Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Black Tie And Vouz

Happy, Happy Official Springtime, bunnies and chicks!

It's 33 degrees here just south of Boston but we're not complaining because the sun is shining at 4:30 in the afternoon, which would be high tea time if we were British but we're not, so instead of having a nice pot of Earl Tea and some biscuits, we're just typing away all parched and kind of tired.
It's time to call on our Imaginary Housekeeper, Mrs. Frubbles, who makes all our tea, takes out all our recycling, does all our laundry and tidies up!

Here she comes with a lovely cup of decaf chai. We just love Mrs. F. She's the maiden sister-in-law of our much-loved and notoriously creative Unitarian foremother, Lavonia Crittendon-Smythe, who used to preach in nothing but leotards and a crown of peonies. It was a daring era, darlings. Mrs. F. loves to regale me with stories, but just now she's picking up the dry-cleaning and getting dinner started. We're having something that you have to set on fire on the way to the table; it should be just divine. Then I'll get to work on Sunday's sermon which should be an easy one, really, because what else can you say about "Thou shalt not kill" except, "Yes, please don't?"

Well, now that we're back in reality, let us address a fascinating question we got last week; the kind of question that makes you think, "Gee, ministers and priests really DO have swellegant, glamorous lives!"

The inquiry came from an Episcopal priest of the female variety who was invited to a BLACK TIE EVENT.

Black tie, everyone! Isn't this amazing? When was the last time you were invited to a black tie event? PeaceBang has only been to one or two in her life and certainly not since she was ordained. No one does black tie weddings anymore, so that is one brand of fiesta that PeaceBang has most definitely not had to worry about dressing for. Sheesh, what a relief!

Our priest wrote in to say that not only did she have to attend a black tie event, she had to wear her clericals, which certainly presents a challenge. PeaceBang is pretty sure that evening gowns and clerical collars don't go very well together, so she had to put on her little thinking cap very tight and come up with this response to Inquiring Priest:

"There is no way to do clericals and black tie, really. I mean, we can't very well wear a collar and an evening gown or a tux. It just isn't done. But yet you want to look drop-dead elegant and appropriate.

I would say get an absolutely classic black suit with impeccable trousers and wear them with a pair of gorgeous sling-back pumps. That will be your only concession to feminine party dress. Keep everything starkly elegant, make sure your hair and make-up are one step away from GLAM (if you send me a photo I can advise), and wear an amazing, jewelry-like wristwatch. Simple diamonds [or "diamonds"] or something similarly perfect in your ears, and a very, very simple clutch bag. Manicured nails, neutral color (OPI Bubble Bath is great -- or if you want to do short and glam, Essie "Wicked" -- an elegant dark, dark wine color). In fact, the more I think about it, I sort of love the idea of killer chic nail polish as almost the only ornament.

The idea here is not trying to compete with the fapitzed ladies and not to be a guy: be a drop-dead elegant priest who just slightly intimidates* all the tuxes and evening gowns.

What do you think?"

* Maybe "intimidate" isn't the best word for what I mean. What I mean here is, Priests don't have to do black tie. Priests represent a spiritual teacher who reminded us not to store up treasures on earth, and who appreciated his wealthy disciples but who did not try to be as they were.


Blogger Gillian said...

Another option if you want to be a bit dressier would be to loosely follow the military mess-dress model. Floor-length black skirt in an elegant fabric, and then a tailored colored jacket in some fabulous, dressy color over a *new* clerical blouse (so the black hasn't started to fade). The jacket also serves to distance the black clerical shirt from the black skirt, so the "blacks" in different fabrics won't clash.

7:45 PM  
Blogger Nancy (nanflan) said...

PeaceBang darling, this might be an opportunity to borrow a page or 2 from the military. I believe that the armed forces actually do have formal uniform for females. It should take some Googling but I bet examples could be found. Not that I'm saying she needs to dress military, but if Uncle Sam can come up with professional/formal attire, the clergy can too.

As an Episcopal layperson, I'm envisioning at least a nice black pantsuit with properly tailored female clerical blouse and collar. Something not so elegant that it couldn't be put into daily rotation later, but perhaps a step up from what she normally wears. After all, a priest is always called on to preside over something or other and needs to look sharp at the coffee, reception, etc. afterwards.

Oh, yes, and elegant black shoes also. With black hose.

7:47 PM  
Anonymous parisa said...

I would say not pants but a skirt, and I second the snazzy, well-tailored and possibly colorful jacket. Wearing pants at an event where all the other women will be wearing not just skirts but GOWNS feels unnecessarily austere. But what do I know? I get no such invites... (sniffing into hanky)

8:54 PM  
Anonymous Philocrites said...

Perhaps this spring's not-yet-announced Boston-area UU bloggers-and-friends picnic should be upgraded to a formal ball! Then PB and Parisa could get even more fabulous.

9:54 PM  
Blogger Gillian said...

Nancy--obviously we were thinking in perfect parallel.
Here are some pics of military mess-dress for women, for those of you not accustomed to attending military balls.

12:20 AM  
Blogger Alexis said...

gillian! you got there before me!!! he he he. . . I was remembering when I was in ROTC and one of the female officers at a dress event wore a . . . I think its called a "trumpet" skirt with a jacket & unform shirt .. . it was the official kit of the time (this was over 13 years ago) but whoah! talk about turning heads (for a gay boy that's saying something!) anyway, a black trumpet skirt, black jacket and clerical shirt. A well chosen brooch - no necklace however unless its a pectoral of a decent size - maybe if her hair is long enough a really cool hair-pin?

You get the "black tie" effect whilst making an appropriate, individualised statement (grin).

7:48 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Peacebang, I have to offer an alternative for those of us who would prefer to wear something a little more feminine. Personally I wear pantsuits all the time, but the thought of wearing anything approximating a tux is just too, well, a little too annie lennox for me and my personal style.

I've always thought, should I have this opportunity, I'd go in one of two directions depending on the season:

Winter: long black satin skirt (a line or ballroom depending on my figure at the time and my age) collar and black cashmere cardigan. Black fabric pumps with some jewel on the toe, and a lovely black beaded purse.

Warmer weather: Similar skirt and one of those partially sheer black high necked, form fitting formal blouses with a clerical dickie underneath OR, one of those chiffon pantsuits with flowing black pants and a sort of flimy jacket top, preferably with mandrian collar so to accomodate the collar. In either case, open toed black sandals and a cute purse. I think black and covered up provides essental gravitas if one is wearing a collar for a formal event, but on some I can see how jewel tones would compliment the look.

8:36 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

By using the loaded word feminine I'm not implying anything here--perhaps "girly" would have been a better choice.

1:02 PM  
Blogger Maggie said...

Dressy black pants suit sounds like a good idea to me. I've been to a few black tie events in the last few years and haven't seen any gowns, but quite an array of other options from pants to cocktail dresses. Once again, men have it so easy when it comes to dress!

6:20 PM  
Blogger boyinthebands said...

This issue is or was a chestnut in the Ship of Fools forums. A while back they mixed them all up, but I think this issue was revisited in Ecclesiantics. Perhaps Dead Horses. Lots of good ideas, but you'll have to ignore the barbs and taunts of the anti-women's ordination crowd who think they are o-so-clever.

8:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you look at the uniform components list by Gillian's first picture, you will find that a tiara is an optional part of a woman's military dress uniform. A TIARA?????

2:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

PB, I just happened across this site
I offer it here because so many clothes/makeup/food retailers try to use charitable contributions as a marketing ploy. When we feel tempted to buy something we don't need to support some cause, we can instead make a donation directly to the organization.

3:10 PM  
Blogger Gillian said...

Re tiaras.....I don't think I've ever seen one of these! But I've not gone to *that* many military events w/ folks in mess-dress.
It's not quite what HRH ERII wears,'s more just a dress version of a military "cover." Women don't wear the traditional cover w/ mess-dress (which is good, b/c IMHO women's uniform caps are very hideous no matter what uniform they're worn w/), so this gives them something to put on their head.

8:50 PM  
Anonymous carol said...

I couldn't agree more with your FABULOUS advice.

But PeaceBang, what about the diamonds? I've tried to stay away from them, because who know where they came from? I haven't seen the movie, or kept up with the recent diamond industry claims of innocence, but I don't know... if there's a chance that a person lost a limb over a certain kind of stone, I'd rather not be wearing them in my ears...

7:36 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Actually, Desmond Tutu recently came out in support of the diamond trade, given in some places it is the major source of income for a large number of people and the extreme atrocities described in that recent movie are not nearly as common.

Not so different than banana farming, or the coal industry in Appalachia.

As far as the Tiara goes, I never once considered a career in the military but had I known there was a tiara involved my life might have taken an entirely different path. It is probably better I didn't know ;).

7:41 PM  

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