Modesty and Adornment: Spring Fashion Issues

So, here in Massachusetts, it’s starting to seem safe to put away the snowpants. Which means, of course, that (by the fashion industry’s bizarre calendar) the stores will soon be full of back-to-school fashions, and I’ve got to hurry to buy shorts and swimsuits for my kids. The boys are easy enough–plain t-shirts and longish, comfy shorts are easy to find. But shopping for my daughter is tedious and annoying as a practical matter, and downright infuriating as a philosophical and spiritual problem.

There’s a great deal of staggeringly skanky clothing manufactured for little girls–the depravity of dressing preteens as baby prostitutes needs little comment (although there have been some entertaining diatribes against this trend). What I’m talking about is something more subtle. Every girls’ t-shirt I saw in several different stores today had some decorative detail–puffed sleeves, a little embroidered doo-dad, a ruffle, a bow. Innocuous enough in themselves, but each of them–every innocent cutesiness–teaches my daughter that her clothes are not for her, not for her comfort or the function she wants them to serve, but for other people to look at.

It’s not that I think there’s anything wrong with being pleasant for other people to look at. What troubles me is that my daughter is being taught to draw attention to herself, to her body, by the way she appears and the way she adorns herself. In a few years, she will start to be told to monitor the kind of attention she draws to herself. She will be told how short her shorts can be, how long her sleeves must be, whether or not she must wear pantyhose. She will have makeover nights in Young Women’s where she will be taught to apply just enough makeup to be attractive, but not too overtly sexy. She will be told that her eternal fate depends on attracting boys’ attention, and simultaneously she will be warned against “becoming pornography” by dressing inappropriately. She will be in charge of finely calibrating young men’s responses to the visual phenomenon of her body.

If she is like me (and I desperately hope she is not), this will cause her significant pain. She will begin to see her body as an object, separate from her own feelings and desires. She will hate her thighs, or her nose, or the tiny bit of fat on her upper arms. She will diet (or worse) and exercise not for the joy of moving her healthy body, but to look “right”. All of this starts with the ruffled t-shirts that tell her that her clothes have a different function than her brothers’. This is the sweetly insidious beginning of the appropriation of her body as the passive object of others’ gaze.

It makes me want to scream.

But, of course, most of that is not a particularly Mormon phenomenon. So, here’s a Mormon angle:

It is possible to find plain girls’ t-shirts, in colors my daughter likes and without the frills, in pricey catalogs and online stores. Issues of modesty and adornment are class issues. Our language betrays us on this point: a well-dressed woman is “classy,” a too-scantily or brightly-clad woman is called “cheap.” Our Mormon notions of modesty derive not just from sexual protectiveness, but also from the vestigial aspirations to respectability and inclusion in polite society left over from the early days of the church, from being regarded as barbaric (in both senses of the word–primitive and strange, outlandish). Mormon women’s bodies and sexuality have always been contested territory, our hemlines mapping much larger boundaries.

In the early 21st century, we have a certain image of the “modest” Mormon woman–size 6 (or 4, perhaps, vanity sizing having completely untethered clothing tags from reality), in a tailored skirt and blouse–feminine, please, not too severe–or a nice, but only moderately expensive suit–Ann Taylor, not Armani. Neither too frumpy, nor too fashion-forward. Appealing but not overtly sexy. Casual wear may include pants, but ought to look “put-together”–never like the mother of small children who may or may not manage a shower or makeup (to say nothing of “beauty sleep”–ha!!) on any given Tuesday. For the wives of General Authorities, I’m told these rules are very explicitly spelled out–denim skirts are ok for casual private gatherings, but no pants ever. We have cast ourselves as guardians of “traditional” gender roles, but we don’t want to be reminded of the ravages such roles can inflict on women’s bodies and psyches. So we preach exercise, makeup (remember “even an old barn looks better with a fresh coat of paint”?), and just-so dressing. Strangely, we ask women to dress in the uniform of women who have access to precisely the kind of power and wealth from which our prescription of traditional roles largely excludes them. Why on earth do the General Presidencies of the auxiliaries wear suits to General Conference, where they resolutely enjoin women to refrain from the kinds of activities for which suits are appropriate attire?

It is bad enough to send such mixed messages to adult women, who at least may have the psychic and intellectual resources to start untangling them. It is an entirely different, and more pernicious, matter to enact these questions about power and class on our children’s bodies.

I do not want to be part of the bashing Julie Beck bandwagon–I’ve written about the things I’ve found admirable in her talks, and, in general, I’m a fan. She uses a grownup voice and she speaks her mind–this is cause for celebration. [NB: I will ruthlessly delete comments that threaten to pitch us into debate over her now-infamous talk again.] However, one part of her “Mothers Who Know” sermon continues to trouble me–the notion that a child’s (and particularly a daughter’s) well-combed hair reflects some virtue of the mother’s. Here’s the unfortunate paragraph:

Mothers who know honor sacred ordinances and covenants. I have visited sacrament meetings in some of the poorest places on the earth where mothers have dressed with great care in their Sunday best despite walking for miles on dusty streets and using worn-out public transportation. They bring daughters in clean and ironed dresses with hair brushed to perfection; their sons wear white shirts and ties and have missionary haircuts. These mothers know they are going to sacrament meeting, where covenants are renewed. These mothers have made and honor temple covenants. These mothers have influence and power.

I think I know what she means, and an even slightly charitable reading would interpret this as an exhortation to care and show respect even in small ways, as evidence of devotion. This is not a problematic idea.

What is problematic, though, is the idea that a mother’s righteousness can be gauged by her children’s appearance, an idea which is all-too-alive and well within Mormon culture, with devastating consequences for girls and women. Moreover, she associates women’s power with their appearance and that of their children. The notion that a woman’s spiritual power and influence are evidenced by their appearance intensifies the importance of clothing and appearance in our assessment of women’s character, rather than teaching the sort of self-forgetfulness and unwillingness to draw attention to oneself that are contained in older senses of the word “modest” (before that word became exclusively associated with the regulation of sexuality). Moreover, little missionary suits cost money, as do frocks that need ironing–Beck’s description of women who manage to dress their children well even in poor circumstances implies an aspiration towards middle-class values that we ought to be very, very (very!) careful of entangling with expressions of piety or devotion.

There is a terrifying diminishment of women’s sphere inherent in the notion that her spiritual power is expressed by dressing herself or her children well. I believe with all my heart that Mormonism, at its core, affirms the spiritual potential of all human beings. We ought to carefully guard against the encroachments of worldly cultural ideas that confuse or distract us from our highest ideals. Of course fathers and mothers should teach their children to be neat and clean, to dress in a way that conveys their respect for themselves and others around them, but, as Brigham Young exhorted, “let us not narrow ourselves up [!]” We must not, especially, narrow our daughter’s possibilities by increasing the anxiety over their appearance that the world will all-too-abundantly bestow upon them.

Is it any wonder I hate shopping??

Comments

  1. Kristine, I get what you are saying. And, I share your frustration of shopping for a little girl. (Worst example – Old Navy last year had shirts w/ ruffles on the chest that make little girl look like she has mini-boobs. Sick.)

    There are some risks in trying to steer girls away from the frilly clothes that they seem drawn to. (We try to avoid decorated stuff too – it’s too hard to clean!) I do worry, however, about sending the message to my DD that there is something better about plain clothes that aren’t feminine. I think she could interpret it as there something wrong about being a girl. If DD wants the pink shirt with rainbows and matching bow and I try to guide her towards the plain red shirt (which probably looks more like boy clothes to her preschool mind), am I sending the message that boy clothes are better?

  2. Kristine says:

    But Belle, why are ruffles “feminine”? There was a time, in fact, when they were for kings. Late modern humans are unusual among animal species for having the female be the more adorned sex.

    (and, please know that I am typing this in a froofy little spring dress and tights with lace–I get the conflict; I really do!)

  3. Kristine,
    I don’t know that Belle was so much making a normative as a descriptive comment. My two-year-old daughter knows that pink is for girls and that dresses are for girls (how? the Lord knows, by my wife and I sure as heck don’t), and she loves pink and dresses, even when it is freezing cold out. While I don’t know how she got the message, it doesn’t bother me. She likes to look pink. She also likes to be a naked baby, and she likes to read books and dance to Justin Roberts and Dan Zanes and watch the Muppet Show. And do dangerous things where, as often as not, she bumps her head. And tell jokes. As long as her sole self-identification isn’t her clothing choice, I think there is some value in her learning, even at 2, how to negotiate that part of her experience.

  4. (but my wife and I . . .)

  5. Tough stuff. I dress my girl in boys clothes as much as I can, as much to save money as anything.

    BTW–we are often outraged on behalf of other people. I think everyone from Europe/N. America who goes to Africa and affiliates with normal people there, comes away impressed with their dress. My African husband irons his clothes everyday and when we lived there, this was done with a coal iron. Suffice it to say, I do not dress by the same standards. When Sis. Beck makes this list, she is clearly (to me) describing they way LDS people I went to Church with in Kenya actually DO dress, not a western way they should aspire to. Sure, the dress may be second/third/fourth hand, but it is ironed!

    They (Africans) have a different approach to dress. Americans tend to dress as self-expression, whereas they dress to show respect to the people who see them. I think there is merit in both philosophy.

  6. Jennifer in GA says:

    I don’t think ruffles and bows teach a little girl (or a big girl, for that matter) that her clothes aren’t for her benefit. I’ve taught preschool for the past five years, and I’ve seen little girls come in wearing clothes that run from both ends of the fashion spectrum- from the head-to-toe, color coordinated fashion plate to little girl eager to show off her new camoflage cargo pants and t-shirt and boots. Some of them care a great deal about how they look and some don’t.

    By that same token, most little boys are just as eager to show off a new t-shirt or their cool shoes that light up when they walk. Are these boys dressing for the benefit of others? I don’t think so. They just like the neat lights! :D

    I agree with you that it’s not a good idea to associate clothes with piety. But I’ll be perfectly honest- I don’t think this is a problem in the wards I have lived in. Out this way, we rarely see the wives of the GAs, and only see the auxilary presidencies during Conference or the RS/YW broadcasts. What they are wearing is really the last thing on anybody’s mind when listening to these women speak.

    None of the women I’ve known have worried because they themselves aren’t dressed in impeccable suits on Sunday. What they choose to dress their children in is based on what they can afford at any given time.

  7. Kristine says:

    Sam, it is amazing, isn’t it, how they apparently absorb this stuff from the ether. However, I do think there’s a natural inclination to adornment that we discourage in our boys and encourage in girls, in sometimes very subtle ways. My kids go to a very progressive, hippie kind of school, where boys wear hand-me-downs from their sisters and play with dolls and girls play with trucks and do woodworking, but there is definitely some segregation of interests that seems inherent rather than learned. I do think it kicks in a little later when adults don’t participate, and I think there are more outliers in each group than broadly accepted gendered behavior codes allow for, but I wouldn’t argue that there’s no “natural” instinct towards decoration in little girls. Indeed, anyone who knows my Lulu knows how thoroughly she would have dispelled that notion, if I had been inclined to entertain it!

  8. but each of them–every innocent cutesiness–teaches my daughter that her clothes are not for her, not for her comfort or the function she wants them to serve, but for other people to look at.

    Umm. Isn’t that the prime function of most clothing?

    There’s a reason when you meet with an attorney at their office, for instance, that they almost always arrive in a nice suit and not in bermuda shorts and a dirty t-shirt even though they may wear those at home.

  9. Kristine says:

    ESO–that’s a good point. My brother and sister-in-law just returned from a few years in Ghana, and they reported the same thing. It seems to me that, from my brother’s descriptions, men were much more aware of the messages their clothing telegraphed there than most American men are (to speak in ridiculously gross general terms).

  10. Our Mormon notions of modesty derive not just from sexual protectiveness, but also from the vestigial aspirations to respectability and inclusion in polite society left over from the early days of the church,

    But you seem to think that a bad thing whereas I think it a very, very good thing.

    I do agree that the focus on modesty and sexuality is unfortunate. Just like the focus on drugs, tobacco and alcohol as the be all and end all of the Word of Wisdom is unfortunate. Modesty has much more to do with inclusion in polite society.

  11. I get what you are saying, however my 4 1/2 year old daughter really likes fancy shirts. She also picks shirts out of the boys section sometimes too. And she hates dresses, unless they are extremely over-the-top ornate; so she owns one–and will wear it every Sunday until it no longer fits, at which time she will pick another frivilous dress. I would hate to see her choices taken away. I don’t think designers put bows and rainbows and kittens on girls clothing because they like it, but because my daughter will choose them. She doesn’t pick her clothes just so others will like them, (although she’s into that a bit too, “Look at the kitty on my shirt!”) she never matches. She hates jeans because they are uncomfotable.

    This is all a bit tangential to your thesis however. I don’t think it follows that frilly little girl clothes make little girls grow up thinking they have to look a certain way. Other things do, to be sure, but not a few ruffles and bows.
    Certainly, and, unfortunately, plenty of members feel that the the parents are bad parents if Jenny has her nose pierced, or Jonny has a mohawk, and will claim, “I would neverlet my kid dress like that.” I get what you are saying, however my 4 1/2 year old daughter really likes fancy shirts. She also picks shirts out of the boys section sometimes too. And she hates dresses, unless they are extremely over-the-top ornate; so she owns one–and will wear it every Sunday until it no longer fits, at which time she will pick another frivilous dress. I would hate to see her choices taken away. I don’t think designers put bows and rainbows and kittens on girls clothing because they like it, but because my daughter will choose them. She doesn’t pick her clothes just so others will like them, (although she’s into that a bit too, “Look at the kitty on my shirt!”) she never matches. She hates jeans because they are uncomfortable.

    This is all a bit tangential to your thesis however. I don’t think it follows that frilly little girl clothes make little girls grow up thinking they have to look a certain way. Other things do, to be sure, but not a few ruffles and bows.
    Certainly, and, unfortunately, plenty of members feel that parents are bad parents if Jenny has her nose pierced, or Jonny has a mohawk, and will claim, “I would neverlet my kid dress like that.” I don’t know how they’d stop them.

  12. Kristine says:

    Clark, I don’t necessarily think it’s a bad thing,as a practical matter. I just think we ought not regard it as a moral or spiritual good, at least without thinking carefully about what that means.

  13. ESO, like Kristine I agree completely with your point. We often focus so much on the modesty of young women that we excuse slovenly dress of the young (and old) men.

    Of course dressed as I am in faded shorts and a ratty t-shirt right now I’m amazingly hypocritical in this.

  14. oops! I don’t know how that happened.

  15. The issue of the relationship of how we present ourselves (of which clothes are but a part) and spirituality and ethics is tricky. It certainly ends up being complex and we have to avoid simplistic stereotypes otherwise we fall prey to the Nephite disease. And there’s no doubt many Mormons do.

    At the same time some appear to go to the other extreme and decry focus on nice dress or trendy dress as evil. Which, in my opinion, is just as bad.

    I do think that we, as a culture, could worry about modesty more. In all senses of the term and not just the “don’t show too much skin or form” sense.

  16. Kristine says:

    mmiles–it’s an interesting point, and draws out a question I’ve elided somewhat. There’s a legitimate and interesting argument to be had about whether a child’s aesthetic sensibility develops independent of social reinforcement–whether they might really just like ruffles for ruffles’ sake.

  17. Kevin Barney says:

    Wait–GA wives are told they can’t wear pants, ever? Makes me glad I’ll never be the wife of a GA…

  18. Kristine says:

    Yeah, Kev, me neither :)

  19. As anyone who’s ever met me in real life knows, I am a woman who hates dealing with the vagaries of fashion. My deepest, most compelling fantasy of the next life involves waking up to seven identical white robes, one for each day of the week. The older I get, the tireder I am of it all. Men’s clothing comes in simple uniforms that are, at least relative to women’s clothing, relatively constant over time. Women’s clothing, by contrast, deserves its own special circle in hell. As Deborah Tannen says in an essay about the markedness of women and the unmarkedness of men, all I want to do is wake up and not have to make a statement!

    Just a long-winded way of saying I can hardly bear the ongoing drama of dressing myself. I can’t even imagine the hassles involved in dressing a daughter.

    Strangely, we ask women to dress in the uniform of women who have access to precisely the kind of power and wealth from which our prescription of traditional roles largely excludes them. Why on earth do the General Presidencies of the auxiliaries wear suits to General Conference, where they resolutely enjoin women to refrain from the kinds of activities for which suits are appropriate attire?

    I wonder to what extent our fashion imperatives to erase any evidence of maternal wear and tear correspond to the praise we hear almost every conference of GA wives who “never complained.” It seems we ask women both to make enormous sacrifices to raise their children and support their husbands AND to efface all evidence of those sacrifices–both linguistically and sartorially.

  20. Eve,
    Except that men’s styles now change on, if not the same schedule as women’s, a similar schedule. (I had someone come to meet me in my office the other day from a national custom clothing company, offering to supply and updated seasonally my wardrobe, for a significant sum, of course).

    It may be easier for men to opt out of such things (I certainly do, but that’s because my interests lie in other directions) but, for both professionals and artists, at least, men have a nearly-equally broad and rotating palate of clothing from which we need to choose. In today’s world, none of this secen-white-robes for us either (again, unless we choose to opt out, and the cost to men of opting out may well be less than the cost to women).

  21. seven-white-robes. Man, I can’t type today.

  22. Kristine says:

    Paradoxically, Eve, I love clothes. I watched Sex and the City for the shoes :). I struggle with my desire for expensive baubles and frills and my conviction that they are wrong in all kinds of ways.

  23. Sam, that may well be. My husband dresses almost entirely from Walmart, Goodwill, and D.I.–and he’s the fashionable one!–so I’m probably spectacularly unaware of men’s fashion imperatives. (He’s a psychologist, so if he wears a tie and colored shirt to work, as he often does, he’s waaaaay dressed up.)

    Still, I envy men’s fashion choices. They seem more standard–plaid shirt, tan slacks, for instance, with some variations, seems to be forever in. I could certainly go for something like that. In fact, for years I bought men’s clothes because I tend to like the plain style better. (Don’t even get me started on fighting through the frou-frou of wedding dresses.) But of course men’s clothes do not fit my decidedly not model-thin body very well. I need clothes styled for men and cut for women with serious curves.

    My mother once told me what a relief it was to turn 40 and, in a certain sense, arrive in a category of persons in which fashion is less important and more optional. I guess if you’re a GA’s wife, not so much.

    White robes, here I come.

  24. Lulubelle says:

    I guess I, once again, don’t understand all the fuss. If your little girl wants to wear pink, ruffles and dresses, why don’t you let her? Why encourage her to wear plain T-s instead of ruffled T’s? And likewise, if your child wants the plain ones instead of the ruffles, let her (or hiim). When my daughter was five and we were arguing what she should wear to school, she wisely said, “Mom, don’t you know you should let your child be who she wants to be?” So wise and she won the outfit argument. As long as it’s “appropriate” for the occassion, what is the problem? I, for one, love to buy clothes, clothes and more clothes. I have more shoes than I care to admit. But that’s me. Dressing nicely, making sure my clothes are clean and ironed, and ensuring I’ve showered and done something with my hair is a “must” for me. But if it’s not for you, then OK. I also, however, don’t see anything wrong with sleeveless tops, tanks, and shorts above the knee either. But that’s just me. I don’t see the body as anything to be ashamed of. Sure, there’s always some self loathing about the thighs that jiggle too much or too much gray, but isn’t that normal?

  25. Kristine, that actually makes sense to me. As a teenager I was filled with endless longing for fashionable clothes. As my more spiritually minded sisters were thinking about the existence of God and the problem of evil, I was trying to weasel more clothes money out of my mother for items she considered horrifyingly impractical and ridiculously expensive.

    Now I’m on a two-phase cycle. In phase one, I realize, with horror, that I’m a complete frump and slob and attempt, vainly, to address these shortcomings. (Phase one can be prohibitively expensive). Phase two involves surrender to frumpiness. The older I get, the longer phase two gets. As I’ve said elsewhere, I expect to die in a flowered purple polyester pantsuit. That’s the trajectory.

    But I’ve struggled immensely over clothes, fashion, body image, and health, and one of the reasons I love and adore your post so is that you’re pushing beyond the usual discussion of modesty that we get ad nauseum to the incredibly complicated issues of dress. I struggle over this too. How many clothes is too many? How spiffy are we supposed to be? On these questions, the scriptural warnings against fine clothing and the cultural standards of North American Mormons seem diametrically opposed.

    I honestly have no idea what the answers are, but I’m so delighted someone’s finally asking the questions!

  26. #5,

    I agree. Having served my mission in the tribal areas of South Africa and in Namibia I observed African mothers carefully dress their children in their very best just like Sis Beck observed. Dad put on a carefully pressed suit or tribal outfit and walk to church.

    The African comps I had were much much more careful with their attire then I or my American comps were. Shoes polished every day, ties carefully knotted, lots of cuff links. Hair cut every week etc.

  27. Lulubelle says:

    Gosh, I just (once again) think there are so many bigger issues to lament about than dress. If you love clothes– then LOVE them. If you hate them, then hate them. So people love to fish. Do we worry about that? I think the more we worry and lament and try to wonder “what/how we should dress and what’s the appropriate answer” I’m thinking that God is totally unconcerned about it. I think He has much bigger issues on his mind and doesn’t give a second thought about what clothing is on our bodies.

  28. Sam, seven white robes sounds dull until I realize that since high school, I’ve been wearing pretty much the same wardrobe as much as possible, jeans and button down oxford shirts, for three decades, except for those odd decades of the 80’s and 90’s where I actually wore a tie to work.

    Kristine, I had one daughter, and five boys. She had a thing for ultra-feminine stuff as a kid growing up, but kind of got out of that in high school. Now she has a 2 year old daughter of her own, and faces the same challenges. So far, though, my granddaughter loves to play with trucks (her dad is a school bus mechanic), and basketball with her grandfather, and wears a lot of jeans.

  29. AArrrgghhh… I feel your pain.

    One of my daughters would wear a pink tutu to go fishing if I let her.

    Seems like everything is either too provocative or something that would look overdone for a flower girl at a Guadalajara wedding.

    On a practical note, we have had luck at Target. They usually have basic non-frilly items in “girly” colors. About 25% of my girls clothes came from the boy department (since when is a red polo shirt gender specific?).

  30. I think there are so many bigger issues to lament about than dress. If you love clothes– then LOVE them. If you hate them, then hate them. So people love to fish. Do we worry about that? I think the more we worry and lament and try to wonder “what/how we should dress and what’s the appropriate answer” I’m thinking that God is totally unconcerned about it.

    I would definitely agree there are bigger issues than dress. But based on the Book of Mormon, I don’t think we Mormons can claim that God is “totally unconcerned about it.” And if the latest YW General Meeting discussion of swimsuits is any indication, the church is certainly concerned about it.

    I think dress is fundamentally different from a hobby like fishing. Dress involves identity, self-presentation, pride (in all its senses), modesty (in all its senses), respect for self and others, gender, ethnic identity, and class. It’s not at all insignificant.

  31. Kristine, #9

    It seems to me that, from my brother’s descriptions, men were much more aware of the messages their clothing telegraphed there than most American men are (to speak in ridiculously gross general terms).

    I don’t think Americans are less aware, that awareness is just not acknowledged. Try and tell me that the most unshaven granola freeper isn’t communicating a message through their appearance.

    As much as certain people criticize the Church “uniform.” There aren’t many who don’t wear some sort of uniform to convey a message, whether they are a power laywer, an emo, a harley biker, a silver and turquoise adorned Scottsdale realtor. For some reason, there are people who consider it then poor manners to then make value judgments based on that message.

  32. ESO, your #5 is exactly the point I was trying to make in your Tankini thread. There will be a lot less angst among the chattering class of the North American church when it pays more than lip service to the idea that we are a world wide church and adjusts its filters accordingly. A lot of the stuff we wring our hands about in New Jersey just doesn’t register in Ghana. Our institutional criticisms are exported along with the rest of our culture.

    On the other hand, I remember vividly sitting in sacrament meeting in Manhattan and listening to an elderly woman working with the church-associated World Family Policy Center at the U.N. list as great allies a number of Middle Eastern countries. My wife, a fairly recent convert at the time, leaned over to me and asked if it was telling that we were making common cause with some of the most backwards, repressive regimes in the world.

    Kristine, although I agree with the basic idea behind your post, you have the luxury of writing for a narrow audience–a significant portion of whom have had enough training to consume and digest the idea that ruffles are “the sweetly insidious beginning of the appropriation of [one's] body as the passive object of others’ gaze.” This makes a lot more sense when you’ve spent time in a women’s studies class where the artificiality of the construction is quickly lost with the acquisition of the ideological vocabulary.

    For most people, a pink shirt will remain a pink shirt and any resentment they may feel when told they are unwittinly accomplices in damaging their girls’ future psyches risks being dismissed as the concerns of the over-educated. I’m afraid that is pretty much my reaction, not because I disagree with your thesis but because I think you invest too much in the meaning of puffy sleaves. I firmly believe a little common sense goes a long way. The problem is that common sense is too often ignored which results in people walking around with “Juicy” embroidered on their backside.

  33. Steve Evans says:

    Kristine, thanks for the thoughts. In my view, what is really pernicious is not necessarily the ruffles or pink in themselves, but rather our willingness to let others make fashion (or other) choices for us under the guise of some social default rules. It drives me nuts to no end that modest or plain and simple clothing is becoming a luxury or fringe good.

    That said, I think lulu is blessed to have a mother who thinks and knows about these issues, and is willing to teach her daughter how to see their interplay in her life. Transmitting such awareness to her –along with an awareness of the possibility of choice — is possibly one of the greatest gifts you can provide.

  34. My wife, a fairly recent convert at the time, leaned over to me and asked if it was telling that we were making common cause with some of the most backwards, repressive regimes in the world.

    Only in the sense that they acknowledge the lack of common sense in the secular, left wing orthodox policies as they apply to families and children.

  35. Kristine-
    Re #16, of course society influences my daughters like of pink and love of princess-style dresses. I’m not sure though, telling her pink is for girls is worse than telling women (and men) to wear smart looking pin striped suits with no frills.
    Society always dictates fashion. I think teaching our kids, and perhaps especially our daughters, that they have a choice and to think about why they are choosing the things they choose in clothing and hair styles, etc–can help them better understand how to navigate in a society that tells women especially they must be both beautiful and sexy. But I guess at 4 I can’t discuss with her too in depth about why she always wants a pink shirt when a red one is just as good. I can hardly reason with her to wear a short sleeved shirt on a hot day–or shorts, ever, even if she is complaining she is hot.

  36. Researcher says:

    I’ve been searching for months for a nice new dress or skirt and top for my 12 year old daughter. She has rather plain tastes and would wear the same green “Dublin Ireland” t-shirt seven days a week if we let her.

    Also, somehow she has a rather ingrained strong sense of modesty that neither her dad nor I taught her.

    That’s great, but it makes clothing her very difficult.

    We’ve finally had to go with the high priced alternatives like Steve Evans mentioned (“It drives me nuts to no end that modest or plain and simple clothing is becoming a luxury or fringe good.”) For us, that means that most of her clothes are from Lands End. Sure, I would rather buy her stuff at Target, but I’ve looked many times and have not found anything she will wear. Plain and comfortable comes with a hefty price tag.

    PS We also thrift shop and can more frequently find qualifying clothes there than at the mall.

  37. Men face these issues too: “It’s the truth that you should never trust anybody who wears a bow tie. Cravat’s supposed to point down to accentuate the genitals. Why’d you wanna trust somebody whose tie points out to accentuate his ears?”

  38. I drive right through the campus of a large university twice a day. Except for the occasional beard, most of the men I see look like they would be right at home at BYU. 90% of them wear knee-length shorts with t-shirts or golf shirts. The women dress in a wider variety of ways, and many of those ways would land you in the honor code office at BYU.

    Looking around the office today, the same pattern is visible among adults in their 40s. We men are all wearing beige dockers (expandable waistline, please) with very casual shirts, and the women are all over the map.

    Part of the trouble arises, I think, because it is difficult to constantly try to dress attractively while simultaneously avoiding ostentation and provocativeness. If I had a daughter, I honestly don’t know what I would do.

  39. Kristine says:

    Mathew, I just want to say for the record that I’ve never taken a women’s studies class. My thoughts may be wrong, but they’re not artificially constructed to fit someone else’s ideology. Please believe that I would have been at least as much a fish out of water in a Radcliffe women’s studies seminar as I am in Relief Society :)

  40. Strangely, we ask women to dress in the uniform of women who have access to precisely the kind of power and wealth from which our prescription of traditional roles largely excludes them. Why on earth do the General Presidencies of the auxiliaries wear suits to General Conference, where they resolutely enjoin women to refrain from the kinds of activities for which suits are appropriate attire?

    Isn’t addressing the worldwide membership of a church an activity for which professional attire is appropriate? And isn’t that a position of high power and influence?

    For that matter, isn’t leading a local women’s organization like a ward or stake Relief Society another one of those activities for which “professional” attire is appropriate? These women are trying to mobilize people and run effective organizations so it’s not a bad idea for them to dress in ways that our society associates with that kind of activity. I don’t think our prescription of traditional gender roles excludes women from these types of activities. Our ideal may not be for young mothers to be climbing the corporate ladder, but that’s not the only activity to which professional attire is suited.

  41. D’oh. In my #40 he blockquote should end after the first paragraph.

  42. Kristine,

    I very much doubt you would be a fish out of water in Relief Society. Or any more a fish out of water than the women sitting next to you. One of the things that amazes me about the church is the persistent feeling among the membership that they are so very different than the people around them in terms of their adherence to doctrine and cultural norms. My experience is that there are very few round pegs in the church.

    As for your ideology, I trust you came by it honestly! Also, Steve informs me the tone of my post is rude. My intent was not to offend but to engage–and if I have been overbearing I sincerely apologize.

  43. Lulubelle says:

    I see our hobbies as every bit as indicative of who we are as our dress. I think the whole swimsuit issue brought up in the YM conference last week was trivial beyond belief (you can see my comments on the Tankini thread).

  44. Also, Steve informs me the tone of my post is rude.

    Mat, don’t take cues from Steve Evans about the tone of comments. That’s a free tip from a formerly award-winning commenter.

  45. Hmmmm…. my family might have avoided a lot of this because in my family clothes came from “the box”. This referred to the different boxes of clothes sorted by age and gender that were shipped around between family members as their children aged. (And guess what, my mother was the only Mormon among them- she was a convert).

    So you can look at pictures of my uncle at age 8, me at age 8, and all my brothers at age 8, and my cousin at age 8 and you will see us all wearing the same clothing….

    Same thing for the girls…

    Concerning your larger note about a woman’s sphere being limited to dressing the children nicely, it put me in mind of an event that occurred up here in Seattle.

    Bill Gates married Melinda Gates.

    Now before he got married, Bill Gates was locally known for often showing up riding the Metro (the public bus system) always wearing the same old ratty sweater and some ragged pants. It was a sort of affectionate eccentric image.

    Soon after Bill got married, he started appearing in color coordinated clothes, and actually looking like the sharp business man he was.

    The general feeling was one of approval for Melinda Gates and her good care for her husband- and for being a credit to the community. I think it was actually considered pretty significant evidence that she had not married him for his money. There were often comments made about how Bill was a “lucky man” in the same way you would about any old fellow who had a good wife.

    I just thought I’d mention this as it seems to connect to what you are talking about.

    Obviously proper dress should not be the limit of woman’s role, but our culture has seemed to assign decor and style to women. To the point that I know many men who talk gratefully about how glad they are for a women who helps them know what they are supposed to wear so that they don’t have to worry about it.

    Some men adopt a condescending attitude about it- but most men I know are sincerely grateful.

  46. “Obviously proper dress should not be the limit of woman’s role, but our culture has seemed to assign decor and style to women. To the point that I know many men who talk gratefully about how glad they are for a women who helps them know what they are supposed to wear so that they don’t have to worry about it.

    Some men adopt a condescending attitude about it- but most men I know are sincerely grateful.”

    I too would be sincerely grateful if someone would help me know what to wear so that I didn’t have to worry about it.

    Where can I get me one of them women?

  47. This all makes me think about what it means to be ‘neat and comely’ and how we can teach our children that appearances can matter, but not for all the reasons that ‘the world’ wants to say it does. How can we dress so as to be witnesses of God? What does that mean? Why does it matter? How can we avoid extremes?

    I think that we as parents have a huge role and responsibility in helping our children find a balance with these principles, to teach them to show respect for their bodies and for important things (from ordinances to job interviews), without putting undo emphasis on appearances. I guess I feel sometimes like an approach of helpless frustration can put us in a helpless, acted-upon role, but we are not. We can actively teach appropriate ‘neat and comeliness’ and why and how that matters, and yet help our children see that they are not simply objects, or that what people think should cause angst and self-doubt or excessive expense or any other extreme.

    I also think that as a mother, I do my best. I can’t tell you how many times I look over in church to see that my girls forgot to comb their hair (again!), and shudder at what people might think. I haven’t yet mastered the get-it-all-ready-on-Saturday art so that we all look just so. But then I have to remember that, given my personal limitations (I have to sleep to stay functional, and so I sometimes sleep too long to do anything but get myself ready), I am doing my best. I am a work in progress as a mom, and so I take counsel and principles and try to improve, but I’m not going to use them as a baseball bat to ram myself or others. We have to remember that God knows our hearts, and we can choose to not worry about what people ‘might think.’ Again, this is a balance…any end of this spectrum can be taken to an inappropriate extreme. We can care too much or too little about appearance, fashion, etc. I think we should be aiming for a balance between the extremes, just as with nearly any other principle in the gospel or in life.

    As for finding plain and inexpensive clothes, it is possible. I don’t agree that this is only something that can be done by buying expensive clothes through a catalog. I’m very simple when it comes to dressing myself or my kids, and I am a Target/DI/Hand-me-down/or Children’s Place killer sale kind of person. And we do ok on a pretty small budget.

  48. I dislike being in charge of how everyone in my family looks. It’s not my natural gift, but because I’m a woman I’m in charge of it. I think that’s the problem I have with this issue: the assumption that, because I’m a woman, I ought to be good at making people and things and places look good. Well, I’m not. I completely stink at it. But I’m willing to keep trying; I just wish our cultural assumptions would meet me halfway and acknowledge that not all women are or ought to be naturally gifted in beautifying, but we’d like them to try anyway.

  49. That’s an understandable feeling Emily (#48).

    I can’t speak for women, but if it’s any comfort men do seem to award points for effort in this area.

    Of course that may be self-preservation speaking- as we all live in terror of the day our wife is out of town (like at Girl’s Camp for YW) and our young daughter (too young to get ready herself) has some special event that requires getting all gussied up.

    We men sincerely hope we get points for effort- which isn’t that likely when dealing with a 6 year old.

  50. when I was young, my mother told me “people treat you by the way you look” and I have not ever been able to rid myself of it. In fairness, she said the same for my brothers too. And as much as I wish it were not true, the reactions I get in public regarding my children and other people’s tolerance of them almost always coincide with how cute they look that day rather than their behavior (something I’m not any more interested in being judged by since it’s completely out of my control, but that’s a threadjack).

    It’s sad when the world judges me by my children’s appearance, but worse when President Beck reiterates that notion and takes it to a spiritual level. I once bought this idea, hook, line and sinker and made my girls wear matching dresses that coordinated with my boys and have “perfectly coiffed” hair – usually sleeping in rollers the night before. This was all pre-Beck, but the culture was highly supportive of it, and I was always complimented about how great of a mother I am, how amazing it is, etc. I’m with you, there has to be a better way to honor covenants and have influence and power as a mother and woman.

    Even though dressing girls is a common problem for anyone trying to protect their daughter, Mormon culture influences the way a boy is dressed too in a way that is unique, at least on Sunday. Notice President Beck included the missionary hair cut for a boy way too young to be serving a mission. When I had my first son, I couldn’t wait for him to grow enough hair for a part and to put him in a white button up shirt (I finally found one that was 0-3 months) and even MADE him a tie to go with it. WHAT WAS I THINKING???

    Now, said son wears something I find funky and cool (he’s still too little to choose) and a fauxhawk, while his little brother has long curly locks and is labeled a rebel by my conservative family despite only being 2. They are “dressed up” to worship, but not in any way that would be fitting for a missionary, and I am no longer the recipient of mothering compliments.
    Why is the GA uniform (or upper class white western uniform) the standard for propriety at CHURCH?

    I find it most sad when we apply this judgment to ourselves, I wonder if we see the way our children dress and look as a reflection of us as good or bad parents, on either side – conformity and perfection or rebelling against the rules of the fashion world. We measure our success by whether they choose to dress “modestly” or even “girly”. Isn’t that worse than any body image message they receive from the world? I would much rather empower my girls to write off what someone else thinks of their appearance than have them feel I am basing any part of my feelings of my own worth as a parent how they look.

  51. Eve: do what I do. Find a pair of pants or a top that are comfortable, fit well, and look ok, then buy 5 of them.

    Who says you can’t wear the same thing everyday?

  52. Mark IV says:

    This man appears to have it all figured out.

    Heat rash, indeed.

  53. I’m a new parent, so I’m kind of overwhelmed with questions like this a lot lately. I just don’t understand all this anxiety over the assumption that we somehow narrow our children’s future possibilities by guiding their clothing choices towards polite society dress standards. Instead of teaching our children personal appearance principles that can support worldly success, self confidence, and modesty, do we really want to leave them to the whims of their childish obsessions and fascinations? I get this feeling from some of the comments like “Hey – if my son wants to wear a dress, who am I to cramp the little guy’s style?” It’s like a kind of liberal guilt that insists that the way your offspring look be evidence of your progressive attitudes towards gender roles. Seriously, what is so repressive and potential-limiting about little girls wearing pink ruffles, or businessmen wearing dark suits? Is it really worth my time to fight for a culture that’s free of these benign traditions and objectivity?

    I’m way out of my league here as far as my experience in fashion crises (and my ability to express a coherent thought), but all this hand wringing over clothes just seems to me to massively complicate a simple principle (though when our leaders dedicate a large portion of their time with the young women on swimsuit concerns, I can see how this happens). The Lord isn’t asking us to be style experts here, and acceptable dress and appearance isn’t hard to figure out. He’s not going to smite you down if you couldn’t get your six-year-old into his church clothes, or if you show up to enrichment in mom-jeans and that plaid sweater-vest. Try your best not to look like a snob, and slob, and or a slut, and you’ll be fine. (I think that’s in D&C 139.)

  54. She’s probably picking out the ruffles and bows because they are fun, not because of what others think. I finally figured that out with my four-year-old–her clothes are for her and she enjoys the fun of sparkles and things. I realized that I was projecting a lot of my angst on her clothes and that she doesn’t really care. I’m the sort of mom who wears the same T-shirt all the time, doesn’t wear makeup, and hasn’t ever let my daughter watch Disney movies. The word “princess” never crosses my lips. I know part of her obsession with dress-up comes from her preschool peers, but it really is fun to wear sparkly things. I do my part by buying stuff that is modest, age-appropriate, and non-commercial. But if she wants all of her modest tees and shorts to be pink and purple with sparkly ballerinas on them, it’s her perogative. I figure that I’m doing things to teach her good attitudes about her body and her self-worth.

    I do agree with a lot of your points about wealth and fashion, though.

  55. kwk,
    Great thoughts. Thanks.

  56. KWK-
    I think you’re right. However several weeks ago there was a very long article in the church news on teaching our children style, fabrics, colors, pattern types, etc, and applying it to the EFY pamphlet–and how important style was. When there is stupidity like that in the church news drummed up like sound doctrine, we are waaay off the mark, and it encourages members to be more judgemental of one another and waste there time worrying about unimportant things.

  57. We measure our success by whether they choose to dress “modestly” or even “girly”. Isn’t that worse than any body image message they receive from the world?

    I think it honestly depends on what we teach them and how we approach it. If we tie their (or our) worth to their clothing, then that’s not good, imo. On the other hand, we can teach them that we show respect for ourselves, others, and God by looking ‘neat and comely’ and teach them that one way we can show respect for ordinances, covenants, and prophetic counsel (e.g., about looking like a missionary or taking the time to look nice) by showing some care for how we look. This needn’t be an unhealthy obsession, and is not supposed to be. I think there is the chance that extremes in any direction can create problems. It really can be simple…that’s what I liked about kwk’s comment.

  58. Hmmm! I think I’m remembering wrong–and don’t want to defame the church news (heaven forbid!) The only article I found on the issue I don’t find nearly as terrible as the first time I read it!

  59. Kristine says:

    It’s interesting how many commenters have assumed that my daughter wants to wear bows and ruffles, and I’m discouraging her from doing so. If you reread, you’ll notice that I only mentioned how difficult it is to find a plain shirt for girls, not whether or not my daughter prefers plain or ruffled, or whether her preference is a point of conflict. It’s also interesting that several people have mentioned Target as a source for plain shirts–their girls’ shirts all have some sort of decoration, a little trim on the sleeves, a bow, a satin neckline, etc. They’re also cut to fit much closer to the body than the boys’ shirts. I doubt that’s for my daughter’s comfort. It’s striking to me that we don’t even notice the differences.

    I guess in general I’m surprised at the proportion of personal advice and/or judgment to discussion of the abstract issues I raised in the comments. As it happens, we’ve worked these things out quite comfortably in my family. Both my daughter and I dress each day with a minimum of angst. I just think there are questions there we should think about.

  60. m&m – if we’re only trying to avoid extremes, why is “perfectly brushed” hair and “missionary haircut” the standard for everyone? why not a missionary hair cut for your mission? and when did my children’s hairdos become a commentary for my commitment to the Savior?

    kristine – lucky you because we’re still working these issues out at my house. I am getting better, but I am still so guilty of my last paragraph – needing my children to be groomed and dressed in a particular way to reflect that I have taught them not to look like a slob a snob or a slut (thanks kwk). Worrying about what messages they are getting from me, the fashion industry and church leaders and how it will affect their body image.

    I have not noticed such a dramatic difference between boys and girls clothing in relation to the snob and slob category (the slut category is obvious no matter where you shop!!) because what they have meets my children’s tastes and I can stomach what they buy, but my sister is constantly shopping in the boy department for her daughter’s tastes. But her daughter doesn’t much care where the clothes come from, or what other people want her to wear, she knows what she likes and is happy to dress that way. (She would prefer pants for church, but my sister can’t stomach the thought.)

  61. Jennifer in GA says:

    What about those people who are the complete opposite of the “look like a GA’s wife and have the children in perfectly matching outfits” mode of thinking?

    I’ve been thinking about this subject all day and how it relates to a friend of mine. She falls at the opposite end of the spectrum. She comes from a long, proud tradition of farming pioneer stock. She is the absolute embodiment of the “Make due, wear it out” mindset. Other than their house, she and her husband have no debt.

    For the past five years, her husband has been working on his PhD, as well as working a full-time job, and she has given birth to three of their five children during this time period. She is educated, deeply spiritual, and very talented. However, if you were to look at the clothes she and her family wear, you would think they are one step away from homelessness. They way clothes look (fashion, fit and condition-wise) simply doesn’t matter to her as long as they are clean. Stains and rips don’t bother her.

    I once gave her some gently used Sunday dresses my girls had outgrown. I went over to her house to pick something up one day and found her and her children working out in their garden. They were all wearing their Sunday clothes they had worn the previous Sunday, including the dresses I had given her. The next Sunday, the girls wore the dresses bearing new stains from the Georgia clay.

    Yes, I judged her. I know by posting this it says a lot more about me and my priorities than it does her’s! I can understand making due with what you have. What I can’t understand is not taking better car of what you have. To me, that’s almost as bad as going to the other end of the spectrum where you do dress solely to impress other people.

    But it bothered me because I knew other people- people who don’t know her- were judging her too. Going solely by the way she and her children looked, you would think she was lazy and trashy, which she absolutely isn’t. She doesn’t understand why people in the community and at her children’s school don’t take her more seriously. And the sad fact is that it all boils down to the way she and her family look.

  62. I just think there are questions there we should think about.

    I agree, but should these questions make shopping for girls clothes “downright infuriating as a philosophical and spiritual problem”? Should insidious ruffled shirts make us want to scream?

    People hear that spirituality can be evident in a woman’s dress and her children’s appearance, and they morph the principle into some kind of terrible building block of a Mormon woman’s existence.

  63. if we’re only trying to avoid extremes, why is “perfectly brushed” hair and “missionary haircut” the standard for everyone? why not a missionary hair cut for your mission? and when did my children’s hairdos become a commentary for my commitment to the Savior?

    I don’t see it as extreme to get our boys to think about looking like a missionary before they are missionaries (this is what our leaders encourage), and about seeking to have our hair nice when we go to church. She didn’t say your children’s hair has to be brushed to perfection every second of every day. She was making a point about the kind of effort we can make to communicate the importance of ordinances to our children. It’s important to understand the principle behind her example, and it wasn’t specifically about hairdos.

    Of course, we can each decide what to do with the principle, and perhaps you feel it is extreme. I just don’t – our approach is ‘modest from birth'(because I don’t want to decide that suddenly at some age it’s now not ok to not cover your shoulders or your belly) and ‘missionary-like’ for our son, from the time he could understand what that meant (even before). I don’t see this as extreme. I see this as consistent with my job per what our leaders teach. I know not everyone sees things that way, though.

  64. Steve Evans says:

    “our approach is ‘modest from birth’”

    what the what now?

  65. Thomas Parkin says:

    “I see this as consistent with my job per what our leaders teach. I know not everyone sees things that way, though.”

    As long as you aren’t swatting at gnats, m&m.

    ~

  66. what the what now?

    Simple. We have basicially always covered tummies and shoulders. We don’t do sundresses or tanks or baby bikinis or muscle shirts. Our son has short hair, and we talk about it in terms of preparing to be a missionary. We figured it’s easier to just raise them being used to being covered (and for our son, “looking like a missionary”), then arbitrarily choosing an age when now it’s important to start dressing more modestly, wearing white shirts, having a clean-cut look. Why not just have them grow up with these standards?

    I know plenty of people who don’t take this approach, but I don’t see this as straining at gnats at all. We are told to have our youth cover shoulders and tummies; young men are encouraged to be clean-cut, etc. I see nothing wrong with just having these be the standards all throughout their lives. In my mind, it will make my life easier as they get older, because we will have never done anything different. :)

  67. Kristine says:

    Also, less risk of skin cancer…

  68. Kristine, seriously…and with fair-skinned kids like mine, that is huge.

    I also wanted to come back and say that I, too, struggle with shopping for my kids, especially the girls. For me, the bother is immodesty, yes, but also the branding stuff. I grow weary of clothes that only have designs and only have the pop culture icons that I am trying to avoid. So, Kristine, I wanted to say that I can empathize with some of this, and it’s annoying to be sure.

    Next time I find some simple, plainish shirts, do you want me to send you an email? :)

  69. Yeah, well, I have a little boy who likes nothing better than wearing ALL of his sister’s clothes. Beanie would dance in the rain in a tutu and my high heels, and be in heaven. The more glitter, the more likely I am to find him in the closet trying to sqeeze his 4 1/2 year old boy-bits into a 2T dress.

    And Voldemart, bane of my existence, actually is a good place for plain t-shirts.

  70. A couple more thoughts I had tonite —

    Another pet peeve of mine is trends, and how they change every season, and how expensive it would be to keep up with them. So we just don’t. For me, trying to keep up with them could get my girls too focused on the appearance and money and keeping up with everyone else kind of mentality. That is another hard thing to work against.

    And so I thought — perhaps this is part of the benefit of suits. My husband can wear a suit for years and years (since he only needs it for church and special occasions). I have a gorgeous suit I bought in the mid-90s when I was consulting that I still love (I get compliments every time I wear it, too). Suits don’t go out of style like other clothes, or at least not anywhere near as fast, and thus, for both men and women, suits can be a good wardrobe staple. Just a thought….

  71. MikeInWeHo says:

    re: 69

    Oh dear. I have some news for you, Tracy…..

  72. sister blah 2 says:

    Are you serious Mike? I keep telling my husband he’s being completely ridiculous when he worries that our son’s clothing tastes (similar to what Tracy M was saying) indicate anything deeper than he likes sparkly. “Not that there’s anything wrong with it,” but I just didn’t think sparkly was a very meaningful indicator.

  73. Mike, if he turns out anything like you, I’ll be OK with that!

    Oh, and Krisine? If it makes you feel any better, I still have dreams about the Louboutin’s Carrie wore the night before Big left for California and Miranda had her baby.

  74. Tracy (69)& sister blah 2 (72)–

    My oldest boy was just in love with his sister’s dress up clothes, so we got boy dress up clothes. Garages sales. E-bay. Post Halloween clearance. The favorites are a very sparkly knight cape, a red velvet crown and a nifty silver astronaut outfit.

    All my kids just like sparkle. Who wants boring when you can have bling?! I’m pretty sure that liking pretty sparkles is just as natural for a young child as it is for babies to be attracted to high contrast patterns.

  75. MikeInWeHo says:

    re: 73 Ahhh, shucks. That’s the nicest thing anyone in the Bloggernacle has ever said to me.

    It’s not about liking sparkle, it’s about childhood gender non-conformity and what it means. Sometimes I forget that many people in the Bloggernacle probably don’t have a lot of ‘out’ gay friends, and therefore things that are obvious to me might not be so obvious to others. While most gay man didn’t want to wear their mom’s clothes as a kid, if they’re honest most remember some gender non-conformity. My friends and I have joked about how ALL of us wanted an Easy-Bake Oven as a little boy, for example. It all boils down to that Easy-Bake Oven, I am convinced. :)

    60 Minutes did a wonderful story on this topic a while back. You can view it here.

  76. I get to see this from a whole different angle. Me, if Walmart doesn’t sell it, I don’t need it. But my Daughter in Law dresses professional athletics. Guys who are big, tall, and often have gone from the street to a millionaire, and have no idea how to dress, or where to buy for their 360lb. body.
    Suits are not a problem, they are taylor made. But she does their casual set up. Most just want to just look okay, but also “disappear” when with other people.( They are more than happy to give her $50,000 to get them though the next few months!)

  77. sister blah 2 says:

    I’ll watch out for the Easy-Bake, Mike. Thanks for the tip! :-)

  78. Mike, that Leslie Stahl piece is fascinating. Thanks for the link. Beanie wants a Baby-Alive, and his idea of heaven is grinding wheat and making bread with me- Either way, my main concern is him knowing he is loved. Whenever I find him in the closet (literally!) dressing in my daughters clothes, it breaks my heart. I don’t want him to feel he has to hide. Ever.

    His nails are painted glitter blue right now. :D

  79. MikeInWeHo says:

    He was sent to you for a reason, Tracy M. Best wishes!!!

  80. To those who want t-shirts for a reasonable price…just got my Children’s Place ad — 3 for $15! :) (Even normal price is only $6.50, so they are never super expensive.) I’ve been very happy with their clothes, and it seems that they have more plainish clothes than many places. And, BTW, their end-of-season sales are amazing. FWIW. Check out childrensplace dot com to see the fun colors of tees.

    And I have a 15% off coupon I’ll mail to anyone who wants it. :) First come, first served.

  81. Kristine, why can’t you buy your daughters boy clothes? In other words, if what you’re looking for is the unmarked, unadorned fashion that characterizes male clothing, why not purchase that? Does your own analysis of male vs. female clothing replicate the disjunction you’re trying to overcome?

    This is really a devil’s advocate question. I happen to agree with you on the formal differences, but I’m not sure about how to interpret them (that is, do puckered sleeves on female clothing really mean women or their bodies are perceived as ornamental?) There is clearly a difference in some aspects, manifest most clearly in baby clothing. My sister bought two identical outfits, one for my daughter and the other for my nephew, born a week apart. The boy’s was obviously blue and the girl’s was pink, of course. The cut, material, and workmanship were identical. The message emblazoned across the boy’s: “Play”. And across the girl’s: “Dream”.

  82. Thank you so much for this post!

    I feel so bombarded by church leaders to look a certain way, and it does make me overly self-conscious about my appearance.

    I resent that men and boys don’t get the same lectures about modesty. (Compare this to the Young Women’s conference, where girls were frequently praised for their clothing choices)

    While I value modesty, sometimes I think this emphasis on appearance encourages girls to think of themselves as ornaments to look at, and their bodies, as sexual objects that must be hidden from male eyes.

  83. Eric Russell says:

    Don’t worry, jane! I resent that women and girls don’t get the same lectures about porn. You see, the church is all about maximizing opportunities for resentment for everyone.

  84. MikeinWeHo–In about ten years I’ll get back to you on your Easy-Bake oven theory. It’s not an uncommon one. My sister and her gay best friend have suggested both of my boys are gay. They loved dress up. The younger one still does. They like to cook. Does it make any difference that the oven my nine year old is begging for is the Queasy-Bake oven? Um…and the oldest knits really well. But that’s a Waldorf thing. From our Waldorf phase.

    Ah well, what is, is.

  85. Jami! E-mail me, please–I’m always on the lookout for Mormon Waldorf mamas. Until recently, I thought the only two in the hemisphere were BCC bloggers named Kristine :)
    kristine-dot-haglund, gmail. Thanks!

  86. Kristine,
    I really like this post, but I don’t have much to offer as I don’t have children. However, I saw this great episode of Aliens in America, in which a Pakistani foreign exchange student gives a “plastic” a good talking to about her dress and behavior. This show airs on the CW of all places, and I only considered watching the show after I heard about it on Fresh Air . . . Okay fine. I was looking for the Tyra Banks show and this was on.
    Anyway, it’s programming like this that make me have hope that I could send my future daughter to high school without dressing her in a birka.

  87. Here’s the link: http://www.cwtv.com/cw-video/aliens-in-america/full/?play=449-2252
    PS: I don’t know how this show was approved by the CW staff. Satan and the alcoholic monkey who run that network must have been out that day.

  88. For the wives of General Authorities, I’m told these rules are very explicitly spelled out–denim skirts are ok for casual private gatherings, but no pants ever. We have cast ourselves as guardians of “traditional” gender roles, but we don’t want to be reminded of the ravages such roles can inflict on women’s bodies and psyches.

    This statement is used to support part of your original thesis, but haven’t substantiated it. We’re all probably going to go off of “I heard this” unless someone can provide a Wikileaks version of the actual instruction … but the statement above just doesn’t square with any of *my* experience.

    I have seen plenty of GAs in casual clothing. I have seen their wives out and about in casual clothing (both when in Utah and when not in Utah) when not performing in an “official” capacity. When we had a 70 briefly living in my ward, his wife dressed no differently than anyone else when in public.

    My brother, employed in Bountiful, tells a delightful story about one of the twelve coming into his place of business multiple times in one week, dressed differently each time (business casual, suited, wearing a tracksuit).

    Maybe there are some GA wives who have felt pressure from other GA wives. Maybe there are GA wives who would be so inclined to dress in the described manner, just because that’s who they are. But I just don’t believe that there’s an actual policy. I’ve seen enough who don’t fit that.

    So, I call “Mormon Urban Legend” on the GA-wives-as-fashion-examples gambit without substantiation.

  89. I resent that men and boys don’t get the same lectures about modesty. (Compare this to the Young Women’s conference, where girls were frequently praised for their clothing choices)

    No, we got it in the 1980s, where Young Men and scout leaders picked over our wardrobe all the time.

    Wanna know why the Scouting program has a UNIFORM? To try to get the Young Men to put on half-way respectable clothes on Wednesday nights…

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