The Higher Power Suit – Los Angeles Times

It’s Sunday, and that means that somewhere in America, probably as you’re reading this, a gospel choir is singing and swaying in stately robes of royal purple, teal, gold or off-white. And there’s a good chance that the full-length number that tights up Sister Edith’s eyes came from a tiny storefront in Leimert Park Village called PJ Choir Robes.

“My constant prayer.” says proprietor Patsy Johnson. “Is that the Lord will anoint our hands that we can make a perfect garment for his people, so that they can not only sing his praises but also look good while doing it.”

Johnson does not sing, but she has dressed hundreds of choirs, from the landmark Ebenezer AME Church in Fort Washington, Md., to the New Testament Church of God in Anchorage, Alaska. Locally, variations of her more than 30 robe styles outfit such houses of worship as Faithful Central in Inglewood (300 robes in teal) and the Friendship Missionary Baptist Church in Yorba Linda (200 in off-white). Of her children’s line, “And a Little Child Shall Lead Them,” she says: “I just did 70 robes for Travelers Rest Baptist Church in South-Central, and about 20 of them were for kids. Little robes, just like the adult robes, and they were so cute.”

Three assistants and a monogram specialist fashion the robes in PJ’s back seamstress room. Where you’re more likely to find Johnson, however, is at her desk in a corner, doing business amid photographs of choirs handsomely dressed in her creations. She frequently sports a lapel button that reads, “God Is Good All the Time,” and if you drop in at the right moment, she may offer to share her lunch.

“I’ve always had faith in God,” she says, “but I never thought I’d be selling religious garments.” Johnson, 67, previously worked in the ladles’ sportswear industry before helping out a friend in the robe business. She has had one business partner, but “for the last 10 years, it’s just me and the Lord. He’s been all the partner I need.”

“Religion itself is a big business. If there’s an order that the Lord has for me, then I’m going to get the order.”