February 24th, 2008

Following Fashion Trends


photo credit: exterface

As part of my calling, I have recently been visiting various wards in our stake. Because of this, I’ve had the opportunity to observe a number of people in a church setting. Among the various observations I have made while worshiping among these Saints, one has stood out to me as being rather bothersome. This is the issue of Sunday attire, and fashion in general.

As a member of a singles ward in recent years, I had grown used to the Sunday fashion show. Hoping to impress members of the opposite sex, many would go to great lengths to put together an attention-grabbing outfit, get their hair to sit just right, apply the right amount of makeup, etc. While understandable, it still bothered me to see girls who had obviously spent a good portion of their morning getting ready for church.

I’ve been intrigued, however, to visit the various wards in my stake and observe (married) women putting just as much effort—if not more—into their appearance. In the ward I visited today, I noticed several women to whom this applies—women who were not only distracting in their appearance, but dare I say, detracting from the spirit.

Please understand that I am not being sexist in any way by calling out the women as the main culprits of this fashion frenzy. This is simply how things are—women, on average, spend far more money on clothing, and far more time in getting ready for the day. This is not to say that men are not as culpable—many are—but the bulk of the problem no doubt lies with the women.

To back my case, I now make an appeal to higher authority than my own. I intend to show, through the following quotes and scriptures, that such attitudes towards and implementations of fashion are unbecoming of a true Latter-day Saint.

I start with an address given by Elder Holland in the October 2005 General Conference. In this (as always) masterful discourse, Holland speaks directly to the young women (and by corollary, church members as a whole) about the issue of fashion:

I make a special appeal regarding how young women might dress for Church services and Sabbath worship. We used to speak of “best dress” or “Sunday dress,” and maybe we should do so again. In any case, from ancient times to modern we have always been invited to present our best selves inside and out when entering the house of the Lord—and a dedicated LDS chapel is a “house of the Lord.” Our clothing or footwear need never be expensive, indeed should not be expensive, but neither should it appear that we are on our way to the beach. When we come to worship the God and Father of us all and to partake of the sacrament symbolizing the Atonement of Jesus Christ, we should be as comely and respectful, as dignified and appropriate as we can be. We should be recognizable in appearance as well as in behavior that we truly are disciples of Christ, that in a spirit of worship we are meek and lowly of heart, that we truly desire the Savior’s Spirit to be with us always. (Jeffrey R. Holland, via Quoty, emphasis added)

Here, Elder Holland makes a case for simple dress, urging those who come to worship at the house of the Lord to dress as would a respectful follower of Christ. Perhaps I am too judgmental in saying that a few of the outfits I’ve seen lately were definitely expensive and falling short of the mark of being comely and dignified.

Another lesson that is continually taught the Saints is the pattern of our needing to flee Babylon, whether physically or spiritually. God has commanded us to come out of Babylon and touch not the unclean things therein. Those who continually adopt the ever-changing fashions of the world, desirous to “fit in” or feel accepted, apparently do not heed such counsel.

Brother Brigham, forceful in his words as always, discussed this subject in an address given in the Tabernacle in 1870. Noting the desire to follow fashion trends, he commented:

To me a desire to follow the ever-varying fashions of the world manifests a great weakness of mind in either gentleman or lady. We are too apt to follow the foolish fashions of the world; and if means were plentiful, I do not think that there are many families among the Latter-day Saints but what would be up to the highest and latest fashions of the day. Perhaps there are a great many that would not follow these fashions had they ever so much means. But too many of this people follow after the foolish, giddy, vain fashions of the world. If any persons want proof of this they need only look over this congregation, and view the bonnets, hats or headdresses of our fashionable ladies. Do they wear bonnets that will screen their faces from the sun, or shelter their heads from the rain? Oh, no, it is not fashionable. Well what do they wear? Just such as the wicked would wear. (Brigham Young, via Quoty)

The reader will note the correlation Young makes between wealth (means) and fashion. Indeed, this is a connection that permeates the Book of Mormon. One example illustrates the propensity with which the wealthy class adorns themselves in expensive attire:

And the hand of providence hath smiled upon you most pleasingly, that you have obtained many riches; and because some of you have obtained more abundantly than that of your brethren ye are lifted up in the pride of your hearts, and wear stiff necks and high heads because of the costliness of your apparel, and persecute your brethren because ye suppose that ye are better than they. (Jacob 2:13)

Not only is it demonstrated that the rich love dressing up, but we also read that pride accompanies this desire, while humility leads to a more plain attire:

And again, thou shalt not be proud in thy heart; let all thy garments be plain, and their beauty the beauty of the work of thine own hands; (D&C 42:40, c.f. Alma 1:6, 32; 4:6; 5:53; 31:28; 4 Nephi 1:24; Mormon 8:36)

Pondering these scriptures, I am led to wonder if I am not seeing a similar thing in my own stake. Some of the people in our stake boundaries are very affluent. It is not uncommon to see a family own a large home, two or more cars (often large trucks, expensive SUVs, vans, or sports cars), a boat, other recreational vehicles, and a host of other creature comforts. I only mention this to illustrate the financial status of some in my stake. Thus, if the association holds true, it is these people that are more prone to wear costly apparel and follow the fashion trends of society.

This is not to say, of course, that being wealthy automatically leads to pride and fashion fever. Having agency, such persons can shun the trend and pursue a life of humility and modesty. I am aware of several cases where this has occurred. However, scriptural precedent shows that the affluent are more likely to follow the fads of fashion and take on the “slow stain” of the world. Later in his talk, Elder Holland discussed the modern-day examples of such historically repetitious attitudes:

In terms of preoccupation with self and a fixation on the physical, this is more than social insanity; it is spiritually destructive, and it accounts for much of the unhappiness women, including young women, face in the modern world. And if adults are preoccupied with appearance—tucking and nipping and implanting and remodeling everything that can be remodeled—those pressures and anxieties will certainly seep through to children. At some point the problem becomes what the Book of Mormon called “vain imaginations.” And in secular society both vanity and imagination run wild. One would truly need a great and spacious makeup kit to compete with beauty as portrayed in media all around us. Yet at the end of the day there would still be those “in the attitude of mocking and pointing their fingers” as Lehi saw, because however much one tries in the world of glamour and fashion, it will never be glamorous enough. (Jeffrey R. Holland, via Quoty)

Pres. Young continued in his address by demonstrating the dichotomy that this pursuit of worldliness creates:

I wish to say to you, and you may read it in the Bible if you wish, that he who has the love of the world within him hath not the love of the Father. They who love the things of this world are destitute of the love of the Gospel of the Son of God. This is my Scripture: They who long and lust after the fashions of the world are destitute of the Spirit of God. Every person of experience will testify that this is the truth. (Brigham Young, via Quoty)

These are bold words, but it is important to look at the underlying principle. By placing the desires of our heart in Babylon (by following her trends, adorning ourselves similarly, and assuming her lifestyle) we are choosing to love the things of this world over the things of God. No man, as we know, can serve two masters. It is as Elder Holland said: true disciples of Christ must be recognized in appearance as such. Try to imagine sister missionaries dressed to the nines, adorned with makeup and jewelry, and hair perfected down to the last strand. Would they, in walking down the street, be recognized as emissaries of the Savior?

Perhaps we underestimate how our spirits are affected by the way we dress. Just as we are counseled to avoid sloppy and disrespectful clothing, so too are we taught to dress appropriately and cleanly, in line with our titles as children of God: future kings and queens. The link between our apparel and our attitude is exemplified in the following quote:

There is much to support the view that it is clothes that wear us, and not we, them; we may make them take the mould of arm or breast, but they mould our hearts, our brains, our tongues to their liking. (Virginia Woolf, via Quoty)

It would do well, as always, to analyze how our example, the Savior, lived this doctrine:

I think it is significant to note that when the Savior appeared after his resurrection, he was simply attired. “They saw a Man descending out of heaven; and he was clothed in a white robe” (3 Ne. 11:8). Here was the Master of Creation! He could have worn anything he desired, but he chose a plain, white robe.

This teaches me an important lesson. Just as we can be too casual in our clothing, we can also be too pompous. The Savior’s presence brought dignity and honor to the situation. He didn’t need to impress anyone by what he wore.

In the temple, this also holds true. Each person dresses in white. It is the right clothing for the spiritual climate. It adds to the sacred beauty of the setting. And it reminds us that there is no social status before our Father. What distinguishes our souls is their righteousness, and to be clothed in righteousness is what matters most of all. (John H. Groberg, “Right for the Climate,” New Era, Mar 1992, 4)

Being both distracting and detracting, it is evident that the excessive fashions and trends of the world have no place in church, nor among the Saints at all. As costly apparel is one of the signs of pride (whether we would like to admit it or not), we would all do well to examine our wardrobes and make alterations as necessary.

As a final thought, I have wondered if it is only to humble ourselves that we are commanded to dress neatly and plainly. Perhaps there are several other reasons, but one significant reason has stood out to me in my studies. The idea is presented in the following verse:

And they did impart of their substance, every man according to that which he had, to the poor, and the needy, and the sick, and the afflicted; and they did not wear costly apparel, yet they were neat and comely. (Alma 1:27)

Note the characteristics of the persons here described. They gave generously, assisted the poor and needy, and dressed neat and comely (sans costly apparel). It seems that by abstaining from fashionable items and wearing less expensive outfits, the Saints have more money with which to assist those who are less fortunate. Such an idea was proposed by Brigham Young in the same talk cited above:

This reform in fashion and extravagance in dress is needed. God has a purpose in it, and so have his servants. What is it? If the Lord has given me means and I spend it needlessly, in rings for my fingers, and jewelry for adornment, I deprive the Priesthood of that which they ought to have to gather the poor, to preach the Gospel, to build temples and to feed the hungry in our midst. I deprive a people, who will by and by inherit the earth, of so many blessings. Every yard of ribbon that I buy that is needless, every flounce, and every gewgaw that is purchased for my family needlessly, robs the Church of God of just so much. But it seems as though the people do not think of these things; they do not lay them to heart. Our wives and daughters seem to forget that they have responsibilities resting upon them in these respects. The conduct of a great many of them indicates a care for nothing but, “How much can I get? Can I get everything I want? I wish I could see something new, I want to pattern after it!” This manifests the spirit of the world, and a foolish, vain disposition.

Thus, having spent their money (or increased their debt) on another pair of shoes, a new outfit, or some additional jewelry, the individual is less able to use such funds to acquire food, shelter, and other basic items for those who are in want. By this physical manifestation of our pride, then, we put ourselves in a compromising position where we not only find it difficult to fulfill the command to aid the poor, but more easily justify our inability to do so. Thus, sin begets sin.

It is apparent, therefore, that Latter-day Saints should not seek to follow every fashion trend of our day. As a purposefully peculiar people, we are commanded to flee from every worldly sin, and in all ways represent our Savior—in action, word, deed, and dress.

It is my hope that instead of spending a great deal of time physically getting ready for church, we take more time to spiritually prepare. And I hope, despite the always alluring and ever changing fashion trends of the day, that our dress—like our words and actions—might make us recognizable, as Elder Holland said, as disciples of Christ.

31 Responses to “Following Fashion Trends”

  1. Kelly W.
    February 24, 2008 at 10:19 pm #

    I liked this post, Connor. Not much to add, but I would still like to add my own viewpoints.

    One, the experience in my day was just the opposite. My high school days were in the early 70s, and the council coming from our parents and church leaders of that day was “don’t wear such old, sloppy clothes to church! Wear something a little nicer and dressier!”

    Two, what is neat and comely is relative. One person’s definition is not the same as another’s. We shouldn’t be too quick to judge.

    Three, what is in fashion often goes beyond what is too costly, and enters into the category of actually being too revealing or immoral. Boy’s beltlines also are suspect.

    Four, why stop with fashions such as clothing and hair? Our Bishopric has had to step in and counsel the youth to leave their cell phones home, or at least not turn them on! I think that texting and viewing pictures on cell phones enters into the same general category as fads of clothing, hair and jewelry. Boys can also be to blamed here as can girls.

    But let me give you one big high five about your comment that wearing neat and comely clothing is as much about humbling us as anything else! I agree whole-heartedly.

  2. Aha
    February 24, 2008 at 10:28 pm #

    There are some very valid points here, although I would challenge the idea that following “worldly” fashion trends equates failure to heed counsel to escape from Babylon.

    The David O. McKay era of the church saw the beginnings of trying to “fit-in” as a church with the “mainstream.” As such, President McKay shaved his beard, got his trademark suit, and the dress code for the church took its cues from what “Babylon” termed to be conservative: Corporate America.

    From that time forward, white shirts and ties came to become the “uniform of the priesthood,” and anything else, even the attire of the prophets of old, became “inappropriate.” The clothes you select to go to church–and the clothes chosen by all ranks in church leadership–are not selected based on any divine command or order, but are determined by what “the world” deems “traditional” and “conservative.”

    So while every effort should be made to express reverence and respect in church, there is a terrible fallacy in believing that a New York financial district business suit or a law-firm women’s outfit are the one and only true attires that will please God when worn in church.

    The truth is that worldly fashions change, and even Church leadership reflects those changes in their wardrobes. A stronger case could be made that LDS church styles ought to stay on the conservative side of the “worldly” spectrum, but we’re fooling ourselves if we think that Jesus will return triumphant in the clouds wearing the CEO outfit that we see our leadership wear at the pulpit.

  3. Jason
    February 24, 2008 at 10:33 pm #

    Fun topic.

    /me sits back and waits for the exciting posts to begin :)

  4. Sean
    February 24, 2008 at 11:03 pm #

    Nicely said, Connor. I believe that too much focus on appearance and, by extension, performance is actually a misguided attempt to get love from others. The standards of others will change with the wind, and according to whom we try to impress.

    Trying to please the Lord, however, fills us with real love, the kind that touches the heart and nourishes the soul. The Lord knows our hearts, and when we choose to follow prophetic guidance, such as dressing in a “neat and comely” fashion, there is peace that comes with that. We do the best we can to follow the counsel given, and the Lord knows how true we are to what we know.

  5. Yin
    February 24, 2008 at 11:38 pm #

    In general, I think it’s a delicate balance. I want to look nice. I want to look fashionable. Does that mean I’m indulging every new trend that blows through? No. I try to find deals and sales. Does that make my appearance more acceptable, knowing I spent less on a trendy article of clothing? Where do you draw the line between looking nice (which probably includes wearing things that are currently in style) and pushing past the “plain and neat” advice? Is it perhaps your intent? I wonder if some women don’t consider their extra efforts to dress up as being their Sunday best. Just a few thoughts…

    Along the lines of money being wasted on fashion that could be used for other things, I think regular hair colorings and manicure fills could fit just as easily in that category. How many hundreds of dollars a year does the average women spend on those two things alone?

  6. Jake Spurlock
    February 24, 2008 at 11:40 pm #

    Is there nothing to be said about how your dress empowers you? I look at a lot of women who dress powerfully to be powerful. When you dress timid, you may act timid, but when you get done up, it gives reason to be confident. For a lot of women, this is the outlet for them in the week. They may be homemakers six days out of the week, and on Sundays, they can do their hair, makeup, and get dressed up for the special event. Think of the old saying of “putting on your Sunday best”, because, this may be the best you will look all week.

    As a guy, what are you wearing to church? A pair of jeans and a shirt with stains? Probably a $300 suit? $90 dress shoes? It is easier to look nice for a guy, so much so that we don’t need to take fashion responsibility away from the better half of our species.

    A woman’s confidence is a fragile thing, and yet so easy for a man to judge. Do you really want unshaved legs and pioneer dresses?

  7. Connor
    February 24, 2008 at 11:48 pm #

    As a guy, what are you wearing to church? A pair of jeans and a shirt with stains? Probably a $300 suit?

    Since you asked, I own three suits. Two were bought at Deseret Industries (one for $10 and one for $15), and the other was a birthday gift a couple years ago, but cost around $90. I regularly get compliments on all three. My shoes were bought at Payless a few years ago for about 20 bucks, and still look great.

    Is there nothing to be said about how your dress empowers you? I look at a lot of women who dress powerfully to be powerful.

    Sure, dress can empower us. But this is not the reaction I get when I look at girls who are at the “bleeding edge” of fashion trends. I feel sorry for them. Why? Because they obviously have little (if any) self identity. They depend on the latest and greatest to give them a boost, to give them a new outlet, to give them a new identity. They aren’t their own person. It’s quite sad.

    But I do agree that appearance can be empowering. I don’t feel that it costs a lot of money, though. And I don’t think that going to extremes in appearance (lots of makeup, died hair, fritzy clothing and accessories) aids in this endeavor in the slightest.

    A woman’s confidence is a fragile thing, and yet so easy for a man to judge.

    No judging here, just observations. I recommend Elder Holland’s talk to all; he really presents quite well the issue of women, self-confidence, and beauty. It’s worth a read.

  8. Yin
    February 24, 2008 at 11:54 pm #

    Another thought:

    I have heard men in the church advised to emulate the general authorities in dress and appearance. Would it be too far off to recommend to the women that they follow the examples of the female leaders of the church? Those women dress professionally, conservatively, neatly, and some may argue this point, but appropriately stylish for their age.

  9. RoAnn
    February 25, 2008 at 7:29 am #

    Great post, Connor. And some good points have been raised in the comments. Elder Holland’s talk is definitely on target, and what we need to heed.

    Yin #8, I agree. I also think that following the example of the general authorities and their wives has been a helpful guideline. As you mentioned, they tend to be on the conservative side of fashionable. But, to me, they always look “comely and respectful.” Fortunately, they do tend to dress their age; but I think one can easily extrapolate backwards to find appropriate clothing for those of us who are younger. :)

    Connor, just a side note regarding the price of shoes, I must say that although I think it’s great that you can wear Payless $20 shoes, I’m sure you realize that some people have feet that are narrower or wider than the standard sizes, and therefore they have to pay a lot more for their footwear if they want to have any degree of comfort. :)

    Cheap white shirts (both new and used) seem to be available everywhere even in the poorest countries, as are modest, fashionable, inexpensive skirts, blouses and dresses. And amazingly expensive denim wear, decorated tee-shirts, flip-flops, and other “casual” clothing are on sale almost everywhere, too.

    It has been interesting to me, as I have observed how members dress for Church in many different countries, to see how “comely and respectful” we can dress even in the poorest countries; and also how casually (but very expensively and ostentatiously) we can dress in affluent areas of any country.

    I think sometimes we women forget that “modest” means a great deal more than “not revealing;” and that our attire can be attractive without being either expensive or showy.

    Women throughout recorded history seem to have been preoccupied with appearing beautiful and fashionable—to other women, as well as to men. In Brigham Young’s day there were corsets and voluminous skirts, fancy bonnets and ribbons and bows. Now we have not only an endless procession of “new looks” in apparel and grooming to spend our money on, but also the option of invasive surgery to help us look like whatever the latest worldly standard of feminine “beauty” may be.

    Thanks for this timely reminder to re-examine the way we dress and groom ourselves on Sunday, as well as how we may be allowing the fashions of the day influence our dress and self-perception in general. We need to beware of all the ways that Babylon is trying to overcome the Zion we are struggling so hard to build.

  10. Naiah
    February 25, 2008 at 9:01 am #

    Thanks for this, Connor.

    I’m in the early stages of a conscious effort to get myself looking a little more comely again. I’ve neve quite gone the way of the slug, but I’ve been a pretty plain little Jane the last few years, and so I feel, now that my kids are getting older (9 & 4) and I actually get to do amazingly luxurious things like get a shower every day, it’s time to put forth a little effort in the appearance department.

    This gives me some perspective for the effort. I appreciate you pulling it all together.

  11. Dan
    February 25, 2008 at 10:04 am #

    Connor,

    I don’t get the point of your post. You see a couple of women in your affluent stake dress nicely to church and you basically use them as a justification to call everyone to repentance, to dress “plainly.” But, well, why? Why should it matter what one wears on the outside? Why does appearance matter more than what is in the heart?

    You are assuming, wrongly in my view, that those affluent women wear those nice clothes out of the desire to appear differently than the poor. I admire the progressive-liberal bent to your concern for the poor, Connor, but you don’t know why those women dress nicely.

    I mean, is this post merely an exercise to hone your quoting skills?

    I’ve gone to numerous wards around the world with people dressed in the poorest of clothes to the finest of clothes, and frankly, I don’t see the problem many of the prophets you quote prevalent in these people. I don’t think that people like you and your readers realize how much the world has changed in the last fifty years, Connor. The quality of everyday clothing has vastly improved.

  12. RoAnn
    February 25, 2008 at 12:31 pm #

    Dan, I think that Connor would be one of the last to believe that “appearance matter[s] more than what is in the heart.” But appearance does say something about our priorities, and our respect for God, as well as respect for what our present-day prophets, seers and revelators are asking us to consider.

    I agree that, “The quality of everyday clothing has vastly improved” in the last few decades. The price of good quality clothing has also decreased dramatically. But to me that means that all members can attend church dressed in a modest and attractive manner. They can also show the respect they have in their hearts for the dress and grooming standards we have been given by our leaders, by following those standards. Nowadays it doesn’t cost much to wear dark pants and a white shirt and tie; or a dress or skirt and top that fit Elder Holland’s guidelines. And, although in many countries some version of what may be termed “corporate attire” may commonly worn in the business world, the Church leaders seem to be perfectly content with members coming to church in whatever their country considers respectful. Also, suits are not usually worn, even by the leaders, to meetings in tropical climates where the buildings are not air-conditioned.

    I didn’t think Connor was objecting to women dressing “nicely.” I thought he was asking us to consider that we might be allowing ourselves to be too caught up in worldly fashion values; and showing us how that might affect our souls, as well as our spending priorities.

    This post has definitely caused me to ponder my personal attitudes and practices, and I have resolved to make some changes in my spending habits. (No more going to the mall this year to check out the clearance sales. Even if a beautiful skirt is 80% off, I don’t really NEED another skirt right now!)

  13. alea
    February 25, 2008 at 1:46 pm #

    I think the real issue with “costly apparel” in church (assuming for a second that it’s an issue) is the falseness of it. Too often, Church is the spot where we want to look our best, to cover our faults most assiduously, to pretend that everything’s ok. In fact, it should be the spot where we feel the most comfortable letting our spiritual, emotional and personal slips show, if you will. Therefore, you should be able to come to church in jeans, if that’s all you feel up to that day, and not have anybody question your commitment to the gospel.

    In addition, do you think the women are more distracting just because you’re a heterosexual male who happens to notice women’s appearance more? There’s already much more variety among women’s dress, but I think calling them out specifically might belie your bias more than an actual problem?

    Also, we need to be careful, as Aha suggests, to not cloud American cultural norms with eternal appropriateness. The Church really needs to open up adaptability to different cultures if it wants address the needs of all saints, and not just the North American ones.

  14. RoAnn
    February 25, 2008 at 5:59 pm #

    Alea #13, I have lived in 11 countries on five continents, and I can reassure you that the Church is very concerned about addressing the needs of the Saints in every country. I think some who blog about this issue in a way that is critical of the sentiments similar to those expressed by Elder Holland in the talk Connor cited are assuming problems that don’t really exist. We may think that members in Africa or Latin America can’t easily “dress up” for Sunday meetings, because they are relatively poor. In my experience, those who dress too casually at Church in those countries are usually visiting North Americans, not the locals. (I have heard members complain that American sister missionaries don’t show proper respect to the Lord because they are wearing such sloppy, casual clothing to church. )

    We tend to think that if people are poor, they probably don’t have any dressy clothing. But they usually have at least one outfit that is considered “dressy” and respectful in their culture. And they are usually very pleased to wear it to church on Sundays.

  15. Amore Vero
    February 26, 2008 at 11:30 am #

    I agree that there is too much emphasis put upon fashion among us LDS women, especially when it gets to be too flirty, immodest, formfitting, & distracting for men in general.

    But the problem is not entirely the women’s fault. Most women just want the love & attention of a good husband. If they are single or married & not getting that love & attention sufficiently, then they are very likely to dress to try to get that attention, hopefully from their own husbands.

    As long as most LDS husbands neglect & abuse their wives in various ways & commit adultery by looking at, thinking about & having feelings for & affairs with other women, porn incl., than most wives will be dressing to try to get their husbands eyes back on her. It’s very simple. Very few wives who have husbands madly in love with them, continue to dress inappropriately. Because than the wife can be at peace & not worring about keeping her marriage together for her & her children’s sake. A woman’s flirty appearance may just be her idea of a last ditch effort to protect her children from a broken home.

    Of course though, if one just lived the gospel & kept their covenants it would eventually solve any & all problems & save any marriage.

  16. Connor
    February 26, 2008 at 11:34 am #

    Amore,

    You make a great point—one that I was discussing with my wife after writing this post. That is, that a great deal of responsibility weighs upon the shoulders of men regarding the emphasis they place on the physical appearance of women.

    If men valued inner characteristics more than outer ones, a large part of materialism in women would vanish. I still think some would remain, as one element of fashion seems to be a competitive and comparative component urging them to dress like (or better than) their friends (or enemies, role models, etc.).

    So yes, I agree that men are “enablers”, in that women dress up, in part, to entice, attract, and impress the men they desire.

    But I don’t think that responsibility can be shifted entirely, if at all. While men are stimulated visually to a large degree, a woman can choose how she will or will not dress, regardless of whatever temptations she may have.

  17. Sally
    February 26, 2008 at 4:42 pm #

    My initial reading of this post – keep in mind I’ve never been on your blog before – left me with a feeling of slight offense and even a little hurt. I’ve always done my best to dress modestly. I recently went to the Temple for the first time and I rejoiced as I went through my wardrobe afterward and found all my clothing could still be worn appropriately. :-)

    Reading through all you wrote and quoted a second time, however, left me with a feeling of relief and of agreement. (Turns out I was judging myself a little harshly.) My mother has quoted all these things to me for years and has banned flip-flops, torn-denim, and t-shirts from being worn to church by her five daughters. She also prohibits anything that is “immodest” by LDS standards. We shop at stores with “modest” prices as well, though our more affluent friends have found no need to comment on our fashion sense or brand of clothing.

    It really isn’t that hard to dress neatly in a manner that is pleasing to the Lord as well at to yourself. I’ve always been taught to dress for Church the way I dress when I go to the Temple. It’s been a good rule of thumb. :-) Thanks for bringing this subject up.

  18. Johnna
    February 26, 2008 at 5:58 pm #

    I’m wondering what in the heck Conner saw that provoked this post. In my opinion, if married women dress well for church, you should applaud. It is an act of bravery after a hard week. Often it is also an act of bravery to make room in the family budget, to provide oneself with the dress and shoes to present oneself for church.

    Women, on average, spend more money on clothing, because, on average, women’s clothing costs more. Try any store that sells both men’s and women’s clothing and you will see that this is so.

    I don’t know what fashion you saw–around here women with money invest in a few quality items to wear over time, and end up dressing for church more inexpensively than the frantic singles. Perhaps your local demographic is very young.

    Yes, a woman usually does spend more time “getting ready” for the day than a man. Women often wear make-up. Women’s hairstyles are usually not cut utilitarian short, usually require more daily styling than most men’s styles. Women pluck eyebrows–and facial hair. I find it hard that you are blaming this on women’s vanity. Elder Holland’s talk was about problems like the rise of boob jobs in Utah.

    You’re married now Conner, and I hope you’re not turning any of this on your wife. When I was first married, my husband gave me quite a hard time about how long I might be spending getting ready for the day, and made me feel quite guilty about it, though I knew very well, from living in BYU dorms and having four sisters, that I spent very little time compared to my female peers. But I adjusted to his demands–and got away with it–because I was young and beautiful. Well, now I’m old and I’ll tell you a woman should have a drawer in the bathroom, should have the time she chooses to prepare for the day. And each decade after the 20s, I find I need more time to look presentable, whether or not I really want to deal with it.

    Yin complains about hair and nails. Yin, haven’t you noticed that the women in leadership in the church do have their hair colored. I’ve always been too involved in art projects or something like them to commit to manicures, but I do get criticized for my clean but uneven nails and their visible cuticles. If I had any kind of job dealing with the public, I’d have to have my nails done.

    Women can choose how they dress, but they’re negotiating a much more complicated terrain than men. Otherwise, there would be no need for cable shows like “What Not To Wear.”

  19. Yin
    February 26, 2008 at 7:48 pm #

    Johnna,

    First, I wasn’t complaining about hair and nails, merely observing and questioning. Second, I did in fact notice that the female leaders of the church color their hair. I only brought up the hair issue to consider the amount of money that is spent on it. Third, if you had a job dealing with the public you’d have to get your nails done? Why exactly? I don’t see the necessity.

    I think the focus of this point is the excessiveness of fashion, accessories, makeup, etc. Looking nice and stylish is okay. But, we should be humble and modest within our “nice and stylish”. IMHO.

  20. Danni
    February 27, 2008 at 10:11 am #

    Interesting topic! I’ve enjoyed this site and the comments in this thread.

    Oh, and Connor, there are indeed women whose hair has died. This comes from too much overcoloring, perming/straightening, overheated blow-drying and not enough quality conditioning. But not too many make it to that point. Most of them are just women whose hair is dyed.

    [I’m only being a brat. :p Everyone makes typos. Yours just happened to be a funny one.]

  21. Sean
    February 27, 2008 at 10:20 am #

    Elder Holland’s talk was about problems like the rise of boob jobs in Utah.

    Johnna,

    I don’t doubt that cosmetic surgery was a large factor in prompting Elder Holland’s talk. But your statement sounds pretty factual…do you have any evidence for it?

  22. Connor
    February 27, 2008 at 10:33 am #

    Good catch, Danni.

    Pun intended? :-P

  23. Danni
    February 27, 2008 at 5:22 pm #

    Good catch, Danni.

    Pun intended?

    hehehe

    That’s what made it too irresistible to pass up.

  24. Janet
    February 27, 2008 at 11:39 pm #

    Connor,

    I have several thoughts that I would like to comment on:

    “I don’t doubt that cosmetic surgery was a large factor in prompting Elder Holland’s talk. But your statement sounds pretty factual…do you have any evidence for it?”

    Yep! A great many of the women I know in the workforce have been made over from head to toe and from the inside out.

    My daughter-in-law went to church with me. She wore jeans because she had never owned a dress. I was thrilled to have her attend. She is not of our faith. Thankfully no one gave notice to her apparel.

    I think that God is more concerned that someone goes to church than what they wear. I heard of a man who came back to church after many years away. He had hit rock bottom, had a hangover and was disheveled. He was feeling lost and almost turned around and walked out the door when the stake president saw him and asked if he could help him. The man said he didn’t know where he belonged to which the stake president said, “Welcome Home!” as he embraced him.

    Have you noticed the black dresses with the sequins that the women in the Tabernacle Choir wear? Pretty fancy – in my humble opinion… pricy too.

    Sometimes spending a few extra dollars on better quality clothing is the cheapest thing one can do. The clothing will often last 3 to 4 times as long as a cheaper quality garment.

    Three to four times each year, I am required to have new professional and dressy upscale clothes for my job. The cost of the wardrobe is insignificant compared to the bonus I receive for traveling and working the events. That equates to greater amounts of tithing and fast offerings. And yes, they become part of my wardrobe after the event.

    I can shower, do my hair and makeup and be out the door in 15 minutes. But, I was a cosmetologist with skill. I have taught all of my children how to cut and style their their family’s hair (including the boys/men). Looking good is not always an indication of time or money.

    I also made most of my children’s clothes for most of their lives. They were inexpensive but appropriately stylish. Some of the fabric was hand-me-downs from gypsies that I sewed for. Some of that fabric cost someone else $100/yard. It was free to me and Yep, I used it.

    Did you know that the sister missionaries most common tailoring need after entering the MTC is to have their hemline raised to a more stylish length?

    Your dress and grooming is like a billboard advertising to the world what they think you want to attract. Being too worldly gives wicked men the wrong (or right) impression therefore putting you in danger. Water seeks its own level…

    I don’t remember which apostle said that immodestly dressed females (were or became) pornography to men. I would assume that there will be some accountability for that behavior for both genders.

    There seems to be a epidemic of hypocrisy regarding a man’s eyes and his mouth. they purport one standard and date another standard. If men were more congruent and accepted their responsibility towards women, the women would not feel so desperate.

    My point being – sometimes standards are for individuals to apply to themselves not to use for judging others. Things are not always as they seem.

  25. Sean
    February 28, 2008 at 10:02 am #

    Janet-

    My point was, what evidence is there that Elder Holland’s talk was prompted by and about the rise of cosmetic surgery.

  26. Janet
    February 28, 2008 at 10:01 pm #

    Elder Russel M. Nelson, speaking at a stake conference in Colorado, told us about conference talk assignments. No topic is assigned, only a time, date, speaking order and a strict time limit. He noted that topics are inspired. I would assume that if it is mentioned, the Lord has a reason. I mentioned that I have observed the reason.

    It is also important to remember the worldwide nature of the church membership. Some South American countries are well noted for plastic surgery and they “fix” everything before it is broke.

    I think that overall we do a pretty good job of keeping the standard so I’m a little curious what you saw the prompted this post? (I DO LIKE THE POST)

    btw did you know that RS presidents are given dress standards as are the women who work at the church headquarters? They include heels or pumps and pantyhose… not my favorites:)

  27. Daniel
    February 29, 2008 at 2:51 am #

    Give someone a little religious authority, and pretty soon they’re telling you how to dress.

    Because the creator of the universe has nothing better to do than think about what you’re wearing.

  28. Janet
    February 29, 2008 at 6:12 am #

    Daniel, apparently you are right because God told Adam and Eve to get dressed and and shed the first blood to provide the leather to make the clothes. When Ham stole Noah’s garment his righteous sons Shem and Japheth walked backwards to cover him up so that they wouldn’t see his nakedness. Genesis 9:23

    Isn’t it great:)

  29. Daniel
    February 29, 2008 at 6:44 am #

    Tremendous.

  30. Starchuck
    March 4, 2008 at 12:18 pm #

    I was just thinking about this topic because there is a guy in my elders’ quorum who is the flashiest dresser I’ve ever seen at church. I’m new to the ward and I don’t know what he does but in two months I’ve never seen him wear the same suit or shoes or tie. His son, a deacon, wears a different suit each week too. What is distracting isn’t the variety but some of them are loud colors and scream, “Look at me. I need attention and love but I don’t know how to get it.” The father has taught the elders quorum lesson twice and each time he brings a stack of books and remarks about all the notes he takes in them. He has also offered up his home theater room for an elders quorum activity. I’m having a hard time not judging him. He really seems like a decent guy who is just a little more materialistic than I’m used to. I don’t know his heart but it is certain that the way he dresses tells us something about him.

  31. Johnna
    March 4, 2008 at 2:31 pm #

    During the last week of Feb when I was Visit Teaching (of course) I found out how miserable my friend’s daughter is, because she’s attending RS at BYU and the other young women are so into hair and makeup. Her mother comforted her that we just do things differently out here in California, more naturally–let’s face it, they write songs about California Girls.

    So, maybe I’m not really getting the intensity of the hair/makeup/fashion situation that Conner is complaining about. I live here in California, where the church is always more true. ;)

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