Another very short post

Compare and contrast:

Teaching girls about Divine Nature, Individual Worth

Oh, never mind.


  1. At least all the women pictured aren’t rail thin. Baby steps.

  2. No John, but they are all tastefully attractive, as per instructions.

  3. very, very tiny baby steps

  4. Half of those skirts are from Anthropologie, and I might or might not own a couple of them. Just goes to show that yes, you can look awesome if you want to spend $120 on a skirt.

  5. Moniker Challenged says:

    Can they accessorize with tiny dogs in purses now?

  6. Is it bad that I’m actually happy for this guide? I arrived in fashion-forward France in the late 90’s with jumpers and long skirts and trench coats that looked exactly like examples from the missionary dressing guide from the 80’s I’d been sent. Looking weird and out of place with of my bad clothes didn’t help with the already *very* tough job of getting people to even talk to us. I ended up shopping there for more stylish clothes and shoes (which were tough to find because I was quite a bit taller and larger than the average French woman). There is definitely a sales aspect to missionary work, and I don’t think that it’s contrary to those important YW values to acknowledge that an appearance that is at least neutral is going to help with first impressions.

    I just hope the Elders’ version will address home-haircuts, ugly or second-hand ties and ill-fitting suits. And maybe revive the lost art of shoe-polishing.

  7. Elder’s version? This isn’t unisex?

  8. Great site perfect for YW to reference. Well done. Thanks for posting it.

  9. The “clothing” section is a lot more diverse. But why isn’t there a similar section for elders?

    I read the huffpo piece last week with mixed feelings, only because I tell my girls all the time that they’re cute and adorable–especially the baby. I don’t think I can stop myself. In my defense, it’s usually a comment on adorable behaviors, facial expressions, even the baby’s delicious smell gets expressed as “you’re the cutest baby ever.”

    Where do I sign up for my flogging?

    In my defense.2, I take them to the library, not for pedicures, but that may just be because the library is free. . .

  10. Speaking of the elders’ version, where is it? What about the poor elder who is worried about dressing fabulously and tastefully on his mission? Where are his resources? No fair.

  11. Chris Gordon says:

    The more you follow the links the greater variety in shapes and sizes you find.

    I just felt a shudder at flashbacks of every awkward interaction I had to have with sister missionaries as an MTC instructor about their wardrobe.

  12. Steve Evans says:

    More evidence that Howard = Howard Chackowicz.

  13. Have they ever been seen in the same room together?

  14. Steve Evans says:

    I heard they make their own wine together.

  15. Kristine says:

    What we really need is a sassy gay elder for every district!

  16. Steve Evans says:

    Kristine, odds are we already have that.

  17. Moniker Challenged says:

    I think they need to pick a motif and stick with it. If the sisters are dressed flirty and sassy, the elders should be dress flirty and sassy. If the elders are supposed to be a cross between professional and heinously lame, the sisters should be a cross between professional and heinously lame. Previous sister dress was way too much heinously lame and much too unprofessional.

  18. No sorry Steve I’ve never made wine or comic books but if I did you might make a good character.

  19. This just makes me so sad. I have a baby daughter and am feeling discouraged about raising her. Diets at 5? Oh dear! Seems like the church won’t be much of a haven. Any suggestions or encouragement?

  20. Tanya S. says:

    I actually like it. There’s more focus on actually dressing well and professionally. When I went on my mission in the 90s, schlumpy was, if not encouraged, accepted. Also, for the models, they’ve got a couple fat women in there, and for that they get a thumbs up from me.

  21. Becca, instead of teaching her to limit her food intake, teach her to limit her intake of YW lessons on modesty and/or make up application tips.

  22. Kevin Barney says:

    The length of your hair should not distract from the message.

    Any clues as to how the lenght of one’s hair could distract from the message? 8″ is ok, but 12″ would be a distraction?

  23. Wait… where is the section for the elders? I still have the booklet that was sent to me when I got my mission call that had a rather detailed section for the men. I am hoping that this is just a coding issue where a page didn’t get linked. Surely, surely the webmasters at the COB just forgot about the page… Right…?

  24. Kevin, Crystal Gayle and Sinead O’Connor are out.

  25. I have to say I am relieved at the absence of fabric flowers all over the girls’ hair, blouses, and accessories. Holy crap that is such a weird Mormon trend.

  26. it's a series of tubes says:

    Kristine, odds are we already have that.

    As I recall, a district was 12, at least at the MTC. You really think the ratio is over 8%?

  27. @27, Tod, that was the best thing I have seen all day. Funny stuff! Although, I *do* really like her boots. Too bad the church site doesn’t have links to where you can purchase some of these items.

    @24, that is what I was thinking.

    I was struck by how much the dress code was like various universities/companies I had worked.

  28. Heaven forbid there be a dress and grooming standard subtopic under missionary work. I guess I don’t see the problem. Nobody’s saying that dress and grooming make up the whole of doing “the work of the Master.”

    The standards/uniforms of the latter link do not eliminate the interesting possibilities presented by the Huffpost article. A better “contrast” would have been a link to the Abercrombie website. But that wouldn’t have been nearly as provocative.

  29. Has anyone exposed the secret combination full windsor knot cult at the MTC for the elders? You know, the one where you get the ugliest, cheapest tie made with upholstery fabric, and tie the biggest full windsor knot that you can, so that for many elders, it’s wider than their neck?

    Please, teach these poor kids the advantages of a nice silk tie, and a simple once-around-and-down with a nice dimple.

  30. Kristine says:

    Also, I would not dream of increasing Abercrombie’s traffic, even by the minutest fraction. The problem is that Abercrombie is where you end up when you start telling women that constructing themselves for others’ gaze is crucially important. LDS modesty discourse is basically the same as Abercrombie’s marketing strategy (only we don’t do as good a job extending it to both sexes.)

    See, I can be merely provocative if that’s what I’m aiming for.

  31. I totally want to be a missionary, cause look at all the CUTE clothes they get to wear! :)

  32. If I could wear a brown suit, I’d serve another mission. ;-)

  33. Kristine, what changes would you make to this dress and grooming guide?

  34. Kevin Barney says:

    The white and cream-colored bras they recommend may be purchased at Eliza’s Secret.

  35. To all you grumblers out there about the old and nasty ties that the boy missionaries wear, I just want to remind you all that it is only through the tie that he can express himself with. Most of those boys have nicer ones that they wear, too, but every once in a while they need to cut loose.

  36. Let’s do the math. Next to none of the suggested outfits can be mix-and-match, since they are all very specific styles and colors coordinated with each other. They are also so individually noticeable that you can’t re-wear them within a short time without it being very noticeable (unlike a plain suit which you can wear almost every day of the week without seeming odd). They are also, as noted above, all of the Anthropologie grade of clothing, which is very expensive. So you need say one week of these outfits to at least avoid re-wearing within a week. So 7 complete outfits. And these are not all-season outfits, so multiply by, if not 4, at least 2 or 3 (some pieces could be reused in other seasons). That’s 21 different complete outfits. Skirts at Anthrolologie are quoted above at $120. Glancing over a selection of “blouses” at their website shows a range of $80-$230 each. Simple flats are $80-200. Outfit-specific accessories like scarf and belt and matched jewlery, budget another $30 per outfit, very conservatively (assuming many can be reused across outfits, which isn’t the case with many of the modeled outfits).

    That’s 21 x ($120 + $155 + $145 + $30) = ~$10,000 to outfit a sister for a mission. I didn’t even include suggested watches, bags, coats and outerwear, makeup… Also, even pricey high-quality shoes of that “flats” style are hardly going to last a few months with the amount of walking sisters do. So there is going to have to be a decent amount of in-mission shopping, or sisters are really going to have to bring a ridiculous number of shoes from the outset.

    I concede that you could be reasonably wardrobed as a sister missionary for less than the above price, but then you are largely back to the cheaper, cheezier looks this guide seems to be specifically warning against. I hear some commenters above saying oh I wish I had had this choice of styles when I went on my mission. Well, that’s great if your family had the budget. But who are we pricing out? Heck, I’d love to be able to afford this choice of styles in my regular life right now. :-)

  37. Tanya S. says:

    I have to admit, I don’t understand why the fact that the church has a dress code for missionaries is a bad thing. Every job I’ve had has a dress code. A mission is a job, albeit one with a very different hiring procedure. Now, one could debate whether business or business casual is more appropriate, but that would be a different post. I’ve enjoyed the business casual of past jobs, but now I’m in one where full business attire is sometimes required (mercifully, not always). And because of that, I’m so glad I’m female. A suit and tie every day? Ugh. I pity men, especially in the heat and humidity of summer. Also, boring. As a woman I have so many more options that fall into the business attire category.

    However, I’m terrible at the whole dressing myself thing. So I kind of like the church’s website so I can say, “Hey, that’s cute! I could put something together that looks like that, and then I’ll stick out less in the office!” Because I couldn’t dress myself any better when I was a missionary.

  38. Moniker Challenged says:

    I declare myself in charge now because I have a brilliant idea: mandatory seersucker for summer :-) Preferably white, offwhite, or pale blue for the gents–with pink paisley or Colon Sanders ties.

  39. Tanya,
    I don’t think it is the dress code itself that is objectionable. It is the price-tag attached and the fact that it is directed only at women. I suspect that those who suspect that one for men is forthcoming are correct, but perhaps they should have waited until both were ready before publishing. I don’t think anyone is objecting to the notion of a dress code per se.

    That said, does anyone else find the posing for the models weird? They look like they are in a Target ad, which seems a bit off.

  40. Moniker Challenged says:

    Oi- colonel colonel! No Colon ties! Semicolon, maybe.

  41. Tanya S. says:

    I agree that the pricetag issue is a good point. At least some models should be wearing Target-level clothes.

  42. Indeed, I would guess that the vast majority of sisters who have ever shopped for mission clothes, would have been incredibly grateful for the variety pictured at that link. That is very very helpful. I do hope, though, that it will be continuously edited and added to lest the full skirts of today become as offensive as the jumpers of yesteryear.

    It seems to be a thing, though, to be outraged on sister missionaries’ behalf.

  43. I think they look great but it does make me feel fashion challenged. I guess I’m not 21 or going on a mission so that’s ok. I need some dress and grooming suggestions for my calling as mid thirties nursery leader. I wish they had one of the heavier women in the front page of the site, looking fabulous, it bothers me a little that you need to click to find them but I’m glad they are there.

  44. I tell my daughters they are beautiful everyday. I disagree with the HuffPo. I understand the point the article is trying to make, I just think it’s wrong. Yes the world is materialistic and yes it is superficial and worries way to much about what it looks like. These things are true. But I want my kids to not worry about their beauty. I think they way to do that is to put a big check mark next to “beautiful” on their charts and move on, rather than to never use words like “cute”, “beautiful”, “pretty”. etc. I want them to be confident in that regard, so they don’t have to worry about it. I don’t think me not mentioning it is going to work. Sounds like what my parents did with talk about sex.

    So I think the HuffPo article, by whoever wrote it for free, is wrong, just to begin.

  45. Also, are sisters allowed to use mission living allowance to pay for dry cleaning? How many of the pictured outfits contain dryclean-only elements? Can any of them be washed on rocks in a river, as my husband had to do with this clothes on his mission in Guatemala?

  46. Man, those are some happy sisters on the makeup styles page. Those definitely weren’t taken after knocking doors for 8 hours during the Australian summer.

  47. Cynthia–of course! It just means they will have less to eat with. Of course, mens suits have the same issue.

  48. Could be worse. They could be forced to wear the uniforms worn by the US Women’s Soccer team.


  49. Kristine says:

    Sarah (34), I would eliminate the guide in favor of daily reading of the Sermon on the Mount and King Benjamin’s address. If we absolutely must say something about women’s apparel, I’d go with

    17She girdeth her loins with strength, and strengtheneth her arms.

    21She is not afraid of the snow for her household: for all her household are clothed with scarlet.

    22She maketh herself coverings of tapestry; her clothing is silk and purple.

    25Strength and honour are her clothing; and she shall rejoice in time to come.

    26She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness.

  50. Kristine says:

    Which is to say–these are grown women, committed enough to the gospel to voluntarily submit to the extreme patriarchy of mission culture for the sake of sharing their testimonies. Could we not add insult to the real injury of treating them as second-class citizens throughout their missions by implying that they can’t be trusted to dress themselves? We ought to be serious people concerned with the solemnities of eternity–we don’t have time for such frippery.

  51. I’m assuming they starting with the Sister’s clothing because suits and white shirts and ties and pants are MUCH harder to mess up. There is more leeway in women’s clothing.

    It does matter. I’ve always taught my children that they should dress in a way that people are free to notice your mind and your personality..they aren’t hung up on the clothing. (In third world countries the price tag here would be distracting— I know my mission president sent us his version of what we needed to know and it was much more practical for our acutal situation).

  52. Kristine, I love that! (But then again – I look good in purple and scarlet…)

    And yet… There one hot day in France when we met up with another set of sisters. We were on bike, they were on foot. We came together, all sweaty in our long skirts, knee-highs, old wrinkled blouses and comfortable shoes when I thought: “We don’t look good. Why would a French woman want to stop and talk to us?” I think that that day our sloppy, sweaty looks interfered with our ability to start conversations. We were marketing something important and our presentation prevented the message from being received.

    And while I don’t think we should be suggesting that our sisters need to shop at Anthropologie, I do think that a style guide and encouragement to wear nice things can help make good first impressions that might open some doors (just as I think people will take our elders more seriously if they actually look put-together).

    I guess I don’t see this as an implication that they are incapable of dressing themselves, but rather as a resource of examples that fit within the dress standard and as permission to incorporate fashionable items (which when I went out, I assumed were verboten because of the other sister missionaries I’d seen). While excess or undo emphasis on fashion is frippery, I certainly had days where I did my street-contacting self (and the message I was trying to share) a disservice by ignoring it altogether in one of the world’s fashion capitals. Sigh… am I a bad feminist?

  53. Of course, Christ himself wore very nice clothing. This is why the Roman soldiers cast lots for his coat instead of rending and dividing it as they did his garment.

  54. Chris Gordon says:

    @Kristine (51), I’m starting a fire but as per my comment in 20, I had to have a conversation with a sister missionary in nearly every district I taught about how her dress was inappropriate. These were bright, well-meaning sisters who just needed a correction and, awkward as it was, it was well-received every time.

    @kevinf (30), you mean ‘the deacon knot?’ I think the idea is for them to not look 12.

  55. Chris,
    Why did you have to have the conversation? I mean you specifically. Why? Were these sisters without women who could mentor them in dressing appropriately? Couldn’t you have found a less creepy person to discuss it with them (assuming you were a teacher and in some sort of authoritative position over them)? Isn’t it strange that we have all these men who think that they have something important to say about how women dress?

  56. I should add that, despite being the Son of God and willing to die for all mankind (and other solemnities of eternities), Christ still followed very strict dress and grooming standards.

  57. Mommie Dearest says:

    Okay. So there is something like this for male missionaries? That’s my first question. But the real problem for me isn’t so much in the differing levels of focus on appearance between the sexes, but the sheer vastness of that link. It’s mind boggling how much there is there. I couldn’t begin to look at it all, and as I kept clicking around on this or that live link, other thoughts arose, that I was looking at a huge treatise of some Salt Lake City Relief Society grande dames’ idea of how young women should appear for her first-world life. I thought of Seriously So Blessed. I thought of the family of LDS cheerleader girls I grew up with and how I allowed them to make me feel badly dressed and groomed as a middle-schooler. (Dressing and grooming badly, as I discovered later, is a rite of passage for middle-school girls) I thought — do they really think that 21-year old women haven’t mastered enough dressing skills? In our culture? Also it occurred to me that I don’t invest that much skill in my appearance, mainly because It takes too much money, time, and energy which is better spent on more worthwhile things.

    Then I clicked through the make-up tips. Oh. My. Goodness. This is my church? Somehow I can’t see the Lord being pleased at this.

  58. Kristine says:

    John–exactly. It would be less galling if it were in any way imaginable that a Mormon woman would take a Mormon man aside to counsel him about his dress. Or warn him in General Conference not to “become pornography.” That it is literally unthinkable that these roles could be reversed is the problem I’m trying to get at.

  59. Kristine says:

    Tim J–you’re joking, right??

  60. Droylsden says:

    The dress code for sister missionaries was just changed. That’s why their guidelines are on the web and the elders’ aren’t. If you are interested in what the (far more strict) dress code for elders is you can find it here:

    Click to access elders.pdf

  61. Kristine says:

    It’s not more strict, Droylsden, it simply leaves them free to worry less about their appearance.

  62. “It would be less galling if it were in any way imaginable that a Mormon woman would take a Mormon man aside to counsel him about his dress.”

    You never met my Mission President’s wife.

  63. Droylsden says:


  64. Mommie Dearest says:

    I can’t come up with anything in this great of depth that they could teach the young men about grooming that even approaches the sheer vastness of what they presume to advise the young women. How to properly ties their ties?Mending skills? Shaving tips? Eyebrow plucking/waxing? (Laugh and then think of what’s given to the women)

  65. I love both the article AND the missionary site. Both are positive.
    I rarely compliment my girls on their looks because I agree with the article that it sends the wrong message to girls about what is important about them. I actually feel wrong about complimenting anyone about their looks or mentioning anyone’s looks to those around me (on TV or in person) because it sends the wrong message, but I do it occasionally.

  66. “It’s not more strict, Droylsden, it simply leaves them free to worry less about their appearance.”

    Not more strict? Elders can’t even wear colored shirts. That might not be a huge deal here in the U.S., as many business-type people wear white shirts in the U.S., but it’s a huge deal in Europe. You can’t wear a white button-up shirt in Europe and be stylish. At least the sisters can dress to match the culture.

  67. Being a woman is much too complicated and expensive. Where do I resign?

  68. At least the sisters can dress to match the culture.

    Not likely, when missionaries in foreign countries buy all of their clothes before they ever set foot in the culture. There was no way I could have matched the European culture in which I served without some serious disposable income.

  69. Droylsden says:

    Mens dress clothes are way cheaper in Europe than they are stateside. I never bought any womens clothes over there though.

  70. Sure, but at least you had the option. Elders don’t.

  71. It seems there is no circumstance where any guidance can be given to women, specifically, in the church without backlash. It just does not exist until women are given the priesthood. Which would be great. But until then church gender dynamics sure complicate being a man who would like nothing more than to “do the right thing” as it related to other sex. Unfortunately, I don’t think there is a language or a framework that exists for rank and file church males to allay the criticism expressed–and implied–in the post.

    That’s not a criticism, Kristine, at all. Simply an expression of my frustration on this topic. Which frustration–so it’s clear–only aspires to, but does not claim, understanding.

  72. simple mormon says:

    The hufo article has some pretty big logic flaws. First of all, people tell both BOYs and girls they are cute pretty much until they are teenagers. Where is the evidence that there has been an increase in telling kids that they are cute that has caused the increase in self image issues? Second, it is a false dicotomy to say you have to either tell them they are cute or show them you are interested in their other attributes. That would only be true if you where to a single interaction ever with the child. I tell my daughter she is cute all the time. I also read stories with her, listen to her, am teaching her to ride her bike and all sorts of other things. If you think that my calling her cute sometimes is teaching her appearance is all that matters then I have a hard time reconciling your view point with reality.
    Along those same lines, if all sister missionaries got when they got a mission call was the dressing guide, that would be terrible. But it isn’t. It is just a small part of the info they are given. Saying it is teaching that only looks matter is wildy blowing things out of proportion.

  73. I think the site is very well done given there IS a standard what a great way this is to communicate it. I’d much rather see modesty modeled than preached. Will it work for every mission or budget probably not so make the necessary adjustments. Great format I’m guessing they are missionaries not models so updates would be fairly easy they could just shoot ’em at MTC and post. Is it sending the wrong message OK what is it?

  74. Kristine says:

    “We ought to be serious people concerned with the solemnities of eternity–we don’t have time for such frippery.”

    Wow. I can’t believe I said that. I will try not to hurt myself climbing off my high horse. Sheesh.

  75. Love the HuffPost article.
    @#27- Todd- I seriously haven’t laughed that hard in a long time. Thank you!

  76. rd,
    This isn’t really a Mormon point. This particular gender dynamic is prevalent throughout the US. It’s just, understandably, frustrating for some folks when this is directed unidirectionally. Of course, some women are going to appreciate the advice. Like I said, there is some distance from the world here (women who aren’t super skinny as models; I would imagine that the general officers of the Relief Society and the Young Women had a lot of say in these guidelines). The question is if the difference is sufficient. Probably not, but we do live in certain cultures. We shouldn’t be terribly surprised to see the faults of our culture appear in our church materials, for all that we wish they wouldn’t.

    Nor, do I think, that Kristine is saying that all criticism of women from men is out of bounds (although, in the church, there is almost always a power dynamic there). That said, I think that our bizarre fixation on the dress standards of young women is very much a symptom of male outlook and influence in the church. I used to read very widely in lds blogs and I regularly encountered adults (male and female) discussing how slutty their teenage neighbors dressed. Amongst most folk, I would think that would be the sort of talk best repressed (turn it off), but apparently there is something about our discourse that gives people the notion that revealing these thoughts is a-okay. Anecdotal evidence, of course, but there you go.

  77. Peter LLC says:

    it’s a huge deal in Europe. You can’t wear a white button-up shirt in Europe and be stylish.

    I know someone who would disagree:

  78. Peter LLC says:

    it’s a huge deal in Europe. You can’t wear a white button-up shirt in Europe and be stylish.

    Alright, since the spam filter ate my links, google Jogi Löw for starters. White shirts do not pose a problem for the well dressed European male.

  79. I don’t know, Peter. I’m told that the Germans are famous for their devotion to magenta.

  80. S.P. Bailey says:

    Mormon chicks (my daughters and the sisters on that website included) are an attractive lot! You can take my right to say so when you pry it from my cold, dead hands. Or something.

  81. #4 – My suit costs me more than $100… I have several. A few suits, a few shirts, a few ties is a pretty good combination of clothes. So I presume a Sister could have a few skirts and a few shirts and still have a pretty good combo?

  82. “So I presume a Sister could have a few skirts and a few shirts and still have a pretty good combo?”

    @81: chris, that is true, but that is not what these photos show. In fact, what you are advocating is basically the exact OPPOSITE of the message that the church is trying to get across in the recent guidelines update, which these photos are meant to illustrate.

    Suits, shirts and ties can be worn in interchangable combinations. These outfits are all very outfit-specific. The shoes match the outfit so closely, and are so unique to the outfit that they can’t be worn with other outfits. Ditto for other parts of the outfit.

    If you think what you “presume” is a good plan for sisters is how things should really be, then you should be as outraged at these new guidelines as Kristine, because they are undoing what you are advocating.

  83. Chris Gordon says:

    @John and @Kristine, because I was their teacher and it was in my job description (neutrally written to both male and female teachers) and I was there and I had a good relationship with the sisters. If I hadn’t had a good relationship with them I would have deferred or asked for help. I regularly had to correct sisters and elders on the subject, as did my female fellow-teachers. I don’t see why only a female can tell another female her shoes are too flashy, her shirt inappropriately cut, etc. If I had doubts or thought something was borderline, there were generally no shortage of male and female colleagues and superiors whom I could consult, but the obligation and teaching opportunity were mine.

  84. Cynthia L. how could it be improved?

  85. Chris,
    I taught at the MTC for a couple years. I can honestly say that it never occurred to me to talk to sisters (or elders) regarding their dress. Now, perhaps the emphasis has/had changed since I worked there, but your experience is alien to mine.

  86. Howard, I don’t know what you are talking about. My comment didn’t say there was anything wrong with the guidelines. Chris’ comment was (unwittingly) saying that there was. Ask him.

  87. Chris Gordon says:

    @John C (77) I hear as much griping about young men looking like hobos as I do about young women looking like tramps. But I’m a guy, so my opinion and observation is no doubt tainted.

    Regarding the whole concept of the outfit-specific versus mix-and-match, come on. You really think that the message here is to buy 14 distinct outfits from Anthro? There is so much more latitude in a female wardrobe, rightly or wrongly, just like there is so much more latitude in the workplace. They’re just trying to show the types of looks that could be considered appropriate and are painting with a broad brush. There’s absolutely not comparison with what’s available to a male. If I were a sister, I’d just be appreciative that they didn’t say that your options are a black, brown, or navy suit/skirt combo with a white blouse tucked in, though that uniform’s already been taken by old-school flight attendants.

  88. Perhaps a different way to frame this question:
    How would you feel if your daughter’s male teacher was always commenting on her attire? Suppose that the teacher taught a public speaking class (so it isn’t out of the blue). If the teacher was telling her to dress attractive, but not too attractive, would you be okay with that? What if he told her that the way she dressed constituted “living pornography”? Or if he gave her a detailed list of what to wear and what not to wear (including bra color)? At what point would it become creepy for your daughter’s teacher to be giving her this advice? Would that point be different if the teacher was female?

  89. Chris Gordon says:

    @John C (85), it’s probably just a difference in leadership style at the ground level. There’s a fair amount of autonomy of style between the different language groups. I was there from 2001-2005 and we were regularly instructed on the subject. I’d say at least once a semester it came up in shift trainings. My area had a slightly disproportionate amount of sisters (Int. Spanish), so maybe that had something to do with it. At least half the time it was with the suggestion of my female supervisor that I noticed the need for correction.

    It was also a time where they released a new-ish guide sheet to both sisters and elders apparel (long overdue and likely both a predecessor to what’s on the website now and part of the PMG overhaul).

  90. “young men looking like hobos”
    At the MTC? Really?

    Also, I agree that letting sisters wear colors is nice.

  91. Yeah, I was there 97-99. I was thinking that time difference could explain it.

  92. Chris Gordon says:

    @John C. (88), I’ll play along. Of course I’d be ticked if the scenario you bring up came about. I don’t think we’re talking about “always commenting on her attire,” and we’re certainly not talking about handling it in the tone that you’re suggesting.

    But again, playing along, I’d be annoyed and upset, particularly if her feelings were hurt. I’ll change up the scenario a bit. Say it’s her employer. That employer has published guidelines for dress. Like many companies, that employer’s management slants male. Nonetheless, the guidelines come from HR, are reasoned, have a clear purpose, and employment is at-will. She’s new to her job–it’s the first few weeks. Her immediate supervisor has commented to her once or twice that she’s wearing something in violation of the dress code for being too revealing and not representative of the company’s image. She’s embarrassed, she doesn’t really like the guy, and though she loves the job she thinks their policies are outdated and a bit parochial. She calls me for advice.

    1) I sympathize and am duly upset.

    2) If the guy’s being a jerk (or a b—-, if the supervisor is female), I tell her I think so too.

    3) I tell her to suck it up, play the game as long as it needs to be played, or evaluate whether she’s really where she wants to be.

  93. Josh B. says:

    This conversation basically explains why so many RM’s are becoming less active.

  94. Matt W at 45 is dead on.

    How many times have we heard women say things like “no one ever told me I was beautiful”? Yet if HuffPo (and implicitly the author of this post) is to be believed, they will believe they aren’t beautiful if he DOES say they’re beautiful.

    The lesson I guess, is that women have a hard time feeling good about how they look no matter what men say. Let’s try not to look too hard for culprits.

  95. Mark Brown says:

    I really don’t get this hyper-intense fascination with micro-managing the way female missionaries dress. Why do we care if their clothes are “attractive”, “vibrant”, or “feminine”? When we talk about effective missionary elders, we often talk about a humble missionary whose suit didn’t fit quite right or whose haircut left something to be desired, but he “took no thought for what he should wear” and his testimony and willingness to work hard made all the difference. Is it simply impossible for us to think that women over age 21 are adult human beings, fully capable of dressing themselves in the morning without oversight from an authority figure? Why do we think it is such a bad thing if a sister does look a bit frumpy now and then?

    I can understand why we might need some guidelines if this were the only occasion where we ever told women in the church about dress and grooming. But I’m guessing that by age 21, between activity day lessons, YW lessons, seminary, standards night, EFY, camp presentations, and general conference, women have already heard a few hundred talks/lessons/firesides on the subject. It goes without saying that when primary age girls are getting lessons on makeovers on their activity days , it is safe to assume that we are completely off the deep end.

  96. Chris Gordon says:

    RE: Your comments in 77, I took them to be more about teenagers and church-wide. But yes, about missionaries I heard at least as much about the elders as I did about the sisters, doing my best to take into account how many more elders there were.

    In wards, I hear as many gripes about the deacons looking slovenly as I do about the sisters, though truthfully talk about the sisters rarely comes my way. I’ll grant that modesty talks rarely touch on the boys though they generally get admonished not to look like slobs (I was a teenager when sagging and bagginess soared to new lows).

  97. Droylsden says:

    I really don’t get this hyper-intense fascination with micro-managing the way female missionaries dress.

    You have a weird definition of term “micro-managed.” If you want to see real micro-management, check the dress code for the elders.

  98. Chris,
    The Young Women of the church get modesty lectures a lot. I’m guessing several times a month. At what point does that get creepy?

    Regarding your example, suppose that your daughter is making a concerted, good-faith effort to abide by the guidelines. Now suppose that the supervisor keeps holding dress-code meetings, several times a month. And he keeps singling out women and discussing their attire. At what point does this become sexual harassment?

  99. Mark Brown says:

    Yeah, the poor elders. Always having to look attractive, vibrant, and masculine. And the makeup tips, oy.

  100. Chris Gordon says:

    Whoa, I’m losing you. RE: sister missionaries and my own experience, at what point did published guidelines filled with a wide variety of illustrations of how to comply with those guidelines and an occasional, I’d guess once-in-every-six sisters and then once-for-about-90-seconds-in-two-months become meetings several times a month singling out women and discussing their attire?

    RE: young women, I don’t know what ward’s set of young women get a “several times a month” lecture on modesty from a male leader, but certainly not any ward I’ve served in.

    But if you really want to play along, it becomes sexual harassment in a variety of ways (I’m an estate planner, not an employment attorney). My daughter or not, whether she’s making a concerted, good-faith effort to comply might not be the whole issue. There’s the issue of whether her boss is objectively right from the point of view that she’s compliant or not, and there’s the issue of whether her boss is being a creep. I think they can be two issues, but it doesn’t sound like you do.

  101. John C., you’re not arguing about the rule, but the enforcement thereof. And I don’t think our YW get modesty lectures “several times a month”.

  102. Droylsden says:

    Yeah, the poor elders. Always having to look attractive, vibrant, and masculine. And the makeup tips, oy.

    No, the point of my comment is they are not given these general principles like the sisters. They are given a lot more rules, and the rules they are given are more specific. The sisters have a lot more choice and freedom. This was the case even before the recent relaxation of their dress code.

  103. Mark Brown says:

    Droylsden, when (and if) the church ever gets around to posting guidelines for elders on lds dot org, you might have a point worth considering.

  104. Droylsden says:

    Mark, see my #61

  105. Mark Brown says:


    I already saw it, Droylsden. I’m just not convinced that a page and a half of guidelines adds up to “a lot more rules”.

    That page really just confirms my sense that we actually encourage elders to dress frumpily. If you see any direction there for them to dress in a vibrant, attractive (but not too attractive) manner, please point it out.

  106. I may be exaggerating about the several times a month thing. I ain’t a Young Woman and I may be mistaking the number of times it comes up on the blogs for the number of times its discussed in a given ward ;)

    And yes, I’m arguing about the enforcement (primarily on young women).

    Chris, I don’t think that there is anything about these guidelines that are objective. That is to say, I wouldn’t be surprised if sister missionaries got the lecture even though they were in objective compliance. Not that I’m accusing you or your colleagues of that. I’m just saying that my experiences in church would lead me to believe that it happens with some frequency. But, anecdotal and impressionistic.

  107. Droylsden says:

    If you see any direction there for them to dress in a vibrant, attractive (but not too attractive) manner, please point it out.


    Allow myself to quote, um, myself: “No, the point of my comment is they are not given these general principles like the sisters.”

    I’m just not convinced that a page and a half of guidelines adds up to “a lot more rules”.

    Fair enough. I didn’t sit down and count out all the rules, especially since it doesn’t change the main point, viz. that the elders are far more micro-managed than the sisters when it comes to dress and grooming.

  108. Mark Brown says:

    Chris, I think it tells us something important is amiss when a colleague pointed out to you a sister’s non-compliance with her given interpretation of some kind of dress code.

    If the violation were egregious enough to mention to the sister in question, don’t you think you would have seen it yourself? This goes back to my contention that we focus too much on unimportant details of dress and grooming, particularly of sister missionaries’ dress and grooming.

  109. Mark Brown says:


    You will have to take my word for it that I have made a good faith effort to understand how your statement might somehow be true. I attribute my inability to see your point to my own boneheadedness, but I do still disagree with you, quite emphatically.

  110. Chris Gordon says:

    Mark, I can only speak to my own experience, but I’m a dude. And when I was a teacher I was still a young dude. And I tried really hard to NOT be a creeper but also to be a good employee. If my female boss notices something about a sister missionary that I didn’t, it’s because she spent the better part of her 18 months as a missionary and her time as an MTC teacher in a greater state of awareness of how the sisters’ dress works. If she notices that a sister missionary’s blouse was a bit too low-cut and I didn’t, then I see that as marks in my favor, no?

    John, you have a strong point about objective compliance. I’m going to give whomever contributed to the guidelines and pictures the benefit of the doubt and assume that they took that into account in giving a variety of examples of compliance and meant to make things easier, not harder.

    As a dad, I guess I’d be as interested in teaching the point that in life in and out of the church, we have rules that are enforced by imperfect people and that we don’t want to live in a world where there’s no latitude on the part of the rule-keeper and rule-breaker. Part of that (again, in and out of the church) is putting up with those you disagree with just because you’re accountable for how well you follow their guidance. Who among us hasn’t waited out a bad boss, a bad church leader, or a bad district leader?

  111. Droylsden says:

    Mark Brown,

    micro-manage: to manage or control with excessive attention to minor details.

    Telling women to dress in a vibrant, attractive matter is a general guideline that allows them much freedom and choice in how they follow it. Telling elders the exact color of the shirts he must wear –not so much.

  112. Kristine says:

    My daughter has mentioned modesty discussions 3 times this month–once from Girl’s Camp orientation, once from a Sunday lesson, and once when she got an email reminder about wearing a modest swimsuit to a YW party. So that’s one data point. At least two articles in The Friend in the last few months…

    I do think it’s a pervasive theme these days, but that’s a fairly recent development.

  113. Chris Gordon says:

    Kristine, good point. Were the Sunday lessons, orientations, and email given/sent by creepy old men or loving female mentors? ;)

  114. Mark Brown says:

    a sister missionary’s blouse was a bit too low-cut

    Again, this kind of micro-management is what drives me nuts.

    It is one thing to tell a 14 year old at her first church dance that her skirt is too short, even though I think we are almost always wrong when we do that. But here, we are talking about adult women who are voluntarily serving missions. How did we wind up at the point when we think it is OK to tell them their blouse is cut a half inch too low, or their shoes are the wrong color? A lot of this is in the eye of the beholder, and we ought to account for the very real possibility that the beholder is better suited to a career as a Marine Corps drill instructor at Parris Island. But maybe that is what you were getting at when you mentioned bad church leaders.

  115. How did we wind up at the point when we think it is OK to tell them their blouse is cut a half inch too low, or their shoes are the wrong color? Excellent question.

  116. Chris Gordon says:

    Mark, that is what I’m getting at (bad church leaders would have found better life fulfillment in the Marines).

    I still don’t see why a polite conversation from a mentor of any gender who has a position of trust and in a situation where teaching is expected and ought be welcome is micro-management. As it relates to modesty, a low-cut blouse is not a minor detail. Another common occurrence was a skirt short enough to regularly show the slip. Not having worn slips or been worried about showing my admittedly un-masculine-of-late pecs with low-cut shirts, I can’t speak with expertise on the point, but my impression has always been that these wardrobe foibles are easy not to notice by the wearer.

  117. Chris Gordon says:

    @Howard, how did we end up at the point where we think it’s OK? Well, a youth leader is charged with, you know, teaching. A teacher at the MTC is paid to, you know, teach. And a mission president and his wife are charged with, you know, teaching. They are given latitude both by the nature of their instructions and trust in their experience to guide and correct when necessary.

  118. a low-cut blouse is not a minor detail…a skirt short enough to regularly show the slip OMG!

    I think the question may have been aimed more at how did we become charged with this stuff. How many steps did she take on the sabbath?

  119. Mark Brown says:

    Chris, do you make a habit of going into Relief Society and telling women there that their slip is showing or that their blouse doesn’t meet some standard or other? Do you go into elders quorum and tell them to shape up and quit dressing like slobs? Of course not, because the women in RS and the men in EQ are adults and you would be completely out of order and might earn yourself a knuckle sandwich, to boot.

    But guess what? The men and women in the MTC are adults as well. I’m not blaming you, particularly, since you have made it clear that this was a condition of your employment. Let’s just keep in mind — the people in the MTC are NOT youth, and they deserve to be treated with respect rather than condescension. Telling adults how to dress, no matter how “lovingly” we deliver the message, is condescending, and it means we are treating them like something less than an adult.

  120. Whenever I’m confronted with issues of dress, I ask myself:

    “What would ‘I am a Mormon’ do?”

    So far the answer has been “they’d have a tattoo”.

  121. @ Mark, #120, nicely said. This attitude was something that frustrated me to no end when I was single in my mid-twenties. I kept asking, “so when do I get to be an adult?” That said, as I look back on my own experience as an MTC teacher, I’m sure I treated the adults I taught condescendingly. I wasn’t thinking of it that way at the time, but that’s what it was. No wonder some of them didn’t like me.

    On a related note, I find it interesting that we, as a church, tend to treat our young single adults like they’re not real adults yet (presumably because they’re not married and don’t have children) and then complain that they’re shirking the responsibilities of adulthood, going to school indefinitely and living with their parents. Might be a chicken/egg thing but still interesting.

  122. observer fka eric s says:

    “You are not required to wear makeup; however, wearing makeup can help you look your best.”

    This is not fair to the men. There is no suggestion or tip to help men look our best that I am aware of. What can I put on to help me look my best?

  123. My cousin left on a mission a year ago — her and her mother would’ve benefited GREATLY from this online resource. There was MUCH argument and debate between the two about what was ‘appropriate missionary attire’, with her Mom wanting her to buy all long black skirts and single color button down blouses. I took this resource as a wide range of examples and ideas for sisters to draw on (definitely not a shopping list of expensive items, but ideas of ‘these all work), and it would’ve helped out this mother/daughter duo immensely. They had very different ideas about how sister missionaries were expected to dress, and this would’ve answered their questions.

  124. @hilary, I can see where you’re coming from, I think. It seems like your example is another illustration of the problem as far as missionaries are concerned: the prospective sister missionary needs mom’s approval on her wardrobe.

  125. Chris Gordon says:

    @Howard and @Mark, you’re missing the difference between missionary life and normal life and you’re missing the point of mentor/teacher/supervisor/leader roles. No, I don’t have habits of doing those things because I have no charge and no stewardship to do so. When I taught the deacons, I addressed the deacons when necessary as part of my teaching responsibility. When I taught the missionaries, I occasionally (either when called upon to do so by a supervisor or as I deemed necessary using the judgment with which I was trusted) informed missionaries of lapses in their compliances to rules they’d agreed to keep and which they wanted to keep. Never did I do so when I felt that it wouldn’t be well-received in the case of missionaries, and only would I do it with youth if I really felt it necessary and only if it were under my calling.

  126. Chris Gordon my comments were mostly aimed above your calling certainly when we’re called we must fulfill that calling but I think these kinds of things easily degrade into the equivalent of counting steps on the sabbath.

  127. Elders do end up looking awful on our missions, especially if you go tropical and lose weight. Was was already a poorly-fitted suit from Mr. Mac’s quickly turns into a completely wrong suit (and you’ve accidentally broken the sewing holding the hem up). The shoes get scuffed and dusty. The shirts turn yellow, the collars rip, the ties fade. And it’s all seen as a badge of honor, a sort of “Look at me considering the lilies of the field!”

    But Sisters have the expectation to look cute and happy and made up all the time. So for anyone arguing about Elders having a tougher time than Sisters: really?

    (Yes, yes, I know that YOUR mission president/his wife totally got on your case all the time about looking slobby.)

  128. I enjoyed the humor shown in the #27 image comparison and I’ve been thinking about that our image and the comparison to Abercrombie. They have better photography, show more flesh of course and they have a similar white bread middle to upper middle class girl and boy next door look but I was happy to see we’re showing more skin tones now and we have a naive kind of innocent and alive look that shows in our countenance. Missionary work is sales and I believe our proprietary (or nearly so) countenance is in part due to the gospel and opens doors so shouldn’t we use it in PR? Now I’m not sure where to draw the line perhaps some will argue that I’ve already crossed it but if our countenance is a door opening asset isn’t our appearance?

  129. Droylsden says:

    Yes, yes, I know that YOUR mission president/his wife totally got on your case all the time about looking slobby

    I don’t think anyone here is defending sloppy looking missionaries whether they be elders or sisters.

  130. But the reality is that sloppy Elders get far less flack than sloppy Sisters. The whole idea of the new guidelines for Sisters is “Look good!” and it’s still “Look like a salesman” for Elders. For all the lip service in the Elder’s guidelines about looking neat, Elders end up looking horrid and it’s usually ignored.

    Remember that story about the guy who gets on a plane and sits next to a missionary coming home? The Elder looks destroyed and sleeps the whole way and the GA telling the story is super proud. That story would not be told about a Sister.

  131. @125 Becca — I see what you are saying, but I don’t actually see it as an illustration of any kind of ‘problem’, just a reality. People are different, and at different stages of life, and that includes missionaries. My sister left on a mission, did all her own medical paperwork, made all her own doctor & dental appointments, paid for and did all the own shopping, packing, etc., without my Mom having to lift a finger — my cousin, on the other hand, had everything paid for and ‘approved’ by her Mom. She was just a 21 year old who was still being fully supported by parents, relied on them heavily for all her physical and emotional support, hadn’t really ‘grown up’ yet, and it had nothing to do with being a missionary or not. It was a bit more pampered Peter-panish upbringing. She was just at a different point in life; just as most 21 year olds aren’t all going to be at the exact same stage of development.
    I meant it as an example of the fact that there are a lot of different ideas floating out there about what sister missionaries are ‘supposed’ to look like, and this would’ve been a nice resource for them to have looked at, seen a wide range of ideas and possibilities, and made them both feel comfortable with the clothing decisions to be made . . .

  132. Droylsden – did you check out the FAQ ( My word, an awful lot of tiny details (no cap sleeves unless under a jacket, never mind they cover the garment and you are serving in the tropics; layered shirts for modesty but only allowed to *slightly* be longer than the top layer; tights ok, but no bright colored or patterned – where the pattern line crosses, I don’t know – not; leggings ok but only if worn with similar colored nylons; 1″ or shorter earrings; only 1 ring per hand; etc). If that isn’t mirco-managment, I don’t know what is.

  133. Note: That story I cited above is NOT from a GA. It’s actually in Ed J. Pinegar’s book about missionary service.

  134. Wait, I found my favorite aspect of the site. From

    “You should strive to look your best, especially at zone conferences, in Sunday meetings, at visitors’ centers and historic sites, at baptisms, and when working with local leaders.”

    Ahhmmm. Not when you are TEACHING apparently.

  135. @Nicole: Who are they supposed to be looking extra good for at Zone Conference? The Elders? The other Sisters? The President? Anyway you slice it, weird.

  136. Kevin Barney says:

    On my mission many elders had special shoes that they only wore to Zone Conferences. They would labor on those shoes for many, many hours with the highest quality shoe polish. They would only change into them once they had entered the building.

    I always assumed these guys were bucking for Ape…

  137. “I just want to remind you all that it is only through the tie that he can express himself with”

    The guys who went for the ultra-short fat tie were generally insecure about themselves…

  138. We are 130+ comments in and nobody has mentioned this.

    Given that many North American sisters will have companions who are Honduran, Uraguayan, or other nationalities, it is worth recognizing the fact that many of those sisters will outfit themselves for their missions by shopping at the equivalent of one of our goodwill stores. It strains credulity to believe that Hermana Lopez will not notice the difference between her companion’s wardrobe and her own. And what is especially gagworthy is that when the North American sister comes home she might go on and on and on about her wonderful, humble companions who really appreciated what matters most and focused on the eternal things instead of superficial, temporal concerns.

  139. Starfoxy says:

    One thing I was very glad to see was that they showed a black woman with natural (not chemically straightened) hair.

  140. Chris Gordon, #126,

    What you are missing is that a system of hierarchy at the MTC which places a 22 y.o. elder in a position where he thinks it is his role or job to tell a 26 y.o. sister that her blouse is inappropriate is pretty screwed up. We can do better than this.

  141. Mark Brown #139, you’re incorrect and you miss the point of the missionary “uniform”. I served in Guatemala and the clothes worn by the Central American sisters was strikingly similar to those worn by American sisters with the only noted exception being the shoes.

    That’s the reason for the “uniform”. Looking at sisters (and Elders for that matter) that have served in my home ward, I can’t tell which ones come from a poor Idaho farm and which ones have a surgeon for a father. They’re all the same. And that’s the point.

  142. Tim,

    I think the point of this post is that it is no longer a uniform, at least for sisters, because they have recently changed what is acceptable for sister missionaries, and I think that will lead to differences between what sisters from North America will wear compared to what sisters from many other places will wear. You are correct that it used to be that a dark skirt and a light colored blouse was acceptable. That is what many people here have been calling frumpy, as they have expressed relief that they no longer have to dress that way. But I’m going to take the women who have commented here at their word, that the clothing in the pictures is expensive. So I’m not convinced, I think people absolutely will notice whether they have a fashion bug for a companion.

  143. Kristine says:

    Tim, have you looked at the site for sisters? Mark is trying to agree with you that a “uniform” would help level class differences. The suggested plumage for sisters on the new site will have the opposite effect.

    All: this was kind of a lazy post, and I’m sorry about that. I’d like to have a better, more focused discussion at some point, and I should have taken some more time to articulate a positive and maybe slightly more subtle position instead of making cryptic insinuations. I appreciate the many smart comments (and even most of the dumb ones ;)), and I’m going to turn comments off now before we end up with too many rabbit holes to jump down.

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