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With less than three months until baby’s due to arrive, I think it’s time to sit at the computer and consider what it has meant to be the pregnant pastor. Today’s topic: clothes.

I’ll never qualify as “best dressed” or up on the latest trends… I tend to rejoice more over finding the lowest price rather than hippest look. But I think part of the joy of pregnancy comes in celebrating a changing, healthy body that is obviously growing a new life. And why not have a few fun outfits for that?

As an ordained pastor, there are times when I want to be obviously identified in that role. This is not a very formal area of the country- even the bishop often will wear jeans and a clerical! But I think especially on preaching occasions, it’s important for me to be recognized as clergy. It’s easily forgotten in a place where it’s more familiar to identify me as the pastor’s wife.

And now the very pregnant pastor’s wife… er… other pastor.

While loose albs cover most everything, including the baby bump, I’m focusing on what’s underneath: the collar.

I like the Friar Tuck Shell Clericals for women. They fit me and my belly for another few weeks after my Lydia shirts became too tight. But, by 24ish weeks, it was time for another option!

There simply are not great options out there for maternity clericals. I’ve heard mixed and negative reviews regarding the full length “maternity clergy shirts” out there- and honestly, I don’t know how many pastors have so much discretionary income that a $40+  maternity shirt that’ll only be worn once in a while sounds good (plus, it really didn’t look too flattering to me). There are, however, some interesting options on the dickey/janie/sportsbra/half-length front.

They are likewise expensive, but I think would be more useable during the rest of my career- like when I’m not pregnant! Someone was giving her old ones away at a clergy conference this fall, so I took a couple even though they were a little big, to check them out (hoping baby was coming soon).

The collar one the one I was wearing was a bit funky, so I decided it was time to make my own! Here’s some basic instructions for you to make your own clerical janie. Here’s my finished product:

  1. Start with a clerical with a neck that fits- it’s ok if it’s a bit big or small in other places – they’re going to get cut off anyway! I’m using a Friar Tuck Shell: Roman Collar style. I’ve already taken off the shoulder pads (I do that to all my shirts- it’s not the 80s anymore…)
  2. You may want to slip on the shirt and mark with chalk or pins how low you want the front to end. The length of the front will depend on the size of your bust. I chose to end mine just below the bustline or where a comfortable sportsbra would hit. Since I’m making this while 28 weeks pregnant… I’m trying to hit where my profile dips in- that space between bust and baby- so that I’m not feeling it slip up because I’ve made it too long.
  3. Get out your quilting tools! If you don’t have any, surely there will be a church lady who does! Lay shirt smoothly on a cutting mat. Using a quilting square or edge, line up your marked line so that it hits the 1.5 inch mark on your square. This means you are cutting 1.5 inches below where you want the shirt to fall on you. In this picture, I didn’t mark a line, but just measured three inches down from the armpit. That was a little risky, as it might not have been long enough!
  4. Holding the square firmly, use a rotary cutter to cut off the bottom. You might think about making the back and front different lengths to better fit your figure… but I was going for ease, and this worked just fine.
  5. Next, we’ll cut off the sides. Here I aligned the quilter’s edge with my shirt’s bottom edge and moved it as far over as I could and still cut the sleeve seams off. You could also try a curve or taper instead of a straight line. But, not as easy, nor did I find it necessary.
  6. Here you can see the pieces have been cut and we have something that looks rather like what we’re shooting for!                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      
  7. Time to heat up the iron! Using an appropriate setting for the material of your shirt, press from front/outside to back/underside a 3/4 inch fold on all sides. (note: You may want it to be a smaller fold, especially on the sides. I’m saying 3/4 inch here because I told you to cut the bottom off 1.5 inches from the length you marked.) Fold it over on itself towards the back/underside one more time and press again. You’re creating a clean edge along the outside that lays flat. You may want to trim corners to help them align, but if you don’t and it’s a little messy, no one is going to see!
  8. Slip it over your head to check on the length and width. If it’s too skinny or short, unfold and press the shirt open and make smaller folds this time. If it’s too wide or long, either press one more fold (makes a little bulky) or unfold and press shirt open and make bigger folds this time.
  9. Once the folds look good, you’ll need to sew those edges down.
  10. Slip it over your head again. If you can, hold your elastic on the back edge and bring it forward to estimate how long a piece of elastic you’ll need. Cut a few inches longer. <or> Sew elastic on right side back and ignore the fact that you have a super long piece of elastic attached to your shirt at the moment.
  11. Sewing elastic: You’ll want to sew the elastic on the inside of your shirt back first. Overlay .5-1 inch, matching elastic’s bottom edge with the folded and sewed bottom edge of your shirt. Sew at both the ragged edge of the elastic (.5-1 inch in to the shirt) as well as near the outer edge of the shirt. Do both so that the elastic doesn’t unravel and so that it holds and lays nice on the outer part of the shirt.
  12. If you’ve estimated the length of elastic, cut two lengths and sew one on each back side.
  13. If you’ve sewed one side and left the long length hanging, slip on your shirt and pull the elastic from back to match up to the front. You might ask a friend to help. Then mark on the elastic where it needs to first meet the front part of the shirt. (Or you could pin it closed like how you’ll want it for your final shirt). Make sure you’re pulling it to the tightness you want, while not pulling so hard as to shift the shirt to that side. Take off the shirt. Go to step 15.
  14. If you’ve estimated and attached elastic to both back sides, slip on the shirt. Grab the back elastic from both sides and pull to the front. (You may want a friend to help give you the elastic or hold onto the front, etc). Align both sides of elastic on the front of the shirt so they are holding your shirt sufficiently snug. Mark where the elastic hits the front panel, or pin in place. Slip  off the shirt.
  15. Cut elastic .5-1 inch longer than where you’ve marked or pinned it. Align elastic as you did for the back, along the bottom inside seam of the front. Sew with two seams. Repeat for the other side.
  16. There you have it! Slip it on to make sure it all fits.

Here’s a back view. Notice the buttons down the back- this is why I like using a shirt that already is a clerical- all I have to do to created a janie and cut off some bits rather than mess with the neckline!

I also tried messing around with having at least one side of the elastic come on and off with hooks or a clasp. I didn’t find this necessary with my figure- I can slip it all on and off just fine. However, if you have a large bust, that might be more difficult or cause too much stretching. Here’s my ugly job of sewing on hooks and eyes:

I wear these under my maternity shirts that have a lower neckline. I think they would also look nice with a sweater or cardigan (my congregants are so old they tend to crank the heat… so sweaters under albs are out of the question!)

Good luck!