The Scary Power of Dressing Alike

The modern church lady was never big on matching outfits.

Despite growing up with 2 sisters close in age, we were never dressed alike. Here are a couple of pictures from the Modern church lady’s childhood, during the prime opportunity time for matching outfits. As you can see, we are not even color coordinated

But seeing the sea of pink pussy hats in pictures of the Women’s marches fills me with joy. Dressing a like can be a powerful statement. 

Source: Pussyhat Project, image found on Twitter: @rmayersinger

It reminds me of a unique custom I witnessed when touring the Connaught Hospital, the epicenter of the Ebola crisis, in Freetown Sierra Leone. On staff bulletin boards out in the open air corridors, there were scraps of fabric hanging from equally small fragments of paper.  I was told that these little announcements detailed the specific fabric and store where women  who were planning to attend a fellow nurse’s wedding could buy material for their outfits. 

Sierra Leone "flyer" instructing nurses at Connaught Hospital where to get fabric for wedding

“For the bridesmaids? “I asked. No the notice was for any woman planning to attend the wedding. In Sierra Leone,  is customary for women to make a dress out of the same fabric as other women attending the wedding. The women may use different patterns to make their outfits, but they all use the same material. A powerful show of connectedness, of losing yourself in the joy of others.

Something so wonderful about dressing alike. Yet, when given the chance, I couldn’t  do it. My fellow church lady travelers and I had bought similar dresses at the market-same pattern, different colors. They both donned their dresses for the goodbye celebratory dinner with the Bishop, but not me.  We had really bonded on the trip, but somehow I was uncomfortable with the physical manifestations of that bond.

I wish I could say it was due to some moral statement about “cultural appropriation,” but it was not. Somehow I felt silly. Somehow unable to let myself go, merge in with the others.  There is a scary power in dressing a like. Somehow it always makes a statement. 

It was too border crossing for me. I am fine with crossing the external borders travel requires, but the internal ones?

The Modern Day Church Lady still has a ways to go on her journey of caring and connectedness. Was is too much to ask that the Modern Church Lady make a public declaration of her bond with these two amazing women by wearing the same outfit? Must I always wear my uniqueness on my sleeve so to speak?

 Maybe I’ll order a pussy hat as a first step.