Who Wears the Pants in Your Chapel?

Since the first Sunday of 2005 is almost upon us, let’s take a good look at ourselves and consider our Sunday attire. More specifically, let’s look at who’s wearing pants in your chapel. If you hadn’t already noticed, it’s mostly men.

I’ve always found this a rather odd practice in Mormon culture. If you’ve ever attended Sunday services for other faiths, you’ll find that it’s not uncommon for women to wear pants to church. Of course, there are lots of congregations that have adopted a “Casual Sunday� attitude when it comes to attire, and you’ll find lots of women wearing pants in those chapels. But even in congregations that still “dress up� on Sundays, you’re likely to see just as many women in pantsuits and dress slacks as you will in skirts and dresses.

So why not in LDS chapels?

Members are instructed to dress for church respectfully, to don our nicest apparel as we prepare ourselves to worship God and partake of sacrament. But why does “Sunday best� for women always mean skirts or dresses? If the instruction is to wear our best clothing, I’d venture that many LDS women own pantsuits and slacks that are more formal than their skirts. Why aren’t they wearing them to church? Pantsuits are considered just as formal as skirts in the business world, academia, etc. A few years back Martha Stewart even wore a silk pantsuit to a formal White House dinner. Why does Mormon culture cling to antiquated notions of what is appropriate formal attire for women?

This may seem like a fairly obvious answer, but other than the fact that it’s always been done that way, the only reason I can think of for the culturally prescribed skirt and dress uniform is that it is an outward manifestation of our very traditional views about gender roles. Perhaps it’s more complicated than that, and I’d love to hear everyone’s theories on the subject.

Admittedly, there are exceptions. I generally find that there are three types of women who you might see sporting pants on Sundays at LDS meetings.
1) Babies: Nobody has any problem with baby girls, especially during winter months, being bundled up in pants.
2) Elderly Ladies: There is something about getting older that makes wearing a dress or skirt more uncomfortable and burdensome. I’m not sure what it is. . .maybe the nuisance of wearing nylons or stockings. Whatever the reason, you might see an elderly woman wear a smart pantsuit to church and nobody thinks anything of it.
3) Radicals. The only women over 12 months and under 82 that I’ve ever seen wearing pants are women who want to make a statement. They are progressive feminists, and they sacrifice themselves to the cold stares and foyer whispering that inevitably come with taking this bold gesture.

Take a look around your chapel this Sunday and see who’s wearing the pants. Do you see women in pants? Do they fall into these three categories?

And to all the women out there—have you ever worn pants to church? If you have, what was your experience like? And if you haven’t, will you in 2005? If you wouldn’t feel comfortable wearing pants to Sunday services, why not?

As for me, despite my feminist leanings, I’ve never worn pants to church. But I’ve hatched a plan to do so this Sunday, and you can bet I’ll follow up and write about how it went.

Brian, on the other hand, has refused to wear a dress this Sunday. Now is that any way to start off the new year?

121 comments for “Who Wears the Pants in Your Chapel?

  1. December 30, 2004 at 11:09 pm

    Where do you go to Church? In my ward there are plenty of women in pant suits every Sunday.

    That said, I will concede that most LDS women aren’t found wearing pant suits… No idea why not. It’s silly, because who really cares what women, or anyone for that matter, wears to Church? I don’t!

  2. ed
    December 30, 2004 at 11:34 pm

    I’ve wondered about this for a while. When I was a child in the 70s, it was believed that a woman shouldn’t even enter the chapel in pants. This rule seemed to apply even on days other than Sunday…I remember hearing a woman at midweek primary ask another woman to pass a message to someone in the chapel, because her pants prevented her from entering herself. Is there some basis for this other than the “unwritten order” of things?

    Also, I’d add another category of women who might wear pants: converts.

  3. Stephen W.
    December 30, 2004 at 11:53 pm

    Ed, Good point. I forgot about converts, and I would add to that investigators or visitors who aren’t aware of the pants taboo. Now that I think of it, there have been more than a few occasions when I’ve heard visitors comment about that fact that no women were wearing pants or express their own discomfort about being the only one wearing them.

    And John, I live in Los Angeles in a pretty diverse and liberal area. That’s why I’m surprised that even with our demographic, there are still so few women in pants.

  4. December 31, 2004 at 12:03 am


    That would be JORDAN- I do share a last name with John, however, as he is my brother. :)

    Living in a “diverse and liberal area” does not guarantee a “diverse and liberal” membership in the local ward. Although Ann Arbor, Michigan has proved a pleasant exception to that notion.

  5. December 31, 2004 at 12:38 am

    Where are those chapels in which one can enter without wearing any pants? Are they somehow affiliated with the LDSSDC (Google for it)?

    (Maybe I should read the article before responding…)

  6. Rosalynde Welch
    December 31, 2004 at 8:42 am

    What an interesting topic, Shannon! My experience, like Ed’s, suggests that it’s mostly convert women who wear pants to church–that is, those who have not grown up with the cultural equation of dress=Sunday. In each of my last two wards there has been one convert woman who has worn pants regularly to church–and in each case, I’m happy to report, she has been made to feel comfortable, fully accepted, and fully participatory even though she doesn’t dress like everyone else does. (I’ve never attended church with a radical, unfortunately, so I can’t speak to that issue! I myself dress quite conventionally, in skirts and blouses.)

    And you’re exactly right that often pant suits are far more dressy than skirts and tops–denim skirts, t-shirts and flip-flops are pretty standard for women during the summer, and you could just as easily wear this ensemble to the pool as to the chapel! I have heard several over-the-pulpit reprimands for our collective denim-wearing ways, but it hasn’t seemed to make much of a difference in the ward I’ve attended. Frankly, I’m not sure where I stand on the denim issue.

    For what it’s worth, I’ve been scouting the after-Christmas sales for a below-the-knee, professional-looking black church skirt–and I can confidently report that such a thing does not exist this season! (Okay, I haven’t checked the higher-end department stores yet.) Black dress slacks abound, but the black skirt is not to be found.

  7. Rosalynde Welch
    December 31, 2004 at 8:48 am

    Oh yes, and in Portugal, where I served my mission, a greater proportion of the women wore pants to church; this may be an American phenomenon.

  8. Kristine
    December 31, 2004 at 9:20 am

    Since I occasionally get pegged as the radical around here, I’m happy to have an opportunity to report my complete (even extreme) conservatism in this area–I always wear a dress or skirt if I’m going to be in the chapel, even when I go during the week to practice organ by myself.

    (NB: I’m not saying this convention isn’t stupid, just that I follow it more or less without a fuss.)

  9. Bryce I
    December 31, 2004 at 9:24 am

    If you are a woman living in a warm-weather climate, why would you ever wear pants to church when you can get away with a blouse/skirt combo that is infinitely cooler than the monkey suit I get up in every week.

    The real travesty is that they make the sister missionaries in bike-riding missions wear skirts/dresses, and then try to convince sisters that they shouldn’t wear knee-highs.

  10. December 31, 2004 at 9:28 am

    I’m not sure what proportion of our ward membership wears pants to church because I’ve never noticed (probably because I’m not a girl. But I do have a lot to say about white/colored shirts…). But there is another exception: those who are too poor. Skirts/dresses cost a lot of money and if you are only wearing them once a week, it’s difficult to justify spending money on them when there are other things you need to pay for. This is evident in my ward (Brooklyn) as there are a couple young ladies that I can think of that wear pants. (I think that clothing has been donated, but I’m not sure if dresses/skirts have. I don’t see our ward as one so concerned with how the youth look on Sunday, but more concerned about HAVING youth attend church on Sunday.)

  11. Ivan Wolfe
    December 31, 2004 at 9:59 am

    Rusty –
    Skirts/dresses cost a lot of money and if you are only wearing them once a week, it’s difficult to justify spending money on them when there are other things you need to pay for.

    I knew a lady whow as inactive because she couldn’t afford a dress. She paid her tithing the whole time she was inactive, though – and as soon as she could afford a dress, she started attending church again.

  12. Bryce I
    December 31, 2004 at 10:02 am

    Apparently, back in the day (mid to late 80s) at BYU and Ricks, women weren’t allowed to wear jeans, while the men were. Can anyone corroborate this?

  13. Kristine
    December 31, 2004 at 10:07 am

    Ivan, that’s awful–it’s the kind of thing that makes me think I should start wearing pants to make a point.

  14. Kaimi
    December 31, 2004 at 10:24 am


    You haven’t provided some relevant information (price range, size, desired material, A-line versus flare versus straight, etc) so it’s hard to give any particular advice. But there are a number of places that offer pretty good options online.

    For example, this one (long, slight A-line, stretch-cotton) at Land’s End, for $32:


    (Does Land’s End count as higher-end? I tend to think of higher-end as stuff that I don’t buy, and I certainly buy from Lands End).

    You should also check the apparel section at overstock.com. And don’t forget about ebay — I found some very cute tops for Mardell on ebay, unlike anything we’ve ever seen in stores, and they’re now a staple of her church wardrobe.

  15. Rosalynde Welch
    December 31, 2004 at 10:54 am

    Kaimi, you are hired as my personal online shopper!

    I’m not a gifted shopper under the best of circumstances, and I easily get overwhelmed with the avalanche of options that online shopping tends to set off… But perhaps I will venture into the links you have provided… thanks!

  16. Lisa F.
    December 31, 2004 at 10:58 am

    Bryce —
    You will have to go back further than those long ago BYU days of the 80’s…I was there, in jeans. My mom, who attended in the early 60’s, did have to wear dresses (I think — maybe I’ll have to call her today and confirm).

    I live in Wyoming, and during those zero-degree weeks, I often think of putting on a pair of pants for church. But I haven’t. Long johns, a skirt, and boots keep me just as warm. I have worn pants (jeans, even) to Saturday sessions of Conference, but have felt awkward about it.

  17. Martin James
    December 31, 2004 at 11:10 am

    My daughter attended especially for youth at BYU this summer. The dress code was explicit.

    One statement was that girls should dress in a way that accentuated their difference from boys.

    This may not preclude pants but it certainly attempts to instill strict gender roles. My own experience is that as the gender roles have blurred in the general culture they have been made more prescribed in mormonism. For better or worse, my own experience is mormon culture in the US lags but adopts the same trends as the general culture.

    This seems to be the case in racial attitudes, number of births per woman, women working outside the home. There have also been the reverse cases where mormon practices lead the culture such as smoking prevalence or number of republican senators.

    My money still says that in the future in the USA we’ll see more pants at church that Burkas.

  18. Mary Ward
    December 31, 2004 at 11:18 am

    I’m a devoted reader but haven’t commented often. Maybe I’m different, but I like to wear dresses. In hot weather they are cooler and in cold weather the stockings and boots that I wear make up the difference. Personally, I feel my attire influences my behavior and spirit. The influence is subtle and I am more influenced by the amount of sleep I had the night before, the current state of my relationship with my husband, traffic on the way to church, etc. Still, in the chapel, in a dress, I feel more able to find the spirit, peace, and attitude I seek. I am a product of a childhood in the 60s so maybe I have been culturally imprinted to such an extent that I don’t know the difference. I rather think not. I dress in business clothes as a secretary all week and look forward to wearing my “special” Sunday dresses for church. In a tiny way, it is like the “special” clothing of the temple. At least, that is the effect it has for me.

  19. Kaimi
    December 31, 2004 at 11:33 am


    I’m flattered that you would want me as your personal shopper, though I suspect that if I actually _were_ anyone’s personal shopper, they would quickly entered the annals of “worst-dressed of 2004.”

    Hmm, if you’re easily overwhelmed, I’m not sure that overstock or ebay are for you — they tend to offer a _ton_ of options, most of which are funny-looking or immodest or out of price range or all three. There’s an amount of sifting that has to be done on those sites. There are some better options. Perhaps we should discuss this further — I’m going to drop you a line in e-mail.

  20. Kevin Barney
    December 31, 2004 at 11:37 am

    Three comments:

    1. On my mission in Colorado in the late 70s, we invited a woman investigator to church. Miracle of miracles, she came, wearing a very elegant pants suit. She gets not 10 feet into the chapel, when a man approaches her and informs her that it is inappropriate for a woman to wear pants in the chapel. At which point, she spins around and marches out, and we never see her again.

    That is the closest I have ever come in my life to punching a guy out right there in the chapel. How I managed the self control not to do it, I still cannot fathom to this day.

    2. Speaking of BYU, there was the woman (a little before my time there, during the Steve Benson/Pat Bagley hey day, I would say early to mid-70s) who was denied entrance to the testing center because she was wearing pants. Luckily for her, she was wearing an overcoat, so she went to a bathroom, took her pants off, put her coat back on, and went back and was allowed to take the test, wearing just her panties underneath her coat.

    3. I’ve never understood how this can be a moral issue, because as a man I certainly prefer seeing a woman’s bare legs to a nondescript pair of pants. If it were a question of morality, wouldn’t the rule be just the opposite, that women are *required* to wear pants to church, and shouldn’t wear lust-inducing dresses or skirts?

    Ergo, I conclude that you are right, the reason for the fixation on dresses is to inculcate traditional gender distinctions and roles. (If I were a woman, I wouldn’t let that stop me from wearing pants if I wanted to. I’m a man, and I only occasionally wear white shirts; lately, I’ve been wearing colored mock turtle necks, without even a tie, and getting away with it successfully, too. Let the rebellion begin!)

  21. Steve Cottrell
    December 31, 2004 at 11:38 am

    In the recent CES Fireside address given by Elder D. Todd Christofferson he covered in the section Sacred Places and Occasions the teaching that the way we dress is an outward expression of our inner feelings.

    OK so I never wear a skirt or dress to Church meetings but I do always wear a dark suit and white shirt. Personally I think even some of the casual skirts worn by some are not appropiate for Church, but then that is their choice and a matter for them to decide. Understanably investigators and new members are not acostumed to our LDS culture, but over time they will decide what they feel comfortable in.

    Earlier this year our Stake Presidency endorsed the Stake Relief Society Presidency in encouraging all women to wear skirts/dresses to all Church meetings (including Home, Family & Personal Enrichment), for most sisters this wasn’t a ‘hard thing’, but for some it was.

  22. Glen Henshaw
    December 31, 2004 at 11:44 am

    Regarding jeans at BYU, I once read a reprint of a letter to the editor of the Daily Universe about a woman attempting to go to the testing center in jeans and an overcoat. She was refused, so she went to the bathroom and took off the jeans, and tried again wearing just the overcoat. She was then admitted. The letter asked if it was really that important for women to display their calves. Has anyone else ever seen that letter?

  23. December 31, 2004 at 11:46 am

    Well, in many areas pants are seen as disrespectful. I had a co-worker who was very aware that many of our local judges would never say anything, but that they did not approve of pants on women, much like many of them insisted on coats on men. I say through a lecture or two on it by her, in reference to female attorneys who made other choices.

    Interesting point, though, why should we care what other people think? Why aren’t we dressed like the people in the City of God were when McKay had his vision of it, or as Moroni dressed when he visited Joseph Smith?

    Oops, thread drift.

    BTW, if the thread is going to drift, let me quote:

    To: [email protected]
    From: [email protected] (Suzette Haden Elgin)
    Subject: The Religious Language Newsletter, 1-2/2005, 2/2

    8. I’d like to recommend the 12/04 issue of _Bible Review_; I don’t know what came over the editors, but I heartily recommend the result. It has “Before Mary: The Ancestresses of Jesus,” described as based on the work of Jane Schaberg and approved by her; it discusses the four women — Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Bathsheba (referred to as “the wife of Uriah”) — who appear in the opening verses of Matthew in the genealogy of Jesus. It has “Thecla: The Apostle Who Defied Women’s Destiny,” by David R. Cartlidge, opening with “Who was Thecla? Little known today, especially in Protestant churches, Thecla of Iconium enjoyed fame perhaps second only to Mary, mother of Jesus, in the early Christian era.” On page 31, the description of the shrine-complex dedicated to Thecla at Seleucia says…

    “The grotto church had a nave almost as long as a football field. There were also other, smaller chapels, rooms for pilgrims and cells for male and female monks. Services … included readings from a collection of Thecla’s acts and from accounts of her miracles. These miracles included intercession for pilgrims in danger (especially women), for healings and for the strengthening of faith.”

    [Online, you might look at “The Acts of Thecla: A Pauline Tradition Linked to Women,” by Nancy A. Carter, at http://gbgm-umc.org/umw/corinthians/theclabackground.stm .]

    Thecia probably wore pants.

  24. Glen Henshaw
    December 31, 2004 at 11:46 am

    Oops! Kevin and I were obviously writing our posts at the same time. Sorry…

  25. Kevin Barney
    December 31, 2004 at 11:49 am

    Glen, our messages crossed, but I referenced the same incident. I’ve seen a reprint of the letter. It was republished in a book put out by the Universe, as I recall entitled something like “I Am Appalled…” The booklet had lots of Benson and Bagley cartoons, which is why I mentioned them for a time reference.

    Unfortunately, our copy of the book belonged to my wife, and I lent it to a family I home taught, because he used to be a BYU student body president and was interested in it. Then they moved, and I never got the book back. My wife still hasn’t forgiven me to this day.

  26. December 31, 2004 at 12:21 pm

    I’ve always worn skirts (since childhood). My grandmother was the one who picked most of my clothes, and she went to a school run by a convent, in 1920’s Boston. Unsurprisingly, she never felt comfortable wearing pants — ever — despite choosing, as an adult, a very rebellious culture (most of her friends were self-proclaimed socialists, her husband and most of his close friends were Spanish Civil War vets, and because she married a Jew she and he both spent the rest of their lives as active Unitarian Universalists).

    Anyway, at school (Ohio State) I was informally referred to as “the skirt girl” (most of the other girls wearing skirts were clearly Muslims — I was the only one in an ankle-length black skirt and an OSU t-shirt and uncovered head ^_^), or possibly “the girl who actually asks questions in history lecture” (“skirt girl” is shorter, so it stuck better — also, it was easy to identify me, even on the library’s “Oval Cam”, which is currently down because they’ve ripped up the Oval for resurfacing and it’s really ugly).

    It wasn’t until I started working at Disneyland, ironically, that I picked up the pants habit. It turned out that doing heavy lifting and carrying boxes taller than oneself up and down slippery concrete stairs (the Pirates of the Carribbean leaks into the stockroom below), is somewhat safer in pants than in a skirt.

    However, I still like skirts better than pants for everyday life. Thermals fix whatever warmth problems that may or may not exist, and in the summer, the comfort level of skirts is significantly higher than that of pants (and the modesty level is much higher than that of shorts – I don’t wear many skirts shorter than ankle-length, and when I do, nylons are my obligatory ally).

    Though I’ve definitely seen some pantsuits that are cute. If I ever get my degree and a decent professional job, I might buy one for variety’s sake.

  27. December 31, 2004 at 12:46 pm

    I usually follow very conservative patterns for dress at Church, especially when I’m teaching Gospel Doctrine and plan to say some not so conservative sorts of things during a lesson. I have, however, worn pants to Church before. I like to wear a pantsuit when I teach 1 Corinthians 8-10 on Christian liberty to drive home certain points. I’ve considered substituting my water bottle for a coke on those days too , but I just can’t stand the taste.

    I have also worn pants when attendeding church with others who are investigating and must wear pants because they don’t have dresses.

    Rosalynde is right about the difficulty of finding traditional church attire for women. A woman has the option of looking like Rebecca from Sunnybrook Farm, a suited business woman or a teen pop star. I found this to be such a problem when I was looking for my mission clothes that I ended up having my grandmother make me several long skirts I could ride a bike in and still look dressy and conservative.

  28. December 31, 2004 at 12:59 pm

    If it were a question of morality, wouldn’t the rule be just the opposite, that women are *required* to wear pants to church, and shouldn’t wear lust-inducing dresses or skirts?


  29. December 31, 2004 at 3:39 pm

    My last stake presidency required that women wear dresses to Enrichment and to go visiting teaching. There was more than one woman who did not attend Enrichment as a result. I just wore pants half the time, especially when I knew someone would be there who would not be comfortable in a dress. It did not make for a good environment to invite friends to Enrichment. “We’re having a class at the church on car repair and restoring furniture, but you have to wear a dress if you want to come,” just doesn’t work.

  30. David King Landrith
    December 31, 2004 at 4:52 pm

    My wife is a life-long Mormon, vehemently anti-feminist, and one hot babe. She looks very tasty in pant suits and often wears them to church. And maybe I’m at fault for not ogling chicks at church (it’s a married ward), but I’ve never really noticed the predominance of skirts and dresses. I’ll keep my eyes peeled this year.

    And both Ann Taylor and Talbots have a liberal collection of long, black skirts. This time of year, skirts at Talbots are going to be wool in both crepe and worsted.

  31. Rosalynde Welch
    December 31, 2004 at 4:53 pm

    Oh dear, the day I step into Ann Taylor or Talbots will be the day I succumb to true middle age… and I do not intend to go gently into that good night!

  32. David King Landrith
    December 31, 2004 at 5:01 pm

    I’ll leave it to the brand managers at Ann Taylor and Talbots to sort out that comment.

  33. December 31, 2004 at 7:02 pm

    The real question is why aren’t there more men wearing dresses in church…

  34. claire
    December 31, 2004 at 9:35 pm

    On stake presidencies requiring skirts for Enrichment; makes me really glad I live in the ‘mission field’ where the priesthood leadership have bigger fish to fry.

    Oh, and Rosalynde, I’m about your age and am just waking up to the Ann Taylor / Talbots arena. You might check it out; great quality and the separates are very lactation friendly :-).

  35. December 31, 2004 at 9:39 pm

    It was the “mission field” where we had that requirement. :)

  36. claire
    December 31, 2004 at 9:41 pm

    I was afraid you’d say that!

  37. Anon
    December 31, 2004 at 9:49 pm

    Welll, I am a convert. And when I started attending Church during a particularly hot midwestern summer, I had one of the old-fogey, Utah-Mormon types come up to me and tell me that my collard shirt and docker pants were ‘inappropriate attire” for Church attendance!!!!
    I still think that there are somtimes folks called to leadership callings, who have no business being in t hose positions – and they do more damage t han good. E.G that day there were 4 of us fraternity brothers who had come to attend Church- and the other 3 never returned.
    Wonder if it an issue of some folks getting their kicks by exercising some kinda “power” they think they have as people in leadership callings. Unfortunately, I have met quite a few men like that in my decade being LDS

  38. Eric
    January 1, 2005 at 1:37 am

    I have been lurking her for a couple of weeks, now, and feel compelled to make my first post. You see, I am one of those who attended BYU during the “no-pants on women” to “pants okay” transitional era. I was even there during the famous incident at the testing center. That woman, by the way, was Jan Graham, late Utah’s Attorney General. The dress code change came during the regime change between Pres. Oaks and Pres. Holland.
    Pres. Oaks fought an uphill (and ulimately losing) battle to keep the women in skirts and dresses. I remember in particular one Devotional address he gave, where he stated his opinion that women just didn’t look feminine in pants. I occurred to me that maybe he hadn’t seen some of the same women in pants that I had…I knew I had no question about their gender.

  39. David King Landrith
    January 1, 2005 at 2:40 am

    You bring up a good point, Eric. If the pants are tight enough, it’s enough that the chicks don’t look masculine.

  40. Sheri Lynn
    January 1, 2005 at 3:42 am

    1. I hate wearing pantyhose and stockings, and to me, the whole dress thing was ALMOST onerous enough to keep me from joining the Church. I had such a strong prompting to join that I have bitten my lip over this. I’ve done many desperate things to try to avoid wearing dresses that require hose. Very long sweaters over stirrup pants…and of course, floor-length dresses. But I will never, ever see anything spiritual in being so uncomfortable sitting there for three plus hours in clothing I loathe.

    2. My son is having some problems with the Church. I have to say that his issues are exacerbated by women like his former primary teacher who wear extremely immodest dresses to church, then *sit on the floor* to teach a lesson. I changed wards after complaints to the bishop did no good. When your son tells you he can see his teacher’s panties because her slit skirt is so short and her top cut so low that there is no way to avoid seeing everything, well, you have to wonder what calling is being magnified. Isn’t modesty the point? It’s harder to be modest in a commercially common dress than in any nice pantsuit.

    3. More than any of this, however, I’d like two things to change.
    a. I wish people would shut up during Sacrament and during sacred moments like the blessings of babies. It is not a time for visiting.

    b. I wish they’d either let RS out early or hold on to primary children until their parents pick them up. I am tired of frantically searching for my little ones, the corridors always cluttered by visiting adults who could take their conversations out of the way long enough to let families reunite. Sorry if I sound bitter, but I have been indirectly associated with two families who lost daughters to abduction.

    I’ll put on the dress and the pantyhose and the shoes that kill my feet, if they’ll fix those things for me. When it’s 5 past the hour and we still haven’t said RS closing prayer, and I see primary kids as young as 3 wandering the church grounds outside the window, unsupervised, I get angry, and that isn’t very conducive to the learning I’m trying to do there.

  41. Shannon Keeley
    January 1, 2005 at 12:22 pm

    Wow! I spent all day on the 31st traveling by car and plane from Boise to SLC to Reno to LA. . .seems I missed out on quite the discussion! So much to respond to. . .

    First, I want to point out that in my original (and to hastily written-on-vacation) post, I forgot to mention several important points which your posts have thankfully reminded me of. Yes, in other countries I’m sure it’s more common and not at all looked down upon for women to wear pants to church. I’m really glad that missionaries and members abroad try as much as possible to work with the cultural trends and resources of their host countries. . .which leads me to wonder—why can’t it be that way here?

    I had also forgotten about the former BYU dress code (literally, a DRESS code for women) and the infamous testing center incident—which was still well alive when I attended BYU in the early-mid nineties. Even though BYU has relaxed on this issue, what concerns me is that in most other church institutions, women are still explicitly required to wear dresses. In addition to sister missionaries, I’ve been told the following:

    1. Female seminary teachers are required to wear a skirt or dress whenever teaching (like waking up at the crack of dawn isn’t sacrifice enough!)

    2. Wives of general authorities living abroad must wear dresses EVERY TIME THEY ARE SEEN IN PUIBLIC

    I heard this from a female seminary teacher and a friend whose father is a general authority living abroad, but I’m curious about how this requirement is expressed to these women. Is it verbally explained during the interview process? Is there something written in that ever popular “handbook� about it? And if there is something in writing, I’d really love to hear the language used.

  42. David King Landrith
    January 1, 2005 at 12:29 pm

    As far as seminary, guys have to get dolled up, too (at least in many areas, they have to wear a tie). In today’s work environment, this means that male seminary teachers dress up for seminary and then dress down for work.

  43. Kristine
    January 1, 2005 at 12:47 pm

    Steve, just finished reading the talk you mentioned. That congregation Elder Christofferson mentions was my ward, meeting in my high school after a tornado took the roof off of our Stake Center one Christmas Eve. I think the article nicely illustrates the problems with dress codes: when the impulse to dress up really is an outward reflection of inner feelings of respect, then I think it’s grand. However, I’m much less comfortable when dress becomes a kind of boundary maintenance, separating “us” from “the world”. That sword is double-edged–it can remind us of who we are and of our unique covenants, but it can also serve as a barrier to those we want to invite, as several examples from other comments have illustrated.

    And the wearing skirts to homemaking meeting thing is a classic example of trying to improve on the words of the prophets, which is a pernicious habit of too many Saints.

  44. Shannon Keeley
    January 1, 2005 at 1:03 pm

    OK, now I’ve got time for some specific responses to your comments. . .

    Martin James,
    Thanks for sharing about your daughter’s dress requirements for EFY. It’s funny, I attended EFY a few times back in my youth and I can’t remember at all what kind of dress restrictions we were given.
    Since you seem plugged into the “youth� culture of the church currently, (or at least your daughter is), do you know what the current guidelines and restrictions are for stake youth dances? Are girls wearing pants not permitted into the dance?

    Kevin Barney,
    I like your point that it’s obviously not a morality or modesty issue at work in the “women in dresses� phenomenon. Pants would be much more modest and much less likely to distract anyone from their Sunday worship. Therefore, wouldn’t they be more conducive to fostering the spirit?
    In fact, I find the whole scenario rather hypocritical. The message coming down to women is “Be modest! Don’t let anyone see your body except for your husband! Oh yeah, except on Sundays! Then be sure to wear something that accentuates your femininity! And don’t forget to pressure women around you into doing the same�

    David King Landrith.
    I’m glad to hear that your conservative wife wears pants ot church! Thanks for sharing! This is the reason I wanted to do this post—to see how widespread this whole phenomenon is.

    Mary Ward,
    I see your point about wanting to wear something “special� for Sunday services . I think that this would probably explain why I, too, have always worn skirts to church (despite my ranting about the injustice of it!) When it all comes down to it, I really like wearing skirts, I’ve got lots of cute ones, and Sunday is my main opportunity to wear them. So, it’s sort of gets me in the mood and has become part of my “Sunday ritual�.
    My problem is that to many women, wearing a skirt isn’t special or fun, it’s torture, or it’s impossible because of their financial situation. In these situations, its distracts them from their worship pr prevents them from attending church altogether.

    And to Anon, Ivan, and Kevin Barney,
    Thanks for sharing your experiences about women (and men!) being reprimanded by other members for their attire choices. This is the main reason why I wanted to do this post—to see how widespread this problem really is and if I’m the only one who has ever witnessed these types of incidents.

    And finally, to Sheri Lynn,
    I really appreciate your post! The church could certainly use more women like you, so I’m glad that you’re putting up with our silly “dress code.” I’m just curious, when you were investigating the church, were you told specifically that you couldn’t’ wear pants to church? Or was it just that nobody else was, so you feel uncomfortable doing so? I am feeling really angry about the fact that here you are, this obviously bright and dedicated woman, suffering through three hours of church in clothes you can’t stand to wear. It shouldn’t be this way! You are the reason I wanted to write this post!

  45. Shannon Keeley
    January 1, 2005 at 1:08 pm

    Thanks, Kristine, for your post.
    You’ve just expressed what I’ve been trying to say—only much more eloquently. This is my whole problem—that what should be our own personal expression of respect ends up being a “dress code� that excludes and even prompts some members to judge and condemn the apparel choices of others.

    This business of church leaders asking sisters to wear skirts to not only Sunday meeting but also enrichment, visiting teaching, etc., is highly disturbing. I can’t imagine how such counsel would be anything but divisive and destructive to the sisterhood that Relief Society is supposed to be fostering.

  46. Kristine
    January 1, 2005 at 1:52 pm

    Shannon, your last paragraph is more restrained than I might be–besides the divisions likely to result from such counsel, there’s the teensy, tiny little matter of men dictating to women even at the level of their personal apparel, in an organization whose President regularly boasts about the women running their own club. Grrrr.

  47. January 1, 2005 at 2:57 pm

    Let me just say that the dress thing at Enrichment was handled quite well by our RS President. She made it clear that no matter what the SP said, she wanted us at Enrichment. There were more pants worn as time went on. Apparently, it had been a “tradition” in the stake for years.

    But I will never forget the look the SP gave me when he happened to see me in jeans at the first Enrichemnt Meeting I went to before I knew the “rule.”

  48. claire
    January 1, 2005 at 4:26 pm

    Amira, was it someone’s job to tell people every month when enrichment was announced that pants were not acceptable? I just can’t picture how this ‘rule’ could possibly be reasonably implemented. (This is probably your point). I can’t picture myself tracking down everyone new or investigating (we have a very transient ward with several baptisms a month) to make sure they knew not to wear pants to enrichment.

    Not to mention how shocked I am your SP was at enrichment!

  49. January 1, 2005 at 5:29 pm


    The RS President would announce it quite often in RS because there were new families moving into the ward every week. She was clearly not comfortable with the whole situation, but she did handle it well so that it was not a cause of contention in the RS.

    The SP wasn’t actually at the meeting. I got there a bit late and was standing in the hall waiting for a chance to go in. He came out of his office down the hall and walked by me. I don’t think he was checking to see if people were following his rule. :)

  50. January 1, 2005 at 5:42 pm

    In response to Shannon Keeley’s question about stake dances, normally I would be that last person to know anything about it, as I never went to any, but I am home visiting family. I brought my younger sister to a stake dance last night, she was wearing pants, and when I picked her up, she told me only one or two girls in the whole stake had a dress on.

  51. Mary
    January 1, 2005 at 6:36 pm

    John, could the dance have been a special New Year’s Eve one? When I went to stake dances “teen dances” as we liked to call them in Southern Idaho, we HAD to wear a dress, unless it was a special, outdoor dance or something. This was in the mid-late 90’s. No dress/skirt, no entrance.

  52. January 1, 2005 at 7:04 pm

    Having been in several wards in Utah (4) and Idaho (2), I can’t say that I ever remember seeing a woman at church in pants. It could be that it has happened but I don’t ever remember it.

    In my wild (heh) youth I often went to church bare-foot, but never in pants.

    Honestly I’ve never really considered going to church in pants mostly because I’ve never owned pants that I’d consider dressy enough. But this post makes me want to go shopping.

  53. January 1, 2005 at 7:17 pm

    A few historical notes on this subject:

    Re pantsuits and wives of General Authorities, President Kimball announced on September 29, 1978 at the Regional Representatives seminar that wives of church leaders should wear dresses, rather than pantsuits, when with their husbands on Church assignments. The November 1978 Ensign reported the announcement.

    The June 1971 Priesthood Bulletin contained the following interesting statement on dress:

    “The Church has not attempted to indicate just how long women’s or girls’ dresses should be nor whether they should wear pant suits or other types of clothing. We have always counseled our members to be modest in their dress, maintaining such standards in connection therewith as would not be embarrassing to themselves and to their relatives, friends, and associates.

    We have advised our people that when going to the temple they should not wear slacks or miniskirts, or otherwise dress immodestly. We have not, however, felt it wise or necessary to give instructions on this subject relative to attendance at our Church meetings, although we do feel that on such occasions they should have in mind that they are in the house of the Lord and should conduct themselves accordingly” (See July 1971 Ensign, pg. 76 and Aug. 1971 New Era, pg. 50).

    Janath Cannon, then-first counselor in the Relief Society General Presidency, suggested in an interview printed in the June 1978 Ensign that nursery leaders wear pantsuits “so that they can participate more comfortably with the children.”

  54. Anon
    January 1, 2005 at 9:35 pm

    Interersting comments. But this issue of some in leadership positions wanting to impose their version of how life ought to be lived, even outside the Church Meetings. E.G, my landlord, is a almost illiterate , retied blue-collar guy, with no hobbies, no interests outside of watching oldmovies and the Speed Channel on cable TV. And he spends all his time trying to tell me and my fellow housemate t hat he disapproves our choices in what football games we choose to watch, whether or not we watch Comedy Channel programs, Law&Order etc. Essentially, anything he is not interested in is tabbo or does not meet Church standards, according to him.
    Until and unless we are rid of such neanderthals and dumb folks from leadership positions, we will have to deal with no-pants rules and other such nonsense.

  55. January 1, 2005 at 10:51 pm

    or hold on to primary children until their parents pick them up

    Well, that is the policy …

  56. January 2, 2005 at 12:09 am

    Mary, I have no idea. It very well could have been a special dance where rules were different.

  57. January 2, 2005 at 3:36 pm

    I am very pleased to report that four women were wearing pants in the Sacrament meeting I attended today. Three of these women seemed to be regular members of the ward and one of them (wearing khaki cargo pants) stood up and bore an eloquent testimony. I’m not sure that I think khaki cargo pants are appropriate for church, but I was glad that she felt comfortable enough in her own ward to stand in fast and testimony meeting regardless of her attire. What pleased me even more was that nobody in the congregation seemed the least bit ruffled by her clothing.

  58. Juliann
    January 2, 2005 at 7:29 pm

    Apparently, back in the day (mid to late 80s) at BYU and Ricks, women weren’t allowed to wear jeans, while the men were. Can anyone corroborate this?
    In the mid sixties that dress code made my decision to attend the U of U. The deal breaker was the part about not being able to wear warm and comfortable clothing to a football game.

    We have one woman who is not baptized but has come for years who wears pants. I have never seen a regular in pants…but I have noticed a rapid decline in the dresses being worn. The chapel often looks like a hoedown. Maybe it is California but the girls wear flip flops (even in our winter where 50 degrees is not balmy). We have some women who dress to hilt…more on that but an awful lot wear denim and I mean sloppy denim with birkenstock type sandals that expose the feet needing a pedicure if not a podiatrist. Now, this is a fashion crime no matter *where* you are.

    Back to the dressing to the hilt in a different outfit each week….that has annoyed me for many years because there is a one-upsmanship to it. But I don’t think dressing for the rodeo is much of an improvement. If there are going to be rules, I’d prefer one that says “cover your feet, your belly and anything near unto it and do not use the chapel aisle as a runway for your flashy jewelry and designer dresses”.

    I do prefer long dresses in the summer. The pant thing has to go, especially in cold climates, but it is a lot easier to do to pants what we have already done to dresses. Since men wear suits women should not feel put upon to wear pant*suits*.

  59. Sheri Lynn
    January 2, 2005 at 10:55 pm

    I feel so strongly that dresses are NOT a badge of femininity. I had a male friend once whom I had known for two or three years when he decided all of us needed to know that he wanted a sex change. This was a homely balding guy with a heavy beard. As a man he was an acceptable looking, but oy veh, he would make a horrid looking lady. He wanted me to help him with clothes and makeup. I said I was sorry, I just couldn’t do that. Gosh, what a nasty situation….

    Put a guy like that in skirt, makeup, pantyhose, and heels, and he’s still MALE. Put me in jeans, and I’m still FEMALE. I’m comfortable with my gender. I’m married and have three kids, am endowed and sealed, and I therefore don’t have anything to prove to anybody. If I’m clean and my clothing isn’t distracting, I should be welcome in the chapel. Modest clothing is a good thing. The dress thing here is a matter of culture and aesthetics. I am pleased to see young ladies who are enjoying themselves in pretty dresses…but I think I’ve outgrown such things. Unfortunately, other people DO feel obliged to convert their aesthetic sensibilities into moral law for everyone else to follow.

  60. Mark Bigelow
    January 2, 2005 at 11:57 pm

    Re: pantsuits on nursery leaders

    Wow, that was good to see. I’m the nursery leader in our ward and I’m glad to see my pants are OK ;)

  61. Mark B
    January 3, 2005 at 10:02 am

    It was sometime in the late 60’s or early 70’s that women students at BYU were allowed to wear slacks, rather than skirts, to class. The Provo school district, which seemed to slavishly follow the dress code from the Y, changed to permit girls to wear slacks at the same time. It happened while I was in high school, so it was sometime between fall 1968 and spring 1971.

    Until then, all the girls at school wore skirts or dresses, which provided lots of opportunities for inspection of their underwear while they played on the swings and the monkey bars at recess.

  62. January 3, 2005 at 12:34 pm

    Dress and grooming standards for church schools were standardized for the 1971-1972 school year to allow women to wear pants. While men could wear jeans, women could not.

    Here are the 71-72 standards:


    “The attire and grooming of both men and women should always be neat and clean.

    “Shoes are to be worn in public campus areas.

    “Shorts are acceptable wear only in the living and athletic areas.

    “So-called ‘grubby attire’ may be worn only in the immediate living areas of residence halls and at informal outdoor activities, but not in dining areas.

    “Acceptable attire will be designated for each student-body dance.


    “Slacks, polished cottons, or levis with sweaters, sport shirts, ties, sport coats, and blazers all are acceptable men’s wear for attendance at classes.

    “Beards are not acceptable. Mustaches are not encouraged, but if worn should be trimmed above the corners of the mouth. Long or bushy sideburns are not acceptable. Hair must be styled so as not to cover the ears and must be above the collar in the back.


    “Dresses, sweaters, blouses with skirts or culottes, or modest pant suits or slacks, not to include levis, are the only acceptable women’s wear for attendance at classes.

    “Women’s hemlines (dresses, skirts, culottes are to be of modest length.

    “Formal wear may be either a long or short formal. It does not include low-cut necklines or strapless gowns.�

    According to the Winter 1999 issue of the BYU Magazine, women were allowed to wear jeans at BYU beginning in 1982. That same year men were barred from wearing shoes without socks (rule was dropped in 1992).

  63. danithew
    January 3, 2005 at 1:06 pm

    Justin’s comment about shoes without socks and the rule being dropped in 1992 reminded me of an experience I had my first semester at BYU.

    Way back in 1989, a friend of mine, as a new student at BYU, waited in a line for maybe an hour to get his i.d. card. He was wearing sandals without socks. When he got to the head of the line he was told he had to go back to Deseret Towers, put on socks, and come back before they would give him his card. This was years ago but it was a good example of the absurdity of how the rules were enforced. It was a bit of relief when the sock rule was rescinded.

    Then again, who knows what lusts have arisen since from all the exposed ankles.

    I used to wonder how Jesus would be treated if he had showed up in line with a beard and sandals.

  64. danithew
    January 3, 2005 at 1:08 pm

    I should have mentioned that I was standing in line with this friend when they insisted that he had to go get some socks at his apartment.

  65. Greg
    January 3, 2005 at 1:21 pm

    Danithew: For four years I wondered why so many BYU students go for the horrid socks with sandals look. Now I know.

  66. danithew
    January 3, 2005 at 1:23 pm


    It’s absolutely critical that we obey all rules. No excuses.

  67. Kaimi
    January 3, 2005 at 1:28 pm


    Plus, it looks really cool, and all the ladies dig it. I mean, is there anything sexier than, say, khaki shorts with knee-high white socks and birkenstocks? I’m straining to come up with anything more sartorially sound.

    My only surprise is that the administration encourages people to adopt this kind of sex-god attire which can only lead to an increase in lustful thoughts.

  68. Greg
    January 3, 2005 at 1:35 pm

    C’mon; unlike Danithew’s obedient friend, you Arizonans have no excuses for that kind of tomfoolery.

  69. danithew
    January 3, 2005 at 1:45 pm

    For a brief while I wondered if Keith Van Horn was going to be the next Larry Bird. If so, maybe those knee-high socks would have come back in style. Here’s a picture in case you were wondering:


    I hope Kaimi can tear himself away from this picture. Whenever we provide links like this he disappears for awhile. ;)

  70. Kaimi
    January 3, 2005 at 1:49 pm


    I’m afraid to click your link — ever since Bryce’s unibrow link ( http://www.timesandseasons.org/wp/index.php?p=1705#comment-33840 ), I’m inclined to be extra cautious about clicking any links provided by the Westchester mafia.

  71. danithew
    January 3, 2005 at 1:52 pm

    There must be a Westchester Mafia-like connection because I had looked up unibrow pictures on Google Images myself, without any prodding from Bryce or T&S. Unibrows are so scary they’re funny.

    Now I’m trying to imagine what a dude would look like if he had sandals, knee-high socks AND a unibrow. Whoa.

  72. gst
    January 3, 2005 at 2:14 pm

    Do not follow this link if you are easily disturbed (though it is, as they say, “safe for work”):


  73. danithew
    January 3, 2005 at 2:18 pm


    That was sweeeet! I’m sending that link to my wife who has an unusual abhorence and distaste for the “soxer” practice.

  74. Last_lemming
    January 3, 2005 at 2:35 pm

    Kevin and Glen,

    Finally somebody has given me an opportunity to serve as a unique resource. I am still in possession of a copy of “I am Appalled…” (and I never even went to the Y). Any disputes about the authenticity of quotes therefrom can be referred to me.

    Interesting to recall that Benson was the more orthodox of the two cartoonists.

  75. JL
    January 3, 2005 at 2:45 pm

    Thanks, Mark B. I must have been a couple of years behind you – I graduated from Provo High in ’73, and I, too, recall that the transition there came when BYU made its change — before the Dallin Oaks era began (sorry Eric – unless you mean that there was a Oaks/Holland dress code change that was something other than skirt-pants). I remember sitting in the PHS “Little Theater” with girls who were debating (quite seriously) whether the change, to be effective the coming fall, was a good thing. I wasn’t very concerned myself … but I was careful about making sure that my sideburns just hit the “bottom of earlobe to corner of mouth” line that Provo HIgh also copied from the BYU standard. Not that that has anything more than a remote connection to women wearing pants in Church….

  76. January 3, 2005 at 3:07 pm

    I should add that the rule proscribing bib overalls was dropped in 1992 as well. Thank you.

    Still, students at BYU-I–male and female–cannot wear bib overalls. Furthermore, male students at BYU-I cannot wear headbands or bandannas. What’s wrong with a headband? Slick Watts, Jim McMahon, and Wilt made it fashionable.

    Incredibly, however, nothing is said about women wearing headbands or bandannas. Serenity now!

    Dallin H. Oaks spoke on Dress and Grooming in a 1971 BYU devotional. Makes for interesting reading.

  77. danithew
    January 3, 2005 at 3:21 pm

    Justin that is interesting reading. That’s the first time I’ve heard of the “beards are like an empty liquor bottle” analogy. I kind of liked the forthrightness of his approach … that the policy on beards could change, that the current policy is more about contemporary pragmatism than facial hair being of itself immoral.

    Those darned hippies.

  78. Bill
    January 3, 2005 at 10:30 pm

    The apparel of choice at the meetings I attended yesterday was the leather skirt. Several varieties of color and style were on display. I wasn’t complaining.

    I have never thought that pants were particularly objectionable as women’s church wear. In fact, there may be situations where they make a lot more sense, such as for cellists, organists, or on a cold day.

  79. Bryce I
    January 3, 2005 at 10:40 pm

    Bill said:

    ” In fact, there may be situations where they make a lot more sense, such as for cellists, organists, or on a cold day.”

    Since when did fashion have anything to do with sense? :)

  80. Bill
    January 3, 2005 at 10:46 pm

    Nothing at all, to judge from the heels on the boots accompanying those skirts.

  81. Bryce I
    January 3, 2005 at 10:52 pm

    Re: comment 70

    Apparently I have a reputation to uphold. Here’s a URI for an interesting hoax about a fashion trend in Japan — skirts printed to appear as if they are see-thru.


    This page may not be safe for work (women’s panties are visible) — hence no hot link.

    The hoax is entirely believable from a cultural standpoint.

  82. Bryce I
    January 3, 2005 at 10:54 pm

    Dang, WordPress automatically linkifies URIs. Well, click at your own risk.

  83. jonathan
    January 4, 2005 at 5:47 pm

    It just so happens that I attended a sacrament meeting over the holidays (in Wisconsin of all places) in which a man actually did wear a skirt (i.e., kilt), complete with a dress shirt, tie, sports jacket and a small dagger tucked in knee-high socks. There were no raised eyebrows and apparently this brother is considered a gospel scholar among ward members which seemed to make the whole kilt thing that much cooler. So if there’s going to be a revolution, I say it better include skirts for the brethren!

    As for women wearing pants to church, it happens occasionally in my ward but to my knowledge no one really makes an issue of it. I have been in wards, however, where what is acceptable women’s wear for church is tacitly regulated not by those traditionalist, neo-Victorian ward leaders but by other women.

    While I can sympathize with sisters who feel restricted in what is acceptable church wear, I would just like to know why I feel this huge pressure, as a ward leader, to wear a white shirt every single week to church. Will a blue (button down!) dress shirt every be acceptable shepherding garb?


  84. gst
    January 4, 2005 at 5:54 pm

    Jonathan, I don’t think the Church cares about kilts, but I do believe that we ban all weapons, which would include dirks.

  85. Conrad Heward
    January 4, 2005 at 6:21 pm

    I listened to the recent CES fireside in which appropriate dress was mentioned. I didn’t think too much of it until a girl I know brought it up in conversation with her mother. I was pleased to hear her say that because of the things he said, she was going to re-evaluate the attire she wore in church to more fully follow his counsel.
    I am always pleased to hear of those who are willing to put their own opinions or styles aside to follow the counsel of their leaders.
    Concerning leaders who inappropriately treat people because of attire: I am saddened when I hear of those rare occations in which a local leader might abuse his authority. I have experienced it.
    However, I must state that most leaders are not that way.
    Concerning those who are investigating the church, I firmly believe that almost all church leaders are pleased to embrace all new faces into their respective wards regardless of dress, knowing that in most cases if the investigator has more suitable clothing which they will wear in future times. But if they perchance do not have more suitable clothing, they will feel accepted and embraced by the ward and leaders and come anyway.
    Concerning white shirts with ties: I have been trained by my ward growing up and the ward I am now in, that it is respectful to wear a white shirt and tie to perform priesthood ordinances–not that they cannot be performed with other clothing on, but that it is more respectful and reverent to do so with a white shirt and tie. I accept this counsel and generally follow it.
    In the last conference Elder Holland spoke about reverencing the counsel of church leaders having less to do with the person who holds the office, and more to do with the office itself. However, I must admit, it is definitely easier when the person who holds the office gives counsel in the spirit of meekness and love.

  86. Shannon Keeley
    January 4, 2005 at 7:53 pm

    There are many points I’d like to respond to. . .I’m battling a terrible flu and I apologize if it seems like I’ve abandoned my own thread. So let’s deal with the most important issue first:

    I’d like to report that I recall STEVE EVANS wearing socks with sandals (Tevas, if I remember correctly) at BYU around 1994. It seems that this was after the socks rule had been lifted (which was in 92, according to earlier posts). So, it seems this was entirely voluntary on Steve’s part.

    Also, Danithew, in regards to your comment about Jesus being turned away at BYU in his sockless sandals. . .

    I once saw a student film at BYU where Brigham Young came to take a tour of the modern campus. He has a great day being driven about in a golf cart and shown the campus. . until he gets to the testing center, where he is denied access because of his beard. It’s pretty hilarious, and demonstrated the rather ridiculous point that even Brigham Young—the man whose name the university bears—would not be permitted to the testing center because of his appearance.

    More later after baby is in bed. . .

  87. Bill
    January 4, 2005 at 8:24 pm

    I grew up all across the country in many different states and different wards and was an aaronic priesthood holder in five different wards, and never heard anything about white shirts. I don’t even remember it being a topic of conversation at BYU where there were different and equally silly dress rules to worry about (the difference being that these really were rules). Several years ago, however, in my NY singles ward, apparently some of the sisters started to complain about people in colored shirts passing the sacrament. The elders quorum president had to go in to Relief Society to rebuke them with talk of looking beyond the mark and straining at gnats, etc.

  88. Julie in Austin
    January 4, 2005 at 8:45 pm


    But who rebuked the EQ Pres for rebuking the RS for wanting Elder Holland’s counsel to be followed?

    (Granted, I don’t know if the RS went about making their comments in the right way . . .)

  89. Jack
    January 4, 2005 at 9:25 pm

    “But who rebuked the EQ Pres for rebuking the RS for wanting Elder Holland’s counsel to be followed?”

    The guys in the colored shirts.

  90. Jack
    January 4, 2005 at 9:28 pm

    By the way, aren’t we supposed to be talking about pants?

    I think we’ve gotten onto the wrong “thread”.

  91. danithew
    January 4, 2005 at 9:38 pm

    A lot of rules and policies at BYU seem to be defended by denial of service or a threat of denial of service to those who don’t comply with the BYU rules. Besides that story of a friend who was sent home to put socks on, I can remember how on campus stores and offices would close during devotionals. I also remember being told on many occasions that if library fines weren’t paid I wouldn’t be allowed to graduate and that the university would not issue transcripts either. The whole thing seemed absurd to me but I could tell that the university was quite serious about this.

    At the same time I can’t ever recall a denial of services threat at the University of Utah. But maybe I’ve become immune to hearing these sorts of things. Is BYU unique in this manner of policy enforcement?

  92. Julie in Austin
    January 4, 2005 at 9:54 pm


    I think denying transcripts for outstanding financial obligations is pretty standard. As for denying services for dress codes, well, since most schools don’t even have dress codes . . .

    Julie (who was always looking for The Naked Guy around Berkeley but, alas, never spotted him)

  93. Ivan Wolfe
    January 4, 2005 at 10:24 pm


    Julie is right. UTexas, IIRC, has a denial of transcripts policy for outstanding fines.

    As for closing BYU campus stores during devotionals –
    – I never saw the big deal with that. It seemed like a good idea to me.

  94. danithew
    January 4, 2005 at 10:33 pm

    Maybe the problem wasn’t so much the denial of services but how often the denial of services was mentioned or invoked as a potential possibility (at BYU). I have just as many overdue books here at the University of Utah but I haven’t once heard anyone mention that if I don’t pay the fines I won’t be able to graduate.

    I was very good about keeping the honor code while at BYU but it seemed that from the day I started there until the day I graduated, I was hearing advisories, warnings, etc. about denials of service or potential denials of service. I’m not sure if this is the case now, but there was also a lot of emphasis while I was there on how quickly I should graduate. I didn’t overstay my welcome but there still was a feeling that I was being encouraged a bit too much to get out that door. All of this left a slightly sour taste in my mouth.

    I know that someday I’ll be mailing in a monetary contribution to BYU but when I receive the semi-annual mailed requests and phone calls for contributions, I can’t help but remember all these little bureaucratic annoyances that followed me around during the time I was there — irritations that did not arise at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem or the University of Utah.

    Sorry for the extended rant. Maybe its because I was just talking with my wife about that New York Times article that explained why Norm Chow left BYU. Neither of us was too happy about that whole thing.

  95. David King Landrith
    January 4, 2005 at 11:47 pm

    Since my four year stint at BYU, I’ve become convinced that denial of service is part of the Lord’s program. Heck, I even use it punish my home teaching families.

    But remember, danithew: When they want money from you, turnabout is fair play.

  96. ray oman
    January 5, 2005 at 1:18 am

    could there be a connection between the establishment of the True and Official Law School the rise of the Sunday dress code to mandate that the Obedient dress like Lawyers during all Church functions? should we question whom we set up as icons of dress? perhaps we should consider, in the name of thrift and confort, the acceptance of the one piece, onesie, leasure suit, with zipper or velcro closure, of course reserving the all white model for only the most sacred meetings. would it be cheap to suggest that we look to Christ for help with this question? fashion aside, I find it difficult to wear my professional work duds on the Lord’s Day but i try not to make the other attendees unconfortable by the way i dress.

  97. Walt Nicholes
    January 5, 2005 at 5:48 pm

    The apostle Paul wrote against women dressing as men (I will look up the reference and post it) and I believe that this is the root of the issue. It was declared unseemly for a woman to wear a man’s clothes.

    Now, I concede that at the time men and women both commonly wore robes, tied at the middle, so I’m not sure what Paul was specifically referring to. At any rate, this is where a great many concepts of proper dress and appearance come from. There are some who advocate that a woman not cut her hair, and some who suggest that bright colors, high heels and fancy jewelry are all inappropriate for wear in the chapel, or during sacrament meeting.

    Similarly, men are encouraged to wear suits to church, if possible, and to wear ties. When officiating over the sacrement they are encouraged (and in some areas required) to wear white shirts.

    I, too, have seen investigators in “common” clothing, but I take no offense at it. I have seen members who should have more respect than to be wearing flip-flops or shower shoes to church. I know of some Bishops and Stake Presidents who will not conduct a temple recommend interview with a man or woman unless they are in “Sunday Dress.”

    It is well for us to show great respect and devotion by setting ourselves apart from the world in our actions and our appearance when attending church, as it is when we dress to attend the temple. It is also well for us to be charitable toward those who don’t. And it is well for leaders to teach these principles as befitting faithful members of the church.

    It is not well, however, to adopt a spirit of rebellion and challenge the leaders of the units of the church by defying their counsel and daring them to do something about it. That is clearly the spirit of apostacy, and will lead to a spiritual, if not temporal, separation from the church.

    Have a nice day, everyone.

  98. January 6, 2005 at 10:56 am

    Shannon, did you wear pants to church on sunday and what was the reaction? You never stated what happend.
    My ward is upper class folks who wear the sweet beaded sweaters which coinside with the current holiday. In other word, no pants. I tend to wear more ethnic dresses like sarahs bridesmaid dress from Tibet or my dridle dress. I havent worn pants yet but I will add it to my new years resolutions.
    Bishop TuTu of South Africa recently announced his new plan for a more peaceful world. He stated that women should now be incharge of the whole thing, a type of revolution. I say, Girls put on you pants and go to work.

  99. Kaimi
    January 6, 2005 at 11:05 am


    I’ve heard that sort of statement before, but it seems like a strange justification.

    For people who work in white collar jobs, there is no “setting ourselves apart from the world” in dressing in a suit, tie, and dress shirt. I do that every day of the week, and so do many other lawyers, bankers, accountants, executives, and so forth. For me, coming to church in jeans (which I don’t do, by the way) would actually be setting myself apart from my normal attire. But coming to church in a suit is the same old daily routine as always.

  100. Bryce I
    January 6, 2005 at 11:24 am

    Re: Closing stores at BYU for devotionals

    Not that anyone asked, but if the devotionals are meant to be for the entire BYU community, it would be wrong to require some BYU employees to work during the devotional, denying them the opportunity to participate.

  101. danithew
    January 6, 2005 at 11:43 am


    You mean to say that some employee’s right to attend a devotional is more important than the regular mid-morning need I had for one of those BYU Bookstore snack shop cinnamon rolls? I am shocked. :)

  102. Walt Nicholes
    January 6, 2005 at 2:13 pm

    Kami has pointed out something that a lot of people have noticed: That (especially in Utah – my own observation) the wearing of suits is virtually ubiquitous in the professions. The suggestion that wearing suits is a different form of dress from vocational dress (at least in Utah) came from a time when suits were rarely worn (overhauls being common) except maybe by lawyers and bankers. (Said tongue in cheek.)

    The best ascertation of local policy and intent would be had by asking the local Bishop or member of the Stake Presidency. I suggest that you present yourself as representing the question of “a friend” if you don’t feel that you can invoke a controversial discussion with that local authority. (You may name me as the friend in question, if you like – I would LOVE to know what answers are to be had by local leaders.)


  103. Shannon Keeley
    January 6, 2005 at 6:49 pm

    In response to a few questions regarding my promised pants-wearing experience on Sunday. . .
    I am sorry to say that I ended up not going to church at all last Sunday because I’ve come down with a heinous flu. I still fully intend to wear them this coming Sunday, and I will post about it on this thread. Sorry, everyone, for my failure to chime in as often as I should be on this thread. This flu has really whipped me in the butt.

  104. Bill
    January 6, 2005 at 6:58 pm


    It is my habit to never ask questions of local leaders which might tempt them into some pharisaical pronouncement where none is necessary

  105. Shannon Keeley
    January 6, 2005 at 7:01 pm

    Oh yeah—I keep forgetting to mention this every time I’m on this thread. . .maybe all the NyQuil is affecting my memory. . .
    Anyway, in regards to earlier comments about Ann Taylor being a store for middle-aged women. . .I heartily disagree! (I think).
    I’ve been shopping there for several years, and I’m just about to turn 30. I am really hoping that I’m not one of those women who thinks she is really fashion forward but is actually totally frumpy (or “middle-aged� as Rosalynde puts it.) I’ve always liked Ann Taylor clothes and I used to wear a lot of their suits back when I was in office mode.Now, yo’ull have to excuse me while I go examine my wardrobe and find a suitable pair of Ann Taylor slacks to wear to church this Sunday!

  106. Bill
    January 6, 2005 at 7:11 pm

    I had never heard of Ann Taylor until I started trading the retail stocks. It was up 12.5% today.

  107. Russ Johnston
    January 6, 2005 at 7:18 pm

    Bill (#104),
    That sounds suspiciously like “It’s easier to ask for forgiveness than permission.”

  108. Kaimi
    January 6, 2005 at 7:19 pm

    Bill (106),

    Clearly the result of Shannon’s glowing endorsement in comment 105.

  109. David King Landrith
    January 6, 2005 at 7:23 pm

    Kaimi: Either that or it’s a market correction from the dip that resulted from my mentioning it.

  110. Shannon Keeley
    January 6, 2005 at 7:24 pm

    I found the scripture Walt mentioned where Paul (actually, it’s Moses) says it is not befitting for a woman to wear man’s clothing.
    Deuteronomy 22:5
    The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman’s garment: for all that do so are an abomination unto the Lord thy God.

    It’s certainly an interesting a scripture, and one that I had never noticed before in my reading of the Old Testament. As Walt points out, both men and women wore robes at the time this counsel was given, so it’s rather curious what exactly was meant by it.
    I’m not sure, however, how relevant this counsel is to our current ideas about why women should or shouldn’t wear pants. After all, in this same chapter, we are commanded not to wear garments of woolen and linen together (verse 11), and we are commanded to wear fringe on our clothing (verse 12). We also learn a few verses later that if a man finds out his new bride is actually not a virgin, we should immediately stone her.
    I’m certainly not an Old Testaments scholar, but I’d love to hear from someone who is and learn a little more about it. Do our modern notions of masculine and feminine attire really stem from scriptures like this?

  111. Kaimi
    January 6, 2005 at 7:28 pm


    Don’t tell me you’re neglecting to wear fringes too, you heathen! Now take off those pants and put on a fringe!

    (Hmm, that may have come out a little wrong . . .)


  112. Shannon Keeley
    January 6, 2005 at 7:28 pm

    What?! Ann Taylor stock is up? I can’t believe it. For several years now I have joked about how I should invest in Ann Taylor—not only because of the huge quantity of money that I spend there, but because their name is easy to find in the stock report in the newspaper. I thought it would be a good way for me to learn about the stock market, which I find hopelessly confusing and overwhelming. Looks like I missed my big chance.

  113. David King Landrith
    January 6, 2005 at 7:32 pm

    I think that Deuteronomy 22:5 is best understood in the context of forbidding the kind of things that would occur at pagan cult fertility rituals. Cross dressing is very uncommon in societies that do not have a lot of leisure time.

  114. Rosalynde Welch
    January 6, 2005 at 7:34 pm

    Shannon, I’m sure you look great in Ann Taylor, not middle-aged and frumpy at all. In truth, it’s not as if I’m shopping at Charlotte Russe or Forever 21–more like OldNavy clearance rack and Gap friends&family sale, not to mention the standards like Marshalls and Ross.

  115. Shannon Keeley
    January 6, 2005 at 7:57 pm

    You forgot to mention TJ Maxx. I could live in that place. Literally–they have a new one by LAX that sells beds and furniture and everything.

  116. Bryce I
    January 6, 2005 at 7:59 pm

    BTW, Bill looks great in a dress.

  117. Bryce I
    January 6, 2005 at 8:02 pm

    And I’ve forever wondered who is the marketing genius that came up with the name “Dress Barn“, and how that company has managed to stay in business for decades.

  118. Walt Nicholes
    January 7, 2005 at 5:03 pm

    Thanks, Shannon. (I could have swore that it was Paul :) He so often got into counsel regarding roles of men and women and practices and things.)

    I’ll search again to be sure.


  119. Shannon Keeley
    January 8, 2005 at 7:55 pm

    Walt, please let me know if there’s another reference to men and women’s clothing that I’m missing. I couldn’t find anything said by Paul or in the New testament at all, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he spoke on this topic—it certainly seems like something he would say!

  120. Paul in Carson City
    November 28, 2005 at 2:32 pm

    Maybe a couple of stories will help put it all into perspective:

    1. A couple of women came to an LDS chapel in a resort community wearing sun dresses, and were confronted in the foyer by the bishop, who asked them what they were doing there. They said that they were not members of the LDS church, but just felt a desire to attend church that day. The bishop then gave them directions to a non-LDS church down the road.

    2. A man was on a business trip in a town in which there happened to have a temple, and unexpectedly had some extra time, and decided to attend a temple session. Not having brought his dress clothes, he appeared at the recommend desk in a golf shirt and bermuda shorts. When he explained his situation, the person at the desk said, “Welcome, brother, we’re glad you’re here.”

    In which of these stories do you feel the priesthood holder was following the Spirit?

    You see, it’s not about style, or hemline, or the amount of exposed flesh, it’s about the attitude of both the subject and the beholder. There are those who can behold the nude human body without entertaining sexual fantasies. God Himself, when He beheld Adam & Eve and saw them as “very good”. On the other hand there are those by whom even members of the Tabernacle Choir can be viewed as sex objects.

  121. Kyle Stone
    January 17, 2006 at 7:15 pm

    I’m sorry. I don’t get the fuss. I just don’t. Why is it so difficult for men to dress like gentlemen (decent modest suits and ties), and women like ladies (nice modest dresses/skirts, hosiery and shoes goign to church? Judging by some of the comments I am about the age as some (if not many) of you (attended BYU-Hawaii then BYU 1989-1994). I actually attended as a non-member. I was impressed by the clean cut look and lifestyle portrayed by the members…part of the reason why I attended a Mormon school as a non-member. I don’t know if I necessarily agree with the strict admonition that “women shalt not dress in men’s cloths” that was discussed earlier in the thread, and I am disheartened by those who turn those who are searching away based on appearance alone. But give me a break, a shirt and tie is not a big deal…and when you have a frank discussion with women dressing nice in dresses/skirts, hosiery and shoes you discover its not that big a deal. The problem is more psychological now than anything. It’s not “in style” for people to dress nice therefore it is “uncomfortable”…not physically, psychologically. This is true of society at large and now is unfortunately seeping into the Church as a whole.

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