When the coronavirus pandemic shut down community gatherings, including church services, La Verne Ford Wimberly was not about to let her sense of style get shut down as well.
While the masses turned to tuning into church services virtually in the comfort of their sweat pants, 82-year-old Wimberly would not even consider slacking on the impeccable sense of style she has become known for.
“I thought, ‘Oh, my goodness, I can’t sit here looking slouchy in my robe,’ ” she said. “I didn’t want to sit around alone and feel sorry for myself, so I decided, ‘You know what? I’m going to dress up anyway.’ ”
That was March 29, 2020. Wimberly snapped a picture of herself that day and posted it to her Facebook page with a Bible verse attached, and the positive responses came pouring in. Since that first day of virtual church at Metropolitan Baptist Church in Tulsa, she has faithfully snapped and posted a selfie every week–53 weeks in a row so far.
“For years, everyone had known to look for me in the last row, section two, dressed to the nines,” Wimberly said to the WASHINGTON POST. “People always looked forward to seeing what I was wearing. So when I posted that photo, everyone told me it boosted their spirits.”
Wimberly–who is often called “doctor” by fellow parishioners due to the Ph.D in Education she holds–began her journey towards becoming a fashion icon back in the early 1950’s when she was a junior high school student.
One of Wimberly’s teacher’s would show up every day dressed so fetchingly in different, beautiful outfit, which made a lasting impression on Wimberly. So after she graduated from the University of Tulsa and landed her first job as a first grade teacher, she decided to establish herself in the same manner as her junior high teacher, dressing stylishly for class each day.
“They’d rub my arm and say, ‘Oh, Miss Ford [her maiden name], you look so pretty,’ ” she recalled. “Pretty soon, I had so many clothes that I started a rotation and color-coding system, so I could keep surprising the kids with my outfits.”
She continued the tradition through her entire career as a teacher, principle, and administrator, and of course at church every Sunday. When she started her “selfie Sundays,” she thought only members from her church and her Facebook friends would ever be aware of her new tradition, but attention began to spread after a local reporter who attends her church decided to do a human interest story on her festive attire.
“I started hearing from people everywhere who said my photos made them smile,” said Wimberly to the POST. “The whole point was to inspire people and make them feel good, so I’m happy that’s working.”
Wimberly is hopeful that in-person services will resume soon, and is already planning her outfit for when that happens.
“What will I wear? That will be determined by the season and the weather,” said Wimberly. “Maybe something purple with black and white. You can’t go wrong there.”