[A disclaimer: in this post I'm assuming a lot about culture. I realize that there are many cultures in which my comments below would not apply-- even within the American context. I'm assuming, therefore, that you, the reader, understands that I'm coming from an American, protestant, mostly-white, mostly-suburban Presbyterian context, and that you'll forgive my broad-stroke claims if they don't apply to you.]
For the most part, candidacy is not a casual affair. View it like you do any job interview-- only this one lasts two and a half days. You wouldn't wear jeans, flip-flops and a worn-out Van Halen t-shirt to a job interview at a corporation, retail store, or even Starbucks; you would probably wear nice pants (not denim), dark shoes, and a nice shirt-- possibly even a tie and sport coat. Why should you view an interview at a church any differently?
A rule of thumb I always taught my Rhetoric students about public speaking is applicable here: you should plan to dress at least as nicely as the other most well-dressed person in the room. You are not a mere participant in these situations-- you are the object of everyone's attention, and the way you present yourself communicates a lot to them about how much you respect them and the situation. (Thus my thoughts from a few days ago.)
So here's a list of what I'll take when I go on my next interview weekend:
- 1-2 two-piece suits
- 1-2 sport jackets (2 if I only take 1 suit)
- 2-3 pairs of nice pants (probably 1 pair of "dress slacks" and 2 pairs of "chino" pants)
- 1 pair of black dress shoes
- 2 pair of brown shoes-- one casual and one dress
- 2 oxford dress shirts
- 2-3 other shirts (either Polo-style golf shirts or casual button-down shirts)
- 3 neckties
- Appropriate accessories (belts, socks, etc.)
Along these lines, guys: wear a sleeved, plain white undershirt. All the time. (Yes, it does look different.)
One more thing-- the suits, jackets, pants, and shirts will all go to the dry cleaner's a week before the trip. Yes, that will cost money-- probably about $20, if my experience with dry cleaners is accurate-- but I'm guaranteed to have cleaned, pressed clothes that look neat for the whole trip.
Here's a fact to take to the bank: in even the most casual American church, you will never be over-dressed in a tie and blazer. You could wear a suit to 80% of the churches in any given town and not stand out. So remember this as you're packing for your interview weekend.