This from one of our beautiful readers:Hi PB,
You’ve probably already done this, but could you talk about professional casual wear (from tops to shoes) for GA? I’ll be standing in the booth for a great bit of time and will also have to “suit up” for a breakfast event. I’m not clergy, but am UU representing a UU organization and for the last two years I’ve felt either overdressed or underdressed—and never comfortable. Any suggestions? UU MommaDear UUMomma,
Bless your heart. General Assembly is a very difficult event to pack for, as it's generally scorching hot outside and freezing inside, so what's a guy or gal to do? PeaceBang favors cotton cardigans and shawls and mixing it up with interesting accessories. She loves Charter Club cotton sweaters. They cost about $35 and they are beautifully made and withstand washing well.
As we all know, PeaceBang writes for the clergy crowd, but in this case (and because one of her own congregants owned as to how she was shocked and dismayed by the slovenliness of the other delegates to the GA), she is happy to extend her invitation to Bring On The Beauty to her layfriends and readers.
Unitarian Universalists, arise! Consider! When we descend en masse
upon St. Louis or Rochester or Portland or Cleveland, we have the opportunity to make an impression! And that's a wonderful thing! Just one more exclamation point for emphasis! How 'bout it?
PeaceBang honors the sacrifice of time and money that laypeople make to attend GA, but wants to remind us all that when we're doing the work of our association, we're not on vacation. We should consider dressing a step up from tee-shirts and shorts.
Heed the words of my colleague, the Rev. Tom Schade, who wrote,
"A lack of concern for appearance communicates only disregard and disrespect for those we serve [within the context of GA, this means "the greater cause of Unitarian Universalism" for all of us -- PB
]. It also graphically demonstrates that religion and the church don't really connect to the real world, but exist only in some parallel universe of our own making, a world where thinking is supreme. It is also self-indulgent and morally smug at the same time."
Who loves you, UUs? PeaceBang loves you! But it's time to honestly acknowledge what we're really communicating about our identity as a faith tradition when so many of us come together for our big annual meeting looking as though we've tumbled out of the back of a VW minibus. Now, if you actually got
to GA riding in the back of a VW minibus, more power to you, I say. I shall not look askance at your wrinkled khaki shorts and Darwin fish teeshirts.* But if you didn't -- and most of us don't -- let's think about putting a more neatly-shod foot forward when we pay each other the honor of showing up to do important work. Maybe it doesn't bother you to be known as The Old Hippie Church. I happen to think that's kind of funny, myself. But it does bother me that we are so easily stereotyped. When it's easy to stereotype a group, it's easy to dismiss them. We don't want that.
NOW, UU Momma asked for some ideas on how to pack for GA, and particularly for breakfast events.
First of all, Momma, let's talk about being over-dressed and under-dressed:
> If you find that you're over-dressed
for an event, WORK IT. You should never, ever be ashamed at having put extra effort into your appearance for any event. If everyone else showed up in Hawaiian shirts, that isn't your problem. You just wear whatever you've got on and be who you are with pride and confidence. I trust you aren't wearing bugle-beaded evening gowns, so really, relax.
> If you find that you're under-dressed for an event, WORK IT. Sit up straighter, put a big smile on your face, be as gracious as you can be, and make a note to yourself so you don't make the same mistake the next time. This isn't so much about what someone else might say about you, it's about how you feel about you.
There is no dress code at these events, so it's up to you to represent yourself and your organization in the most appropriate way possible, relying on your own sense of style and occasion.
Believe me, my dove, you don't want to take the average group of Unitarian Universalists as your guide, as we are notoriously, shall we say, elaborately and casual.PeaceBang's Guide To Packing For GA:
1. Everything has to go together for maximum mixing-and-matching of every garment.
2. Accessories are key: they take up very little space and they can make you feel put-together with no effort at all. Think chunky cascading bead necklaces, distinctive belts, great earrings, a few scarves that array you and don't drown you.
3. Skirts pack well if you roll them. I usually bring one floral and one solid. Unpack and hang them right away.
4. Black pants are great for traveling in. Heck, you can wear them every day if you like.
5. Three or four crisp bright tees for wearing under cardigans or cotton blazers are a godsend.
6. Shoes have to be comfortable for walking miles through convention centers-- a nice sandal is all you need. If you find that you're obsessing over finding the perfect GA sandal, no, it's not just you. You have LOTS of company!
7. Bring a travel size of Febreze.
For a one-week conference, I usually pack two skirts, two pairs of pants, three or so blouses or tees and a cardigan or blazer (it depends if I'm leading any programs). That's a lot, but I roll everything up and get it into one little bag. My cosmetics come in a separate steamer trunk. Really, though: hotels are murder on my complexion! I have to have a full defense arsenal.
* PeaceBang wishes that religious liberals would consider how rude and smarmy they're being when they wear or display the Darwin fish
symbol, which takes a symbol common to all Christians and insults millions of them by assuming that all Christians are creationists. We're not, and if UUs want to be seen as a tolerant, dignity-respecting religion, why walk around in something that's the sartorial equivalent of a Bronx cheer to all Christians? I think we can do better than that. Or at least save it for home wear, not for when we're all together making a collective impression.
Labels: General Assembly