Saturday, June 10, 2006

Don't Fear the Hazel

Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Witch Hazel Towelettes But Were Afraid To Ask:

For Sensitive Skin

Just a little plug for Origins products:

I am devoted to and deeply in love with the Comforting Solution, which is the only product that finally got rid of my regular flare-ups of rosacea (or something like it that my dermatologist has never figured out).

The A Perfect World line includes a lovely antioxidant serum that gets me through the tough New England winters.

And Modern Friction is the only exfoliant scrub my skin can tolerate at all.

Origins gave me a free sample of their Perfect World lip balm but frankly, it's not nearly as good as Kiehl's #1 goo in a tube or Rosebud Salve, at least one of which I use faithfully at night before practicing kissing on my pillow.
Remember boys and girls, use a lip balm with high SPF in it every day! I use Kiehl's Lip Balm SPF 15 or whatever chapsticky-type item is on sale at the health food store.

Stepford Preacher

In this little back-and-forth in the comments section,

Hafidha talks about her aversion to overly-coiffed clergy people.
I think she makes a very interesting and important point, which is that we do tend to suspect folks who are too camera-ready of being inauthentic and out to sell us something.

I understand this reaction, but I think it's not a matter of clothes and grooming as it is of personal style. All the guys and gals I know who are Barbie and Ken Clergy -- "Hi! God loves you! Give us lots of money so that I can buy a Dream Camper to go on mission trips in!" -- are fakey nightmares with or without the Mystic Tan and $100 haircuts. They smell inauthentic. Their clothes and make-up don't make them into Stepford Revs. -- they were that way in the first place, and simply sought the public look that would express their plastic interiors.

Don't be afraid of the Beauty, friends. If you're your true, warm, good and loving Spirit-filled self, everyone will smell that long before they smell your Eau de Merveilles by Hermes.*

*PeaceBang's personal scent, which she hopes she doesn't wear too much of. If she stinks to high heaven when you meet her, please draw her aside and quietly hand her a Dickinson's Witch Hazel towelette, a travelin' well-groomed guy or gal's best friend.

For the Fellas, Or the Bearded Gals

Fellas, talked amongst yourselves. All I know is that I sat across from a sweet, lively, handsome UCC minister at dinner last night and he had straggler mustache hairs in his mouth, and mashed potato on his mustache.

Groomliness is next to godliness, you heard it here.

Snazzy Conference Babes

I attended the United Church of Christ Massachusetts conference gathering as a singer ("the entertainment") this weekend and noticed an awful lot of people in Jesus Casual, as opposed to Business Casual. Sweet people, I know. It's a weekend thing, you're schlepping around a college campus, you want to be comfortable. But I still don't think that "comfortable" warrants a faded T-shirt with some old Gaia graphic on the front, paired with cotton pull-on pants and sandals with fungus toes.
I thought I didn't need to say this anymore. I thought we all agreed by now that there's never any reason to wear shirts with kittens, bunnies or fluffy little birds on them. I thought you were going to empty your drawers of those and give them to -- strike that. Don't even give them away. Rip them up for rags.

After our evening concert I struck up a conversation with a very fashionable young woman and complimented her on her outfit. She was wearing a terrific, fitted black suit, very cute pointy flats, a great emerald colored sleeveless shirt with a little front bow detail, and she had great curly hair and a GREAT bag. She looked like a Somebody, and she is. She is in a position of leadership at the Massachusetts Council of Churches, and as are most women in religious leadership, just thrilled to talk about clothes and make-up with another woman.

I loved her observation that when a woman wears, say, MASCARA in the pulpit in some communities, she'll get hit with something like, "How come you're trying to be all sexy in the pulpit and everything?"

I have never in my life heard anything like that but I don't doubt it goes on all the time. What I tend to get, by contrast, are concerned questions like, "Don't you feel well?" or "You look so tired, is everything okay?" when I leave off the mascara and the rest of it. I say, "I'm FINE. This is my NATURAL BEAUTY. Aren't you glad I don't inflict my NATURAL BEAUY on you every day?" And they nod understandingly and wait patiently while I apply some lip gloss.

Being polished can be sexy, but that's not the goal. The goal is to be as beautiful and vibrant a presence as we can be. That might mean a fresh-scrubbed face and a big smile, it might mean smoky eyeliner and big hair and a big smile, but it never means a kitten or puppy sweatshirt and a big smile. That is where PeaceBang draws the line.

Next posting: What Should Clergy Wear To The Wedding Rehearsal and Reception?

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

It Was Products Or Institutionalization, Darlings

Products purchased today:

Aveda Tourmaline Charged Radiance Masque: $27.50
Kiehl's Lavender Foaming-Relaxing Bath with Sea Salts and Aloe Vera: $14.50
Kiehl's Mineral Muscle Soak Foaming-Relaxing Bath with Sea Salts and Aloe Vera: $14.50
Luxo Banho Creme Soap Bar: $4.99

Funerals officiated over the past seven days: 2
Days of rain within the past 30 days: 37
Inches of rain today: 4"

Whence Elegance?

Remember when women knew how to walk? Remember Marilyn Monroe and Rosalind Russell and Kate Hepburn and how they moved? Remember Bette Davis? By god, that's presence. Not ministerial presence, of course, but PRESENCE. You know who has Presence today? Jessye Norman.
Those insolent tarts who walk the red carpet know nothing about it. A couture gown does not presence grant. Neither does daily injections of Botox, Miss Kidman, or starving oneself into a transparent gossamer condition, Miss Zellwegger.

Remember when women wore gloves, and they made putting them on and taking them off into a little Japanese tea ceremony of minute beauty and elegance?

Nowadays I see women shuffling along in FLIP-FLOPS -- the dreaded flip-flops that are the enemy of everything elegant -- looking and sounding like a paper-slippers-clad nursing home denizens -- schluf schluf schluf. They blab away on cell phones and chaw gum at the same time, all while swigging from a Starbucks container. VERY elegant. Every time I see one of these beauties I think of that wonderful line from "Singin' In The Rain," plaintively spoken in a flat midwestern voice by a drab little flapper watching the great Lena Lamont on screen:
"She's so refined. I think I'll kill myself."

For lessons in elegance, darlings, see Annette Bening in "Being Julia."
Charming film, fabulous performance. Elegance, elegance, humor, and a study in the surgically unenhanced middle-aged beauty.

P.S. No one's feet and ankles look lovely in plain old flip-flops. At LEAST get some with a bit of support and shape to them, for the love of Olivia DeHaviland.

Monday, June 05, 2006


This isn't a post about "Citizen Kane," it's a post about a lovely product called Smith's Rosebud Salve, which comes in the most adorable tin container:


For about $7, you get a tin of yummy-smelling product that works great as a cuticle cream, a lip gloss, an eyeybrow smoother, an emergency hair pomade (put a tiny dab on your palms, rub together, and smooth away those frizzies), and a nose shiner. You don't think you should shine your nose? Guess what can make you look ten years younger in about five seconds? I always put blush on the tip of my shnoz, and shine it up.

Rosebud doesn't stink to high heaven so it's good for boys and girls. I go through two tins per winter 'cause I use it on my elbows and all over my hands at night.

A tip for tired gals: after you apply your powder blush, rub a bit of Rosebud Salve on your cheekbones. It will give your skin a glow like the movie stars have. You can thank me later for all the compliments you'll get.

My Little Crazy Keenes

I bought a pair of these tonight, in a gray-purple color:


They make my feet look like crazy little pods, but I got them for a few good reasons:
1. They're incredibly comfortable but they're NOT BIG UGLY SNEAKERS.
2. I can pack them for my summer trips and wear them on long walks so I don't have to pack my BIG UGLY SNEAKERS.
3. They're waterproof -- hey, walks on the beach! Great for your calves! And these have better support than my Tevas.
4. In ten years from now, they're going to be so out of fashion that just peeping at them in a box in the closet is going to send me into gales of laughter, but in 20 years they'll be wildly fashionable again.
5. For no good reason I've just been lusting after them for two years. When I saw SisterBang's new pair I knew I was going to give in and get some of my own.
6. They're darned cute and they're not BIG UGLY SNEAKERS or frumpy, hideous flat canvass summer shoes.

P.S. They're not for ministry. They're for Regular Person Life.

Guest Blogging By Petite Mrs. Philocrites

Ladies and gentlemen, at my invitation, the tiny, darling and fierce Mrs. Philocrites has agreed to speak on the subject of the Petite Religious Fashionista:

Hi PeaceBang!

First of all, a disclaimer: my wardrobe is not remotely as fabulous as Peace Bang's. [Mrs. P, where are you getting the idea that my wardrobe is actually fabulous? I would characterize it more as "Hey, Not Bad For a Fat Chick."
-- P.B.] But I am honored to have been asked to share my petite shopping secrets for those other tiny ministers out there.

In terms of vestments: the great thing about albs and cassocks is that they come in children's sizes. I think mine is a size 11 (as in age 11). Cinctures in the right length are very hard to find, for some strange reason. However, they really don't make children's stoles, chausables or clergy shirts (we've got more duds in Episcopalia than in UU World). One petite priest I know loves those dickie collars since then you don't have to buy an expensive clergy shirt and they go with any outfit. Another friend of mine makes her own stoles, since the standard sizes are both too long and too wide.

While we're on the vestments topic, I should mention that I always travel with a "preaching stool" from Ikea. I guest-preach a lot and you never know the height of the pulpit. Just be sure to put your preaching stool in the pulpit well before the service begins. Then your illusion of height will be complete!

Petite sections in stores have come a long way in recent years, but still generally stink. Clothing manufacturers don't seem to get that there are young petite women as well as older petite women. Philocrites and I went shopping the other day, and he got to experience the Petite Ghetto. There we are in Filenes, with many nice skirts and tops in the Misses section. Are any of these in petite sizes? No- the petite section, right next to Misses, has none of the same outfits and has skipped forward thirty years in terms of style. Sigh. And the Juniors clothes, which would fit, are way too Hoochie Mama. Halter tops and jeans with holes in the butt do not exactly say Ministerial Presence. Thus the Goldilocks predicament of the petite young adult- we can either wear dowdy turquoise suits or baby tees with "I heart my boyfriend" in pink glitter.

Don't get me started on so-called "Petite Sophisticate." I think they are the high-powered syndicate behind the Dowdy Petite Conspiracy.The only store where I consistently find things that fit me and are suitable for church is Anne Taylor Loft. They have a really good petite section that looks young but still professional. And they have great party dresses too.My other favorite store is Second Time Around in Harvard Square, a consignment shop of designer clothes. People give away things that are too small, so they have a good selection for petites. And I've ended up with some items by makers I'd never have been able to afford otherwise. JCrew is great for petite coats. Many petites swear by Banana Republic, but I haven't found too much there, and it's so expensive.I also get a lot of shirts from children's stores. A great one, especially for sweaters, is Land's End Kids. Gap Kids and Talbots Kids are a good bet, because they're clothes for yuppie children and so don't often have cartoons and things on them. I get plain T shirts from the children's section at Macy's. And I have a close personal relationship with my tailor at the dry cleaner's down the street.

Thanks for the invite, PeaceBang! You know I'm not usually one for blogging but your site is indeed a service to humanity.

~Mrs. P.

Thank you, Mrs. Philocrites. I feel your pain, as one who is actually a PLUS-SIZE PETITE. Talk about maddening!! May the Spirit of fabulousness be upon all of us in our efforts to de-frumpify the American Religious Leader. Amen.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Where Do Fat Girls Shop?

I can only speak for the East Coast, but here's a run-down.

A Fat Religious Fashionista Annoted Guide To Shopping!!

Lane Bryant: The mecca for chunky goddesses. It depends on the season, but I usually have luck with basic pants and some fun pieces. Sometimes I walk in and go, "Oh, I see that this season is all about 6'2" prostitutes." Because otherwise why would there be so much fabric! and sequins! All with no bazoom coverage to speak of and nary a respectable fabric to be seen. Great source for pantyhose, and their Cacique line of lingerie is pretty good in the bra department. Their jewelry and bags are garbage.

Avenue: Kind of crappy, kind of ghetto, but some fun pieces. Nothing is very well-made and it won't last long, but not a bad place to pick up some basics, although you'll have to dig past the icky, sproingy pants (you can't fool me into showing up at the office in sweatpants, dammit! No matter how you style them!) and the extremely flammable, cheap poly blazers. I always go to Avenue with high expectations and leave with a pair of pantyhose and a headache. I think it's from breathing the polyester fumes.

Ashley Stewart: Don't have one anywhere around me but I seem to recall finding some cool items there in NYC. My mother and I were the only white women in the store and found the designs to have a lot more verve than the usual plus-sized offerings. Their colors and patterns are great for women of color.

Ulla Popken: Again, I don't have one around me, but there was one in the King of Prussia Mall near where I lived in Pennsylvania. They also have a catalog. These clothes are scaled for Scandinavian giantesses. There is no other explanation for their ginormous apparel. Also, they put things like umbrellas on their camp shirts. I shudder just to think of it. Aside from that, if you're very tall and hefty in good proportion you might look great in some of their dresses, which always dragged all over the floor on me and had armholes down to my waist. I did get a great pair of palazzo pants from them once, which I had to have hemmed for yards but which were terrific and very well made. They have loads of dresses.

Macy's Woman's Department: Carries some great lines like INC., and I get all my work-out wear by Style & Co. there. Good for professional and semi-dressy clothes but casual wear tends to run along the boring, sporty Liz Claiborne line (boxy, striped, generally very unflattering, over-sized pieces) or the overly-casual Panama Joe type stuff -- and thank you very much but I won't be decorating my body with palm tree motifs any time soon.

Filene's Fat Girls Section (Or Whatever They Call It):
If the Filene's is in the city, it usually yields some treasures. If in the 'burbs, stay away 'cause it's going to be mostly about heinous, shapeless polyester "career wear" (for what career, I'd like to ask? Even bank tellers wouldn't touch that stuff, and it's not like they're encouraged to have lots of fashion flair) and weird shapeless glittery or faux-boho ("fauxho") polyester tunics that will cause you to break into hives on New Year's Eve.
That said, I have managed to miraculously find some adorable skirts there in the past -- really different, fun skirts -- and the occasional really fashionable jacket or sweater. So it's worth a poke around.

Old Navy: Cute looks that last about ten minutes, or until after the first wash. I get their t-shirts every year to wear under things and recycle them, as they inevitably fade and stain like crazy. That's okay, because they're like $9 each. Old Navy is good for solid, fit plus-sized gals. Their armholes and sleeves are cut very small and their pants don't have floppy thighs. They are obviously designing for a younger, unblobby crowd. They also have the best color selection for t-shirts of anyone, again because they're geared to a younger crowd.

Talbot's Women:
Over-priced but well-made, classic-verging-on-boring pieces. You may find a nicely cut jacket and it's a good source for excellent, fitted t-shirts but not a wide variety of colors (usually gaggy pastels). Worth checking for nice trousers and blazers. I always want to take their lime green little preppy display shoes and throw them across the room, as they remind me of the days of preppy mania in New Canaan, CT. If you can't stomach preppy, don't even go into this store.

Kohl's: Yuck. I only cruise through Kohl's when I'm desperate and have tried everywhere else.

J. Jill: I think the era of J. Jill is over. I think a J. Jill outfit says "crunchy granola liberal" too immediately for me to really embrace it for clergywomen.
Same goes for Chico's. These unstructured, hempen items are becoming a kind of cliche for clergy gals, and I just don't think they're offering anything really beautiful or exciting lately. I think J. Jill is just a bit precious for me to wholeheartedly recommend, and Chico's jewelry buyer seems a bit stuck in 1995.

Silhouettes Catalog: Put that catalog down and back away from it very slowly. I don't want you to go into a suicidal depression just looking through it.

Fashion Bug Plus and Dress Barn Woman:
Really, you'd be better off just learning to sew yourself. In all seriousness, better you should invest in one pair of beautiful trousers, one perfectly fitted black skirt, one blazer and two elegant white blouses for the next ten years (you can upgrade accessories as needed) than spend your money on this garbage. Stay away. Stay far away. The buttons fall off when you look at them.

Target: Target is a hit-or-miss. A lot of times their Plus section is just full of boring, weird, cheap stuff but then you'll hit the jackpot. Always worth a swing-through if you're there buying garbage bags or whatever. Their shoes are so fun!

Syms: PeaceBang's little secret. Like Loehmann's (CT gals and guys, you know Loehmann's, right?), you have to take your chances at this enormous discount designer warehouse, but when you hit it big, you hit it big. All of my great, oldest "name brand" pieces (a favorite Ann Klein blazer, a Liz Claiborne blazer with a tie-waist and wonderful pockets, an Evan Picone Petite blazer in a classic grey with a tie waist and gorgeous buttons, a wool Calvin Klein skirt) came from Syms and were marked down at least 70% off retail. I love that place. I go about once or twice a year and sometimes it's strike-out, but sometimes it's just the place to find that perfect black cashmere-soft sweater at a fraction of the retail value.

What did I miss?

And Mrs. Philocrites, would you like to do a guest column on Where Petite Religious Fashionistas Shop?


Anthropologie makes gorgeous, expensive clothes. I'm not suggesting that you run out and fill your closet with their looks, but I do think you might get some inspiration visiting their website, where they put together outfits for you:

Use your discretion, of course, ladies. But look at all the pages of ensembles to see what sillouettes are in style now, and to borrow and adapt for yourself. To see more of their ideas, click on the "Ensembles" button on their navigation bar.

Maybe you can't afford a $198 little cotton skirt. But you might have one in your closet already and you can wrap a cardigan around it, belt it, add a big, bright hobo bag (I actually dug one out of my closet that my mother gave me for Christmas in the 1980's and fashionistas stop me in the street to ask where I got it!), and a pair of dangly earrings and you're put together. That is, if you have some decent shoes.

Look. Use what's appropriate for you. Adapt. Dream. Enjoy.

I personally think that if I was tall and slim, these trousers
with a smart navy blazer, a pair of chunky beads and a nice pair of espadrille wedges would be my #1 summer outfit. If I wasn't such a fat fatty I would invest in several pairs of Anthropologie pants, because I think they're gorgeous and well cut. Not so much these summer styles but their autumn catalog usually features some wonderful pieces I'd gladly splurge for. That is, if I was three inches taller and 90 lbs. slimmer. For now, I make do with Talbot's Woman's occasional spots of fashion sunshine amid their usually uber-preppy boring stuff.