The prospect of wearing clergy black for the rest of my life was a rather daunting one. So: some thoughts after two years of experimenting with different female clergy shirts.
Custom made shirts.
Cross Designs - pretty good, as long as you get the measurements absolutely pin point right at the very beginning. In truth my wrists and neck are not THAT tiny, and I'm not as generously endowed in the bust department as the shirts suggest. Denim blue (see picture) seemed a good idea at the time but the cow girl look is tricky one to pull off, plus no jumpers go over such thick material, so you're either too cold in winter or too warm in summer. Loads of different coloured cottons and other materials; plain or patterned - probably too much choice. As far as I'm concerned they can bin all floral options without further ado.
Black linen short sleeved, well shaped: felt great at the Deaconing two years ago - decent black and white skirt went okay - until I had to put on sensible black shoes (surely Kate Moss doesn't have to contend with uneven Cathedral stone flooring?) Sadly today, after a lot of unsuitable wash cycles, the linen is looking a bit worse for wear; bits of white fluff stick on annoyingly and it has shrunk. Neck now under even more pressure.
The much hyped 'cotton tunic' clergy shirts by Cross Designs are a good female shape but my original ones have shrunk. Upwards. This, coupled with my fondness for hipster grey trousers, means a stretch of exposed skin between the bottom of the shirt and the top of the trousers, which calls for either courage or a good tank top.
Colours: the above come in a vast range, but realistically, do you actually want to be seen in clergy pink? (NO). Green seems somehow just wrong. Brown is unconscionable; red and yellow similar; purple is out for obvious reasons; white - how does that work with a white dog collar? So that leaves grey, blue and black. The three colours I never wore before I went into the church.
Got excited about this company, seduced by pictures of endless stripy cotton swatches and silk options. My lilac silk size 12 (three quarter length sleeves) came through the post and was disappointingly shapeless. Bag lady feel. Cue another tank top. Lilac silk sounds glamorous but in the winter it's too cold and in the summer...you get the picture.
Butler and Butler.
This is a truly wonderful company. The shirts arrive tissue paper wrapped, with those lovely little labels tied on with string. You can pretend you've brought something glamorous and fashionable instead of just another work shirt. AND the cotton is fairly traded and organic - feel virtuous as well as looking good!!! The collars are properly generous - not just a finger but a whole fist between the collar and neck. During a long governors meeting in a small hot classroom this can be a life saver. Only one quibble - the long sleeved version hasn't quite got the length in the sleeves for a gangly one like me.
The Casual Priest.
This is a Swedish site. Say no more. It might be a translation thing, but isn't the name of the company a theological reflection in itself. I can only imagine they've had ordained women in Sweden for a century or two - they are light years ahead clergy fashion-wise. But even I couldn't bring myself to indulge in a pair of funky black clergy culottes or a figure hugging linen tunic with sleeves like those medieval princesses in fairy stories. But if you like living on the edge and have a lot of spare stipend...Enjoy!