the congregation you’ve joined. But if they are leaning towards a more lax form of worship, then I doubt you will be looked down upon.

    The idea that you are an extension of your husband is one worthy of thought, though, for me. I hadn’t ever really looked at it that way!

    Full disclosure: I think men should be in coat and tie and women dressed up equally for worship, so the idea of jeans in church makes me cringe 🙂 To each their own!

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    1. I am not one bit surprised, Crist, that you feel dressing up is necessary…afterall, we did both come from the same church background. I do love the idea and love to get dressed up, I’ve just been so accustomed now to the very lax “come as you are” for the last 6+ years that it’s hard to break out of the mold.

      The church is a mixture. There are not formal, per se, but they are more traditional. However, it’s a small town and a mixed blue/white collar congregation. Some dress up, some dress up A LOT, some never have matching clothes, and we’ve even had an elder serve communion in boots & jeans.

      I will not go to the jeans extreme here, but I do find myself making sure that Luke is dressed in his nicer clothes (to the point that I’ve been complimented on how he’s always dressed so nicely – by an older man!) and I’m thankful that I have parents with access to places like Bumble & Little Lambs to help with clothing him.

      I guess my major frustration right now is that I WAS still between wardrobes and working my way back down into my pre-baby skirts & more dresses, but now that I’m back to being “with child,” I need to look at shopping for a cooler fall/winter of dressier maternity clothes and the idea depresses me at the moment. Call me crazy, but I don’t like shopping for sweaters, etc. in the maternity sizes…

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