26 January 2011

All the fun of the (tat) fair

Today at Westcott, a further supplier of clerical wear came to peddle their wares. This one was a company called Cross Designs, who seem to be trying to carve a niche in clerical fashions for women (they also do lots of men's stuff).

This and the previous visit (tat fair) we've had (from J&M) have made me aware that I'm nowhere near ready to start considering things like this just now. In conversation with a few people, it became clear to me that I actually know the reason for this hesitation.

My church background is very mixed! Bog-standard broad church (but a bit high) upbringing, followed by many years in an ecumenical and multi-faith chaplaincy. This has left me with a bit of a confused identity in terms of my place in the CofE; I know I'm part of it, but I'm not sure I fit in any of the pre-existing boxes. The thing I realised today, is that what you wear as a Priest can say a lot, to some people, about where on the church's diverse spectrum of churchmanship*  they should place you. What kind of collar do you wear? Cotta or surplice? Clerical hoodie or biretta (or both)? Black or coloured shirt? 39 buttons on your cassock or just enough for the articles you agree with? The choices are almost endless!

Not only is the breadth of choice bewildering, it's also intimidating. What will I be saying to others about myself by choosing only black clerical shirts? This is probably what I'll do, but it's purely aesthetic on my part - I like black, and I don't like the other colours typically used for clerical shirts.

The good news is that apart form a black cassock, I don't need to think about this much more until next year. Hopefully by then I'll know what I'm doing.

*Should that be 'churchpersonship'? Not sure it's a real word.


  1. Be yourself, Andrew, and don't be intimidated by the 'party' nonsense. On a practical note, it's worth hanging fire until you know what sort of parish you're going to - it might affect choices in one or two purchases.

    - Mike - wearing my (Swedish) denim clerical shirt

  2. Perhaps as many buttons as can fit on the cassock. If you're 4'10" it's hard to get all 39 on!

  3. @Mike - Swedish rules. Maria Sjödin is *the* women's clerical queen (said in all seriousness)
    @DrLanky - at least he and I get an option to get all buttons on - mine are pretty close, to be fair...

    Colours are a bit interesting - seem to be so few that we would all want to wear. However, these guys (gals) at least think about what women a) might want to wear and b) how we might continue to utilise the wardrobe we have- bamboo croptops rule :0
    My placement supervisor the year before last said by the time we get to where we are, the likelihood of dropout is tiny, so though you might humbly and practically want to put it off until next year, she also said you don't want to spend all your ordination day tugging your collar and feeling very very odd, so get used to the idea in advance. The first time you see yourself in a collar is very strange. Very strange. I have bought some black and some very (very) pink ;-) Am planning on asking Elliot to cut patterns from them for me! You sure you can't be interested in a hoodie and biretta????

  4. Was really cross to have "missed" it (those in the know will understand the "s). I have thought about choices only since getting here. Grey seems to be a common Methodist colour but I can't stand it. I think it likely I will generally go with black, because I like it, though with coloured v-necks (some already purchases) to brighten the look up. That said, I do have a few blue suits (including the kilt one) so some blue shirts would be good, as well as a couple of pink.
    But I agree about it saying things to people - which means I'm more likely to go with the Anglican black around Methodists (although black isn't unknown in Methodist circles), and the Methodist blue around Anglicans!
    And I have worn collars before having played priestly characters on stage - it is an odd feeling, I wonder how I'll feel when it's not just for a part!

  5. It was interesting to read your thoughts on this Andrew. As the 'tat queen' who organises the visits it is interesting to find out how people respond to the visits. I always find it interesting when people ask me questions about different types of vestments: they usually assume that there is a set and correct answer, and if there is, that I know it.

    The toolkit for survival at Westcott House in all circumstances is basically cassock, cotta, (white) cassock alb. Single-breasted, 39 buttons seems to be what most people do here for cassocks and I prefer them aesthetically, but you would normally have something over the top and so it really comes down to your preference. I reckon that ultimately you should have a cassock, surplice (at least for the ordination in Blackburn), ordination stole, cassock alb as your basic tool kit (and amice and trad. alb if you are going to a more trad. parish). Cotta might be handy for Westcott, especially if your tutor group opts for cassock and cotta for those serving [as they should! ;)]. It will also be handy if you end up in a more catholic parish, or when you come to preach at mine. If you need a cotta here--and don't want to buy one--you can always borrow mine. But as you have another year...and a handsome grant next year...you don't need to panic.

  6. Meant to say that I think Mike is right. You can borrow things here for basic survival needs. When it comes to your 1st appointment grant, you will have plenty to fill your dressing-up box, as I have now done--or will have done once LJ shirts have been.

    The lesson I have finally learnt here--going back to Mike's comment about 'party nonsense'--is that at the end of the day you are called to serve God not keep snotty ordinands happy: even me!