3/19/2007

consider the lilies of the field...

What surprised me most about attending the LDS Church on Sunday? The way the attendees were dressed.

Let me speak a bit first about the way my Quaker Friends dress for church. The men generally wear khakis, jeans or shorts with t-shirts, polos, or button-downs. Occasionally one will wear a sweater. I don't recall every seeing a tie, suit, white dress shirt, or dress shoes on a male Friend.

The women's clothes are quite similar. Some of the women wear nice jewelry, as in a pair of amber teardrop earrings. A few of the older female friends wear dressy scarves or jackets. I've seen the women wear loafers, but I don't think I've ever seen a pair of pumps, wedges, or high heels in Meeting. Clogs, sandals or athletic-style shoes are most common. Many Friends wear the same clothes each Sunday. I usually wear my serviceable long-ish black polyester skirt (this same skirt that I've had for 10 years and accompanies me on all of my overseas travel because of its indestructibility) with a t-shirt, sweater, or blouse. Sometimes I wear pants, but not as often as a skirt because we do laundry on Sunday afternoon and I rarely have any clean pants on Sunday morning.

Allright now, back to LDS. Many of the younger women looked dressed as if they were headed to a club. Slinky, clingy fabrics. Very short skirts. Plunging necklines. All in the latest fashions (at least, I am making that assumption given that I know so little about fashion) With all of the makeup, jewelry, and high-heeled shoes to match. The men, of course, wore the requisite dark suits, white shirts, and ties. With expensive-looking leather dress shoes and belts. I found the men quite intimidating--I haven't been around 'suits' in months (no one in academia dresses like that). I hadn't realized how overwhelming such clothing can be. It gave me pause as I considered how the LDS might appear quite daunting and over-the-top corporate to newcomers.

As I reflected on this later, it seemed odd to me that the LDS women were dressed so worldly, so 'immodestly.' At Quaker Meeting I've never seen a mini-skirt or any cleavage. Yet Quakers have no rules or restrictions about the clothing of their members. And the LDS are counseled to dress modestly, even having this reinforced/policed by the nature of their temple garments.

Interesting...

41 comments:

amelia said...

i have to smile at your assessment that the women at church look like they're dressed for clubbing. either the women in your ward dress radically less modestly than those in the singles ward (which i highly doubt), or you haven't been clubbing for a while. :)

i've never understood clothing being a source of intimidation. they're just clothes. and the people in them are just people, with all the insecurities and doubts and troubles that all people experience.

perhaps the "consider the lilies" verse is for those of us on the outside, looking at how others are dressed as much as for ourselves when we clothe ourselves. that we should concern ourselves less with how people came to appear the way they do--whether high fashion, granola naturalist, or punk--and more with how they are more glorious than the most wonderful of manmade institutions.

Brooke said...

I'm trying to remember what I was wearing on Sunday. Hm.

JohnR said...

Amy, can you address the difference without being completely dismissive of either Jana's observation or the fact that many people do feel intimidated by clothing?

Tanya Sue said...

First, I have to admit to coming to church more than once and wondering if a girl or two was going to their job as pole dancer afterwards. Ok, not really that bad, but bad enough. Singles wards are the worst. I seriously was friends with a few topless dancers that dressed more modestly in daily life than some people at church.
I can’t help but think that part of the dress is the area we live in. At least I hope that is the case. I think it can be completely intimidating when someone dressed like a corporate lawyer-especially when that isn’t what you are used to. I have often reflected on the fact that I feel the need to warn guests I am bringing that the women are all in nice dresses/skirts and the men are generally in suits. I don’t do this for the people at church but because I don’t want the guest to feel awkward.

At the same time, I cannot help but think that this is just a “sign of the times”. That the people who should understand don’t. It almost reaffirms my testimony in a twisted way when I see members of the church getting so caught in the world.

Oh, and I was in my very modest pj's all day on Sunday so I know you are not talking about me....

jana said...

Amelia:
I may have exaggerated a bit when I said they were dressed for clubbing. I've never actually been clubbing, so how could I know?? :)

But I was trying to find a shorthand way of describing the style of clothing I saw: it was trendy, provocative, sophisticated, and fairly expensive-looking. Much dressier than I see on campus or in any other venue that I've attended recently (incl the Symphony). It was not only the dress/skirt, but all of the accessories (well-coiffed hair, make-up, etc) It makes me wonder WHY so much effort and such expense for a church meeting? I don't have anything against looking one's best or feeling good in one's clothes, but this seemed a bit extreme, IMO.

I don't think I would've noticed the clothing if it wasn't in such stark contrast to what I see at my Meeting. It gave me pause. FWIW, I dressed the same for LDS church as I would've for Meeting. I didn't feel like my clothing was terribly out of place, but the clothes of others drew my attention.

amelia said...

i didn't mean to be dismissive. i was simply stating my feeling about clothing. i notice people's clothing in church when it presents something to be noticed, whether that something is beauty or oddity or color or style. i don't remember ever being intimidated by it; i don't understand that response.

if people do feel intimidated, i don't think the onus is on the people they're intimidated of to change how they dress. i think the onus is on those intimidated to find greater confidence in themselves and more compassionate understanding for all people and the insecurities and tragedy and psychoses that may lie behind the surface of perfectly coiffed hair and immaculate clothing.

as to the difference between clothing at meeting and clothing at lds services...i'm not sure what there is to say about it. i do not believe that clothing conveys much of anything substantial about people's characters. which is why i said what i did about considering the lilies.

i don't say any of this to be dismissive; it's just how i see things re: the clothes worn to church. i'm perfectly fine with others disagreeing with me. and i'm totally confident that jana has the strength of character and conviction to not be bothered by differing opinions.

Caroline said...

Very interesting observations!

I have attended singles wards for six years and I often feel church is like a fashion show. I've seen many girls at church that look like they just stepped out of the pages of Vogue. This trend is especially apparent in the DC singles wards. Surprisingly, the fashions at my BYU wards were much more simple.

I think there are a few reasons why some Mormon women focus so much of their time on fashion. First, they may want male attention. I think this is the biggest culprit since there is such an emphasis on marriage in the Church. Second, they may be really interested in the fashion industry (I met many girls like this at BYU). Or third, they wear boring clothes during the week and want to dress up on Sunday.

I also think fashion loses its importance as women grow older. They get married, have children, and no longer have time to primp two hours before sacrament meeting. Or they just wizen up and realize that fashion isn't such a big deal.

I also believe fashion trends vary greatly ward by ward due to economic demographics. For example, I currently attend a singles ward in DC and many members of my ward have a lot of disposable income. Thus many girls have money to spend on designer clothes and shoes. But when I attended an inner-city ward in London, no one really cared about clothes or fashion. The members there were just trying to adjust to their new religion and many lacked the resources for any sort of luxury. Suffice to say, I loved my London ward!

Anyway, so sorry for leaving such a long comment!

paula said...

I think to some extent the clothing you're describing at the LDS church is the area in which you live. At least when I moved to southern California (and I'm a bit further south than Jana), I was surprised by how suggestive some of the clothing was, and how expensive much of it was. And it's not just the single women here who dress that way.

And, if "they're just clothes", why are we so fixated on what appropriate attire for church is?

john.white said...

I've been invited by different people to LDS services, and definitely find the idea of facing people I don't know in dressy clothes to be intimidating. One of the main reasons is that if that's the dress code, one is automatically judged by others based on adherence to that dress code.

It's definitely a hurdle. I'm interested in experiencing other faith traditions, but not "buy a suit" interested. Well, I should buy a suit anyway, but I'd have to get more use out of it than just visiting an LDS service.

amelia said...

"one is automatically judged by others based on adherence to that dress code."

that's not necessarily true. true of some people. not true of others. and that behavior--not the clothing they wear--is what tells us something about their character. it's not even necessarily true of very traditional, conservative mormons. my parents are such and would never make such a judgment.

if you want to visit, john, you should. wearing a suit is unnecessary. i think you'd be just fine in the clothes i saw you wearing at meeting. you're welcome to visit my congregation with me, if you'd prefer going with someone you know rather than alone.

and why "fixated" on appropriate church attire? i believe this "fixation" (not the word i would choose) speaks to much deeper concerns, just as our emphasis on modesty does. primarily concerns about reverence and respect towards god. while i certainly agree with the argument i'm sure would be offered that reverence and respect can be shown while wearing any kind of clothing, i think that we have to be practical about such things. not all people are as respectful while wearing jeans and a t-shirt as they are while dressed up. should they be? yes. in abstract consideration, i can say that all people should be able to show respect regardless of what they wear. but not everyone does. if asking people to dress up a little for church encourages an attitude of respectful worship, i see no problem with that as a practical measure.

jana said...

John:
Men can wear slacks and a button down shirt and fit in at LDS services. If you wear any color of shirt other than white you'll probably be viewed as either a visitor or a liberal. :)

Kaimi said...

Jana,

I'm with Amy, I think. You note some interesting differences, but your analysis seems to take a Mormon baseline (judging based on clothing) and just change the details.

Mormon orthodoxy is that one should wear a certain costume to church, and those who don't are bad for some reason.

You seem to be suggesting that a different costume (Quaker costume) is superior. This is in many ways the same attitude as Mormon culture, it just differs on the details. You don't come out and say it outright, but the message is clear.

And Amy is saying, don't judge people for their clothing. Which seems sensible enough to me.

It cuts both ways. Mormons shouldn't be on the lookout for pants-wearing women and other outcasts. And visiting Quakers shouldn't be making judgments about the fitness of others' clothing, either.

Costume is the product of many factors in conjunction with each other -- convention and tradition, individual style, availability, comfort, message. There's nothing intrinsically wrong about a suit or a mini-skirt, just as there's nothing wrong with t-shirts or jeans. It's all really just clothes. And "LDS Women" don't dress "worldly" as a group. Rather, each woman makes her own individual decisions about how to express herself in clothing in her community. There are sisters in my ward who clearly haven't shopped for any new fashion in the past twenty years, and others who regularly stay abreast of the latest trends.

(And one more thing: As an academic who teaches every class in a suit, I'd have to disagree with your assertions about "no one in academia.")

So thank you for an interesting topic, and I appreciate your post bringing up some of the differences. Unfortunately, I thought your analysis ended up falling into the same "we're better than them because of the way we dress" mode that irks me so much when I hear it from a Mormon. Turns out, it irks me when coming from a Quaker, too. :)

William said...

I just want to clarify that although Mormons do tend to dress up to attend services, how that manifests itself varies fairly widely [within the dresses/skirts for women (although pants suits are not unheard of) and dress shirts for men range] depending on the congregation -- its geographical, socio-economic and cultural attributes.

White shirts for men do tend to be rather pervasive, but in my Oakland congregation, you'll see many men that don't wear white shirts. And generally men under 40 don't wear suits. You'll also see quite a bit of facial hair among the brethren that attend my congregation -- but then, we tend to be on the liberal side.

john.white said...

Amelia, I certainly appreciate your offer, and will keep it in mind when I find myself ready to visit.

I'd like to mention other ideas I have when thinking about dress. Part of visiting a congregation (in my experience) is overcoming self-consciousness. I'm attending to experience worship and not a fashion show, but conspicuously standing out for any reason can be a source of discomfort. And discomfort interferes with my worship experience.

One of us should probably have mentioned the simplicity testimony earlier on.

I'm a bit on the edge with respect to my dress at meeting. I've worn a t-shirt, shorts, and flip-flops without feeling self-conscious, but wearing slacks and a slightly dressy shirt (I think what Amelia is referring to) makes me consider myself with respect to simplicity. I think, Jana, that we're in a culture which emphasizes dressing-down. I'm not sure that it's better, but it's clearly a cultural difference.

I'm not sure it's fair to say the onus is on visitors to get over their hangups on dress. I think presenting a spectrum of social, political, and dressing norms to visitors is reflective of a welcoming attitude.

TMD said...

I don't understand the description of church attire as corporate, or for that matter the valorization of casual clothing.

"Sunday best" is an idea far wider and indeed, far older than the LDS church. Suits and ties, etc., are merely the current incarnations of these--and if you look at pictures from almost any church a century ago, you'll see an awful lot of suits and ties.

And more fundamentally, we clothe in particular ways to affect our own perceptions of ourselves. By attiring more formally, we take ourselves out of our everyday, more casual world, and as a sign of respect for the activity at hand. This, I think, connects well to the idea that we do not just 'come as we are' and stay that way. We make special preparation, we expect to participate in a process of changing ourselves through the experiences of worship.

May it seem intimidating to people who have no experience of serious church-going? Perhaps at first--but not if the friends and fellowshipers (and missionaries) who invite them let them know what to expect.

And you can but a decent white shirt for 10-$15, just about anywhere...

JohnR said...

For me, personally, I always struggled with clothing in the LDS setting. I wanted to dress in a way that was comfortable for me and still be respected and accepted within the context of my ward community, but found this problematic. Priesthood leaders would sometimes make critical comments about my lack of tie, and on the days I wore shirts that weren't white or that had a design (even though they were still clean and dressy), I felt unwelcome to volunteer to pass the sacrament, even though our ward was short on young men to do so.

Clothing is a form of communicating your adherence to cultural norms; as well as I talked the talk and walked the walk at certain periods of my life, people treated me very differently based on how I dressed (I experimented between different congregations). It's one reason why I like working where I do--I can wear shorts and a t-shirt and still be respected as a competent professional. This is generally not true of corporate America, and there are parallels for church.

I've visited a lot of churches, and I can say that there is more conformity of appearance for men at LDS services than at most other places.

Kaimi, I'm going to say that Quakerism is better for me. I've worn slacks and I've worn raggy corduroys, and I've always felt comfortable. While there may be a subtle dress code, it is not as overt as in Mormonism, and is definitely further down the priority list. There are few social cues to enforce such a code. Because I communicate myself through my clothing choices, I love that I can dress in ways that are true to me and still be fully accepted in every way in the Quaker meeting--something I could not say about being a priesthood holder in Mormonism.

I understand that how people perceive us through our clothing isn't a big deal to others, or that wearing the LDS uniform (esp. for LDS men) isn't a big deal, but it was for me, and it is for many others.

JohnR said...

The norm for male LDS church attire is closely allied with formal and corporate clothing. When I worked at Church headquarters a decade ago, I experienced the strictest workplace attire rules: white shirt and tie, full suit, and men had to put on their coats whenever they left their desks.

Being the rebel that I was, I came to work in dockers, a blue oxford shirt, unbuttoned top button under tie, and a blue blazer that I often did not put on when I left my desk.

Kaimi said...

John,

I can appreciate that Quakerism is better for you and for Jana. However, I wonder to what extent it is just trading in one set of clothing conformity for another set of clothing conformity.

Let me ask: Would you feel comfortable attending Quaker services wearing a suit and a tie and dress shoes? Why, or why not? (For example, would your fellow Friends judge you as in violation of the simplicity testimony John W. mentions? Would you feel conspicuous?)

And if you wouldn't feel comfortable being "out of uniform" at a Quaker meeting either -- well, then you've just traded one set of sartorial rules for another.

There is something to be said for finding a community whose dress matches your own, absolutely. I don't mean to downplay that; to the extent that exists, it's obviously beneficial to you.

But I did want to point out what seemed like a fundamental tension in Jana's post. On the one hand, she was critical of church attitudes that judge members for their (non suit and tie) clothing. On the other hand, she was making a set of judgments herself, about the clothing of others, and the innate superiority of her own different choices.

And as a result, I'm not clear from her post as to whether she really wants an end to sartorial triumphalism, or whether she's just converted to a new brand of sartorial triumphalism that better matches her own style.

JohnR said...

Kaimi, I'm not going to answer for Jana, but I guess I didn't make one of my points very clear: Mormons care a lot more about dress than many churches that I've attended, including Quaker meetings. It's more than a simple swapping of dress codes.

One of the key differences between Mormonism and Quakerism is that Quakerism is less rigid and has fewer norms. It has rites, creeds, and norms, but they are about as minimal as you can get and still have a cohesive religious community. Mormon culture is dense with rules and expectations (I'm trying to make this a judgment-free observation: the Japanese culture I grew up in is very dense with social rules, norms, expectations).

When I first attended Quaker meetings, I usually did so on the way to or from my LDS meetings, and was dressed up (by my standards). I felt as accepted then as I do now.

Now for the value judgments: because I have a tendency towards radical egalitarianism, I feel that Quakerism's lack of hierarchy and social structure is a positive thing.

Matt Evans said...

Jana,

Thanks for writing something we finally agree on! I completely agree that Mormons are too concerned with dress and appearance. I don't idealize casual clothes, the most humble people in Mormon wards are those who wear the same inexpensive suit every week. They are the salt of the earth.

Kaimi,

You're responding to Jana as though the purpose of Christ's "lilies" and "treasures in heaven" stories is to warn against judging others. His purpose is to speak against materialism. Quakers may or may not be less materialistic than Mormons (while I know Mormons are materialistic I can't compare them relative to Quakers I don't know), but it is certainly a trait Christ taught us to have, and something Christians should strive for.

jana said...

Kaimi:

My condolences to you on having to wear a suit for teaching. The only suits I've ever seen on my campus are on the top floors in the Admin Building, and those folks aren't in the classroom. Me, I dress up just a smidge when I'm teaching--generally choosing pants rather than jeans or sweaters rather than T-shirts (tho I have taught in both jeans and tees and felt totally comfortable with that, too). I don't wear skirts very often because I can't ride my bike to school in a skirt :)

I agree with you on some level that we've traded one set of norms for another. And that the Quaker norms better reflect my values. As someone who most often feels God when I'm mucking around in my garden, you can imagine that fancy clothes have little to do with facilitating my feelings of worshipfulness...

I also find that I enjoy how beautiful my friends (not talking Friends here necessarily) look when they get dressed up. When my friends are wear fancier clothes, a tailored suit, etc they look just lovely. I can say this even as I know that I don't feel comfortable in a suit or a slinky dress and I don't feel that such clothes are all that flattering to my body, either. My female friends look quite pretty when they wear makeup, but I'm not comfortable wearing it myself, either. So I'd like to think that I'm not really looking down on others for their dressiness, just making a social observation and recognizing where my own comfort zone is.

Caroline said...

I'm also trying to remember what i was wearing...

I think Paula made a good point. The trendy chic clothing you saw is probably due in great part to where we live - rich O.C. That combined with the LDS norm to dress up for church results in quite a show sometimes.

When I was single and went to lDS dances, I definitely saw trendy and very form fitting clothes. A lot of the dresses weren't very modest, but I remember being most bothered by the LDS guys I heard making comments about the skanky way the girls dressed.

john.white said...

TMD: Quakers value simplicity, not casualness. I'd be surprised if suits and ties were common in Quaker meetings a century ago. I can understand your thoughts on dress symbolizing one's commitment to changing frame of mind to worship. I don't doubt that it can be valuable. I think the Quaker "path" is to shed the symbol, ritual, and structure in favor of the worship. And I know that doesn't agree with everyone, including me at times.

Jana, do people who comment here -know- you're an ex-Mo? I read some of these comments as "why are you Quakers judging us?"

Kaimi: I think I'd personally feel conspicuous in a suit at Quaker, but I think the community would be very supportive of someone who felt more comfortable worshiping that way.

Vada said...

Jana said, "It was not only the dress/skirt, but all of the accessories (well-coiffed hair, make-up, etc) It makes me wonder WHY so much effort and such expense for a church meeting?"

My answer to this is that it's the only time I get out of the house and go somewhere I can dress up for. While I am certainly not a paragon of fashion, my trendiest clothes are church clothes, my nicest shoes are church shoes, and it's certainly the only time during the week I'd ever put on make-up (though generally just a little concealer). And I get dressed up because I have an excuse to do so, and when I spend the rest of my time in dirty pajamas chasing my 2yo and 8mo around the house, sometimes it's nice to feel cute.

Of course, I might be a bit of an anomaly in that I wear more trendy clothes to church now than I ever did when I was single. Then I generally wore a t-shirt, khaki skirt and sandals, and was completely comfortable in that, too.

Anonymous said...

I live in Sandy, Utah, and church (LDS) in our area is a total fashion show! And it's the moms--many of whom are doing plastic surgery and would not dream of leaving their house without a manicure and matching heels. It's enough to make me want to move, so I really appreciate this discussion to feel like I'm not alone. My sister (visiting from the SF bay area) also noticed the contrast with her home ward. What really concerns me is my children growing up with these women as their YW leaders dressed in ways so you can't figure out how garments are underneath it all. Heart of "Zion" sure looks like Babylon!

amelia said...

just one more quick comment (or knowing me, a not so quick comment). i think it's important to push any discussion of fashion and appearance issues as extreme as plastic surgery and compulsive perfectionism re: appearance below the surface to their underlying causes. and frankly, any discussion of fashion and the hypocrisy it may reveal should be pushed past the surface. far too often discussion of fashion and appearance within the church focuses on surface, when the participants are actually using words like modesty, immodesty, inappropriate clothing, etc. as a kind of shorthand to point to much deeper seated problems. many people lack the rhetorical sophistication, and occasionally the reflectivity, to push their observations past the surface of clothing to identify the underlying issues.

i know for a fact that jana does not lack such rhetorical sophistication or a lack of reflectivity. part of what bothers me about your original post, jana, is that you seem to point at this apparent difference in an effort to say "mormons are hypocrites" (maybe slightly more nuanced, but not a lot) without pushing to the much deeper problems that often lead mormon women to focus on appearance--so much so that they have increasingly resorted to the kinds of extreme measures that anonymous mentions. while you do mention the dressing habits of mormon men, your harshest criticisms are reserved for the women. and it disappointed me to see you level such criticism without at least acknowledging that there are deeper issues here than simple hypocrisy regarding modesty of dress (a criticism which is itself problematic as presented in your post, since much of it obviously arises out of a difference of taste and style rather than from some inherent superiority of one style over another).

i would also point out that these deeper problems are not isolated to mormonism. american culture tends to push women to give undue attention to their appearances in an effort to fulfill the beauty myth and appear sexy. while feminism has helped to a certain extent in alleviating this problem, the backlash against feminism and the commercial commandeering of feminism have both resulted in a reinforcement of the centrality of sexuality and beauty in determining women's worth in our society. mormonism certainly has its own unique spins on these problems, but they are by no means unique to mormonism.

Anonymous said...

weird. i live just around the corner from y'all and maybe it's just our ward or "your" ward, but that's not been our experience here. the young women dress nicely and modestly (though definitely ALWAYS in fashion, which i think is more indicative of their age group than their religion) and while the older women are generally "made up" (coiffed and such), they are usually dressed fairly plainly and we even have a few who wear pants to church... some wear nicer slacks or pantsuits and some just wear something along the lines of dockers. a few of the men have facial hair (eqp has lambchops, ymp has whatever you call that little bit of hair that sits on the lower lip, primary teachers with beards) and you can find at least a couple of the "uber-active" men in colored shirts each sunday. the norm? apparently not, according to what i've read elsewhere. but it at least exists. of course, ours is a ward that quotes from "dialogue" and "exponent" in sacrament meeting and relief society, so maybe we really ARE just weird...

Murray Ceff said...

If I could comment from faraway Australia -
1. Most men in our ward are wearing the same suits year after year. I only own one and it is about 8 years old, and being worn only on Sundays still looks reasonably respectable. A few Sundays back my suit was still at the dry cleaners and it was really hot and I just wore a dark pair of slacks and white shirt. Not a comment about me not wearing a suit (and I am the HPGL).
For me, wearing my best clothes on Sunday is a mark of respect to that being that I am going to worship. If your best is something less that a suit, it doesn't really matter.

2. I feel sorry for the sisters. If the uniform for sisters was a dark suit, white shirt and tie, I bet a lot more families would get to Church on time! And they could sneek in to priesthood then too, if RS was getting boring.

3. I get really uncomfortable seeing cleavage at Church. Maybe most women don't realize what effect this has on a man, but we are biologically hard-wired for visual stimulation and it is super-human effort to keep your eyes up when greeting a sister with cleavage showing. It is easier to avoid them altogether. It is a problem here in Australia buying modern clothes that are modest, but if you really want to dress modestly you will do it.

4. Regarding comments from John R and Jana (who, it seems are both Ex-Mo), am I right in assuming that your current status with the Church has much deeper roots than simply wanting the wear different clothes?

Bored in Vernal said...

I looked around Sacrament Meeting today so I could bring you a report from Vernal Utah! All men over 30 (but one) were in inexpensive suits, white shirts and ties. Five individualistic ones wore large belt buckles and boots instead of dress shoes. About half of the men under 30 also wore suits and ties. The rest wore white shirts, ties, and slacks. The one exception was wearing a patterned shirt and slacks, his usual attire. (He also smells of smoke.) Every single one of the young men, no exceptions, wore white button-down shirts, ties, and either khaki or navy slacks. (In fact I felt a tad embarrassed to notice that my boy was the only one passing the sacrament in short sleeves rather than long sleeves.)
Women wore one of two outfits: the trim ones were wearing suits and the larger women were wearing patterned tent dresses. Three young mothers were wearing floral skirts and cotton knit layered tops. Young women all wore skirts and cotton knit tops. The skirts varied widely in length, but none seemed immodest to me. The shortest came to a few inches above the knee, the longest to the ankles. I was wearing a pink blouse and wine colored skirted suit, pantyhose, big pink dangling earrings, makeup.
The biggest variety in dress was found among Primary girls. The small boys mostly wore colored button-down shirts and slacks. (a couple polo shirts.) The girls wore anything from big puffy ruffled party dresses, with and without sleeves, to jean skirts and Tshirts.

I see the Mormon outfit as a signal that you are a part of the club. Differences are tolerated, but those people will remain on the fringes of what is happening.
It's amazingly simple to figure out the dress code. You can do it in one Sunday. There are accepted ways of getting around the dress code. I knew a woman who wore pantsuits and explained to everyone that she didn't want to show her varicose veins. She was "in." Rebels are "out."

jana said...

For the first time I carefully examined the clothes of my Friends and discovered, to my surprise that here were 2 men in button-down shirts & slacks. Though one wear a knit hoodie over his shirt, thus making his outfit look much more casual. The other is an older Friend who sports amish-style chin whiskers. So my all-sandals, clogs and sneakers observation didn't exactly hold water.

Some other interesting clothes in my congregation today: Catbonny's darling "I'm a lover, not a fighter" tee and heart-covered Vans shoes; two men wearing button-down shirts w/jeans; one woman wearing a bright pink dress w/ethnic embroidery; two people wearing socks w/interesting knit patterns.

Anonymous said...

I like the Mormon "corporate" dress code. I'd be sorry if our Church decided to be conformist and abandon it in favor of the same bland mode of dress that pervades every other aspect of American life. Free your mind. Dare to be different.

Wear a suit.

Seth R.

jana said...

Hey Seth:
I am like the queen of daring to be different and freeing my mind. Just FYI. :)

Bored in Vernal said...

Seth, I like your comment, but I wonder how many Mormons wear a suit to be different. When I wear a suit to Church, I am trying my hardest to conform. What about you?

amelia said...

seth is clearly urging being different from the larger american culture. and i think he's right to assert that part of the "mormon dress code" is about being different from larger american culture.

i have some problems with the ways the church and mormons negotiate setting themselves apart from larger culture, but seth's point is valid. while BiV is right that mormons dress the way they do to conform with their mormon community, they also do it--on some level--to not conform with larger american society.

Anonymous said...

Interesting conversation.

My report from a Montana ward:

Women never wear pants. Otherwise there's much variety, ranging from denim skirts to something just short of a corporate-style suit.

At least a third of the men have facial hair of some sort, including most of them under 40. About a third of the men (not necessarily the same third) wear colored (but not patterned) shirts with a tie and sports jacket or suit. There's sometimes one or two men in church without a tie.

The teen boys wear tennis shoes and sometimes casual pants with their white shirts and ties.

The teen girls dress much better than the boys.

Interestingly, I have been invited to attend a Protestant megachurch in my town, and the people there were dressed much more uniformly than the people in my LDS ward. With the exception of maybe 2 or 3 people out of 500, everyone was wearing jeans.

Tigersue said...

I can say I agree with you about the fashions women wear. I try to dress very modestly and encourage my daughters to do the same. I believe in looking my best for church and going to the temple because I am going there on the Lord's service and to the Lord's house so I want to dress the best.

As for your reaction to the men in suits, I don't have that problem. I think you react that way because you have personal issue with men in leadership. I have to say I love the way Men look in suits. My husband always makes my heart thump greatly. :) I find a mode of respect and honor to our creator when we dress our best.

Tigersue said...

Oh I should add my husband suits are not the expensive kind. We usually buy them on sale. Some are hand me downs from my father that have been altered to fit my much slimmer husband or suits that never did fit my father correctly.

jana said...

TigerSue~
You wrote:
"As for your reaction to the men in suits...I think you react that way because you have personal issue with men in leadership."

Actually, I like seeing my friends (both male and female) dressed up and it has nothing to do with my issues about hierarchy (on my comment at 9:56pm):

"I also find that I enjoy how beautiful my friends...look when they get dressed up. When my friends are wear fancier clothes, a tailored suit, etc they look just lovely.I can say this even as I know that I don't feel comfortable in a suit or a slinky dress and I don't feel that such clothes are all that flattering to my body, either....So I'd like to think that I'm not really looking down on others for their dressiness, just making a social observation and recognizing where my own comfort zone is."

Just FYI for you as I know most people don't take the time to read all of the comments on a particular thread, but I want to make sure that my views aren't misunderstood.

jana said...

One more question for those of you still following this thread:

Where in the scriptures do you find evidence of the Savior wanting us to dress our best to worship him? I don't ask this to be combative, but to seek to understand why you believe this way.

Murray Ceff said...

Don’t you hate it when your browser closes down (Firefox on Vista – bad combo) after spending half an hour writing a post? Maybe experienced posters write in Word and then copy and paste?

To keep it brief – Matthew 22
11 And when the king came in to see the guests, he saw there a man which had not on a wedding garment:
12 And he saith unto him, Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment? And he was speechless.

Looking at the most superficial aspect of this parable, I think Christ was teaching the dress appropriately for the occasion. I believe in wearing the best I have when I present myself before the Lord to renew the sacred covenant of baptism by partaking of the sacrament. I think wearing the best I can on the outside symbolizes being the best I can on the inside.

john.white said...

Wow, I just read Matthew 22, and have to say I don't get it. We have to dress up for church or else God will cast us out? And if we don't go to church, God will send an army to kill us?

That can't be right. What am I missing.