Gospel singers embrace fashion -- Mary Mary and Yolanda Adams prove that style and religion aren't incompatible

By Billy Johnson
Updated May 26, 2000 at 04:00 AM EDT

Thought gospel singers only wore white robes or their Sunday best? Not these days. In the same way the Dixie Chicks revamped female country singer couture, a style-conscious set of almighty altos are helping to make gospel look very chic. ”We want people to know that people who love God are not old, fat, and boring,” says Tina Atkins of Mary Mary, who not only have a top 10 dance hit, ”Shackles (Praise You),” but a video that features the Columbia Records sister act in Theory denim outfits with tops by Jade Jagger and Laundry. At the Impact black radio convention held at Nashville’s Opryland Hotel last month, the statuesque Yolanda Adams, who won the Best Contemporary Gospel/Soul Grammy in February, could have passed for Brandy’s big sis with long mini-braids, red Stuart Weitzman pumps, and a red Emanuel Ungaro ruffled shirt. ”Just because they sing for the church doesn’t mean that they don’t have a good fashion eye,” says L.A.-based stylist Stacy Young, who has dressed Mary Mary as well as B-Rite/Interscope’s Trinitee 5:7. These singers say their outfits mirror who they are (”I’m 21 and I want to look like a 21-year-old,” proclaims Trinitee singer Chanelle Haynes), and many feel style and religion aren’t mutually exclusive. (”Jesus Christ was extremeley sharp,” notes Horace Jones, who manages MCA’s Ametria.) Of course, there are limits to what these singers can and will wear. ”It’s absolutely necessary that we don’t have something exposing our bodies…and all that neck, bellies out, skimpy stuff. We don’t get down like that,” says Atkins. ”We are gospel and we do have a certain standard to uphold.” But Adams is simply following some advice given to her by a man of the cloth: ”A preacher once told me that you have to look like something before anyone will ever pay attention to you.” Praise the Lord for Prada.