On Robes, Pockets, and (just a little) Vanity
I don’t like pink and I’d rather be wearing jeans and watching baseball. Even so, here I sit with my inner tomboy getting my nails done while writing a blog about a fashionable clergy robe. Baseball and blue jeans aside, I am a professional clergywoman and I like to feel both professional and feminine when I’m working, even in a church, call me crazy. When I was ordained, I didn’t lose my joy of wearing a great dress or my love of wearing color. So why do I love wearing an all black garb that covers up a good outfit? If all you hear me say is “beautiful, breathable clergy robe with pockets” then keep reading and I promise you’ll thank me later. I know wearing a clerical robe is not the custom in all Baptist or even in all non-Baptist churches but I do like the symmetry and balance it offers on a platform or chancel. And while I do appreciate a good compliment, after a sermon and an hour of worship, it always felt weird shaking hands at the door and someone saying “what a great dress,” as if that was the best take away from worship that day. Until now, I liked the idea of wearing a clergy robe more than I liked the feeling of donning my black clerical robe as a professional mantle in preparation for the act of leading God’s people in worship.
My first clergy robe was like the knitted sweater you get at Christmas from your grandma. You wear it, well, because you love your grandma or your momma makes you. My first robe was made for me with love while serving a seminary intern placement in the inner city of Pretoria, South Africa. This Methodist mission church fairly employed people to make beautiful clerical garments—mostly worn by men and persons serving in other denominations than Baptist. I loved the beautiful black robe I asked them to make; yet, the only pattern they had was for a man’s robe they hemmed to my petite frame. The material was black, scratchy and heavy. It was beautiful to me because of the hands and hearts I remembered when I put it on to lead worship, yet I confess I felt like a tiny black shoebox with a head every time I wore it. I didn’t feel confident or professional, I just felt sweaty and like I was playing dress-up with my Dad’s ministerial robe. All that changed when I left South Main Baptist Church in Houston to follow God’s call to FBC Greensboro, NC. As a farewell gift, SMBC commissioned CBF Field Personnel and church member Nell Green and Threads by Nomad to make a clerical robe and a set of stoles for me. Now I get to wear the most beautiful and comfortable clergy robe made just for me. The material is high quality, lightweight and beautiful. The robe is feminine not flashy—a beautifully subtle and professional A-line shape that is well made. And y’all. It BREATHES and the robe has POCKETS. You too can have a hidden pocket for lipgloss, Kleenex or keys.
But the best pocket is the microphone pocket. Now I can wear my favorite Sunday dress and still wear a lavalier or headset microphone. Previously, if I wore a dress under my robe, the battery pack for the wireless mic would have to be uncomfortably clipped on the neck of my dress or have it weigh heavily on a skinny dress belt. If I wore a two-piece outfit, then someone had to awkwardly help me clip the battery pack to the back of my skirt or pants. In this robe, no awkward clipping or heavy hanging--you just put the battery pack it in the pocket! I'm not the best model, but there's a blog post with some additional photos here.
The background on Threads by Nomad: Nell Green is CBF Field Personnel in Houston working with refugees, anti-human trafficking efforts, and interfaith ministries. I worked with Nell and her husband Butch at South Main. On the side, Nell and her daughter have started a business fairly employing refugees. They make lots of beautiful clothing and they also make beautiful and breathable clergy robes with pockets! If you are planning on attending this year’s CBF General Assembly, you can find Threads by Nomad set up in the Marketplace or see them at the BWIM Annual Gathering at Wilshire Baptist on June 13. Or you can reach out to them anytime. I love that I found a BAPTIST resource for buying a clergy robe. I love knowing I supported a missions-minded, woman-owned business. I LOVE wearing a clergy robe that doesn’t make me look boxy or masculine and that can professionally accommodate a wireless microphone (or lipgloss). I know I shouldn't care, but if I have to confess that I'm a little vain, I will. Call me crazy, but I want to look professional and polished and feel confident when I help lead God’s people in worship. That shouldn’t be a luxury that only male ministers enjoy. I just wanted to share one of my favorite things with you, in case you’re a little crazy like me.