To the left is the cover of the
official EFY inspirational talks book from 1991. It consists of the title, Feeling Great, Doing Right, Hanging Tough, in 80’s-tastic font design, and a photo of an exuberant young woman doing a sort of cheerleaderish jump for joy .
What I noticed immediately when I saw this image was the presence of leggings. It was remarkable to me because I have recently observed some controversy in the LDS community surrounding leggings and modesty.
Now, I have to assume that whatever makes the cover of an EFY book is pretty much the definition of acceptable modesty in the church at the time the book was made. There is also evidence that care was taken in making sure the 1991 image reflected modest dress for the time. Note that the girl has some kind of leotard/bodysuit on under her t-shirt, so that her midriff remains covered even when jumping with arms raised. In 1991, leggings under short shorts were completely acceptable in terms of modesty.
Today, however, we have Deseret Book (
who published the EFY book who own the rights to the EFY book above ) including on their LDS Living website a blog post questioning whether leggings are modest. Ashley Bardsley writes,
So, are leggings modest when you wear a shirt or dress that is a little too short with them? Are they modest when wearing a mini-skirt? I mean, if you weren’t wearing them you would be left with just a mini-skirt which isn’t modest . . . to me.
Her post includes several reader polls on the modesty of leggings, one of them asking, “Do you think leggings are modest when worn under a mini skirt or shorts that fall above the knee?” Just 22% of the respondents said yes, leggings with shorts are modest. Forty percent said it depends and 39% said no, they are not modest .
The questioning of leggings’ modesty is not limited to unscientifically-measured opinion. EFY’s current dress and grooming guidelines explicitly prohibit wearing of leggings under shorts or skirts that would otherwise be unacceptably short, exactly as they were in the 1991 photo:
Please also be aware that the wearing of “leggings” does not allow for any exceptions to the Especially for Youth Dress and Appearance policy.
So, in twenty years, something that was so unquestionably acceptable that it could be used as an EFY book cover photo is now prohibited at EFY, and considered immodest or questionably modest by 79% of LDS Living readers.
I don’t find it remarkable or ominous that rules change over time. Especially for something like clothing choices, the societal context matters, and that is certainly changing over time. What I find amusing is that we often attribute the perceived increasing in gap between our modesty and the world’s immodesty to the world’s increasing immodesty and general corrosion of morals. But here we have an example of our standards actually becoming starkly more stringent over time.
 FYI, that isn’t a mysterious ghost alien claw grabbing the top of her head, that is just the residue of a sticker.
 These poll results come even after members of the Feminist Mormon Housewives group on Facebook encouraged each other to go sway the polls towards not condemning leggings.
 Post Updated. Thanks, Pubilius, whose comment alerted me to the fact that this book was published by Bookcraft, not Deseret Book. At the time of publication (1991), Bookcraft was a publishing arm of the church responsible for youth-related titles, among other things. Bookcraft has now been consolidated into Deseret Book.