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Monday, January 10, 2005 

Do I dress in a manner that would make a Mormon mother* proud?

As a devout follower of fashion I dress pretty damn well I must say. Lookin’ good is important to me.

I can take a perfectly clean room and turn it upside down in 10 minutes flat while searching for the perfect top to go with the perfect slacks. And don’t forget the shoes… Heels? Of course!! Open-toed? Checking pedicure status… all is clear. Now which clutch? Which wrap and what jewelry?

I ENJOY this life, I enjoy it a lot!

But, do I dress in a manner that would make a Mormon mother proud?

BYU’s honor code, the best guideline I can find to represent standards by which Mormon women are expected to dress, provides the following dress and grooming standards:
A clean and well-cared-for appearance should be maintained. Clothing is inappropriate when it is sleeveless, strapless, backless, or revealing; has slits above the knee; or is form fitting. Dresses, skirts, and shorts must be knee length or longer. Hairstyles should be clean and neat, avoiding extremes in styles and colors. Excessive ear piercing (more than one per ear) and all other body piercing are not acceptable. Shoes should be worn in all public campus areas.
Surprising even myself I bat 50%. I keep “a clean and well-cared-for appearance,” a COSTLY clean and well-cared for appearance, but a well-cared for appearance none the less. I don't have excessive piercings or colorful hair. I avoid the extremes in styles. I am a fashion follower, not a fashion forward, extremely awesome, risk taking dresser like Gwen Stefani, or beloved designer Betsy Johnson. Sadly, this is where it all ends. I fail because I show a little shoulder (sometimes the Whole. Entire. Thing), and not just while jogging. I do it in public non-recreational settings as well, such as restaurants, movie theatres, pubs and sometimes, EVEN WORK… **gasp… ah the horror of it all.** I wouldn’t/couldn't pass up a backless, strapless or sleeveless if it was beautiful, in my price range and blended well with other pieces in my wardrobe. I own dresses and skirts that show my knee, and sometimes my wrap around dress gets whipped up in the wind and reveals my ENTIRE leg, Marilyn Monroe style. I wear form fitting clothing because I think it makes my small 5’2” stature appear grander in some way and my small you knows appear larger in some other way. But in the end, I am an argyle sweater wearing tweed skirt kind of girl.

I have no problem with BYU’s dress code, or people personally trying to live by a similar dress standard. But I won’t lie when I tell you that I much more enjoy wearing a darling strapless sundress on a sunny weekend in San Francisco then I ever did in Provo, Utah. No ones looking, judging, wondering to themselves, “huh... that girl must not be Mormon, OR maybe she's a Mormon Gone Bad.” Don’t pretend you don’t know what I am talking about because I have done it myself and I doubt I am alone here. I prefer living in a community where what I am dressed in actually says next to nothing at all about me, one where I could make almost every mother proud.

*this in no way is a reference to my own mother. My own mother is a non-judgmental woman (when it comes to me… the rest of ya'll I can’t speak for). I believe my mother is comfortable with the way I dress. My evidence? That had she kept her clothing from when she was younger I would be sporting it around town right now!
I use Mormon mother very generically, as the Jane Doe of Mormon mothers.

I can't believe you have a disclaimer. That is such genius.

I also love that your "Don’t pretend you don’t know what I am talking about because I have done it myself and I doubt I am alone here." Hilarious. And true. 

Posted by Kaycee

I feel you're a rather snazy dresser... well... from the one whole time I met you in person. Nonetheless, you were the picutre of grace and style and I didn't mind your bare shoulders one bit. In fact, you have lovely shoulders. I should be so lucky as to have shoulders like yours. 

Posted by Sarah Marinara

I love your sensitivity towards your mom. Some moms earn that, mine included.

As someone who was born & raised in Northern California, I know that these described outfits are far more conservative that what else is out there.

Please tell me you've never let your G-String hang out above your low waist jeans. 

Posted by Jess

Never intentionally! And always embarrassed when I discover it has... but thanks for asking Jess. 

Posted by Rebecca

LOL. Ya'll are so funny. Good post, my friend...not that I'm surprised...

I nearly left more of a comment on my opinions of the topic. But then I realized that I should really wait until Thursday because that is what I'm SUPPOSED to do. Apparently I have a hard time following our rules...or just a hard time SHUTTING UP. 

Posted by JP

Hooray for fashion! I wish you would post photos of all your favorite shoes. I almost did that once. In the spirit of full disclosure I have to say that there is a part of me that is jealous of strapless. I LOVE strapless, and I own and wear SEVERAL strapless dresses (can you even believe it?). I can first-handedly report that Provo, Utah is not the only place where you might get strange looks for baring shoulders or short skirts. In Grand Cayman, they have laws against certain "indecencies" as they call it. Unfortunately, they don't enforce it with tourists. I'm going to blog about that right now. 

Posted by Carrie Ann

Go Rebecca -- if you've got the knees, show them. (Sometimes, as appropriate, etc).

Of course, this assumes that you've indeed _got_ the knees -- Mormon mothers aside, there's always that contigent who _should not_ under any circumstances be seen in sleeveless or backless etc. attire, and who nonetheless subject the rest of us to their poor sartorial choices. The above encouragement is predicated on your not being a part of that particular, unfortunate group. :) 

Posted by Kaimi

Oh, by the way, you might like Nate's lament about how he's sad that his wife can't show off her sexy shoulders any more. It's at http://www.timesandseasons.org/wp/index.php?p=1704 . It got a _lot_ of comments.  

Posted by Kaimi

I agree with Kaimi. If you've got it, flaunt it.

With the right tan enhancer, I like to show off my knees.


Posted by Jess

I read Nate's peice a while back and actually thought about it while working on my peice here. His was funny (and sad) as were the comments from all you smarties (funny and sad). 

Posted by Rebecca

I mean piece. 

Posted by Rebecca

Two questions- one serious, one not.

1. If you had non-mormon friend (that is not the question) and they asked you to be in their wedding, and they wanted you to wear a matching strappy bridesmaids dress.. what would you/could you do.

2. Can logistically wear a strapless over your garments? =) 

Posted by Marta

You want me in your wedding? I have been wondering when you would ask. And yes doll, I’ll go strapless… I’ve done it for less.

All kidding aside (and I hope those of you that have more insight, personal experience, will answer the question as well, maybe even BLOG about it).

Logistically? No, you can not wear strapless over garments, and if you did you would not only look like a fool, but you would be disrespecting the sacredness the garments hold to the individuals that wear them apropriatly.

An individual removes their garments for certain activities, I believe the definition of these activities is pretty open to individual interpretation, but I would argue that supporting one of your dearest friends who is making one of the biggest decisions of her life is grounds for such removal, but that’s just my opinion.

Please, others... Sister Petunia?? – and make your reply as long as you would like! Please.

Posted by Rebecca

I have a dear friend who faced this exact situation. Non-member friend's wedding, strapless bridesmaid dresses. Her husband (priesthood holder) helped her decide to not turn the brides plans upside down, wear the strapless this one time (w/o garments).

I would have a harder time, but I wasn't into strapless before I became endowed. I'm more attractive with CLOTHES ON. 

Posted by Jess

Not sure what I'm going to say now... you stole all my stuff. Except the part about being a snazzy dresser... and having a costly wardrobe... so that leaves me with dressing cheap and looking cheap.

I'm so down. 

Posted by Kaycee

Has anyone here ever heard of a cardigan? TWICE last week I heard people tell me that they wish they could wear something and I said, "So wear a cardigan." And they said, "But I always thought they were for old ladies." and I said, "Do I ever look like an old lady?" and they said, "No" so I said, "See?" So check out the cardigan option, they ain't what they used to be. www.anthropologie.com

And just for the record, not that anyone cares, I couldn't wear a strapless sans garments even for a wedding. I have actually known several people in this predicament and one wore a way cute wrap thingy and the other one had creative sleeves put on.

But when I was younger, I had a (beautiful & size 2) cousin who bought a gorgeous backless dress for a black tie affair in Paris (this DEFINITELY warrented soemthing FAB), but the fact that she said, "I can't wear garments with it, but it's just for this one night." actually made me sad. That kind of stuff sticks with a young person.

For me it's NOT about what you wear, it's about integrity. If you've made the convenant, you have to make a conscious decision to take them off. If you've never made the covenant, you don't have to worry about it. I'll get off my soap box now and save it for Saturday.

Help, Petunia... 

Posted by Carrie Ann

So I am surprised no one has yet mentioned garments in this topic of dress standards. (I guess it really is only Monday...but the wheels have been turning...)

I couldn't begin to consider wearing something backless or sleevless because of the covenants I have made. This being said, I do like to show a little leg, and unfortunately the only time I "dress up" (and sometimes get dressed at all) is for church on Sunday. I was actually thinking about this just yesterday. My way-too-generous dad bought me a beautiful Ann Taylor suit last time he came to visit...and three other skirts, all of which are approximately knee-length. When I am sitting on the bench at church and wrestling my 15-month-old son, my "borderline" skirts inevitably get hiked up far enough for everyone around me to get a good peep show at the old garments. Real sexy. It probably defeats my purpose in trying to show off my legs in the first place.

Who am I showing them off to anyway...the gospel doctrine teacher? Hometeachers? Who cares? Hopefully my husband, I guess!

Then I worry about sending the wrong message to the 12-year-old beehives I teach.

You should know right now that I posses a pretty heavy-duty conscience and I think about these things more than the average person. I'm grateful for my over-active conscience...it has kept me out of some (most) trouble.

I like that there are some specific guidelines given by the church. For instance, in "For the Strength of Youth" booklet (THE definitive and exhaustive set of standards for youth concerning morality and such) it says, "Your dress and grooming send messages about you to others and influences the way you and others act." I believe this is true, especially for hormone-driven youth, but has relavent application for adults as well. For instance, when I neglect to get out of my pajamas all day long I send a messages of general slothfulness to my kids and husband. Not so cool.

As for judging others - that's a tough one. I can't deny that I haven't done it. But then, I tend to think there is a time and place to make judgments in order to direct your life towards the path you want to be on. This doesn't have to be done as an affront to others' feelings or sensibilities.

I told you my comments might be lengthy. I can't tell you what a release it has been to think about things to the point of making meaningful sense of my normally jumbled thoughts. Thank you for not banning me!  

Posted by Suzie Petunia

What a healthy, active and robust blog this is! Between the time I started composing my comment and the time I posted it, it became irrelevant! I agree with Carrie that there are definitely alternatives and "alterations" that can be made for situations such as the bridesmaid dress. I personally would have to make such an adjustment, because I would feel absolutely naked and uncomfortable baring my shoulders! Besides being prudish, I have an unsightly mole on my left shoulder...and all over my back for that matter. EW! But seriously, I couldn't justify it for a night. Isn't that what integrity is all about? I would hope a bride-friend of mine would respect me for that and be understanding if I had to throw on a wrap or one of Carrie's sexy cardigans.  

Posted by Suzie Petunia

Having never received my endowments and there for not a wearer of garments I am not even going to touch this subject any more than I already have. BUT I would like to say that I DO have a problem with raising an entire community to believe that because “our” culture doesn’t prohibit certain dress it means that individuals that don’t dress as they do are not as good as they are, or possibly sinful, probably promiscuous and definitely only doing to show off for the boys. I will not deny that I have taken the extreme and that my comments are harsh. But for a religion that I have so much respect for I do believe that some of the cultural aspects could be improved upon and judging others based on their clothing is just one of the areas. It is very easy to dress in clothing that wouldn’t normally be worn with garments and do it tastefully, elegantly. It is also just as simple to dress in clothing that can cover your garments entirely, follow all the standards of the BYU honor code and still be provocative and suggestive… just check out my t-shirt collection, half of my shirts have crude and suggestive language written on them (in a sort of ironic way).

I think there are many issues here:

One, Garments and how you explain them to a non-Mormon friend.
Two, if you are a wearer of garments under what circumstances do you think it is okay to remove them?
And three, Does the Mormon community (possibly unconsciously) raise their youth to judge a person by what they wear?

Posted by Rebecca

"What a healthy, active and robust blog this is! Between the time I started composing my comment and the time I posted it, it became irrelevant!" - Funny Suzie.. same thing just happened to me, but it is all still relevant, ins't it? 

Posted by Rebecca

Do I think members judge others based on what they wear? ABSO-FREAKING-LUTY! I was at a YSA dance over the summer and had on black slacks, a hot pink lacy cami, a black 3/4 length sleeve wrap around blouse over the top, and strappy high heel shoes. I had a girl come up to me and a dear friend of mine, inturrupt our conversation and ASK IF I WAS A MEMBER!!! I looked at her and asked, "Member of what?" to which she cheerfully replied, "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints." I was shocked. I confirmed that I had indeed been a member for about the last, oh, SIXTEEN YEARS and asked her what made her think otherwise. "Well," she said. "You just don't see many members who dress like you." And honestly... there was not even a HINT of cleavage that night. I just think it is amazing how quickly we are willing to judge other people on the most rediculous of things. I am endowed. Have been for 6 years. I have NEVER once asjusted my garments to fit an outfit. But, you know, most Mormons don't dress like me. 

Posted by Sarah Marinara

Ok, well I have to first start out by saying I would love to have someone tell me what "endowments" are and anything about these "garments" I am very curious now. Past that as a person that was raised in many, many (too many) non-denominational crazy charismatic almost Assembly of God (no offense) churches. It the same there. You dress in anything revealing and forget it you are the church ho. Its always been difficult for me because I am very thin and honestly wearing anything baggy just looks like I am wearing a sack and I just can't go around in a sack! Sadly no matter the religion or denomination it seems we are always under close scrutiny. 

Posted by EJ

EJ, great question I am going to ask someone that has recieved their endowments and is a garment wearer to explain this under Sarah's post. 

Posted by Rebecca

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This Week's Topic:

  • The Sabbath Day

Various Authors

  • Monday:
    Kaycee opted out of Mormondom 4 years ago. She calls herself agnostic.
  • Tuesday:
    Sarah is not your average Gospel Doctrine Teacher.
  • Wednesday:
    Carrie Ann comes from pioneer stock, and lives in Provo, but is open minded and fair.
  • Thursday:
    Ned Flanders hasn't been to church in a while, but maintains an interest in all things Mormon.
  • Friday:
    John C. is an academic with a sense of humor and a testimony.
  • Saturday:
    JP's not going to church and feeling okay about it.

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