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.

    Christmas Jumper Day

    Today was a special day…
    not because it was the first essay deadline of my Vicar School career;
    nor because it was the last day of my first term;
    but because today was officially designated ‘Christmas Jumper Day’.

    I’ve never owned a Christmas Jumper before, but have on several occasions bought one for my sister (it’s an essential component of her Christmas list). Early on in life at Vicar School, Christmassy jumpers became something of a theme – enough for there to be a little group of jumper wearers while we were in France. At our last residential, more jumpers appeared and there was much discussion over Twitter as to who was acquiring jumpers and from where. [Obvious displacement activity during essay writing time.] I acquired mine from *cough* Primark *cough* and went for the jumper-dress option, just to be different.

    It’s become something of a craze amongst the 1st years – I suspect the rest of the college are looking on longingly thinking “just you wait, this time next year life won’t be so carefree…”. A 3rd year commented to me this morning that it was “very cute” to be able to recognise the 1st years (not at all patronising!).

    Anyway, a photo opportunity was essential – though sadly three Christmas Jumper wearers were missing at this moment. Here are the results:

    To quote a comment on Facebook – ‘Gap Christmas advert 2012’
     – I reckon vicars-to-be would be perfect models for Christmas apparel! 

    Yep, these are the people that’ll be running churches across the country in a few years time. Terrifying thought, isn’t it?

    Beachwear is not appropriate

    Lately, I’ve been thinking rather more than usual about what I should wear and when. It’s partly because, with the arrival of a new job and a new life as a student, I’m meeting a lot of new people; and partly because I have a new status as ‘ordinand’ or church leader, which means I have to think a little bit more carefully about how I’m perceived.

    I think I’ve always liked a bit of structure to my apparel. Growing up, there was school uniform and then there was non-uniform – the boundaries between the two were pretty clear. (And I was the kind of geek who never customised their uniform with anything more daring than a Prefect badge…) Over the last few years I’d developed a pretty good working wardrobe, with ‘presentation’ dresses (for important occasions), regular working dresses, skirts and the odd indulgence in a denim Friday. All of a sudden, that structure’s gone…

    In America, the pressure of first day of school outfits is well documented – with this Hairpin article from a week or so ago showing that even with the passing of the years, people can remember how they tried to make a good impression upon their peers. It’s a good job that I had a uniform at school, because quite frankly, there’s no way I could have stood the pressure! But last week, I had my own first day of school and the pressure was on. What does one wear to their first day at vicar school? [One can safely assume that a dog collar would be too much, as would a nun’s habit…]

    The welcome day was easily sorted – it was a Saturday and I had a social engagement to head to after the day ended, thus the outfit needed to be both respectable and socialising friendly. The induction day was trickier – a smaller group of people and, if other people’s memories work the way mine does, a potential to remembered in the first outfit I was seen in for eternity. [The second week of class is going to be interesting as presumably everyone will have changed their clothes and I will no longer be able to connect a yellow t-shirt with a church plant in Kentish Town. Curse my visual memory…] Jeans were the logical answer, but I don’t really like wearing them much; the denim shorts/tights combo would probably be a tad risque; a dress, though comfortable, might look a little over the top – what’s a girl to do? Ultimately, jeans won, I fitted in and looked perfectly normal. They will be fooled for now…

    A more complicated question was what to wear while being introduced to my new church community. Last year, I discovered an interesting difference in church styles – I say ‘interesting’, it’s merely the effect of having worshipped in an uber trendy church for nearly 7 years. I’ve been conditioned into dressing for church, it being a good (and usually safe) place to try out new outfits and get affirmed. It’s also nice to have a place that you know you can dress up for, because dressing up’s fun and sometimes life doesn’t provide enough opportunities for it. What I realised last year is that not all churches are St Mary’s, in fact, only St Mary’s is St Mary’s. In most churches, young adults wear jeans and hoodies. All of a sudden, I’m ‘most churches’.

    S’ok though, I no longer need to seek clothes boundaries for work – I’ve been given a sheet with them on. At my second staff meeting, we were issued with a church dress code. [There are so many new staff/interns that our office manager decided we needed a policy – fair enough – and so she took one from another big church whose initials may include B, T & H as a template.] I read through the document confident that I hadn’t fallen foul of it that morning, then reached its third paragraph and sniggered. The sniggers soon became near infectious laughter as the curate and worship leader reached the same point and joined in with my giggles…

    “In other words, beach wear is not allowed – strappy tops, vest tops, shorts, crop tops, and flip-flops, bikinis, burkinis etc.”

    Yes, that word before ‘etc’ is ‘burkini’. I am banned from wearing a burkini to work, gutted. Turns out our American colleague hadn’t understood the word and assumed it was slang for Birkenstocks [we’ll leave aside why anyone would want to ban Birkenstocks from a church – half the congregation would have to leave]. She was floored when we explained it was an islamic swimming costume. It also makes me wonder two things:
    (i) Had anyone ever tried to go to work at our sister church in a burkini, thus meaning that they felt the need to specifically mention them?
    (ii) Did anyone ever go in wearing a bikini? Surely even the most empty-headed church worker would realise that such clothing is unacceptable in any workplace other than (potentially) a surf club?

    Perfect office wear…

    Anyway, I’m sure I’ll figure it all out in due course. Who knows, maybe I’ll delight in the ability to hide in hoodies for a few years before the horrors of clerical clothing manifest themselves?

    Dress down Friday

    Friday’s the day when dressing down in the office becomes appropriate. (Actually, in certain areas of my office every day is a dress down day.) It’s the one day of the week when I feel that wearing jeans is ok – more than ok, as it’s essentially my floor’s end of the week uniform.

    The problem with jeans is that they can be uncomfortable – you know how it is when they’ve just been washed and haven’t stretched out again? They’re absolutely the worst thing to take a nap in, or wear after a big meal. But fear not, some bright spark has come up with the solution: Pajama Jeans.

    Oh yes, they look like jeans and fit like jeans but are lined with ‘dormisoft’ fabric to make them feel like PJs. [Incidentally, you’ve got to love the person who made up a word based on Latin origins – dormio = to sleep – thus ‘dormisoft’ means they must be soft enough to sleep in. Presumably this also makes it look terribly scientific.] Don’t believe me? Check out this infomercial and I’m sure you’ll be convinced:

    This week it irks me that I’ve had a full five day week while in America they had yet another public holiday [at this moment, please ignore the fact that I had the day off on Wednesday to shop]. Presidents Day seems to be an odd holiday, but I’m probably just a jealous Brit who loathes the fact that we have many dark weeks with no public holidays from January 2nd until whenever Easter falls – and this year it’s falling rather late for my liking. Anywho, I did derive some amusement from the holiday because someone out there decided to order the 43 Presidents in order of hotness. (Before anyone comments that there were 44 Presidents, actually there weren’t – the numbers just got messed up because Grover Cleveland was President for two non-consecutive terms.)

    I love a good list and I’m a big fan of American history/politics (at one point I could list a significant number of them in order, it’s not a great party trick), so this was an intriguing read. For a start, #1 is neither of the Presidents that you might expect it to be and George W. Bush is ranked ridiculously high (within the top 10 in fact). Definitely worth a perusal.

    You know who came in at #9 on that list? Reagan. And what controversial defence policy was he responsible for? The Strategic Defense Initiative – otherwise known as Star Wars, which enables me to link (albeit tenuously) to a fabulous video…

    Star Wars fans, have you ever wondered how you might explain the world of Han Solo and Luke Skywalker to your offspring? I mean, it’s a pretty big deal – some might say it’s practically a religion. Fortunately, some American dads have pondered this question and these are their thoughts:

    (By the way, whatever your feelings for Star Wars, that video’s worth watching just for a cute teeny-tiny baby sporting a knitted Yoda hat!)

    Finally, it simply wouldn’t be Friday without some amusing animals. This week I offer you Hats for Cats.

    Practically perfect in every way (Plus bonus photo)

    Friday was an excellent shopping day. Not only was an entirely appropriate dress for the Christmas carol service acquired (we have very strict colour instructions, with no two people in the same section allowed to wear the same colour – honest!), but I also found a new handbag (bliss) and later the same day made a rather impulsive purchase…

    I don’t really have a good record with impulse buys – especially ones that begin with a friend ringing to tell me about the amazing bargain they’ve just found. It nearly always ends in disaster, I can be very easily led at times. However, I never thought that impulse buying would take place in an outdoor clothing shop. Make up, bags, random articles of clothing and at least one item per visit to Primark – yes, Mountain Warehouse – really not so much.

    My friend (Morv, of fellow musical geek fame) had acquired a new ski jacket. Fairly practical as she lives in the far north and had just the day before had to contend with her first snow of the season. Sometimes, she even goes to Scotland to ski. When I met her and another friend we’d found in London, we headed back to the shop so she could show us her bargain [you’d have thought she’d have simply lifted it out of the carrier bag, but no] and within seconds I was trying on one in a different colour.

    The three of us stood there contemplating jackets. I seized upon mine describing it as “cute”; Ali liked the look of one that was practical (she’s an engineer); Morv wanted something “mature” [those that know Morv will appreciate that this is the last word with which to describe her]. Is cute the wrong thing to look for in practical outdoor clothing? Should I really have been comparing waterproofing and stitching rather than colours?

    Anyway, I ended up with a purple jacket (with contrasting pinkish bits) that came with integral phone holder, generic mp3 player pocket and ski lift pass flap (possibly useful for Oyster cards?). I had to laugh when the man at the checkout asked when I was going skiing – had he not heard the weather forecast, or even gone outside into the biting temperatures? I do not ski, despite skiing lessons aged 16, and don’t intend. I do, however, have parents who live in Ireland and also have an intense hatred of the cold, so it will get plenty of use off the slopes.

    Getting it home, I suffered a little buyers’ remorse and kept the receipt safe, just in case. The next day dawned just as cold and it seemed sensible to wear it out. After less than an hour of wearing it I realised that there is nothing better than a jacket that’s effectively a duvet with a zip – £47.99 well spent I feel (reduced from £119.99, FYI).

    Today, on day three of consecutive ski jacket wearing, I managed to inadvertently co-ordinate my outerwear outfit. Purple jacket, purple scarf (ok, the scarf was intentional), purple inside of glasses’ frames, purple gloves, purple hat (ok, may also have been a conscious decision to wear purple hat instead of black one) and complimentary denim skirt with blue tights. Actually, what amused me most was that two men commented upon the co-ordination, rather than women. (I will ignore the fact that C laughed at me wearing it at the office…) Thinking about it, if only it had been snowing – I could have worn the purple wellies too!

    Wait, what’s the forecast for tomorrow? Would it be a severe weather warning for heavy snow in London by any chance? Indeed it would. Looks like tomorrow will involve a practically perfect outdoors outfit, in every single way.

    I felt this post needed a photo – so I took one.