Saturday, September 02, 2006

A Word on Shopping

Jinnis writes that she finds she spends a lot less money shopping when she only buys things she absolutely loves.

YES! Right on, Jin!

While it's not fun to schlep around shopping and to come home empty-handed, it is eminently worth it for your wallet, your confidence, and your closet to only purchase items that really work for you, that make you feel terrific, and that fit beautifully (or that will fit beautifully with the help of your tailor).

If you loathe shopping and would rather head out once a year and pile a bunch of serviceable items onto the check-out counter rather than take the time and effort to find truly lovely garments, consider this: shopping can be a good time to observe humanity, to check in with pop culture trends, and to cast your pastoral attention beyond the confines of your own parish. Shopping time can be an opportunity to let your visual sense override your verbal sense for a couple of hours (something that I find helpful to my creative process), and to just stroll around and empty your mind for a bit.

Not so bad, eh?

16 Comments:

Anonymous Plip Plop said...

Peacebang, what if you're newly out of seminary and have only had the funds to buy the most basic essentials? With limited budget, as well as time and inclination for shopping, what do you consider the most basic wardrobe requirements for the religious professional?

8:49 PM  
Blogger Chelle said...

I don't know what PB is going to say, but may I recommend a nice twinset in a color that you like and a pair of black slacks.

Even though I'm not a religious professional, I wore this exact outfit on my very first interview after leaving college.

As for the rest, you need at least one casual dress, one dressier dress, bottoms (whether that be pants or skirts) in black, navy and a neutral, tops in white, off-white, black, and red to start, and blazers in black, navy, white, off-white and a neutral.

Depending on where you are, if you can find time to go to a nice department store that has a women's professional section and find 3-piece suits in black, navy, neutral, you'll be off to a really good start. Just make sure the 3 pieces are a blazer, skirt and pants (unless you prefer dresses to skirts).

10:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As one who has spent far too little attention and time on shopping and all these other associated topics, and I'm talking decades of low priority, I have all the bad habits -- especially rushing out in a state of desperation, akin to shopping when frantically hungry, and buying an armload of whatever comes closest to a fit. Another big sin has been buying something based on it being seriously marked down, a poor pattern encouraged by the old Filene's Basement system. Recently in need to something to wear in a new church where it just won't work to throw my academic robe on every week, I started hunting the sale section at Nordstrom. I realized there was a reason why those clothes were on sale. Turning over a new leaf, I decided not to pay attention to price tags and just focus on what looked and felt best, something that really met the need for Sunday morning. I did find a good substitute for an academic robe, a Misook black knit dress and a knit jacket for it. Whoa, the pair cost more than the average annual pledge in my new not-an-academic-robe type church. So now I understand when I've heard people say that they "invest" in wardrobe basics. OK, now that I have something to wear, we can get to work increasing the average pledge.

4:44 AM  
Anonymous jinnis said...

plip plop, I concurr with chelle's recommendations on basics. I am always on the hunt for twinsets in cuts and colors that I like. Fortunately, the choices often are so limited and such sweaters are on tables, not buried in racks, it doesn't take long to scan the selection.

As for tops, I try to choose ones that can go under a blazer and be worn alone. Lightweight fine gauge sweaters go a long way for me.

With regard to cost - I found most of my basics in the Worthington line at JCPenney's. Not that I am a fan of polyester (and so I avoid it like the plague in my tops) but it is very washable and long wearing and the Worthington line has all the basics of skirts and jackets in a few different cuts. Now is the time for a trip as they seem to have a series of sales for back to school shopping. I just replenished my tired closet and I picked up a very excellent black trench to top it all off.

If you like the lighter colors and weights, taking a little time to go through the clearance racks can be a good source of a few pieces. While I agree that most items are there for a reason (or two or three), I find that it is worth my time and money to scan through those racks first. The other day I picked up a lovely summer dress that is good for work and play well into a Southwestern fall. The only reason I could see for its place on discount was mislabeling as a smaller size petite, rather than the true size (much larger!) If you are lucky, sometimes there are really great finds for very little money.

9:58 AM  
Blogger Psalmist said...

Plip plop, please don't neglect shoes on your essentials list! While I generally find nothing much that I can use clothes-wise at Ross and very little at TJ Maxx, you can find good shoes there. Yes, they'll be from the previous season or two, but if they're classic, that's OK. My thought is, better a year out of date but classic and well-crafted, than brand-new trendy but poorly made. For the same or only a little more than you'd spend at Payless, you can find well-crafted shoes that will last a long time. I'm partial to Aigner and have gotten my one pair of basic black, navy, and taupe Aigner pumps at Ross many times over the years. Some of the better brands dump their discontinued styles at Ross or TJ Maxx, even though they're still classic (gotta push the "new" classic style!) But it all depends on your personal style if "classic" cuts it for you. If you wear a robe or alb, my opinion is, you MUST have a good pair of black pumps that are not super-trendy but also not frumpish. They need to be comfy enough to make it through the morning service, the grip-n-grin, the potluck lunch afterward, a meeting or two, and (depending on your theological zone) an evening service. I've heard of women who keep a pair of shoes like this in their church offices and only wear them to preach in; one I knew said hers were ten years old! (That's pushing it, even for classic styles!) So my advice is, settle on a style that works for you (doing online research at Zappos, 6pm, and shoes.com might help), then look for the best quality you can afford; don't be too proud to look in the "markdown" stores. You will look professional, and your feet and your bank account WILL thank you.

I concur with Chelle on the twinset and a "wardrober" suit. Those five pieces alone plus one white blouse will yield lots of different outfits. The great thing is, working within the classic pieces you can still find wonderfully up-to-date styles. We can't all afford a cashmere jewel neck twinset (I know I sure can't!). However, I've seen nicely crafted cotton twinsets that are definitely NOT your grandma's sweaters, yet they'll still be wearable next year if you care for them well.

Also, Jinnis is right about Worthington, especially when Penney's puts that line on sale (frequently). I'm at the smallish end of the women's petite sizes, which means it's hard to find clothes that fit, but I've even found women's petite sweaters in the Worthington line. The quality is always consistent--never super-great, but nothing's ever fallen apart, either. If you're in your mid-twenties you may find Worthington REALLY boring, but if you want classic lines and reliable clothes that don't cost a lot, it's hard to beat.

11:08 AM  
Anonymous plip plop said...

Oh my heavens. I haven't thought about wearing any of these suggested clothes since my friend Shira went shopping with me in second hand clothing stores to dress me up for my very first Radical Faerie gathering. I mean, I don't even do drag on Hallowe'en.

Although with that said, everytime you put on any clothing, you're putting on drag.

Ladies, Plip Plop Le Chevre is a man. As much as he cherishes and nurtures his fey spirit, there's little chance of him wearing dresses to church.

Interesting, isn't it, how so few men seem interested in the way they adorn themselves, how inelegant and careless in their self-presentation! Isn't it men who need Mother PeaceBang's ministry the most? Is it true that her readers are all female? Or presumed female?

Sigh. I suppose I must be happy with my one navy blazer, khakis, grey flannel dress pants, white shirt, black shoes and three ties.

Thanks for the tips, though. I just hope Worthington's has my size--when Shira and I go shopping together again.

2:45 PM  
Blogger Chelle said...

oh dear plip plop.....don't think that Mother PB won't have some ideas for you.

You've got a good start...but there are a few more things you need.

Here are some:
-One complete suit in black
-Navy pants to match the navy blazer (I am assuming you didn't get the pants)
-Chinos in black, navy, neutral
-Dress shirts in black and chambray

What color are the ties you have?

3:35 PM  
Blogger Psalmist said...

So sorry, Plip plop! Shame on me for making a WRONG assumption!

Psalmist <--(red with embarrassment)

5:40 PM  
Blogger Psalmist said...

OK, now that I'm getting over my embarrassment, let me put the men's spin on my comment about shoes. Please do choose one pair of good black shoes, preferably oxfords, the best quality you can afford, and care for them well. One thing I noticed over and over at ministers' meetings was the carelessness many men had concerning their shoes. Otherwise well-turned-out men ruined their appearance with scuffed and/or too-casual shoes. Here in Texas, cowboy boots are very common for the men, and everyday, that's fine (provided they're shined and clean)...but NOT for funerals or weddings, ever. One man I worked with had been out of the military for almost 20 years, yet he insisted on wearing his Corfam (fancy word for patent leather) low quarters (military for oxfords) every time I ever saw him. I saw an even longer-retired minister in my own church do that just yesterday when he filled in for our vacationing pastor. Ugh!

I concur on the black suit as a necessity, even if you wear it only for weddings and funerals. Having my funeral suit ready was a real blessing to me...saved much time and worry. Good suit and accessories always fresh and in their place, good suit-matching shoes polished at the ready, one emergency change-of-underthings fresh in their little area, and I was set for nearly any formal service, no matter how dire my laundry hamper was. I even saved one more casual outfit as my "middle of the night emergency" outfit for the same reason. Saved my hide once.

I'm glad to know that you ARE concerned about your appearance, Plip Plop. I think both male and female ministers should take care to look their best. And believe me, I'll take better care in future to not assume someone is female here at Chez PeaceBang. Again, my apologies.

6:03 PM  
Anonymous jinnis said...

Whoops! Let me add to the chorus of apologies for gender assumption.

To add to the suggestions for menswear, you might check out the local outlet mall where there are many different labels in one place. That way, you can try a variety of styles as well as get some basics. Just this evening, my spouse and I went through Van Hausen, Geoffrey Beene, and Eddie Bauer. The outlet mall here really does carry goods at great discounts, so there is hope! We picked up ties at one store and shirts at another very quickly. Once you find a store that seems to be a good match for you in style and color, then you have a better chance of ordering online on an as-needed basis rather than going to the store.

Also about shoes - it is worth the investment to find two pairs - black and brown - from a company that is known for quality and in a design where the soles can be replaced. Rockports with welted Vibram soles are a great combination. When well cared-for, the only additional cost for the next several years will be that of replacing the soles. My spouse and I happened to find such shoes at the church thrift store.

And speaking of thrift stores, see what is around for such places in the wealthier neighborhoods in your area. I never cease to be amazed at what appears on the racks of gently used clothing shops in the more well-heeled neighborhoods.

11:40 PM  
Anonymous jinnis said...

And a final thought - a classic white shirt is always in style. Buy a lot of them! I think they add a subtle divine glow whenever worn by clergy. ;)

11:45 PM  
Anonymous plip plop said...

Thanks for this great advice! As for lots of white shirts: what do all y'all think about blue dress shirts? My lover, of blessed memory, used to forbid me from wearing them. He said only bankers should wear blue shirts under coat and tie.

7:26 PM  
Blogger PeaceBang said...

Plip, you can pair a blue dress shirt with a gorgeous, vibrant floral tie or something. No banker could pull THAT off, but a minister can. Especially a naughty little goat.

7:30 PM  
Blogger Chelle said...

oh my.....I think colored shirts are very nice.....of course, that might be because I'm looking for a light purple one for my father at the moment. :-)

10:33 PM  
Blogger Caroline Divine said...

Dear Plip Plop,

I think blue shirts are divine. They have that "I care enough not just to wear white shirts, but I'm not totally in your face with fashion either" look and they manage to be both warm and crisp, to this pair of eyes anyway. And as PeaceBang has note, they pair wonderfully with interesting ties.

I must confess also a fondness for banded-collar shirts, and not because they are vaguely reminiscent of clericals -- in fact they are not for me, which is interesting since I'm from a tradition where people wear clerical collars. I just think they look neat and sexy (in an understated sort of way -- again, the ministerial boundaries thing) and if they are nicely pressed and the proper fit, and in a good fabric, they eliminate the tie dilemma. Of course sometimes one needs a tie -- funerals, more formal calls, depending on your tradition and also your location (think about the difference between such cities as Portland and Atlanta!) but I think having a few banded-collar shirts around is a good option. They can be various shades of blue, off-white or beige, also very nice in a blue and white stripe.

And the regular-collar blue shirt is a fine thing -- so if you find one with good fit and fabric and can afford to get more than one, grab 'em. Like that you will have enough for those weeks when laundry just doesn't happen because you had two sermons, a death, and six committee meetings.

Where ARE our boys?? Plip Plop, you should know that we have several men who are regulars on this blog, and fine men they are. So stick around, we have a good time here.

Peace,

Caroline Divine (in the VERY steamy Southeast, where keeping the well-ironed and slightly light-starched cotton tops crisp has been a challenge this week - whew; and remember to stay hydrated, darlings, summer isn't over)

12:48 PM  
Blogger Psalmist said...

Caroline...you reminded me of something when you mentioned off-white shirts. Shopping on the cheap, we're usually stuck with bright white or a definite non-white color. But what a difference a subtle shift to ivory or winter white can make, depending on one's coloring! Years ago one of my (male) mentors was a bit of a clothes horse; it was when women were having their colors done and he came in to the office one day, bursting to share the news. He wanted to know if I noticed anything different. He looked "healthier" to me than usual, so I said so. He grinned at that, and said it was because he'd bought some new shirts that suited his (spring) coloring. He was right. Whereas he'd always worn bright white shirts before, ivory was far better for him. (Shortly after that I had a chance to attend a "seasons" scarf party, and I went just because of that.) If a fella (or lady) can afford them, white shirts in other than "whiter than white" may do wonders to complement his coloring.

The trick when shopping is to figure out what the real color of a garment is. Most stores have fluorescent lighting, which is awful. But in general, go with whatever color perks you up, even in unnatural light. Unless you're a winter, bright white isn't your best white.

6:30 PM  

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