Patrick Boylan has spent his entire adult life in the fashion industry. But the latest, and most unusual, stitch in the fabric of his career is his current gig.
Designing and creating vestments for priests and ministers.
Through his company, Grace Liturgical Vestments, Boylan designs and produces vestments, primarily for Episcopal and Anglican priests, but also for Roman Catholic priests and Protestant ministers who seek something other than off-the-rack worship attire.
Last month, Boylan visited Las Vegas to meet with members of Christ Church Episcopal, which already owns some of his custom-designed vestments and is purchasing more.
Boylan -- who was raised in "a big Irish-Catholic family" in New York and has worshipped in the Episcopal Church since the late '80s -- decided in high school to pursue a career in the fashion industry. After graduating from the Fashion Institute of Technology in 1982, he worked for several higher-end fashion houses in New York City and in 1991 started his own business designing "very high-end maternity clothes."
"I did that a number of years and basically burned out," Boylan says. "It's a very tough business to be in. It's a very demanding business."
Around that same time, during the mid- to late-'90s, Boylan and his partner -- they've been together 19 years -- were preparing to start a family.
"When we were beginning the adoption process, I knew I wanted to sort of reinvent my work life to accommodate a family," Boylan says. (Their twins, Nora and Luke, now are 8.)
Coincidentally, Boylan began working with a fellow member of his church who'd been doing vestment work for many years.
"Instantly I knew that this was something that spoke to me creatively," Boylan says. "It tapped into all of my background and abilities and my sense of working with fabric and my work with color."
Also, Boylan says, "at the end of the day, it's just very profound work, to know that the work of my hands is being used in the way that these vestments are used."
The basics of creating church vestments are pretty much the basics of creating any garment, although Boylan also must keep in mind a few other considerations. For example, colors must be appropriate to the seasons in the liturgical year, and, because vestments typically are used by all of a church's ministers, they have to work on ministers of various shapes and sizes.
Boylan works primarily with Italian silk damasks and brocades. In designing a vestment, Boylan tries to get a sense of either an individual minister's tastes (if the purchaser is one person) or the space -- through, maybe, a sanctuary's carpeting, iconography or even stained glass windows -- where the vestment will be used.
The Rev. Kent "Buck" Belmore, rector of Christ Church, says people sometimes ask why a church would need custom-designed vestments. It's because, he replies, "these are things of beauty that will last 50 years or more, and they'll be in service to the glory of God for that period of time."
Christ Church already owns an Advent vestment set, and is in the process of buying two more sets -- a set includes vestments, plus lectern and altar hangings -- for other liturgical seasons. According to Belmore, the Advent set cost about $12,000.
Considering the decades of use envisioned for each set -- Boylan says a vestment typically needs to be dry cleaned once every three years -- that's a bargain. But, amortization aside, Boylan says, fine vestments can create a tenor in a congregation that off-the-rack vestments can't.
"You sort of sit up a little straighter," Boylan explains, "and pay attention a little more."
"At the end of the day, this is a path to God," he adds. "There are a lot of paths to God within the church. Everyone who walks through those doors has a very unique and individual experience of how they relate to God, and this is one of those ways.
"They may not speak to everyone," Boylan says, "but they certainly speak to a lot of people."
Contact reporter John Przybys at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0280.