Clerical designs are bound to tradition and slow to change. But this fall for the first time, Stephen Fendler is revamping CM Almy’s women’s line of everyday clothing to keep up with increased demand. In 2012, more than 20 percent of clergy were women, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, compared with 14 percent 10 years ago. And Mr. Fendler estimates that about half the graduates from Episcopal seminaries are women.
For a long time, he said, Almy had offered casual, everyday clothing for female priests and ministers, but the shirts were man-tailored and made from a stiff cotton material. Over the years, he began to hear from women who wanted more options.
“We want to represent the authority of a church, but we also want to look and feel like women,” said the Rev. Anisa Cottrell Willis, a priest in the Episcopal Diocese in Lexington, Ky. Mrs. Cottrell Willis advised CM Almy during the design process. “Most women don’t like the way they look in the boxy, men’s button-down shirts.” She said. “The job is dominated by men, but that doesn’t mean we have to look like them.”