The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America



January 12, 2007

What suits her?

being most specifically the new Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.)—but really all women who work in a man’s world. A newspaper article caught my eye this week ( well actually it was the photo of Pelosi in a smart tweed blazer that went with the article) by Washington Post reporter Robin Givhan.

Jist of the piece is the pronouncement of Susan Rolontz, a retail consultant: “To look professional and be taken seriously, you need to wear a jacket.” And on it goes about the ups and downs (of profits, not hemlines) of dress manufacturers. I read in this commentary, in the various quotes, a slight criticism of these women who shun the femininity of a dress in favor of a suit and its “unequivocal statement of authority.”

I wonder. Is it that, really? Or is it just more like a player putting on the uniform of a team? Or even a choir member wearing a robe? I’m back at church, suddenly, remembering the sermon Sunday at Immanuel Lutheran Church, Grand Ledge, Mich., in which the pastor, Richard McKenzie, pastor, mused what it would be like if we left differences of class and gender and even personal style at the church door and came into the sanctuary in the same, simple robe. Would that emphasize how we together are sisters and brothers in the Lord, rather than first-and- foremost individuals with separate identities? He didn’t old up much hope the idea would be adopted in his congregation, but it does bear pondering.

And it makes me wonder why, in 2007, we still have to focus on what women wear—or don’t wear. Especially if what they choose to wear seems selected primarily so they can be part of the team, a member of the choir...so they can get to work.


Jack Labusch

Jack Labusch

Posted at 3:44 pm (U.S. Eastern) 1/14/2007

At the Lutheran church where I was confirmed, the congregation appeared to me split into old-timers and newcomers.  Old-timers were (broadly) more American, stable, provincial, less educated.  Newcomers were less American, uprooted from Europe, cosmopolitan, more educated.  Newcomers regarded the old-timers as hicks; old-timers viewed the newcomers as the uppity cousins who ought to have stayed where they were.  I still recall exchanging angry punches with David H., a smart-alecky kid who later committed suicide, while waiting for Herr Zielke, our Sunday school teacher.  Forty years later, I'm startled by how sharp my memory is of how oppressed I felt by those differences among the worshippers.

I like Pastor McKenzie's idea.  I know St. Paul makes some mention of proper attire; I don't know if Martin Luther does.  Jack.

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February issue


Embracing diversity