Sunday, March 25, 2007

Mormon Dress Code

Last week Jana blogged about how intimidating the LDS men and how worldly the LDS women appeared after not having attended her local ward for some time.

I took stock of my Vernal ward today, to see how well we adhered to the Mormon Dress Code. (see results, comment #29) Here is what I wore to Church:


(the dangly earrings I wore are pinned to the lapel.)

As I commented at pilgrimgirl, the Mormon dress code is not hard to learn. You can do it in one Sunday. For men, conservative dark suits or white shirts, ties, and slacks. For women, skirt suits, skirts and conservative dressy tops, or tent dresses for larger women.

As you can see, my choices of clothing usually represent an attempt to blend in and appear to be conservative and non-threatening. Considering the subtle disapproval one receives for not following this unwritten protocol, it interests me to assess the motivation of one who chooses not to comply. Why do certain Mormon males grow a beard or wear patterned shirts to Sacrament Meeting? Is it mere comfort that prompts a woman to wear pants to Church, or is it a rebellious streak? Is the wearing of clothing that differs from the norm an attempt to show individuality? Do you feel judged or marginalized because of your clothing choices?

What did you wear to Church on Sunday?

12 Comments:

At 3/25/07, 11:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Funny that you should pose this question. I got some Birkenstocks yesterday, and was wondering today if I should wear them to church. I eventually decided not to. I mentioned this on my blog, and there's been a little bit of a discussion on it. Here are my thoughts on it:

"I suppose that the best way to think about it is to say to yourself, "if I were going to go and meet the Savior today, what would I want to wear?" Maybe not to think that exact thought every Sunday, but to approach Sunday dress with that kind of attitude. And I wouldn't want to look casual or sloppy if I were going to meet the Savior - I'd want to be immaculately clean, completely modest, and dressed in something that showed the great love and respect that I have for him - something that shows that our meeting is something extra-ordinary, something special. I don't exactly know what I think about wearing Birkenstocks - if Jesus Christ caught me by surprise, and I was wearing Birkenstocks, I wouldn't feel ashamed or uneasy...but would I deliberately wear them if I knew I were going to meet him? I honestly don't know. I don't know if it would be bad, but it does feel a little odd...I don't know.

I wonder if our business-style Sunday dress doesn't reflect on the relationship that many of us have with the Savior. It reminds me a bit of a story I heard, where a man went to an appointment with a certain visiting church leader. The man came into the office, they shook hands, and the church leader started the interview by saying to the man, "what can you tell me about Jesus Christ?" The man said, "well, he is the savior of the world, he died, was buried, and resurrected, and because of him, all of us can repent and return to live with Heavenly Father some day." The church leader said, "yes, that is absolutely correct, but what ELSE can you tell me?" The man was a bit puzzled, and he said "well, he created the heavens and the earth, he was chosen by the Father in the premortal existence, he was Jehovah of the old testament, was born of Mary, performed many miracles, was crucified on the cross, and rose the third day, after which he appeared to the twelve apostles, to the Nephites, and in 1830 to Joseph Smith." The church leader said, "Yes, yes, everything you have said is correct, but WHAT ELSE can you tell me about Jesus Christ?" The man then went into long recitations of every miracle, every parable, and every appearance of Jesus Christ that he could remember. He explained every doctrine associated with the atonement, as meticulously as an encyclopedia, and recited hundreds of scriptures from the Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price. All of this took several hours, after which the church leader said, "what you have told me is absolutely correct and contains no error. Thank you." The man then left, after which the second man, who had been waiting for his appointment all this time in the lobby, entered the office. As soon as the man entered the office and saw the church leader, he recognized him immediately, fell on his knees, and wept, "my Lord and my God!"

I worry a little bit that our business attire on Sundays may reflect this type of a relationship, on some level. Jesus Christ was not an executive - he was not a businessman, not at all. He was a teacher. Yet when we go to church, we go (at least the men do) as if it were a business meeting. Now, one can reasonably say that that is the nicest that we have, and that's why we go dressed like that, but it's also crept into our culture, to some degree, so that we look down on people who dress nice for church but violate the "business formal" in some way. It is comforting that our church leaders don't wear flowing gowns or brightly colored vestments, or tall, ornate hats - the business suits do make them seem more accessible - but I don't know. Even though GA's do dress in business attire, I have heard that at General Conference, they will all wear ties that are red in some way, in order to reflect and help remember the Savior and how he bled for us. That may be apocryphal, but it will be interesting to see next week, how many of the apostles and seventies are wearing red ties, and think whether this is meant to point to the savior, a little more than the business formal dress code would otherwise direct us."

 
At 3/26/07, 10:40 AM, Blogger Bored in Vernal said...

Well, this comment really made me think! I have a very good friend who I admire, respect, and love. I haven't seen her for a couple of years. If I were going to meet her today, I would be so thrilled. I would dress with care. I would definitely wear my jeans--I feel comfortable in them, I look better in them than I do in a dress, and I feel like myself in them. I would wear a nice shirt, makeup, and probably some kooky jewelry. Birkenstocks would go well with this outfit. We would have lunch and go hiking or canoeing, and I would spill my guts to her and we would cry and laugh and hug each other.
If I was going to meet with the Stake President, I would wear something like what I wore to Church on Sunday (pictured). I would feel polite and proper. I would be trying to make a good impression. He would be affable and kind. We would speak for a few minutes over a desk. I would smile and shake his hand.

You asked, "If I were going to go and meet the Savior today, what would I want to wear?"

Well, I certainly hope that one day my relationship with the Savior will become more like my relationship with my friend than what it is with the SP.

And the modesty thing? I'm hoping I have a Savior around whom I could show a bit of cleavage, and he'd wink at me and tell me I'm a cutie.

That's the kind of Lord I could fall down on my knees in front of, and weep.

 
At 3/26/07, 2:35 PM, Blogger jana said...

BiV:
Your suit is just lovely. I'm a fan of pink but I can't wear the paler shades well (makes my face look blotched and puffy).

The first comment is interesting and thought-provoking...if I were to meet up with an old friend today I'd probably wear the new necklace that I just made myself (I'm so proud of it) and a knit top/sweater with a pair of slacks. It's not that I don't like dressing up, but it's so much more comfortable to do things when you're wearing pants!

I think the Savior would be very comfortable in my Quaker Meeting. The thought of sitting in silence next to him warms my heart. I think I would especially enjoy the moment at the end of silence where we grasp the hands of those seated around us and greet each other. Yes, that would be so nice.

I can't think of any of my dress-up clothes (like the 2 suits in the back of my closet) that would make me feel more comfortable around Jesus.

 
At 3/26/07, 4:42 PM, Blogger amelia said...

what did i wear to church yesterday? a cotton skirt that's slightly gored so it has a nice flip. knee-length. with a small semi-geometric pattern in black, tan, and white. with a v-neck, brilliant green t-shirt with gathering at the neck. i suppose it's a little low in the neck, but i honestly don't know how to guage that. i'm not falling out of it and i don't have to tug at it to feel modest or comfortable in it, so it's okay with me. but i know people who would consider it too low. and a fairly casual light weight black cardigan. with my very funky black suede rocket dog ballet slippers that have somewhat rugged rubber soles. jewelry: silver bead earrings, silver necklace, swiss blue topaz ring, and a bright chunky primary color bead bracelet. i also wore it to the stake easter devotional last night where i had been asked to share my testimony. it's not a particularly dressy outfit. but it looks nice on me and it's very comfortable.

last week i met with my stake president to discuss with him some concerns and questions i have about the temple. i had been to the temple earlier in the day but had changed out of my skirt into my jeans. i suppose i could have changed back into my skirt, which i still had with me, to meet with him. but i didn't. i wore my jeans. and felt very comfortable doing so, even with him wearing his suit and tie. we are old friends and have a long history of talking about all kinds of church/spiritual topics. but i've done the same with other church leaders and have never felt like i was inappropriately dressed. i think this has to do with the fact that i perceive my church leaders not as authority figures, but as friends--or at least potential friends--and equals. i think of the savior in the same way. if i knew i was meeting him, i would dress nicely. but it would be in keeping with my normal dress--nothing ornate or unusual.

and why do some people not comply with the dress code? i think there are as many reasons as there are people. i have a very good friend who has a beard. he wears a beard because he likes to. i don't think it's a form of making a statement or being rebellious or demonstrating individuality. it's just what he likes, so he does it. which is why i dress the way i do, whether we're talking church or anywhere else. and my clothing does attract attention sometimes. but i'm not seeking that attention--i'm just wearing what i like.

as to the comfortableness of skirts--i love skirts. love them. i wear them for ordinary daily activities often (but not when it's cold). i would love to find a skirt to wear backpacking. i think it would be far more comfortable than pants for such an activity.

 
At 3/26/07, 6:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've worn flip-flops to (LDS) church before, with slacks, a shirt, and a tie, no less.

I've worn shirts of every color (though always with a tie when possible, though once I actually wore a white baptism/temple tie and a rainbow belt), sometimes a suit.

Ususally combat boots.

Facial hair of many kinds (full beard, sideburns, moustacheless beard).

In my home ward, beards went in and out of style. But the pressure never seemed to be there except for people in the Bishopric.

Maybe it was subtle, and I just don;t do subtle very well.

 
At 3/26/07, 11:20 PM, Blogger the House of Payne said...

I wore a light gray suit, white shirt pink tie, and black socks and shoes. A black belt, too, I guess. Most of the other guys in my ward are young married BYU students, who mostly wore dark suits and conservative ties that make them look like missionaries. But I don't feel marginalized. Then again, what's the real difference between a light gray suit and a dark gray suit? Not much.

I often wear patterned shirts, but I always wear a tie, and usually a jacket or suit coat. I wear them because I think they look better than a plain white shirt. I used to wear a beard, too, because I thought it looked good on me. And why not?

 
At 3/27/07, 5:52 AM, Blogger Texas said...

My last couple of years I grew a beard and wore my favorite DI rust colored jacket and brown slacks.

I wasn't trying to "be an individual" I don't think. I just hate shaving and like wearing retro clothes. Nevertheless I did stand out. And then I opened my mouth which made it all worse. :)

 
At 3/29/07, 9:50 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have a beard because I like it (as does my wife).

I typically wear a colored shirt, dark jacket and color-coordinated tie to church. That's what I would wear to a job interview in my occupation.

Although I wear a white shirt to the temple because it's easier to do so, I very seldom do when I go to church. For one thing, I think colored shirts look better. White shirts also don't match my self-image very well. They seem too, well, Republican, is the best way I can put it. If I wear a white shirt, I feel like I'm trying to act like somebody I'm not.

That may not sound very logical, but it's the way I feel.

 
At 3/30/07, 6:13 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Although I think it's important to have a very close, personal relationship with the Savior, I think that ideally, there should be something that sets that relationship apart from other friendships and relationships; something that makes it special. If I were to have the same kind of relationship with the Savior as I have with all of my close friends, I would worry that I'm becoming too casual and not appreciative enough of Him. I remember photos I've seen of LDS in developing nations, who live in tin roof huts next to muddy, unpaved roads, who wear the same kind of Sunday dress (if not as expensive) as ours, simply because that's their best, and they want to give the Savior their best. I guess that would be a very good way to look at clothing choices - not as "what should i wear to fit in best with the LDS community and not cause any negative waves?" or even just "what kind of clothing best represents the kind of relationship I would like to have with the savior?" but "what is the best that I have to offer the Savior?" Just a thought.

 
At 4/3/07, 3:23 AM, Blogger Mags said...

Bored, I love your comment about being casual! I have found your posts just too enlightening! We don't go to Church for Conference, Olelo usually broadcasts it for us but this year was hit and miss. But at the last meeting, I wore a calf-length cotton t-shirt dress, faded black with a Bird of Paradise printed on the chest and in Hawaii we wear slippers (flip-flops) to Church all the time. Bishop M, wears dress shoes with his standard suit but on Tuesday nights, he's just in his dress shirt, tie, pants and men's Dr. Martin sandals with dark socks!

I don't think Jesus will care what I wear as long as I am there to meet him. Besides, he knows my love/hate relationship with dress clothes and the fact that 99.5% of my wardrobe is cotton...I have issues with synthetic fibers anyway.

Mahalo, Mags

ps. onelowerlight, I wouldn't have thought twice to wear my new Birks!! When I get the opportunity to substitute teach, I kick-off my shoes so I don't trip...no one says anything to me because I have done it so often and they know that my middle name should be Graceless! So Birks would be a step up also considering that I haven't paid more than $4.00 for slippers since I arrived on Oahu 4 years ago!

 
At 4/27/07, 4:03 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

i wore an ankle length blue floral liz claiborne skirt(found it at a thrift store for 2 bucks:)), a light blue cotton sweater, cheap walmart victorian style earrings with blue glass in them, my aquamarine birthstone ring that my mama gave me, and a pair of navy blue/khaki platform shoes i've had for 20+ years. i love longer skirts because i don't have to wear panty hose-hate torturing myself.
i just wear what i feel most comfortable in, whether its "in style" or not isn't important to me. i try to look my best, and make sure my clothes are pressed and neat. sometimes, i wear casual outfits, like my levis jean skirt and cowboy boots, or a black skirt i love with chunky black boots. sometimes i want to really dress "fancy" and will wear my black velour skirt with a nice velour top or a dressy sweater with my black mary janes. i don't worry anymore about what people think now that i've gotten older.another thought i had-sometimes i go all out and wear my makeup and spend extra time on my hair, other times, i don't wear any makeup except a little lip gloss and blow dry my hair straight or put it up in a nice clip. no matter what, i always go freshly showered and clean, and for me, that's what's most important. i think the Savior would just want us to do our best-whatever that would mean for each individual.

 
At 5/13/07, 2:56 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wore what I always wear--a long cotton skirt (I have several,) a t-shirt (I have several of those, too), and --yes-- my long-suffering birks. Maybe we're more casual in Arizona.

What is all this preoccupation with fine-twined linen? Even in the temple!

 

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