An Insider's Look at Mormon Culture

Custom Dressed

In a recent discussion with some Mormon women, reasons why women should wear pants to church were noted:

  •     Pants are warmer in winter.   
  •     Elderly women can’t manage pantyhose—and their legs are too awful for them to go bare-legged. 
  •     Women who don’t own dresses are discouraged from attending.
  •     Pants don’t show your religion when you cross your legs or bend over.

Someone asked, “Why can’t the Church change the rule about wearing dresses to meetings?” Sorry, Sisters. The Church can’t change the rule because there isn’t one. Mormons are encouraged to wear Sunday best to church meetings. A strict dress code exists for men and boys—white shirts and ties. Custom decrees that women wear dresses, but I have yet to see a written rule. I can’t recall a General Conference address telling women to wear skirts to church.

Wearing pants to church won’t get a woman kicked out. It might cause her to be overlooked as a potential Relief Society president—reason enough to don trousers. Women wear pants to funerals and week night programs held in the chapel. I wore pants to sacrament meeting several years ago when I needed to catch an overseas flight right after the meeting. No one asked me to leave.

Last winter, I decided to make one of my increasingly rare appearances at the ward and dressed in my nicest pants outfit. George was horrified. “You’re trying to make a statement. You’re going to make people uncomfortable.”

Not the first time George has misread my mind, but anyone who has been married a long time knows it’s best to yield on trivial matters. Conflict should be saved for truly important stuff—like whether or not the dog sleeps in the house.

Eventually, younger women will start wearing pants to church—at first because they’re working in the nursery or teaching Sunbeams. They will be followed by young mothers who have to retreat babies and toddlers from under the pews while a high councilor recites the joys of raising children in the gospel. Once the young lead the way, my age group will gratefully join the ranks.  

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Comments on: "Custom Dressed" (4)

  1. I was in Hawaii a number of years ago when the members there were told that flip-flops were not appropriate church attire. Oh my, what a ruckus that created!

    As I have mentioned before, whenever I attend church meetings with my daughter I am always dressed in a nice pantsuit. My mother is now over the shock, I think. Although there are still lovely skirts in my closet I fear that they will never be worn again. I have made my statement and stubbornness requires me to stick with it.

  2. Boston H. Manwaring said:

    As you may recall, it was Satan who made the first statement about the dress (or undress) of others. Look, you folks are naked. Best wear these fig leaves. Later, God inquired, as if he didn’t know, who told you you were naked? The notion that anyone’s dress is inappropriate and the necessity for someone to comment on that alleged inappropriateness, to my mind, either derives from or leads to a satanic need to control or humiliate others.

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