Friday, May 26, 2006

On Caftans and Muumuus

Here is the most elegant and beautiful Isabella Rossellini, ya'll, who has gotten quite voluptuous in her dotage. Look at her. She's all beaming and round-faced because she's not really modeling any more and she's eating butter and drinking Merseault in places like Gstaad and Biarritz. She's Isabella Rossellini. She doesn't care if she's got avoirdupois. She is eternally gorgeous.


There's a lot that works here: the big smile, the classic red lips, the colorful beads, the creative, flowing garb.

Unfortunately, there's a lot more that doesn't work here:
the hideous color of the caftan (she can sort of get away with it but I doubt you can, and I certainly can't), the hacked-at hair with no movement and no shine or discernible style to it, the sneakers (ack! sneakers!?). And it's too bad she's dragging around that white bedspread; she looks like a first-grader heading to her first sleepover.

The caftan, ideal for hiding a multitude of sins, should ideally be about mid-thigh, and she should have beautifully flowing pants on underneath, and maybe a boot with a heel. Unless she's been on a flight all day, in which case the dressed up sneakers might be temporarily forgiveable.

I understand that the caftan is a traditional Indian garment, or at least I think it is. And I respect that. However, she still looks like she's swimming in it and it's just not flattering.

The way to redeem this look would be to do something with the hair (like grow it to balance out the chipmunk cheeks), cut about half the caftan off, put on a more appropriate shoe, and stay away from mustard yellow.

She'd still do a lot better if she wore a fitted jacket or tunic and created the funky ethnic look she seems to be after with lots and lots of beads and a turban. She could absolutely tear it up in a turban.

If you want to see a really cute caftan look, check out Gwen Stefani at nine months pregnant (and I'm referring to the far left photo in particular):

cute caftan

Thanks to Go Fug Yourself for the photo.

Summer Legs and Summer L'eggs

This could have been good news, but it's not:

I was trying to find a summer sheer pantyhose for you but all I could find was a product by L'eggs that seems to be mostly defunct.

Summer L'eggs looks great, but not if you can only buy it in white, off-white and a truly grotesque color called "clay."

I can't think of one skin tone that would benefit from a sheer wash of white, off-white or clay (which they might as well have gone and named "ashy" or "zombie").

There's only one color hose to wear this season, my lambs, and it is NUDE.
You can wear a very sheer pearly off-white IF you're the Mother of the Bride, but trust me, it's all about a neutral tone that matches your skin.


Save the off-black for the autumn. In case you haven't noticed, legs are very bare this season (as they have been for the past several years since year-round tanning became so fashionable). They are not pasty white, they are not scaly and dry, they are not clad in cute, textured hose (unless you're under 30, have great gams and are wearing a wonderful skirt and heels), and they are not hairy. I'm sorry, but if they're visible, they are NOT HAIRY.

You can bar me from the Feminist Club all you want, but I don't care. My smooth legs and I will be dancing the light fantastic somewhere way more fun.
Haven't we all seen enough of this type of thing by now?


Summer Ministry Garb And Fake Tans

C. writes asking what to wear when leading worship in un-air-conditioned sanctuary over the summer. She votes "nay" on a robe, saying that her heavy black polyester Harvard robe would smother her.

I agree.
That's where you have to get creative. A white cotton alb is one idea (if that's not too Catholic for you), or having a simple white cotton robe made is another smart option. All those summer wedding fees you'll be getting will easily pay for it.

When preaching in hot box churches last summer, I wore a lined, light silk/poly skirt of knee length in a muted brown and aqua blue pattern (expensive and worth every penny) and a sleeveless white blouse under a beautiful aqua blue blazer with 3/4 length sleeves. A triple strand of pearls dressed it all up. Was I cool and comfortable? No. But I went bare-legged and wore creamy brown pointy Bandolino pumps and tanned my legs with Coppertone foam, and the bare legs helped with temperature management. I know it's not really appropriate to preach in bare legs, but neither is looking like a half-drowned puppy by the time you pronounce the benediction.
I did obsess about it a bit, wondering if God loves modesty more than He loves my well-toned calves. They're the only well-toned part of my body, so I did a novena for vanity and went out bare-legged anyway.

PeaceBang ALWAYS has a freshly laundered and pressed small white cotton hankie in her pocket, which she uses to delicately dab away any moisture. Remember, ladies don't sweat; they glisten.
Only in congregations where you are well known and loved can you say, "Oy, am I schvitzing up here!"

Secret fact: PeaceBang keeps a hair dryer in her office so she can blow dry before coffee hour.
This is highly secret. Please do not reveal this highly secret secret to anyone. I do not expect to be teased for this highly secret secret when I see you, nor do I expect those of you who attend my church to make finger guns and point them at your heads on Sunday morning while laughing and making blow-dryer noises. I know you will never insult my inherent worth and dignity like that.

I preached at an ordination last summer for which a robe was an absolute necessity, so I wore a dressy cotton ankle length skirt, a shell, and a very light gauzy garment I bought from Lord & Taylor that looks just like a preaching robe. I wore a stole over it and no one was the wiser. I was soaked by the end of the service but at least the skirt hid the rivulets going down my legs (in addition to the sanctuary being hellishly hot -- my own fault, since I had been unable to find any other available date to preach this ordination and committed to an August evening -- they had SPOTLIGHTS on the dais!).

Be creative. Find the lightest, flowiest fabrics you can find, but make sure things fit. Light and flowy does not mean that we can't find you under yards of fabric. Avoid floral designs, unless it's a tie. Keep the lines simple. Gentlemen, a t-shirt under a nicely ironed cotton dress shirt will help soak up some of the sweat. Powder down beforehand.

And darlings, if you fake tan your legs, DO IT THE DAY BEFORE. The instructions on my favorite Coppertone product advise not to bathe within three hours of applying the product. Well, it never occurred to PeaceBang that preaching in June in an un-air-conditioned New England church would generate the equivalent moisture factor of a shower, but she learned her lesson the hard way when she appeared at coffee hour with striped brown and white legs.

Someone used to make a marvelous product called Summer Sheer, which was a very lightweight pantyhose. WHY did they stop making them? They were great!

PeaceBang recommends:

Summer Sheer hose, if you can find them.
Creative robing options in white cotton.
A crisp white cotton hankie on your person at all times.
Johnson & Johnson's Corn Starch Baby Powder.
Clean lines, lightweight fabrics and bare, tanned and toned legs if you're wearing anything less than calf-length skirts.
Closed-toed shoes in the pulpit or at weddings, because just because Jesus did his ministry in sandals doesn't mean that you can.

P.S. While searching for Summer Sheer pantyhose, I found this web site. It didn't give me what I was looking for but if you have a leg fetish it will certainly give you what you're looking for. For the love of God, don't peruse this at church, people:

Thursday, May 25, 2006

She Dit-Int

about your baby's chapeau: No.

Just NO. It's like signing him up early for membership in the Dumb & Trashy Guys of America Club. No child needs that kind of advantage in life.

Baby Fashion Disaster

Ministers, neither thy nor thy children, nay, unto the thousandth generation, shall ever cover thy head in such a fashion.

Here endeth the lesson.

Buy It Anyway

I met a brand-new minister recently who asked my advice on what to wear for her first Meeting The New Church social outing.
We had such fun clucking like a couple of little hens about it.

She wrote to me today and said that she wore a black pencil skirt, a smashing pair of Anne Klein black slingbacks (bless her heart), and this sweater:

Yes, it's too expensive for her budget, for yours, and for mine. HOWEVAH, after spending three weeks looking for just the right thing, how much do you it was worth it to her to land this darling item and to know she looked absolutely drop-dead perfect for this important event?

The moral of the story is: if you find something you absolutely adore, that fits you beautifully and fills you with confidence and a sense that you're dressed just right, buy the damn thing. Buy two. Because I'm telling you, you can always take on another wedding to earn some extra bucks, but you can't always find something that exquisitely expresses the youness of you.

How I See You

Darling PeaceBangers,

This has got to stop.

I ran into another reader of this blog yesterday at a church in town and he confessed to me that he was feeling less than his stellar fashioning best in a polo shirt and chinos.
Now stop that!
Haven't I told you that PeaceBang herself looks like a horizontal stack of meatballs pressed gamely into some outfit that she hopes communicates creative, with-it religous leader (or perhaps, "fun, cute dateable 40 year old babe")? And that without the help of Max Factor, Origins, Shu Uemura and TIGI, she would just be a washed-out old broad?

You must understand that when PeaceBang sees you, she does not judge.
She scrutinizes you because in you, she sees a potential superstar and she considers herself your agent and stylist, wanting you to shine every time you walk down the red carpet of your life. PeaceBang is totally on your team, people. She thinks you're adorable and beautiful as a child of God. She's just a little bit of a Jewish mother, noodging you to get your hair out of your eyes already, stand up straight and smile big, why? Because, dahlink, you're fabulous!

So get out there and be fabulous and when you run into PeaceBang, remember that she is 100% LOVING you!

(P.S. If you pull that polo out of the dryer faster it won't get even one wrinkle in it. Kisses!!)

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Various and Sundry: Bangs, Bags and "Idol"

Concerning Lisa Welchel's hair in the photo below, her side-swept bangs are TOTALLY fashionable right now, and look good on every shape face!

I'm seeing an awful lot of bedraggled hair hanging limply over high, shiny foreheads, gals. Today I saw a Unitarian Universalist shopping for clothes who had at least three inches of grey roots, which made her look unfortunately striped. It was so not a good look. I identified her as a co-religionist because she was carrying, as a bag, one of those freebie give-away totes from a conference.

Do I really have to say that those bags are really not to be used as BAGS?
This is a bag:
(Nine West $29)

Okay, don't get me started on that and on mullets.
I'm trying to go to bed early tonight. I'm still trying to get over that atrocious dress Katherine McPhee wore on "American Idol" tonight when she and Taylor positively butchered "I Had The Time of My Life." Miss McPhee: (1) a lady doesn't bounce and prance while wearing a satin gown with a train. (2) That color is from hunger.

Mandisa, girl, I feel for you in that shapeless red dress they put you in. Just be assured that you so commanded respect anyway.

Clothes Allowance

A ministerial friend and colleague told me today that when she left her first church, they gave her a gift of $1500 to go buy some new clothes.

Apparently they didn't love her red Converse sneakers as a "look."

She's just as cute as can be and taught me this genius way of twisting your hair into a bun and then tucking it inside out so it looks like the most elegant chignon. See me at GA and I'll teach you.

Anyway, I told her that when she's 75 she can wear high tops all she wants because by then she'll be established and it can just be an eccentric touch. She does have to wear great trousers and funky jackets to go with them, though, or whatever else is au courant.

In case you were wondering, you can TOTALLY give me $1500 to buy new clothes ANY TIME YOU WANT! I won't be at ALL offended!

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Scarf Abuse

Let us pray.

Scarf Abuse

Dear and gracious God,

Hear our prayers for the ability to accessorize well.
Lead us not into vaguely shawl-like items in bad colors,
and keep us from faces tan enough to double as Italian leather handbags.

Help us to be ever lovely presences in the world,
doing your work with love and with good hair and make-up.


P.S. Lisa Welchel looks really good, Lord. Is that because she became a totally born-again Christian?

Monday, May 22, 2006

The Middle Way

Male ministers tend to do two things: they either dress overly casually or they rely too much on a suit and tie.

I'd like to advocate for a middle way that isn't quite as formal as a suit and not as awfully casual as the old flannel plaid and Dockers route.

First, a sports coat with a sweater underneath is a great look. It works with a casual pair of pants, and even with jeans (but nice jeans, guys!). You throw on some nice soft leather shoes (not sneakers) and you're good to go.

The other option, much ignored among the liberal religious clergymen of my acquaintance, is the old chamois shirt look:

Don't worry if you're not as gorgeous as this model. No one is. However, I like his shirt: it's got color, it's warm and presentable for a day in the office, and it looks put together. I would trade the jeans for a pair of twill pants of some kind; you don't want to seem too much like you're going camping.

In general, I think male ministers have a lot more options in casual wear than they're exercising. There are some really attractive, unstructured jackets out there in cottons and wools that can help you feel well-dressed without a suit. Many of them look nice with a tie, and since we're speaking of ties, ya'll need to update the tie collection, okay?
If the only tie you ever wear has either graduate school logos on it or is decorated by UNICEF children's drawings, go shopping already, or ask for a new tie for Father's Day.

It is my experience that hetero men are afraid that if they get too interested in fashion -- you know, "oh my god, an unstructured jacket!? That's outside the Accepted Straight Man Uniform category!" -- people will think they're gay.

Fellas, let me tell you something: when it comes to dressing and grooming, you could all use a little gay. Don't fear the gay. The gay is good. The gay is about beauty and flair and an aesthetic sensibility. Embrace it and let the blessings flow.

Remember, no Hawaiian shirts. Ever.

Color Me Reverend

Men, you know that hymn that goes,

"Welcome, rejoice and come in...
today will be a joyful day!
Don't be afraid of some change,
don't be afraid of some change,
today will be a joyful day,
welcome, rejoice and come in!"

color for men
You know what this guy is singing?

"Don't be afraid of some color!
Don't be afraid of some color!
Today will be a joyful day...!"

Really, though.
Why all the grey, blue, black and brown? Why, for the Love of God, all the plaid flannel?

Isn't this lovely, yummy, handsome and welcoming? Don't you feel cheery just being around some color?
colorformen2 Doesn't that pink inspire confidence and faith in you? It does in me.

And you know this is not my way of saying that it's okay to wear ugly pastel golf shirts or Hawaiian shirts. Or madras shorts, either, for that matter.

Suits Rock

suitsrock2 Let's talk about what's right about these suits.

suits rock

They're beautiful, they're classic, they're polished. The women look fresh and cared for, their shoes are totally stylish but not tarty (you could even wear those strappy sandals to a non-Sunday morning event), and they're absolutely appropriate for ministry.
The skirt on the top gal is a bit too short, but just a hair, and it may be just the way she's standing. Add some very sheer nylons, a nicely substantial pump or shoe, and you're all set.

The gal on the bottom has fabulous trousers. Look at the elegance of the pointy toe flat peeking out the bottom and the stylish yet classic bag. That's what I mean by details, darlings.

As we can see by these photos, it's not about having a closet full of brightly colored odds and ends that sort of fit and that sort of "go together." It's about assembling, with great care and over hard time in the retail salt times, perfectly tailored, beautiful and well-made pieces.

These outfits don't need a thing but a fresh face and shiny hair and a big smile.
Of course if you wanted to add some accessories, you could. But you wouldn't need to. A lovely watch, a pair of tasteful earrings, that would do.

This look isn't for everybody (it isn't for me, as I'm too large in both body and personality to really carry it off), but if it works for you, why not work it?

Sunday, May 21, 2006

The Marquis de Sandal

PeaceBang just has to share with you a few more highlights from her trip to NYC:

First, she would like to give all due propers to MotherBang and SisterBang, who are always a sartorial inspiration and besides that, make her laugh really really hard for hours at a time.
MotherBang showed up in a black skirt, a reversible Paddington bear like rain slicker, rather frumpy black floppy loafers and flesh-colored fishnet knee-highs.

Yes, I said fishnets.

My point is not to dis the Mama, but to tell you that MotherBang has an eternally unerring sense of personal style and glamour but that sometimes, in taking a risk, she makes a mistake. Anyone can make a mistake. She thought her flats were all the rage. We had to talk about why they weren't (wrong shape, too floppy). She knew the fishnets were a fashionable touch, but we had to talk about why they were a little bit more Eccentric Retired Drama Teacher than she intended, and she immediately peeled them off. She Understands. She created this monster, and she graciously understands that she has to accept the consequences. She was the one who taught me that one always, always looks at the rear view before buying any garment, to look for "puppies." If you have to ask what puppies are, you must be very slim and fit, that's all I can say.

SisterBang made her appearance the next day in a typically very cute ensemble and wearing sandals of mine that I gave her because they pinch my toes too badly. After a few blocks, she dubbed them The Marquis de Sandal, but she is willing to SUFFER FOR BEAUTY. She is also willing to pull the mattress (and I use the term very loosely) off a hotel cot and sleep on the floor, which is another reason we love her.

There were scads of fabulously clad men and women at the Union Theological Seminary graduation ceremony, and I just wish you could have seen them. If they are the future of ministry I am hopeful for the de-frumpification of the American clergy.