Baptismal Fashion

As seems to be the way with my life at the moment, I find myself doing things I don’t expect from one week to the next. Last Tuesday, it was suggested I should be the female assistant in the baptisms that were taking place the following Sunday. I leapt at the opportunity – not only would it be a privilege to be involved in a life changing experience for two members of the congregation, but I’d finally get to set foot in a baptistry. [We who are baptised as infants are often slightly jealous of those that get dunked as adults.]

I spent quite a bit of the days that followed thinking about Sunday night. I’d love to say that this was entirely a praying for the candidates type of thinking, but it wasn’t. Mostly, I was thinking about the clothing implications of the occasion. I’d never even done the swimming badge that involves several lengths clad in pyjamas, so this whole wearing clothes in water thing was quite a daunting prospect.

The (male) member of the clergy who had asked me to take on this role had emphasised one crucial fashion rule for baptisms: don’t wear white, or any other colour that goes see-through. I knew enough to be aware of this already, and I was also aware that denim (or other, similarly heavy fabrics) wouldn’t work either. But other issues remained…

An added complication was the fact that a Bishop was going to be present (for confirming purposes) and the clergy would be robed – therefore I’d need to look smart on a par with them. As I began thinking about skirts and dresses, I realised that certain skirts would simply inflate in water, which wouldn’t be a particularly appropriate look. (By Thursday this was no longer an issue – sadly the Bishop was ill and the confirmations had to be postponed.)

Logically, in order to solve this fashion dilemma, I approached Twitter for advice. Useful responses were received, but the most helpful (from a female vicar) threw me into a panic that I never quite managed to resolve.The advice was as follows:

“Black leggings and black top that isn’t too think so that it won’t stick to you outrageously when wet! Sports bra with padding too!” 

Leggings I’d already hit upon as a genius idea. Should you ever be engaged in such a dampening activity, wear them (if you’re female, obviously). They’re easy to remove, won’t weigh as much as jeans, and ensure decency even under floating skirts. A black top was also sensible – it wouldn’t go see through and can easily be layered under other clothing. Plus, who doesn’t own a black top?

As for the padded bra, well, that opened up a whole can of worms that I hadn’t even considered. Water can be chilly and so can churches (especially in January), and that can do unfortunate things to your (to quote Ross from Friends) ‘nippular area’ – which would look quite inappropriate when having to man-handle people in water.

The thing is, I don’t own a padded bra. Once you’re beyond the letter D in the bra sizing alphabet, you really don’t need the extra padding. At first I thought perhaps it wouldn’t matter, that I’d get away with my regular underwear. Then things got a bit chilly in my flat and I realised that it could potentially be an issue. Even worse, a phone call to my sister a matter of hours before the service ended with her exclaiming that if I didn’t have one, I ought to wear my padded swimsuit under my clothes. (Not an option – my sporty swimsuit has no padding; the one that does has a tied halterneck and would be difficult to conceal under ‘normal’ clothing.) I considered fashioning my own bra padding out of tissues, but obviously, such padding wouldn’t last long in damp conditions.

In the end, it was all fine. Well, the church nearly burnt down the night before, thanks to a malfunctioning extension cable attached to the pool’s heating element, but generally it was fine. I learnt a few useful things that I’ll bear in mind for next time:

  • People are very heavy when wet (and relaxed) in water. 
  • Depending on the water level, you might not get as totally wet as you think you will.
  • Standing in wet clothes as people pray for the recently baptised is a thoroughly chilling experience. 
  • Some men think so little of their footwear that they’re willing to stand in several feet of water wearing them. 
  • Baptising people is really rather exciting.

And maybe, just maybe, I’ll see about acquiring a padded bra.

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