What Not To Wear Part 1

By popular demand, here is the first installment of the Sacrament Meeting-Men’s edition of “What Not to Wear”

I need to start off with a few disclaimers about my perspective on what is and is not appropriate for church:

1. I attend a small ward in Queens, NY. I am just happy that people actually show up at church and personally could not care less about what they are wearing.

2. I believe appropriateness is relative. It is based on, among other factors, age, geographic location, body type, and personality.

3. To me, appropriateness doesn’t necessarily come down to the appropriateness of each piece in the outfit, it comes from the sum of all the parts, including overall grooming.

4. I have a hard time with the white shirt/suit thing for men. My husband never wore a white shirt or suit to church until he was made part of the Bishopric.

5. Based on the comments to the welcome post, many people visiting this site might find what I choose to wear to church completely inappropriate. I’ll address this more in my “What Not to Wear” part 2.

Now with all that said, I did try to come up with some pointers on how to develop your own “church style”. Please note that they are in no particular order and while admitting #4 above, most of my comments are directed towards the suit/white shirt look. I can answer any other questions in the comments.


– If you are not a deacon and are not proselyting in a South American mission, you should not be wearing short sleeve, button-up shirts–especially with a suit – UGH!

– Never underestimate the power of shoes. It can make or break your entire ensemble. So, break out the polish and shine away.

– If you feel like you must wear a white shirt to church, invest in some new white shirts with texture or patterns in the weave. You might think that a white button-up shirt is just a white button up shirt, but there are small style variations that occur not only in the fabrics, but also in the in the cuffs and more noticeably in the collar shape. These small variations can make a big difference in your overall look.

– Which brings me to my next point, if you have any white shirts left over from the “mish”–get rid of ’em.

-Again, if you are a white shirt/suit kind of guy, the best way for you to add interest to a church outfit is with your tie and socks. Now don’t go crazy. I am NOT advocating anything with character, car, or sport motifs (these are what I call “novelties” and should be purged from your closet). It means choose something with a pop of color or an interesting pattern.

-No matter what you choose to wear, make sure that it is well pressed. I like the look of light starch for dress shirts.


Every man should have: at least one nice tie clip (but I would stay away from the kistchy mormon “hold to the rod” ones or any that might fall into the “novelty” category mentioned above) and a nice dress belt that is sans cracks, rips and tears. Watches are also a great men’s accessory. Take off the sporty G-shock for church and opt for a more clean, chic style with a leather band perhaps. Or if you think you can pull it off, sport an “antique” pocket watch.


If anyone has ever had the opportunity to see what a suit looks like when the top layer of fabric is removed or been lucky enough to watch a skilled tailor fit a suit, you will begin to understand why suits are so expensive. I believe a suit is one of the few items of clothing that when you pay more, you actually get more (of course there are always exceptions). The difference in quality comes in the workmanship and the fabric, which translates into how it will wear (meaning fit and durability). So just remember, a cheap suit will usually look like a cheap suit and will most likely have to be replaced (or should be replaced) a lot sooner.

Slacks: To cuff or not to cuff? Right now, I would not buy any pants that had a cuff, but it is fine to wear the ones you have. The cuff thing comes and goes as quickly as women’s skirts rise and fall. And similarly, you are okay either way. I think the same thing goes for pleats except the pleat issue also has an affect on the look of your body. They are not slimming. So, if this is something you worry about as a man, go with a pair of flat front slacks that FIT RIGHT.

Suit Coats: How many buttons? Two-button: conservative. Three-Button: nice and not too trendy. Four (or more) buttons – young, trendy and going out. Double-breasted: old, conservative and frankly, I would stay away.

My final advice to you men is: clothes wear out, go out of style and need to be replaced. So, you need to go shopping each season. This doesn’t mean you have to buy a whole new church wardrobe every six months, but you should pick up some new socks, a couple ties, a new pair of slacks and one or two new dress shirts (this especially holds true if you wear “church clothes” to work everyday). You probably don’t need a new suit every season, but depending on how often you wear them, you should probably get a new one every year or so just to keep a good rotation going. For each new item you buy, immediately go home and swap it out for the oldest, most out of style, or most worn out piece in that same category so you are not tempted to wear the old items when nothing else is clean.

That’s all for now. I will try to post part 2 — Sacrament Meeting-Women’s edition of “What Not to Wear” soon.

288 comments for “What Not To Wear Part 1

  1. Great post, Carrie. You’re saving the sartorial lives of many a blog reader, I’m sure.

    Can I make one request, and one suggested addition? The request: A “where to shop” post. Sometimes it seems like church members think that the only options are Target or Tiffany’s. A good pointer to some not-bank-breaking stores would be a great added service, and help people to execute on your good advice here.

    And a suggested addition: Tie length. Correct me if I’m wrong, but it’s my understanding that it is _not_ acceptable for the tie to end somewhere in mid-torso, a few inches above the navel. A tie ends at or around the top of the belt buckle. (And if it doesn’t reach that far, or if tying it that length creates an ugly little orphan end, poking out of the back of the tie at shoulder height, then the wearer needs to go buy a longer tie!) Sorry for stealing your pulpit for a second, that’s one offense I’ve seen far too often. . .

  2. Curse you Kaime! After serving in Belgium my ties have remained defiantly above my navel and nothing you say will change how cool it looks!!

  3. IMO, the best dressed guy in our ward is the college-aged kid who has his hair dyed blue and wears kind of a mod-looking outfit.

    But just you wait till my husband’s done growing his hair into a mullet. Look out, blue-haired kid!

  4. Our area presidency (I’m in Oregon) has asked all of the brethren to wear white shirts, dark slacks, and be clean shaven to all church and priesthood meetings.

  5. Carrie, fantastic post. However, you missed a few details:

    Shoes: If you only have one pair, make ’em black. And if they’re loafers, for heaven’s sake, NO PENNIES!!! I’d also add that shoes are like suits, you get what you pay for. Go for the real leather soles if you can afford it. And please match your shoe color with your belt color.

    Ties: absolutely under no circumstances no paisley. Ditto on the cartoon characters. And unless you are over 65 and live on a ranch in Wyoming, no bolo tie. Stripes and subtle patters are good.

    Shirts: The sleeve seam on the shoulder should rest on the corner of the shoulder. If it’s past the corner, don’t flatter yourself, you’re not that big. The puffy shirt went out as soon as the Seinfeld episode ended.

  6. “So, you need to go shopping each season.”

    Hm…I wonder how this advice works among those that can’t afford a suit and/or seasonal shopping.

    Frankly, I find the nice suit, get more as you pay more sounds far to much like fine silks, linens, etc. that are Zion killers.

  7. #7:

    There are no more area presidencies in North America, Josh. The areas are being governed by one the presidents of the 70. (Does this mean then that you can safely ignore old recommendations from the area presidency. Of course!)

  8. Once upon a time, in my less mature days, I purchased a Jimi Hendrix “flying eyeball” tie that was very psychedelic and no doubt made a huge statement (about what, I’m not sure). I was determined to wear it to Church, but I never could work up the nerve to do it. I’d put it on, and then say, “People will think I’m a dork, or that I’m trying to hard, or that …..” It’s been many, many years that that tie has been hanging in my closet, and I have yet to actually wear it outside the house. What a waste.

    So yes, I think interesting tie patterns are important, but don’t go overboard.

    Aaron B

  9. I’m looking forward to the female edition.

    Heck, what about a “Queer Eye For The Mormon Guy” edition?

  10. Great post. I know so little and care so little about fashion — but I’m in awe of those who understand it and can keep up. If I had my druthers, a clean t-shirt and jeans would be my everyday attire. But I guess we’re talking here about what to wear to Church.

    Never bought a three-button suitcoat until I married. I’m glad to see my wife knew what she was doing.

  11. Kaimi-
    The safest tie length would be ending about 1/2″ above the belt. But if you are somewhat fashion forward, you can go shorter (J. Stapely- this is the look that comes out of Europe). Sidenote: My dad always wore his ties about 2″ above his belt and as a teenager, I was really embarrassed about it because I always thought it looked like it was so short because it was trying to make it around his really large belly (and he was “old”, and nothing “old” people do is cool). Because of this, I became a tie length Nazi and would make my husband tie his ties so the tip touched his belt. It is only recently that I have been able to recover from the pain of my childhood and support shorter ties.

    Totally agree with your comments on shoes and shirts. I want to add that with shirts, make sure that you know your correct neck size and sleeve length. If you don’t, go to a nice department store or men’s store and get measured. This will help with the puffy sleeve and the gaping neck (another no-no). As for your comment about no paisley ties, I have to disagree. There are some beautiful paisleys out there right now. But if your taste is questionable, stick to the stripes and subtle patterns like you said.

    While all these suggestions inevitably cost money, they don’t have to break the bank. I am the queen of discount shopping. It is definitely more challenging than shopping with unlimited funds, but I find it far more rewarding in the end. I think you can compare it to the extra work it takes for women to find modest clothing.
    “Frankly, I find the nice suit, get more as you pay more sounds far to much like fine silks, linens, etc. that are Zion killers.” – I’m not quite sure what you mean by this. Please explain.

    You just gave me another reason to stay living on the east coast. A few years ago, in our Manhattan ward, one of the counselors in the bishopric wore plaid shirts and khakis on the stand. In Queens, while my husband does wear a white shirt and suit, he sports a great looking beard and what we like to call the “fauxhawk”.

  12. #6 – French Cuffs and cufflinks

    Personally I love them. But I feel that only a certain type of man can actually pull it off as an appropriate Sunday look. If you want to try it out, remember that it is considered to be a more dressy look, so you don’t want to get too flashy with the cufflinks.

  13. A specific fashion question:

    “If you are not a deacon and are not proselyting in a South American mission, you should not be wearing short sleeve, button-up shirts–especially with a suit – UGH!”

    I may be misunderstanding what you mean by “suit” here; are you just talking about the pants? If you’re wearing a short sleeve button-up shirt and tie under your suit jacket, and the sleeves of the jacket are the proper length (admittedly, something which often isn’t the case), is it really that noticeable?

    Also, does this judgment change depending upon what kind of suit ensemble you’re wearing? I’m a professor, and a fair chunk of my wardrobe consists of short-sleeve buttoned and collared shirts (white, red, light blue, teal), which I wear with ties, sometimes with a sport coat or a suit jacket (and sometimes without), and dress slacks, khakis, or suit pants. I mix and match a fair amount. I’ve just always done the same for church (though, if anything, I probably “dress down” a little bit more for church, often ditching the tie, unless I’m going to be speaking or teaching a lesson). Am I complete dork? Are short-sleeves-and-tie outfits always hideous? (Hey, it gets hot in the classroom or the chapel sometimes…)

  14. A more general fashion comment:

    “I believe appropriateness is relative. It is based on, among other factors, age, geographic location, body type, and personality.”

    Some of these are obviously true: for better or worse, everyone’s sense of how a person should present and conduct themselves in their various roles and stations in life changes depending on how a person looks and how old a person is. It doesn’t change dramatically, but to think that it doesn’t change at all–to think, for example, that an outfit which communicates independent-mindedness on a young person wouldn’t communicate irresponsibility when worn by an older person–is just foolishness.

    However, I’m not sure I would include “personality” as one of these factors. The whole point of fashion is social; it is a matter of situating us within and as part of a group. In church, we surely aren’t dressing to communicate anything to God; He couldn’t care less what we wear. But we are human beings, trying to work together in an organization which God has called us to serve in and learn from, and that means acknowledging social realities. So while the church surely has a lot more room for personal idiosyncracies than its critics give it credit for, neither would I like the church to move any further down the path of letting people think they can “come as they are.” No, at church, you’re supposed to be more than “what you are”–you’re part of a community. A community that is not well served, for example, by a ward choirster wearing a short-sleeved hooded t-shirt, a slitted denim skirt, and platform flip-flops, not that I’m pointing fingers at anyone I know or anything.

  15. After I got back from my mission in South America, I tried wearing my short-sleeved white button-down shirts. My future wife was horrified and informed me that short sleeves do NOT go with ties under any circumstances.

  16. Carrie:

    I love your suggestions! And, I also wanted to say that I love Todd’s “fauxhawk.” Wish I could get J to do something a little more interesting with his “do.” But that’s not likely in the near future.

    Which brings me to my question: do you have any suggestions on how to tactfully approach family members (husbands, siblings, parents) regarding their fashion offenses? While J is pretty good about wearing whatever I tell him to wear (thank goodness!) I know that many people don’t have it so easy.

  17. Carrie: How do you feel about seersucker suits? I have never had the daring the pull one off (in particular, I am terrified by the idea of wearing white shows), but I like the idea of ruppledness as a stylistic technique, and having spent several years living south the Mason-Dixon line I am a big believer in fabric that breathes.

  18. Russell,

    I will try to say this in the nicest way without offending but sometimes it is best to tell it straight out. Carrie is right about the short sleeve dress shirts. Unless you are fifteen or younger or serving as a missionary in a tropical climate, it is never a good idea to wear them. They do not flatter anyone and they create a very negative impression. Especially when worn with a tie or under a suitcoat or sportcoat. Even with a good mix and match strategy, it still looks juvenile.

    An alternative is to wear a long sleeve dress shirt with a lighter fabric and to roll up the cuffs (but only two times and make sure it still lays flat).

    As concerns the ties, anything other than touching the top of the dress belt is unacceptable and completely unflattering. There is no excuse that the tie is too short. I am 6’8″ and I buy regular ties. I have never had a problem making it work.

  19. Russell: I wear short sleeve dress shirts to work all the time. No tie or jacket, however. Surviving the dash through the humidity from subway to office is more important than appearing dorky. (Also, I work at a firm that has been described as a nerd haven, so dorkiness has a certain professional cachet.)

  20. “Carrie is right about the short sleeve dress shirts. Unless you are fifteen or younger or serving as a missionary in a tropical climate, it is never a good idea to wear them.”

    With ties or without? Both? So, basically, there’s no purpose in having such shirts, whether worn with a tie or open. I can go with that. But I need an explanation then: why are the men’s stores filled with them? Is this some terrible hold-over from the 50s, and the attempt to play around with different colors is just denying the inevitable? Or is there some profession where short-sleeve buttoned shirts are still acceptable? Computer geeks? Lawyer nerds? Grad students?

  21. Russell, men’s stores are filled with crummy clothing. Short sleeve dress shirts are rarely acceptable, and certainly aren’t business casual. If you want to wear a short sleeve shirt, just go with a golf shirt instead for most occasions (except Church, obviously).

    Here’s an idea that hasn’t been mentioned: tailored shirts. For a little money you can get yourself a very nice tailored shirt that will fit your body type much better than the Geoffrey Beene specials we usually wear. It will make you look younger! Plus, for a church culture that demands white shirts, it’s a nice variation that will help you be a bit more fashionable.

  22. Russell,
    Short sleeve button shirts are fine. Just don’t wear a tie with them. It’s the combo that’s the problem. However, there is an exception to this rule: hipsters. So to go along with it you’ll need messy hair, too-short pants, a beard, and Converse All-stars. Othewise, don’t wear the combo or just go with long sleeve.

    I second Carrie’s gratitude for living on the east coast. Members of our bishopric wear colored/striped shirts occasionally and one of them has a beard. I don’t think the color of our shirts has ever come up in any meeting I’ve ever been in since being out here (almost 3 years).

  23. Much to Carrie’s chagrin, she has been unable to get me to throw out all my novelty ties. I don’t wear them very often, but I just have a thing for Nicole Miller (especially my Harley Davidson one). So, Carrie and I worked out a compromise, I got rid of all Tabasco related ties, but got to keep my NMs.

    Nate, I am a huge fan of the seersucker suit on the right person. The judge I clerked for was 82 years old and would often wear a blue and white seersucker suit to work during the summer months. It was a very charming, southern gentleman look. I wish I could pull it off, but I’m afraid I’m going to have to wait a few years.

  24. There are new seasons for clothes? Do these seasons ever repeat themselves so that eventually my closet will be hip again?

  25. Carrie,

    I’ll pick up Lyle’s baton. He’s questioning the propriety of concerning ourselves with fashion in the first place, given the ways clothing preferences are condemned in scripture. The only time dress is mentioned postively in the Book of Mormon is in Alma 1:27, where it says the people did not wear costly apparel, but were “neat and comely.”

    I admit that it’s possible to dress well without spending a lot of money, but bargain hunting still costs time, which is a resource as valuable and scarce as money, and bargain prices are still relative. You and I would think we’ve found a bargain if we got a nice tie for $9, but we have brothers and sisters in Bolivia for whom that’s two days wages, and of course the time we spent looking for ties could be spent blessing others (say, visiting shut-ins).

    Finally, there’s tension in noting that you, “personally could not care less about what” members wear to church, and your writing a post showing that you care what people wear to church. If you don’t care that someone wears a digital watch, why encourage them to buy a different one? Etc., etc. If you’re writing the post not to express your own preferences but to explain the world’s fashion standards, it’s not obvious to me that we should try to make church a more successful fashion show by the world’s standards.

    The reason for this comment is that I don’t feel I need any more encouragement to care about my clothes — I already care about them more than I should. I spend over an hour a year shopping for ties, and feel bad about that.

    Does anyone believe that we’ve been unable to build Zion because we haven’t been sufficiently preoccupied with our clothes?

  26. First, I don’t think Andy Sipowicz ever looked “juvenile” in his short sleeved polyester and clip on ties. He may have looked like he was from Queens, but not juvenile.

    Second, I like to wear my ties long. That way, if I forget to zip up my fly, the tie provides some cover.

    Third, there’s one man in Carrie’s stake presidency whom I know well. I don’t think he cares much about fashion, and his suits tend to the rumpled end of things. His button-down collar never seemed to be buttoned down, and his shoes may have lacked polish. But he loves the Lord and his work and his church and the people and I don’t think he would think that any of this fashion stuff matters.

  27. “I am 6′8″ and I buy regular ties.”
    Note to self: Don’t make Kevin mad

    As for fashion, I have none. I try to remember to wear clothing when I go to work. Anything more is sheer luck. You guys have a great time though.

  28. Given that all of us involved in this morning’s conversation are awake and typing away, I assume that we all live on the east coast anyway. I grew up on the east coast and converted to the church at 19. I would not live anywhere else.

    It will be interesting to see what the mountain states say about this topic once they get into the office.

  29. Yikes,

    Kaimi, Steve, and Todd giving fashion advice. These truly are the last days. (But big props to Carrie’s excellent post!)

  30. Save your snarks, Peter – Todd and I dress just fine. Kaimi is of course a different story…

  31. Carrie: Matt said it. After Christ visited the Americas; they had a Zion society. One of the first clues their Zion society was dead/dying, was their clothes, i.e. scarlets, fine linens, etc. Please excuse my BoM paraphrasing…

  32. Peter,

    No, no, you’ve got it mixed up. Lawyers always jabberjaw about things they know nothing about. It’s a sign of the last days if Steve, Todd and I actually start taking fashion advice.

    Now, back to my plaid shirt and paisley tie . . .

  33. My understanding is that short sleeve button-up shirts are fine without a tie, but never with, unless you want to look like a missionary or a 5 year old. Such shirts go fine with a business casual look. For professors or those who want a more professional look, go with a long sleeve shirt (with or without tie), and definitely a long sleeve shirt when wearing a sport coat or suit. Although you may think that it won’t be noticeable, people can tell because your sleeve doesn’t poke out the cuff of your jacket.

    My one disagreement so far with the fashion advice espoused here relates to leather soles on shoes. They are 1) slippery when wet, 2) easily worn through, and 3) generally less comfortable than a rubber sole. As someone who has to walk on marble floors entering and leaving a building in the sometimes rainy South, leather soles are a potential personal injury claim with no hope of success due to contributory negligence.

    As for Kaimi’s “Where to Shop” question, I find that Jos. A. Banks has some phenomenal suit deals, particularly in their outlets. I’ve purchased some excellent suits for $188. I also recommend their “Travelers” line of dress shirts because they are the closest to truly wrinkle-free you are likely to get. I find that with the 5 or 6 shirts of that type which I possess, they almost never require an ironing and can be washed at home and dried in the dryer, thus saving on drycleaning expenses and time spent ironing. They are available in a variety of patterns and the white shirt versions can be found with a variety of collars and french or regular cuffs. (I’m a french cuff guy myself.)

    And Nate, stay away from the seersucker. Unless you have the requisite Southern drawl or a cigar in hand, they are affectatious and silly.

  34. “Does anyone believe that we?ve been unable to build Zion because we haven?t been sufficiently preoccupied with our clothes?”

    Matt, I follow what Lyle and you are saying about Zion, and I agree: a Zion community is not one that allows itself to be shaped by the fallen world, whether in economics, politics, moral values, and certainly not in matters fashion. The various statements Book of Mormon prophets, as well Old and New Testament ones, make it pretty clear seeking to “look good,” to adorn oneself so as to set yourself apart and above others, is invariably a sign of pride and corruption.

    Moreover, it’s not your primary point, but I’ll also go along with you in considering the overall justice and morality of the clothing economy. I do think it’s scandalous that a cheap $9 tie that I could just throw away could mean two days food for someone in the Third World–and it is even more scandalous that my demand for such cheap ties is part of what maintains such poverty. Perhaps we need a new thread about what Mormons should do about sweatshops…

    All that being said, Carrie’s post is not about exploiting others in order to flatter our own vanity. Carrie’s post is about appropriateness. It is an odd thing, in my opinion, to hold up Zion as an ideal community in which all are sustained equally and lovingly, and then not consider what the internal requirements of such a community may be. We are not talking about spending a lot of money, we are not talking about getting into fashion contests: we are talking about showing respect, for your fellow worshippers, for the community you are part of, for the institution you are covenanted to. Obviously fashion is, at best, a second or third-order concern here, and when priorities get out of whack, there’s room for a lot of disagreement and unhappiness. (Witness the stupid beard debate.) But just because it’s an occassion for misunderstand or even abuse doesn’t mean we can dismiss it entirely. We are still social creatures, and hence appearance matters to our ability to relate to one another and do our jobs well. Thus, the importance of knowing, at least within broad parameters, what one ought or ought not wear to church.

  35. Lyle and Matt,

    Give me a break, guys. Carrie isn’t telling anyone to go spend $500 on Italian shoes. She’s giving some pretty simple fashion tips. I don’t think that anyone’s going to go to hell because Carrie tells them that double-breasted suits are out of style.

    Just because the Book of Mormon contains some negative language about over-emphasis on clothing doesn’t mean that we should never talk about how to dress better. There are a lot of things that shouldn’t be over-emphasized, but where a basic knowledge and some attention is entirely appropriate.

  36. “If you’re wearing a short sleeve button-up shirt and tie under your suit jacket, and the sleeves of the jacket are the proper length (admittedly, something which often isn’t the case), is it really that noticeable?”

    If your sleeves are the proper length, the cuffs will appear 1/2 inch past the cuff of your suit jacket. Unless your suit jacket is short-sleeved, I don’t see how you can get around this with short-sleeved shorts.

    “As concerns the ties, anything other than touching the top of the dress belt is unacceptable and completely unflattering.”

    I agree with this entirely. Ties should not be above the belt, 1/2 inch or otherwise.

    “His button-down collar never seemed to be buttoned down”

    Which reminds me: do NOT wear button-down-collar shirts with a suit. It’s too casual.

  37. Modern prophets don’t let us completely off the hook from looking dapper :)

    “Is your dress too old-fashioned, or too revealing, or too extreme? . . .
    Have you made yourself attractive physically—well groomed, well-dressed—and attractive mentally—engaging, interesting?”

    –Spencer W. Kimball, “There Is Purpose in Life,” 1974

  38. “…get around this with short-sleeved shorts.”

    Of course, this should be “get around this with short-sleeved shirts.”

    Why can’t spell checkers read my mind?

  39. Deb: There was probably a context for that statement, right?

    Russell: While we are social creatures, I don’t really like the concept of letting others dictate what is “fashionable” or appropriate to wear. Pres. Kimball gave broad statements…I can deal with that. Specific advice like “Searsucker suits are silly” is just plain hogwash. I guess I’m just not an individual who is going to let society/fashion et al. tell me what is appropriate wear.

    Personally, I wear bow ties. Is that a crime? If so, convict me, if they are just silly… I can live with that. Perhaps we should be more concerned with feeling comfortable with ourselves and less with the fashion philosophies of (wo)men.

  40. I never pay one bit of attention to what guys wear to church, except for my husband, who is vain and drives me crazy waiting for him to get beautiful enough to get in the car. One of these days….

    I wore the same denim jumper every Sunday for the year I was in the nursery. I don’t think anybody noticed. It was necessary because the kids make messes all over you. Not diaper messes, just food and stuff.

  41. I desperately want bow ties to come back. I want to look like John Widstoe (complete with goatee)! But I’m afraid George F. Will and Tucker Carlson have ruined them for another 20 years or so.

  42. About the white shirt and tie issue- my husband was once taught at a leadership meeting that a white shirt and tie are the uniform of the priesthood. Why might clothing be useful in a uniform sense? My first thoughts are to build unity in a group, to identify yourself with the group, to minimize difference between classes (income, etc.)
    I also think that wearing what is considered your cultures “best dress” could be a consideration.

  43. I have to agree with Matt and Lyle. Carrie’s excellent advice is the type given to businessmen who wish to appear more rich, powerful, and important. Is it good advice for what to wear to church? I’m afraid it may be, and that is unfortunate.

  44. I agree with this entirely. Ties should not be above the belt, 1/2 inch or otherwise.

    Did you not read what our fashion guru wrote on this? Too bad you guys are stuck with your closed minded un-hippness. Fashion-forward…yeah, that’s right.

  45. Lyle: The statment was directed at single adults — but what a shame if my husband were to be “well-groomed and well-dressed” during courtship and morphs into a slob immediately saying “I do.” :) As it is, he’s a dapper fellow when the occasion calls, and I take this as a sign of his responsibility and respect — not vanity.

  46. Lyle: The statment was directed at single adults — but what a shame if my husband were to be “well-groomed and well-dressed” during courtship and morphs into a slob immediately saying “I do.” :) As it is, he’s a dapper fellow when the occasion calls, and I take this as a sign of his responsibility and respect — not vanity.

  47. This is a lighthearted post, right? Let’s not turn it into a lecture on not judging people on their appearances, or supporting child sweatshop labor. These subjects are deserving of their own posts, but I think we’re allowed to have a little fun once in awhile without bringing in the gloom and doom scenarios of the destruction of Zion because of our vainglorious ways. Maybe not.

    Anyway, maybe this is a topic for Part II, but I need more fashion advice on what to wear to Church. I typically dress better for work than I do for Church, because I feel silly wearing suits to Church. And I don’t really like wearing skirts anywhere else besides Church, so I only have one or two of them (which I trade off every other week). I guess I wonder why it seems to be perfectly acceptable for women to wear flip flops and ratty t-shirts to Church, but men have to dress in full suits. Why is this?

    By the way, Pink makes great dress shirts, and they have pretty good sales every once in awhile.

  48. “My first thoughts are to build unity in a group, to identify yourself with the group, to minimize difference between classes (income, etc.) I also think that wearing what is considered your cultures “best dress” could be a consideration.”

    While I’m by no means a white shirt crusader, Civility, I think you’re absolutely correct in your way of thinking. This is about belonging, and communicating a position and a function in the group you belong to. Of course fashion is much manipulated and abused, turned into a tool of wealth and competition, as CarrieH suggests. But that is no reason to go in the other direction entirely. To reject all the virtues of appaearance which Civility mentions is to adopt the ethos of Woodstock. And it’s not like the “come as you are”-commune mentality was particularly encouraging of the sort of loving respect which a ward requires.

  49. I guess I wonder why it seems to be perfectly acceptable for women to wear flip flops and ratty t-shirts to Church, but men have to dress in full suits.

    I don’t think it is acceptable. But then again, my wife wears a suit to church the majority of the time.

  50. Civility,

    I think you make a great point. I was bothered by the apparently color blind mix-n-match choices the members made on my mission to Korea. Then I realized how they made their choices: their best shirt, their best tie, their best jacket, their best pants, and their best shoes.

  51. Sorry, as a brit I won’t take fashion advice off an American. That’s like me giving you advice on oral hygiene. Next you’ll be telling me how nice a side parting looks.

  52. This morning on NPR I heard an interesting piece about a new book claiming that many of today’s ideas about fashion originated with Louis XIV and his court in 17th century france. For example, the idea of having fashion “seasons” apparently started there, as did the marketing of clothing in “boutique” style shops. Here’s a newspaper story about the book:


    Maybe I should start going to church dressed like Louis XIV. Now that’s a classic look. It might also help me avoid some callings.

  53. Russell and Kaimi,

    I think we should be wary of encouraging people to throw out their pinpoint oxfords (“invest in some new white shirts with texture or patterns”) or to purchase a second watch, when there are hungry people. There’s no way to encourage people to buy shirts or watches without making the implicit argument that those purchases are more important than giving more money to PEF or humanitarian aid, and no, that implicit argument doesn’t persuade me. My complaint would be different if the post were focused on Dress to Impress or The Finely Dressed Man, 2005 — that would just be an endorsement of the world’s standards, which is mildly troublesome — but I find the implication that we should bring more of the world’s fashion standards into church, rather than more carefully screen them at the chapel door, to raise a host of moral objections and questions.

    The disclaimer about not caring what people wear to church is natural — precisely because we understand that it’s immoral or improper to care what people wear to church. But the statement of “could not care less” can’t be squared with preferences for long sleeves and single-breasted coats.

    I don’t believe we should be indifferent to what we wear to church, but the gospel standard doesn’t closely track modern fashion trends. People should be encouraged to come to church clean, and wearing clothes that show reverence for the services. That standard has nothing against pinpoint oxfords, double-breasted coats, loafers, long ties, or paisley ties.

    I think I’ll wear my cheap digital watch to church this week, to show solidarity with my brethren around the world who can’t afford a $15 leather-banded one like I usually wear. : )

  54. I should also add, to Carrie, that I don’t mean to direct this at you personally. I feel I care too much about clothes, and the questions I addressed to you are actually directed at that part of me that cares more about having another new tie than about sharing my wealth with my less-fortunate brothers and sisters, “that they may be rich like unto” me. It’s an internal battle I wage all the time.

  55. Matt,

    Now you’re being silly, and you’re smart enough to know that. (You’re also aiding and abetting Lyle in his threadjack).

    Are you actually suggesting that anything that Carrie has said is something that should be “carefully screen[ed] at the chapel door”? I can see you at the door — “Sorry, Brother Jones, but that shirt looks too new. Come back in something a little more ragged.”

    And as for the “it could be better spent on the poor” — Matt, it could _all_ be better spent on the poor. Money that is spent on blogging or legal advice or a car. Why own a car at all? Just bicycle to work and church.

    But the selective invocation of “it could be better spent on the poor” rings awfully hollow coming from someone who operates a cosmetic-pictures business and who sells perfectly-optional little picture cards. Until you start telling all of your own customers just to send their money to the PEF, it is awfully high-minded to (as you’ve done on not one but two posts now) make broad challenges to Carrie’s entire line of work.

  56. We should ask the Q12 how much their suits cost and how many they have. They seem to be doing a pretty good job at grooming AND helping the poor AT THE SAME TIME!!

  57. Woah…Matt…

    “I think we should be wary of encouraging people to throw out their pinpoint oxfords (“invest in some new white shirts with texture or patterns”) or to purchase a second watch, when there are hungry people. There’s no way to encourage people to buy shirts or watches without making the implicit argument that those purchases are more important than giving more money to PEF or humanitarian aid, and no, that implicit argument doesn’t persuade me.”

    There are a lot of other implicit arguments that could be made about the way each of us choose to spend our money (buying fancier computers so we can blog more comfortably, going on pleasure trips to bloggersnackers, etc.). According to your reasoning above, such purchases would imply that you think those things are more important than helping our less-fortunate brothers and sisters in Bolivia.

    Do you deny yourself and family of all purchases unless they are absolute necessities, and then donate the remainder to the PEF? Maybe you do, in which case, I really, really admire you.

    Even the brethren, in their pressed, bright white shirts and conservatively fashionable ties/suits, seem to see the wisdom in dressing appropriately. And I think that’s all that Carrie is suggesting here. Not indulgence, or worldliness, as you seem to be inferring.

  58. Um…yeah…what Kaimi just said. Sorry for the re-hash. I don’t think as quickly on my feet as he does.

  59. Kaimi,

    I’m not arguing in the abstract, I’m arguing that as a people, Mormons need to care less, not more, about the fashionability of their clothes. This is especially true about the clothes they wear to church.

    No one should stand at the door to keep fine-twined shirts from entering the chapel — any more than ragged shirts.

    I would object if someone said that Mormons *should* spend their money on expensive baby pictures. Notice that in the 20 months of T&S, I have never complained about the existence of patterned shirts, or leather-banded watches, and have only complained now that it’s been suggested that members *should* use their scarce resources to buy patterned shirts and leather watches, especially in the context of church attendance.

    And if someone suggested that purchasing my expensive baby pictures, or even my inexpensive scripture cards, would help them feel more at home in church (and I think this thread can only be understood as offering readers a way to feel more comfortable and confident in church — they’ll have a spring in their step knowing they’ve bought a textured shirt and are no longer like the ignorant masses in oxfords), I would be outraged. Whether someone decides to purchase expensive baby pictures should have no bearing on their comfort and confidence at church. This is equally true for the fashionability of their clothing.

    (As for the merits of fashion design, I have only questioned fashion’s being considered an “art.” There’s nothing derogatory about this question — most valuable jobs don’t create “art.”)

  60. Maria,

    Thank you for your comment. Unfortunately I do spend too much of my time and resources on myself. I do not believe we should *encourage* each other to spend even more on ourselves than we already do.

  61. Jared, #56, your post reminds me of the hilarious SNL sketch done by Mike Meyers about a sugar-based toothpaste made by Hedly & Wyche. Fantastic stuff.

  62. It’s not necessarily wordly to buy higher-quality clothing. It is usually better made and lasts longer, and usually but not always produced under more ethically acceptable conditions.

    Question about tailored shirts: is a custom fitted shirt with a slim look more comfortable than an off-the-shelf shirt with a slim look? How would one go about finding a shirt like this or someone to make one? My husband absolutely refuses to wear his proper size — always half an inch too big in the neck and an inch too long in the sleeves. He doesn’t seem to see the balloon in the back created by the oversizing. I think some people’s senses are more easily offended than others’, and he’s one of those people. (He also has a “supertaster” and “supersniffer.” Makes it challenging to find a hotel room — the slightest trace of smoke or mustiness sends him back to the front desk.) His sense of sight is obviously not so picky, though. After twelve years of marriage I’ve stopped grumbling over this but I do still occasionally sigh … it would be nice to fix it.

  63. Like Matt and Lyle seeing this post turned my thoughts to the value of good homely cloth. However, I also reread the verses in Alma; not only did those disciples use good homely cloth, but they also had an abundance of silk and fine-twined linen. The verse following the textile inventory asserts that in their prosperous circumstances, they did not send away any who were naked, hungry, etc. So that righteous people ornamented themselves with silk and attended to the poor among them at the same time.

  64. Matt,

    I think I understand where you’re coming from. I agree that we all spend way too much money on ourselves.

    I guess I just think that some of the posters here should be a little more sensitive–to not dismiss Carrie’s line of work as pure pridefulness and sin. What clothing we choose to place on our bodies each day, these temples which house our spirits, is actually quite important. The clothing we choose can effect our self-esteem, our attitudes, and sometimes even our worthiness. I don’t think it’s something we should just dismiss, or vilify.

    The sad fact is, we have to live in this world, and we have to interact with people who will judge us by our appearance. Thanks, Carrie, for your willingness to help us navigate the mores of appropriate/decent clothing selection in our society.

  65. Matt,

    You are missing the point of this post. Carrie is not advocating that everyone go spend more money on the clothes they wear to church. In fact, she has specifically said that it doesn’t take a lot of money to dress appropriately. But people wear shirts and ties to church. And many churchgoers feel the need to wear a suit (the most expensive item of clothing in my wardrobe by far). Since we don’t make these items, we have to go buy them. The question is whether you buy short sleeves, novelty ties and a double breasted suit or something else. A little fashion advice goes a long way in that regard.

    The only comments in this post that might be taken as telling people that they “should” spend more money on clothes is Carrie’s advice to go shopping every season to replace your clothing as it wears out or goes out of style. But by going shopping every season you can significantly decrease the overall amount you spend on clothing because you can purchase things on discount rather than paying full price.

    As for your argument that shopping is a waste of time that could be better spent doing something else . . . I spent an hour discussing with you whether fashion was art, and you have now rehashed that argument here. We both would have been much better off spending the time looking for new ties.

  66. Todd: You’ll note that it was precisely the “shopping every seasons” that prompted by initial post. You suggest it decreases overall amount spent. This is true; but only if you buy at the end of a season; and then don’t wear the clothes until the next year. As this is apparently not fashionable, it doesn’t seem to fit with the advice. Thus, it seems more likely that buying every season is encouraging more shopping and spending on clothes.

    Also the “going out of style” is another point. I don’t think God cares about style. Perhaps we shouldn’t either?

  67. God also doesn’t care that we speak jibberish. But we speak English because those around us do and it communicates.

  68. Lyle, if you are buying clothes that go out of style after just one season, then you are not following the advice above.

  69. I don’t want this to come off contentious, nor do I want to criticize anyone who actually cares about fashion especially Carrie. So if I do offend, please accept my apology in advance. I try to allow and accept that everyone has hobbies with which they best associate. And I feel like fashion is just that, a hobby— something to which people devote free time and money. (obviously there are people for whom this is a profession as well). My concern with fashion as it compares with other hobbies is when we expect others to hold it in the same esteem we do, and criticize what they wear and their appearance when they don’t. If a person chooses to care about fashion, that’s great – just as it is great if someone chooses to care about stamp collecting and dismiss fashion. But if those that don’t care are held in disregard because of their indifference by those who care, therein lies my concern. And I think fashion more is much more guilty of this offence than other hobbies, most likely because it is much more noticeable than others. I think this is why we have been repeatedly been warned to watch how finely twined our linens are.
    Let me illustrate.
    Rarely does someone who plays the guitar as a hobby criticize the person with a $200 guitar because it doesn’t have the same sound quality as his/her $3000 guitar. And if someone doesn’t play the guitar at all, that’s fine too.
    I certainly believe there is a level of hygiene and decency that needs to be maintained, but beyond that, we should never hold others to our fashion values.

  70. Carrie,

    Thanks for a helpful post. 76 comments in a morning is a testament to the fact that we need your advice!

    I must say that I have new respect for you men out there. I always thought it would be pretty easy to dress as a man but it doesn’t seem so simple after all.

    That said, I have a lot of respect for the point that Matt is making. I’ll save my more substantive remarks for the post on women’s fashion since I think women (especially young, single women) bear more guilt on this front than men.

  71. Rusty makes an excellent point: it’s about communication. We choose what to communicate. I was once given the advice that I should be a high quality expensive suit so that I would communicate “success,” “competence,” etc. Instead, I choose to wear more economical, albeit probably lesser quality, suits. I choose to communicate “moderation” and “not flashy”; along with not being yet another Jones for others to have to keep up with.

  72. What about suspenders? My beloved is a large person, and belts are entirely useless on his build.

    Just as a thought…some of us do find it necessary, on occasion, to buy new clothes. Rather than interpret this very fun and informative post as encouraging sinful waste, I took it as helpful advice for when making new purchases. Also, if we find it necessary to dress spiffy for some reason, like a job interview or a professional engagement of some kind, or a social occasion where “cocktail attire” is specified, this kind of information is very helpful.

    If a regular length tie is too short, use a pratt knot. It looks very much like a double windsor, but uses less cloth, so you can hit that all important belt length without spending the big $$ for extra long ties.

  73. Todd: by definition, clothes go out of style every season. If the advice is more general than that, fine. To the extent it requires purchasing clothes simply because others are no longer wearing that style, or it isn’t hip/cool, etc., I reject it.

    Kaimi: I think Matt showed alot of restraint. That was quite a cheap shot about his occupation.

  74. John,

    The question is whether we’re at the Alma 1:27-30 or the Alma 4:6-10 stage of silk-affection! If I felt we were doing better to “every man did impart of their substance, according to which he had,” then I’d not be so concerned that our hearts are too set on our riches.


    Thanks for taking time from your tie-buying to speak with me, yet again! I know this has probably seemed like I’m taking Carrie to task, but I haven’t meant to. She (and others here) are just the messengers for a part of myself that I’m trying to overcome.

    I believe our recommendations about the seasonality of clothing, or trends that go in and out of style, must recognize that some of these issues exacerbate the vexing cultural and economic barriers that prevent our developing a spirit of pure brotherhood in our wards. Many members are unable to update their wardrobe yearly, or to concern themselves with the number of buttons on the jacket they don’t own. I should also add that I believe almost all fashion is relative: the reason textured white shirts are popular now is because too many people have broadcloth and oxfords. Broadcloth will be back once too many people have textured shirts, as they did 30 years ago. No one has argued against broadcloth and oxford shirts because they don’t *wear* well — my experience has been that they last longer than textured shirts. The same goes for digital watches — the reason they’re discouraged isn’t because they’re less functional or break easily, so for this reason I don’t think this thread can be justified on grounds of practicality. I believe the main reason people want to look different from others is to signal their social class, and to divide themselves into groups, all in the name of self-expression (we’re all good at figuring out which group a person wants to associate with, looking only at their wardrobe).

    Similarly, the swankiness of driving a Mercedes convertible would be gone if everyone in the whole world had one, and much of our fashion styles are driven by the same mindset. I believe that mindset is an obstacle we must overcome if we are to build Zion.

    I agree that recommendations on shopping smart (shop off-season, start with basics, avoid fads) are valuable.

  75. Well, hubby breaks some of these rules and looks pretty awesome at church. I stay on top of the shape of his shirts, socks, belts, shoes and pants, so that’s all good, but:

    1) I will only buy pants with cuffs. Cuffless pants are oogy. JMO.
    2) We’ve yet to find flat-front pants that fit his thighs. He is built like a linebacker.
    3) I love his Tabasco ties. They are more subtle than the Loony Tunes ties he sported on his “mish” and yet he feels individual.
    4) When we can afford a suit again, we’ll buy well. That is one of my rules, too. I’ll leave him in nice slacks and long-sleeved white shirts until we can afford a good suit.
    5) We’re in a married student ward and he dresses better than 90% of the men–I’ll take it!

    Anyway, enjoyed Part I. Any part commenting on women’s clothing is bound to stir the pot (which I enjoy as well). Denim or no? Flip-flops or no? Different rules for end of pregnancy and nursing? Some of my friends have been asked in their respective Stake Conferences to always wear pantyhose, dress or skirt, and nice shoes, even to Enrichment.

  76. Ana #69 re: tailored shirts — they are indeed more comfortable, no ballooning, etc. that you get with others. They’re not that hard to find, either – even JC Penney’s now has a tailored shop which you can look at online. Other good tailors are Thomas Pink and Ascot Chang.

  77. Matt,

    Re watches, it seems like she’s saying to wear your sport watch when playing bassketball and your nice watch to church. I don’t see why that idea is offensive.

    You may have a perfectly functional pair of sneakers that you play ball in. Would you advocate wearing them to church? Why or why not? They’re perfectly good shoes, after all. And think of all the money you could donate to PEF rather than buy dress shoes.

    Heck, why invest in a suit at all? Your regular clothes are fine — just wear jeans and a T-shirt to church. Right? (And then donate your suit-purchase moneys to the PEF). Isn’t that where your logic ultimately leads?

    So why are you so confident that you know where to draw the line on this slope between rags and finery, and so equally confident that the line that Carrie or others may choose to draw (and note the comments — a lot of people seem to agree with Carrie’s line) is somehow fundamentally wrong?

  78. Kaimi,

    I am disappointed by the degree to which Mormons impute spirituality to particular styles of clothing, like business suits. But I certainly wouldn’t recommend someone go purchase a leather watch so they look better at church — Bill Clinton wore a digital Timex IronMan watch with his suit when he campaigned for president in 1992, and his advisors would of course not let him wear basketball shoes. There are people who wear sport shoes to our ward, however, and I don’t see how I can encourage our members to wear nicer dress shoes (no penny loafers!) without making those people feel like second-class members.

  79. Kaimi, of this I am sure: where you draw the line is fundamentally wrong.

    p.s., for those interested in good suits: this blog is worthwhile.

  80. Wow! You leave your computer for a morning to go to a midwife appointment and all hell breaks loose. Thank you to my husband and Kaimi (and a few others) for fighting my threadjack battles. You will find as more time goes on, I don’t love jumping into a brawl like my husband. I will say that I have a few more posts up my sleeve where these threadjack comments might be more relevant so maybe we could just save this post for those who want to discuss men’s fashion advice in a lighthearted way.

  81. Must . . . resist . . . urge . . . to . . . mock . . . Matt . . . for . . . selective . . . use . . . of . . . Bill . . . Clinton . . . as . . . role . . . model . . .

  82. “she’s saying to wear your sport watch when playing bassketball and your nice watch to church. I don’t see why that idea is offensive.”

    But why? What is the purpose in telling other people what watch to wear to church?

    One reason is that some people like to be told. They don’t feel comfortable deciding for themselves what kind of watch to wear. When they wear the expert-prescribed style of watch they feel more comfortable and confident. Perhaps there is nothing terribly wrong with that.

    But from there I’m afraid it is a very, very small step to start looking at other people’s watches and feeling like we are better than those who wear the wrong one.

  83. Matt, much of what you say may be true in certain wards/contexts. If you are right that “the main reason people want to look different from others is to signal their social class, and to divide themselves into groups,” then this would indeed be an obstacle to building Zion. But I question the validity of that premise generally. It is certainly not my experience here in NY.

    Moreover, I believe individuality and difference can actually contribute to the ultimate cause of Zion. After all, we are seeking to be one in Christ, not dress etc. Too much focus on being the same in other ways (including dress) can take our focus from where it should be – on Him. If you don’t want to dress fashionable, then don’t. But if you want to, then Carrie has given a few tips. Either way, you are choosing to separate yourself from others. If we continue to focus on Christ, I don’t think the differences in the way we dress will keep us from building Zion. Indeed, that difference might even be a good reminder of our overall unification in Christ.

    I also find it all too convenient for people to dress sloppy in the name of avoiding “costly apparel.”

  84. I’ll agree with Todd. Perhaps we’ve just had different experiences, but while Matt seems worried about the person who spends too much time thinking about clothing, I’ve seen far too many members who don’t seem to spend any time on the subject. Old, worn-out, holey, stained clothing is perfectly acceptable if you’re too poor to buy otherwise. But when longstanding, financially comfortable members are wearing “white” shirts that are covered in stains, holes, ring-around-the-collar, brown underarms — well, I think that there is a definite contingent that could use Carrie’s advice to buy a few new pieces of clothing.

    That said, let’s let this threadjack die for the moment.

  85. Oops, continued the threadjack after being reprimanded by wife. Good thing our couch is pretty comfortable.

  86. I’m of the opinion that you have to work to read this post as anything more than a confection in the window of the bloggernacle–its frivolousness to be enjoyed with friends and then filed under “pleasant/amusing”. If you see it as morally loaded, consider the words of President McKay: “Perfect people would be awfully tiresome to live with; their stained-glass view of things would seem a constant sermon without intermission, a continuous moral snub of superiority to our self-respect.” There are plenty of other gnats to occupy the bloggernacle’s collective urge to strain . . .

  87. And even someone skirting the line between presentable and fashion disaster such as myself knows that short sleeve dress shirts shouldn’t show up in church unless you work in the music industry.

  88. “I don’t think that anyone’s going to go to hell because Carrie tells them that double-breasted suits are out of style.”

    So true.

  89. Russell (#17): “[A] fair chunk of my wardrobe consists of short-sleeve buttoned and collared shirts (white, red, light blue, teal), which I wear with ties, sometimes with a sport coat or a suit jacket (and sometimes without), and dress slacks, khakis, or suit pants. I mix and match a fair amount.”

    That look was pioneered by Andy Sipowicz, and it is fabulous.

  90. If Carrie has some posts up her sleeve, I just have to wonder what kind of sleeve it is. Leg o’ mutton, I suppose, so she can put a lot of posts in it.

  91. What about a stale cigarette stuck in a big smear of NyQuil in a wispy beard? That’s kind of hot, isn’t it?

  92. Maria,

    “Do you have any suggestions on how to tactfully approach family members (husbands, siblings, parents) regarding their fashion offenses?”

    I have no suggestions because I only give advice when asked. Until then I will honestly say, while I am constantly absorbing everything about how people dress around me, I really don’t judge their style at least not in a negative way. I am not the Fashion Police and I still stand by my first statement that I could not care less about what people wear to church. I feel I can say this and continue on in my post with “what not to wear” because my “pointers” are not laid out for the purpose of judging what others wear to church, they are pointers given out because a few people asked about what they could do for themselves. They are ideas to give an interested party a little direction to the thought processes of what they choose to wear – specifically to church. If you feel you already put too much thought into what you wear, or you feel comfortable with your own style, know that this post was never directed to you in the first place.

    Lyle – I love that you wear bow ties. I wouldn’t suggest them for the average guy who is looking for their own style, but if you wear them and feel comfortable with yourself. That is what personal style is all about. To me, this goes back to my disclaimer # 2 about appropriatenes and personality.

    Lastly, I want everyone to know that I’m not offended easliy. The arguments brought up are inevitable and I have heard them all before–just as I am sure you all have confronted with statements consisting of “intellectual pride” and the “philosophies of men”. I can only imagine things will get worse when part 2 gets posted. Girl fights are always nastier.

  93. Any tips for the khakis and dockers crowd? (Personally, I think my husband is attempting to avoid being in the bishopric.)

  94. Nate (#21): I can’t afford real seersucker on an associate’s salary, so I have to stick with the Neersucker ™.

  95. Jared (#56),

    Besides Paul Smith, what have the Brits done for fashion? I’m not doubting your claim, just trying to make sense of it.

  96. In every student ward there’s that guy who always sits alone with holocausty eyes silently waving the sacrament away and you just know he had a really, really bad weekend. I want to dress like him.

  97. Wearing khakis and dockers won’t necessarily keep you from the bishopric. Nor will crazy hair and a beard. Trust me on this one.

  98. Mark B.

    That’s some great fashion humor. I am really impressed that you know what a leg-o-mutton sleeve looks like!

  99. Todd, when I was called to the bishopric, I stopped cutting my hair thinking that would remedy the situation. In the end they were just impressed with what they assumed to be my Nazirite devotion.

  100. How did I know that Lyle wore bowties? Just his personality, I guess.

    There is an episode of the Simpsons when Homer attempts to wear a short-sleeved shirt with a tie to a swanky country club.

    Marge: “Homer, I don’t think you should wear a short-sleeve shirt with a tie.”
    Homer: “Ohhh, but Sipowicz does it.”
    Marge: “If Detective Sipowicz jumped off a cliff, would you do that too?”
    Homer: (says as he walks away) “Ohhh, I wish I was Sipowicz.”

    My wife calls it the Dilbert look.

  101. We have a young man (I think now college aged but still living at home?) in our ward who until recently had longer-length hair and sometimes facial hair. The other week my 2 1/2 yr old daughter exclaimed “There’s Jesus!” Out of the mouths of babes, right?

    I agree that “appropriate” and “modest” have a context. I’ve been trying to dress a bit more nicely for church myself lately (having just come out of the jean skirt and t-shirt for nursery phase). I like the more “professional” guidelines for sister missionaries of late, and like the almost antiquated idea of dressing in your “Sunday best.”

    For me, taking the time and putting the effort into dressing nicer helps put me in a more reverent mindset for church. It’s a preparation and a setting aside my worldly self. It’s different for me than my husband, though, ’cause I am dressing up as a CHANGE from what I wear for my daily work (at home with my kids), while he wears “business” clothes all week. Okay, back to work.

  102. Learning every day: didn’t expect to see this much interest in this topic.

    I remember when the white-shirt guideline was announced in the late 60’s. It seemed to be a response to the excesses of the time. Rather than a negative list of what not to wear, the church set a positive standard of what was wanted. Because I then was working through some of my own issues with autonomy, I quit wearing white shirts to church. Caught up in some of the social views of the time, I saw a disconnect at the beginning of my mission, when told 1) avoid the appearance of evil and 2) wear business suits. Now, I’m a full-blown MBA that enjoys using commerce to help families provide for themselves.

    # 17 & 40. Short sleeves with suit jackets. Yes, the shirt’s cuff should protrude ½” from the suit’s sleeve. Joseph Fielding Smith once sat for a portrait photo with shirt sleeves that were too short. The photographer draped paper napkins on his wrists and slide them inside his jacket so they appeared to be ½” sleeve protrusions. I used to look at the copy of this portrait in the Los-Angeles temple — the real shirt cuffs were visible up inside the jacket sleeves – and think of his humility to do that.

    # 41 David O. McKay was a dude! He used to wear light double-breasted suits. His photo on the dust cover of “Gospel Ideals” shows his pinky ring.

    I’m willing, now, to follow whatever standard is asked. If clothing is another way to be a peculiar people, so be it. The Lord’s requirement seems to be humility, avoiding flashiness, and keeping your clothes clean: “And again, thou shalt not be proud in thy heart; let all thy garments be plain, and their beauty the beauty of the work of thine own hands; And let all things be done in cleanliness before me.” — D&C 42 40-41 To this I would add that the consideration of whether we are trying to appear to at-one with family, ward, etc or a-part from them.

  103. When my brother in Utah got called to the high council, he was informed by Boyd K. Packer (someone who loves rules A LOT – and it was his home stake) that now that he (my brother, not President Packer) was on the hight council, he would only wear white shirts to any and all church meetings.

    I don’t think there’s anything wrong with non-white shirts, (I actually love the pink dress shirts, sorry if I’ve offended, but they just look so nice – the pale pink ones) but my brother is now always in white, per President Packer’s instructions. I guess living in the East has its advantages. Sigh….

    I’m with Carrie, though. All white shirts are not created equal. I bought my husband new ones after we were married, he seriously needed some. Plus, personal experience has taught me that sometimes more expensive clothes are actually cheaper in the long run because they last so much longer, keep their shape better, and stay in style longer, if you buy something classic. I still have a suit I wear to church that I bought in 1995, and I get compliments every time I wear it. Try getting ten years worth of wear out of a cheap white shirt……

  104. Todd and Kaimi,

    Coincidentally, I wrote my last comment to you immediately after I received an email from a leader in the NY stake, who wrote:

    I endorse your sentiments posted on T&S about proper dress. The wearing of fine apparel in the BOM, as you note in your posts, frequently precedes or accompanies periods of apostasy. Whether its reflective of the lack of concern for the poor, demonstrative of economic classification, etc., it all seems anathema to Christian teaching. Maybe this is coming down too hard on it, but we are all effected by it, consciously or unconsciously, and it merits multiple BOM mentions. I suspect that if all members dressed similarly in our Ward/Stake, it would go some ways in breaking down the cultural and economic barriers that are vexingly difficult to overcome.

    I mention this only to show that at least one leader in the NYC stake thinks there are cultural and economic obstacles that are exacerbated by the differences in economic equality symbolized by different dress standards.


    I agree that financially comfortable members should wear clothes that are clean and non-disgusting. I’ve never suggested otherwise. If this thread dealt with that issue I wouldn’t have bothered to comment. But this thread doesn’t simply tell those with stained, holey, and brown-arm-pitted shirts that they should purchase a new $13 oxford shirt at Costco or TJMaxx. What I’ve taken issue with is counsel for members to purchase textured white shirts, rather than the less-expensive oxfords or broadcloths that last longer, and counsel like it.


    Thank you for your thick skin! Please don’t take any of this personally, my response is a reaction to the inner-demons that make me feel like 20 ties are not enough.

  105. I haven’t noticed a pinky ring–but I did read that President McKay took a lot of pride in his appearance. Personally though, I think pinky rings make you look like a thug or a poseur.

    The one thing missing from this thread is a primer on haberdashery from A. Greenwood. I still haven’t figured out what a pork pie is.

  106. Russell,

    It seems that you have already taken quite a beating for your “short sleeve shirt with suit and tie” style. Like I told Lyle, if you are comfortable with yourself in that look, then by all means go for it and stand tall. If the men’s stores are filled with them, you will obviously not be the only one. My pointers are based on my personal taste (and training) and are far from any fashion rule.

  107. I won’t say hello or even acknowledge people in my ward if they aren’t wearing Polo or Zegna. Anything else is offensive to my acute fashion sense. Same reason I can’t watch those “Save the Children” commercials. Have you actually seen what those kids are wearing? Scary!

  108. You really think that you can hide Brent behind that “leader in the NY stake” veil? C’mon Matt. Come clean.

  109. Sorry, Mathew.

    Here’s one website’s http://shop.store.yahoo.com/dadshats/porkpie3.html definition of a porkpie:

    The Porkpie Hat (Pork Pie Hat) was favored by 1950s jazz musicians and is now making a serious comeback with many artists of today. It is noted for the groove encircling the flattened top of the crown, but there is also a new diamond-shaped version with a short brim. The Porkpie hat is generally for casual wear and has a compact, almost squashed-down look, with a two inch snap brim worn flipped up.

  110. Speaking of hats, Carrie: When are they coming back in? It’s been almost 45 years, and now only the OJ’s and a few elderly men still wear hats. What’s the prognosis?

  111. #55 Alamojag- I thought that the Koreans were wearing their favorite shirt, favorite tie, favorite slacks, etc.

    #62 I wonder if the Q12 have a special discount card for Mr. Mac? Permanently laminated like their temple recommends?

    I think we should stop wearing clothes all together and donate the money we save to the missionary department!!!!

    My wife tells me that she will let me wear my bowties only with a tux shirt, a patterned white shirt, vest, or sweater. She doesn’t like the expanse of white.

    Grandma Jones told me not to worry about what other people did, because they were all busy trying to keep up with us.

    I share this recommendation with a strong word of caution. I have found some very good (even new) suits at the Salvation Army. The caution is not to let the low price talk you into making a bad purchase. You can get some good retro ties here too.

  112. Add my name to the list of people on the board who are wondering what to buy and wear if you are very parsimonious (which my wife always translates to “cheap”, which seems unfair). Is there a way to look good but not spend a lot? If so, do I have to go the Napoleon Dynamite/Deseret Industries route?

  113. “What I’ve taken issue with is counsel for members to purchase textured white shirts, rather than the less-expensive oxfords or broadcloths that last longer, and counsel like it.”

    The word “counsel” makes it sound much more authoritative than “Fashion tips”. Thanks for the boost!

    Seriously though, my comments about trying to look for white shirts with texture were directed towards some men who feel like there are no choices when it comes to white shirts. I was merely trying to point out that following “counsel” to wear white shirts to church does not have to be as restrictive as one might have thought.

    Finally, I just flat out disagree with your point that oxford and broadcloth shirts are both less-expensive and last longer.

  114. Matt,

    Coincidentally, I read your last comment immediately after I received an email from a leader in Salt Lake City, of which there are only twelve, who wrote:

    I decry Matt Evans’ sentiments posted on T&S about proper dress. While the wearing of fine apparel in the BOM, frequently precedes periods of apostasy and seems anathema to Christian teaching, we should do our best to be clean and neat in our apparel and countenance. The wearing of clothing within the acceptable norms of fashion and taste is surely a reflection of our desire to offer up the best of ourselves, even our finest in appearance, to the Lord on His holy day. I suspect that if all members shared this attention to devoting their best in our Church, it would go some ways in breaking down the spirit of slovenliness and inappropriate levity that are vexingly difficult to overcome.

    I mention this only to show that quoting anonymous leaders is ridiculous.

  115. To use an old BYU Daily Universe standby, I am “shocked and appalled� by some of the comments that this light hearted post has elicited. When Carrie was invited to blog, a number of people invited her to blog about fashion. Others were even so bold as to ask for fashion advice, specifically as it relates to clothing that is appropriate for church. Save the comments about the evils of fashion and the selfishness of updating your closet for the more serious posts that she has alluded to, and lets sit back and enjoy “What not to wear,� Part 2. Thanks Carrie, I loved it.

  116. I like it when Pres. Hinckley wears his little shabby beltless raincoat and fedora. Or whatever it is, in between a fedora and a bowler sort of. Anyhow, he looks classy in that rumpled Columbo kind of way. Or is classic a better word?

  117. I just received an angelic visitation (he was clothed in an absolutely stunning white robe–textured, but not over the top). He let me know that threadjacking was inappropriate.

  118. The other day I saw Elder Eyring being driven in a golf cart across BYU campus. He was hunched over in a black raincoat looking pale and gaunt and apostley. If we could all be pale and gaunt in black raincoats, and apostles, in golf carts — oh, to hell with it.

  119. Great post, Carrie! Fashion is a form of artistic (and political) self-expression, like home decor or taste in music or cars. Of course any one of these forms *could* be taken to conspicuously consumptive extremes, or used to judge and ridicule others—but it’s not inherently prideful simply to choose one’s clothes (or furniture or CDs) in accordance with one’s sartorial interpretive community.

    I’m suprised at the number of women who take active roles in dressing their husbands. I really don’t interfere at all in John’s wardrobe—I rarely even buy him clothes—and I don’t really care what he wears (well, when we were dating I did veto the bowties he wore). And I flatly refuse to be in charge of rotating and replenishing his underclothes! I do, however, do his laundry, fold it, and put it away.

  120. Carrie,

    Thanks for being such a good sport about this. “Counsel” may not be the right word, but you’re the closest thing T&S has to a fashion guru, so your advice/recommendations/suggestions/counsel is as authoritative as we’ve got!

    What I don’t like about the premise of the textured shirts advice, even if it’s in response to a lack of men’s choices, is that it condones (or even elevates) the value of distinguishing oneself at church with one’s wardrobe. I think Mormons need more reminders that the texture of their shirt doesn’t matter at all, and that they shouldn’t worry about it.

    As for inexpensive white shirts, both Sam’s Club and Costco sell single-needle, 100% cotton pinpoint oxfords for $13, regular price. I don’t know of a store that sells textured shirts for that price every day, and my Costco shirts have worn better than the designer textured shirts I’ve bought at TJMaxx, Nordstrom Rack and Filenes Basement, that cost more even though I got them off the bargain racks. I still wear a Hathaway pinpoint my mom gave me towards the end of my mission, eleven years ago, and just recently retired a LandsEnd pinpoint I got at the same time, not because it wore out but because I got a spot of yellow acrylic on the sleeve when I was painting a picture for my daughter on a Sunday evening, out of my suit but still in my dress shirt. Don’t get me wrong, I like textured shirts and have a few of them, but they haven’t lasted as long as my pinpoints.

  121. Matt,

    In my experience, you can pick up some textured shirts in the $15-20 range (sometimes a little more) at Century 21 or Burlington Coat Factory.

    I’ll wholeheartedly second your good review of Lands End shirts. They’re nearly indestructible, they’re easy to keep looking good, and they have a nice variety of colors (and yes, some variety in textures). They don’t usually go for $15, but they’re definitely not bank-breakers either.

  122. Matt,

    Are you intentionally signalling how great your wardrobe is with your references to your leather watch band, twenty ties and shirts from Nordstrom;)

  123. 113. Nobody’s yet mentioned the similarity of apparel in the temple and how that answers “I suspect that if all members dressed similarly in our Ward/Stake, it would go some ways in breaking down the cultural and economic barriers that are vexingly difficult to overcome.”

    127. “Shocked and appalled” started with Dallin Oaks. While BYU’s president, he about Cougar fans’ poor sportsmanship in booing and catcalling unfavorable calls by officials. He said that rather than insult them, we should be stay above that and have the attitude that we were shocked and appalled. A euphemism for the feelings behind the boos and catcalls thus was born.

  124. Steve,

    Quoting anonymous sources is common; you read enough news to know that not everyone who’s willing to speak wants to go on record. The emailer didn’t ask me not to use his name, but I didn’t use it because I figured if he wanted to speak publicly he’d have posted a comment rather than send me an email. If you’re suggesting that I made up the email in the first place, as you were doing in your parody, I wasn’t.

  125. Is it unethical for a wealthy person to get clothes at the Salvation Army? The NYC locations often have some great clothes; I’ve found several handmade shirts and good quality clothes. They’re not as nice as Matt’s Nordstrom ensemble, but it’s a start.

  126. Matt, your journalistic integrity is outstanding — you deserve to be in jail next to Judy Miller. I will gladly name my source: Boyd K. Packer. Yes, Elder Packer told me that your comments were dead wrong.

  127. Carrie,

    One of our readers e-mailed me and asked I pass on a question to you. Our anonymous reader — let’s call him “Cleve Evans” — wanted to know:

    “Can you please discuss the finer points of wearing a feather boa to church? For instance, should I match it to my tie, my socks, or both? Also, is it acceptable to wear a feather boa with a short-sleeved shirt, or is it long-sleeved-only? Finally, is there any ethical reason not to shop for feather boas at the Salvation Army?”

  128. Yes, finery and frippery, etc. The symbolic value of clothes is certainly a motif that runs throughout the Book of Mormon. But it’s not clear to me what the social conditions of Nephite society were that led to those and how that maps onto modern American society. As has been pointed out general authorities tend to wear very nice suits, shirts and ties. Is that finery?

    Is the line one of quality of materials or type and style of cloths?. As others have mentioned, it’s probably easier to have this discussion related to woman’s fashion.

    Or to put it another way: it seems to me that people draw the lines in different places — what constitutes finery varies by person. Most of my clothes are from JC Penny, Costco and the Geoffrey Beene outlet. Are they finery? They’re nicer than those who get their clothes from Target and Walmart, perhaps.

    A person who buys their shirts at a semi-upscale department store may not see their clothes as finery because they’re not from Neiman Marcus or a Saville Row tailor or whatever.

    In other words, I think that part of the problem is that finery varies by social strata. At what level do we hit finery?

    I’d also add:

    There is a certain aesthetic pleasure to nice clothes. Should that be completely dismissed? Is it okay to spend money on sporting events or a boat or hunting gear or a new couch or nice cuts of meat or a $50 collectors edition of the Book of Mormon, etc., for the pleasure/utility they bring to our lives? Should one always buy the cheapest of anything? What’s the right balance of quality and price?

    For the record, I’m a fan of white broadcloth shirts (with either a point or spread collar). I don’t do oxfords, however.

    [Part of the problem with Oxfords, I’ve found, is that they tend to grey and pill faster because of the looser weave. And I tend to keep shirts a *long* time — until they wear out — so broadcloth works better for me even if it wears out a bit faster — it stays looking nicer longer.]

  129. Mathew,

    I’m only showing that I’m in no position to cast stones, as I have way more stuff than I can justify in a world of need, but I don’t want you to think I shop at Nordstrom — I’ve only shopped their discount store! (At least since high school.)

    Having grown up in a relatively poor family, I’m sensitive to those who feel excluded because they don’t have the right things. Growing up I was completely aware of clothing’s social signals (some poor people don’t realize that other people are trying to dress better than them; maybe they’re lucky) and feel bad when I consider that my clothing shows that I care about having a variety of ties, rather than just one or two, and knowing that some people will necessarily assume I think they should have more ties, too.


    I don’t think it’s possible to defend fashion advice on the grounds that fashion is self-expressive. If someone prefers three-buttoned coats, textured shirts, or leather watches, they don’t need anyone to tell them. If someone buys three-buttoned jackets because someone tells them three-buttoned jackets are hip, the person isn’t being self-expressive, they’re consumer sheep.

  130. Messrs. Evans and Evans,

    You will shortly receive subpoenas seeking the names of your confidential sources. Be prepared to testify under oath before the grand jury.

  131. Matt (# 145),
    Not entirely–I frequently have to tell people why they should enjoy jazz. And then I try to figure out, based on other stuff they listen to, what jazz they will like, and then loan them that jazz. And suggest other jazz artists they may like. Certain aesthetics are more difficult for the novice to step into without help. A person who has never studied fashion (into which category I clearly fall) may have no idea, on their own, how to broach the subject. But Carrie is an expert, who can help us take our first step into that world. That doesn’t make a person into a consumer sheep, any more than being introduced to Miles’ Kind of Blue or Brubeck’s Time Out makes a listener a jazz sheep–it offers a jumping-off point, at which point, the person can begin to make his or her own educated decisions.

  132. Sam B. – I make the same arguments about Yanni. If you like his Reflections of Passions more than Out of Silence, I don’t think that necessarily makes you a consumer sheep. Yanni is a difficult world, one that requires some time and trial and error. I view clothing and aethestics in a similar way.

  133. Steve,
    See, that’s a world I just can’t enter. I have a Yanni CD, but nobody has adequately explained to me the aesthetic of how he plays (or, for that matter, how he dresses). So it is stuck, lonely, in a plastic sleeve, and I dare not buy Reflections of Passions or Out of Silence.

  134. Steve E.: Thanks for taking Kate’s advice to heart and posting light-hearted stuff on this thread, as apparently was originally intended (your originalist you).

    OIC: While you’re at it; please out Prudence.

    William: Critical point. Your answer seems to say the answer is relative vis-a-vis social strata. Yet, isn’t getting rid of social strata part of Zion building?

  135. I leave to give my very last final exam at Arkansas State University, and I come back to find over 70 new comments on this single thread. Let’s hear it for Carrie Lundell–she’s brought T&S back, baby!

  136. Matt,

    The problem as I see it is that you are intent on saddling the rest of us with your own hang-ups. I have already said that I think people are just having fun here–I’m certainly having fun. Fashion IS frivolous–and I take it that most adults understand that so we don’t get bent out of shape if we don’t dress as nice as our neighbors (if we do get bent out of shape, we might have a problem with envy that needs looking into). Russell Arben Fox will probably go on wearing his shirts and might even take some pride in his ability to be so distinctly unstylish. Steve will keep buying clothes at Wal-Mart despite his ability to shop Target–or even Macys. And I will keep wearing boring clothes than blend into the crowd. When people say “try textured shirts” they aren’t saying “only miserble peons wear untextured shirts.” Rather they are saying, “this is something I think is fun–try it out!”

  137. Sam B.,

    Your comment segues into my question about fashion being art or not. (I’m inclined to think it is not because it’s not timeless.) The problem with the fashion advice like that given here is that it’s time-sensitive in a way that jazz appreciation is not. Nothing you can learn about the cut of jackets, shirts, or fabrics can tell you which particular styles are being recommended to men today. The advice here deals with What’s Hot Now, rather than timeless principles. There’s no artistic reason to prefer three-button suits but dislike double-breasted suits; three-button suits are on their way out — you won’t be able to buy them in 2012 — and double-breasted suits will again be popular, even though nothing inherent about the suits will change between now and then.

    I don’t believe this is analagous to jazz music. It’s the same yesterday, today and forever, so to speak.

  138. “It seems that you have already taken quite a beating for your ‘short sleeve shirt with suit and tie’ style. Like I told Lyle, if you are comfortable with yourself in that look, then by all means go for it and stand tall.”

    Actually Carrie, since reading your suggestions this morning I’ve reflected several times on the fact that I haven’t fundamentally changed my wardrobe–individual pieces, sure, but not its basic patterns and structure–since I was a graduate student. When I go to job interviews as a professional academic, in my short sleeve button-downs, khakis, and sport coat, I’m dressing the same I dressed for interviews when I was a new Ph.D. without experience. I should be communicating something else by this point! So, while it may not affect what I wear to church that much, thanks very, very much for the counsel. (And please, keep it up–my wife is desperate for you to write Part II!)

  139. Sam: helping people take their “first step” into the fashion world is one of the concerns. If folks become more “fashion” conscious, will this be a positive step? As Ryan Bell recently pointed out; folks tend to learn/remember different stuff. Frankly, I don’t know the difference between oxford, pinstripe, broadcloth, whatever…nor do I really want to; although the next time I buy a white shirt…I’ll probably look to see what it is.

  140. “Speaking of hats, Carrie: When are they coming back in?”

    I second Mark B.’s question. Also, you know what I’d like to come back in? Thin ties. I found a thin leather tie in one of my missionary apartments; it must have been cast aside by an elder back around 1984 or so. I wore it for the rest of my mission, and loved it. It was my favortie tie. I love that look. (Not everything Adam Ant did was a disaster.)

  141. Mat,

    I think the Book of Mormon makes clear that my hang-ups are not my own. We must assume the many warnings about fine clothing in the Book of Mormon are there for a reason. Finally, I don’t see why you think it’s fun to highlight and stress key markers of social class — if you look around your ward on Sunday you’ll realize how easy it would be for a stranger to guess each member’s social class, looking at nothing but their clothes.

    I’ll let Russell speak for himself about the effect this thread has had on him.

  142. Matt,
    That’s the argument Wynton Marsalis would make; I would argue that most jazz is not timeless (and my collection of GRP records from the 80s would bear that out). But even still, my argument is not the artistic or timeless nature of fashion–I have no horse in that race–but, instead, that fashion is such a broad and imposing discipline that seeking out advice about where to start does not make one a “consumer sheep”; instead, it allows those of us who have spent our time in other pursuits an entree into the fashion world.

  143. “I don’t believe this is analagous to jazz music. It’s the same yesterday, today and forever, so to speak.”

    Louis Armstrong to Dizzy Gillepsie to Miles Davis to Wynton Marsalis. All trumpet players, all from the same broad jazz tradition, and yet all with radically different sounds, which themselves changed and fell in and out of public favor as the years went by. New Orleans, swing, bee-bop, cool, fusion, etc.–lots of variation over time. I don’t think your criticism here holds, Matt.

  144. And Carrie, talk to me about Jerry Garcia ties–they aren’t novelty ties, exactly, but my wife would rather I not wear them (although she once bought me one that she found not too aesthetically offensive just because I like them so much).

  145. I release Matt Evans from his duty to protect my identity as his source. As the head of the Temple and Family History Committee of the Inwood 3rd Ward, Manhattan Stake, I spend a lot of time ruminating over how to overcome the boundaries that divide those under my stewardship.

  146. I have a couple of thin ties that I rescued from a pile of my grandfather’s ties that he was donating to DI. They’re from the ’50s and I wear them quite a bit. The key is to have the right pants to go with them. It depends on the pant, but a dark textured or patterned pant often works with a thin tie — that way there’s more balance in the ensemble i.e. I don’t care if I look like I stepped out of 1987. I like how it looks.

  147. Matt,

    The Book of Mormon only makes clear that pride (as defined in President Benson’s talk) is a sin. The cause of enmity between people and God can be clothes, but it can be anything else as well. Clothes themselves, like all tools, are morally neutral.

    Your posts on this thread indicate that it is you personally who are very attuned to clothes as markers of social class. This problem isn’t exclusive to you, but your own admissions indicate that you feel it particularly acutely. Your solution is to eliminate such markers. Frankly that sounds more like the sort of man-made solution popular at one time in Eastern Europe than what the gospel, as I understand it, teaches.

    We aren’t here to be all the same, but to love one another despite our differences/sins/whatever else gets in the way. I’m something close to a complete failure in this regard, but it isn’t because of what somebody wears. That’s why I don’t view this conversation as a moral one. I think most people genuinely feel this way–after a certain age most people intuitively understand that clothes don’t determine individual worth.

  148. Sam,

    I don’t know anything about jazz music, but I’d guess that one can learn to recognize good jazz music. This can’t be done with the kind of fashion advice we’ve been talking about because fashion is a function of the times. What fashion czars say looks great today will be passe in a few years — not because the underlying “art” has changed — but because the look has fallen out of favor. Consider color: brown suits come in and out of fashion, but there’s absolutely nothing about the brown suit that is changing. Nothing we can learn about fashion can tell us whether brown suits will be popular in 2012 or not, but there is a lot we can learn about jazz music to know with certainty that Louis Armstrong will be popular in 2012. (And Jasper Johns, John Updike and John Steinbeck, too.)

  149. I’m surprised that no one (not even Prudence McPrude) has suggested the idea of going naked or fur. Obviously, that would give us all a healthy dose of equality, and alleviate some of the burden of this whole fashion thing.

    I, however, will happily continue to listen to some fashion counsel. For Davis Bell, and his concerns re classism amongst ward members regarding differences in clothing and such, it may do some good to have the bishop encourage a few members to donate some of their nicer clothing to the Bishop’s Storehouse. I’m personally giving some of mine to Goodwill, mostly because I used to buy shirts that were a little too big for me (all in the name of comfort, not fashion). Now that I have a wife to let me know what looks better on me, I have taken the opportunity to give those away to people who they will fit better.

  150. Russell,

    All of the jazz musicians you mentioned are popular now and will be in 2012 and 2022. We can’t say the same thing about three-button suits, monochrome ensembles, textured shirts, pant-cuffs or penny loafers. That’s what I’m arguing is the difference between art and fashion.

  151. Mat,

    Clothes may be morally neutral, but the scriptures consistently condemn the wearing of costly apparel, and repeatedly draw the connection between apparel and pride. It is wrong to worry oneself with clothing because there are more important things to do, and because much of our clothing choices are designed specifically to distinguish society into classes. Getting rid of clothing as a social marker wasn’t limited to Eastern Europe — various United Order communities used uniforms for exactly that reason.

    I may be especially attuned to materialistic cues about social status, but I doubt it. I’ve been around enough people to know that they attribute social class based on a person’s stuff, including their clothes, and have read enough articles about Dress For Success to know that many people judge others by the clothes they wear. Frankly I’m stunned you and others are disputing that clothing marks social class — until today I thought the concept was universally recognized.

  152. Some may have watched the 1948 film LDS Leaders: Past and Present. (It is found on the Moments from Church History videotape along with The First Vision and Restoration of the Priesthood.) This film consists of 21 minutes of silent footage of prophets and apostles walking out of the Salt Lake Temple. Some (my children for instance) would find this boring, but then there’s me. Splendid Sun’s recent note on President Hinckley’s gray suit brought one of the two particular things I noted in that film the last time I watched it. Even in black-and-white, the early 20th Century leaders’ clothing had a variety and vibrancy that exceeded what we associate with their current successors.

    The other thing was David O. McKay. After reading so many times, particularly this past year, about how handsome he was, it gave a thrill to see him smile and think “Ha! I’ve got better teeth than he did.” Sinful pride, I know.

  153. Matt:

    As Kaimi wrote < ahref="http://timesandseasons.org/index.php?p=2464#comment-87142">in the other thread, the stock of particular artists go up and done — this is true in music, visual arts and literature.

    Just because fashion changes, that doesn’t mean we can’t find aesthetic enjoyment in the options that are currently on the market.

    There are also boundaries. Fashion — esp. men’s fashion — isn’t any more changeable than, say, art. For instance, men’s suits from the ’50’s (and even ’70s) all seem to be much more of a kind than the popular styles in the art galleries.

    I don’t like Geoffrey Beene shirts and pants simply because they are in fashion (actually, he’s not one of the hotter designers right now — well actually, he’s dead — but it’s not one of the hotter labels right now), but because it’s a line of clothing that suits my body type and aesthetic sensibilities. The pieces in the collection may vary from one season to the next (and there may be some seasons where I don’t like anything) but the basic aesthetic values tend to stay the same or of a kind. [Of course, I don’t have the kind of money or interest to actually acquire things from season to season as I add maybe one pair of pants and two shirts to my wardrobe each year — and those usually to replace clothes that have worn out]

    And what I’d argue is that when it comes to the level of appreciation (as opposed to criticism and history — although one might be able to make the same case there too) and ennjoyment, that distinction doesn’t really matter.

    What matters is not whether something is timeless, but the aesthetic choices, craftsmanship and interaction with society that are bound up with the work and how you relate to it.

    Granted, there are people who get caught up solely in the ‘fashion’ aspects of clothes. But then again, the same is true of other mediums — film, music, art, literature.

    This is not to say that there aren’t mediums and artists that persist more strongly and popularly — Shakespeare, Mozart, Coltrane, etc. — but the presence of such persistance is a continuation of the aesthetics, craftsmanship and ‘how it speaks to people’ that I mention above.

    Unlesss the human body radically changes, fashion design and the way its’ history flows will be as relevant and filled with beauty (and not beauty) as any of the other functional arts.

    You may be right in that fashion has a different time cycle than other arts, but I think that’s a slightly different discussion.

    But all this is secondary. What Carrie mentions in her preliminary caveats (1-5 above) hold true for me and for, I hope, all of us.

  154. But, even tho I’ve never seen you, John Mansfield, I can assure you that you do not have better hair than Pres. McKay. And he could shut his mouth.

  155. Matt Evans,

    Re#170: So is it costly apparel or the love of costly apparel that’s the problem? Kind of like money vs love-of-money being the root of all evil?

  156. On uniforms and the United Order:

    I have heard it tell (I have Orderville relatives and spent most of my childhood in Kanab) that a problem with the order was that many members lusted after the styles of the world. Which isn’t to say that the core idea is problematic, but that it’s a very difficult thing to overcome. Of course, part of it wasn’t just style, but the fact that homespun just often isn’t that comfortable.

    The point I have tried to make is that since we live in a world of social strata and markets and of materials, when it comes to such functional things of beauty as clothes and interior design and architecture, we should place the emphasis on the aesthetics of such pieces and the wonderful-ness of materials (cotton, granite, leather etc.) and the expression of personal style rather than worry about social markers. Or in other words, if your shirts are like Gatsby’s shirts, then, yes, you have cause to repent.

    In short: we should all be eccentrics.

  157. Lyle,

    If you’re actually a seer, like the prophet, then seer sucker may be acceptable. If you’re not a seer, you’re treading on thin ice.

  158. William,

    Thanks for your comment. I didn’t mean to suggest that the visual arts don’t change radically — they clearly do — but that it’s not conceivable, about any good painting I can think of, that would be desirable to display in my home today, but wouldn’t be similarly desirable in 1995 or 2015, or even 2150. The popularity of paintings and music isn’t flat, it rises and falls, but I don’t believe they follow the drastic cycles that french cuffs and the color brown do, even over long periods. Carrie could make a long list of fashions one should avoid in 2005, but I think we’d be hard pressed to make a similar list of currently unacceptable music or painting styles.

  159. I’m totally behind Matt Evans on this. I still wear a shirt from my mission, occasionally wear tennis shoes to church, and haven’t worn a suit jacket in 6 years. I do have a nice selection of dressy slacks and some decent ties, which is all I feel I really need to look nice for church. But being a (relatively) poor grad student, I can’t afford to buy a new wardrobe every season. In fact, I’m going to have go into a small bit of debt soon just to replace some of the most worn out church clothes I have.

    After reading these comments, I’m sorta gald I don’t attend church with most of the commenters. I’d be pegged as a fashion disaster and judged harshly, based on the comments contained herein.

    Keep ’em honest, Matt!

  160. Matt:

    That’s very true. But again — it depends on the painting. Market-driven styles aren’t solely the domain of fashion — it’s the case for any popular art (movies, for instance).

    And, of course, in spite of Carrie’s suggestions, I will continue to wear pants that are cuffed and pleated — they just look better on me and please me more. I’m much too thin to carry off the flat front look.

  161. Russell,
    Like I said, you’d be a good hipster. Thin ties are all the rage in Williamsburg (Brooklyn) right now. I still can’t swollow it though.

  162. I’m still recovering from the “no novelty ties” rule. My wife has bought most of them for me; she thinks I am too boring, and wearing ties with Bugs Bunny or the Tasmanian Devil on them gives me more personality.

    Included in those novelty ties are about 20 Christmas ties. I can wear a different Christmas tie to work every day between Thanksgiving and Christmas without duplicating. It seems the only rule I am keeping is the “no short-sleeved shirts with a tie.” I am not a tall man, and short-sleeved shirts seem to emphasize that fact.

  163. “I�m stunned you and others are disputing that clothing marks social class � until today I thought the concept was universally recognized”

    I don’t think I’ve disputed that, Matt (though perhaps you didn’t accuse me of doing so–this thread has grown so quickly I’ve probably misunderstood various points along the way; my apologies if that is the case). Like cars, education, homes, technological gizmos, and so much more, clothes can become ways to highlight differences and marginalize one group of people or another. In other words, the condemnation of costly apparel–i.e., apparel which is marked for what it is exactly because of its cost–is right on the money. I think my earlier comments made clear that I agree that any defense of the language of “appropriateness” when speaking of clothing can lead to abuse and social pride. I just don’t think that therefore makes the language of appropriateness utterly useless. It is good to know that we, as a community, have come to think about the appearance of people who perform different functions and have different aims within our common community in a particular way; it ignore that knowledge entirely, and insist on being your “own person” (whoever that is), seems to me at least as much a potential source of pride as the decision to switch to trendy four-button suits.

  164. You know, it’s funny you mention ice Kaimi, because when there is nairy a cube of ice to be found outside a freezer is exactly when folks wear a seer sucker because it is warm weather friendly.

    Happily, per the scriptures, we are all supposed to be seers, right? :)

  165. Matt,

    I certainly am not disputing that clothes mark social class and if that is the best reading that you can give my comments then I probably ought to give up. But costly apparel can be a source of enmity for both the person who wears it and the person who gazes on it. In your case it seems that what you once were aware of but couldn’t have (comment 145) had morphed into something you are aware of but refuse to possess or possess but worry about possessing because you are concerned that others might feel as you felt. I’m not sure anything has changed other than your purchasing power. You seem a little fixated. You seem like you attach great importance to something that most of the adult world has sized up, tipped its hat too and moved on.

    Clothes can be seen as a signal of prestige, poverty or little more than an individual’s color preference. You determine the reading. The scriptures use clothes, but they could have (and did) use many other things that get between us and God. Ultimately, however, it’s not whether or not you can recognize Manolo Blahniks, but whether their presence/absense changes the value you assign to the individual who wears/doesn’t wear them. Being able to totally disregard markers of social status is probably impossible and possibly not desirable, but being able to see the divine worth of the individual despite those markers is the goal. No doubt Christ would dine with a wealthy man in all his sartorial splender as willingly as he supped with publicans and prostitutes. No doubt the wealthy man has a multitude of sins of which he stands in need of repentence, but it is wrong to assume that dressing well is one of them. Maybe he just rolled out of bed and put on the first thing he saw:)

  166. Hope he doesn’t mind… after reading Carrie’s post this morning, Russell decided to throw out his old white shirts and buy several new long-sleeved ones. While I don’t mind the look (blame me for his geek look; my dad dresses the same way, so I don’t notice), I think at this point in his life, it’s much less about fashion and more about impressing someone enough so that he can get a job.

    I’m all about bringing back the idea of “Sunday Best”. It’s GOD’s HOUSE for crying out loud, you should want to look good. It’s called respect for the place and the person you’re worshipping there. I’m sorry, but I cringe when people wear jeans, sneakers or flip-flops to church. IMO there’s something not right about that. Call me prideful and judgemental.

    Rosalynde, I could never fold my husband’s underwear. Ew.

  167. I’ve seen a bunch of old photos of President McKay in white seersucker suits (at least they look like seersucker; I could be wrong). Very cool.

  168. Ivan: “After reading these comments, I?m sorta gald I don?t attend church with most of the commenters. I?d be pegged as a fashion disaster and judged harshly, based on the comments contained herein.”

    Ivan, I think that’s terribly unfair. Latter-day Saints who are aware of fashion and use it as an avenue of self expression most likely understand that other Saints simply have other avenues with which they express themselves—the radio stations programmed in their car, the reading material hidden inside their manual, the shades of paint in their homes, the design of the flower garden out front. Looking at you, they’d probably conclude only that you don’t share their interest in fashion—-just as any gardener looking at my front yard will conclude that I don’t share their interest in gardening. That doesn’t mean you can’t be close friends or that you won’t share other interests in common. Sheesh!

    Melissa—LOL! There are a lot of things I don’t do for my husband (ironing, for example), but for some reason folding his underwear doesn’t bother me. I won’t let him fold mine, though, because I’m ridiculously picky about it being folded very precisely and stacked very, very neatly.

  169. Hey, just the short-sleeve white shirts, Melissa! I’m going to keep the long-sleeve ones. The fact that the newest short-sleeve white shirt I own is, I believe, about seven years old (the others are, uh, significantly older…) makes the decision easier.

    “It’s GOD’s HOUSE for crying out loud, you should want to look good. It’s called respect for the place and the person you’re worshipping there. I’m sorry, but I cringe when people wear jeans, sneakers or flip-flops to church. IMO there’s something not right about that. Call me prideful and judgemental.”

    Never, my dear; your thoughts are my own. Though I don’t think it’s so much respect for God (what does He care?) as for all the people who make up this church through which we worship Him.

    The reason I don’t let you fold my underwear is because you do it wrong.

  170. Carrie and fellow bloggers – interesting and amusing comments all around. Your post struck a great tone, I thought, Carrie. Thanks for the contribution (esp. for humoring all of us as you’re preparing to have a new baby. Yippee for you.)

    My husband would feel unity with many of the husbands described here, I think. He’s a shop-once-a-year-and-get-several-pairs-of-dockers-in-two-or-three-muted-colors sort of guy. But what a guy. I’ll occasionally thrill myself and buy him a shirt with a pattern that’s not a sedate small plaid or in a color that’s not in the brownish-khaki-ish family. But it really is for me, not for him. I’ve found occasionally shopping with him to be informative for both of us. I see what he gravitates toward, and I can show him how great he looks in things he wouldn’t gravitate toward.

    As for me, I’m definitely going to hell if we’re judged by the ‘need’ level of our clothing purchases. I’m as big a clothes (and shoe) horse as the next woman, actually bigger than many, I’m sure. And, as a professor and mom who has no real professional dress code in either arena, I have to say that I like having a place each week where I feel that I can and should wear nicer things (and can thus justify buying some things that aren’t sensible for shopping at Target, carrying a preschooler up stairs, or walking around campus). I absolutely save my best clothes for Sunday. I was raised to dress for Sunday with this sense in mind.

    But since there’s such variety in what is any given person’s ‘best,’ I feel a lot of sympathy for some of the sentiments and self-reflection behind Matt’s and Lyle’s posts (even if I think they have been a bit heavy-handed for a thread that offered fashion tips [not counsel!]). Our current ward is very urban. This means we have public housing and gentrified turn-of-the-century neighborhoods–and plenty in between–all within our boundaries. I love the mix–it just feels like the great variety of all of God’s children together each week. You name the article of clothing (and the price range and the modesty level), we’ve pretty much got it on any given Sunday. We have people who come in dirty clothes, probably because they don’t have a washer, or regular money for a laundromat. We have people who wear the same dated but tidy things every week. We have people who rarely wear the same thing from week to week. And we have people in fine-twined (and custom tailored) linens. To the extent that there’s a good spirit of love and community in our ward, I think it’s because there seems to be an ability to look past clothing, from both sides. Which is not to say that clothing isn’t worth thinking about. It’s just that it seems right for it not to be a source of judgment. At enrichment meetings there’s a monthly clothing pass-around. That seems appropriate, too. We have a construction worker and an attorney in the bishopric. I’m sure their clothing budgets differ wildly. But they both always look tidy in their dress and humble in their demeanor to me. Maybe that’s the combination we should strive for.

    If there’s one piece of advice in Carrie’s post that I think could make the most difference in enhancing the spirit of Sac. Mtg., in particular, I’d have to say it’s the novelty tie – esp. character tie issue. I just never quite get why anyone thinks it could be a good idea for a deacon to bring his fellow saints the sacrament and force them to look at the Tazmanian Devil as they’re reaching for the bread and water.

  171. Matt,

    Regarding, but not limited to #170: Mormons should be the most approachable people in the world. A huge part of being approachable is related to dress. In that regard, we can benefit from thinking about what we wear.

    Here’s my litmus test: when I’m walking from Grand Central to work and I’m waiting on a corner, if someone on the corner asks for directions, and they pick someone besides me to ask, I reexamine what I’m wearing that day. (Of course there are other variables, especially my mood.) If I look too conservative (think twin set), punk-looking teens won’t ask. If I have a flower in my hair, lawyers won’t ask. If I’m wearing too much black, senior citizen tourists won’t ask. Neat, stylish, but not too stylish seems to be the most approachable to the largest number of people I meet in Manhattan. This may be different in Los Angeles or Provo.

    If I can’t be approached about directions, what are the chances I’ll be approached about more important things? Clearly, considering our dress is important, even in the face of PEF.

  172. Ivan, you’re a grad student … in Alaska, if I remember right. I grew up in Fairbanks and remember the experience as one of those geographical fashion idiosyncrasies Carrie mentioned in her disclaimer. Go bunny boots, go furry earflaps, go cowboy shirts, go ties with wolf motifs! Enjoy it and blow a kiss to all the uptight fashion-heads in the lower 48. (I always get homesick in August!)

  173. My apologies if I was heavy handed; perhaps it was the fact that after church mtgs on Sunday; we had a “Deseret Industries”-esque open house; i.e. folks brought in items for the less well off members of the ward to take. I understand that the goods come from grad students who leave the ward & don’t want to pack everything and those more well off that want to give. Anyway…

    If you were in the way of the nearly mad stampede of poor members (many of whom get transit tokens from the ward to help them get to church) hoping to get clothes for their kids…

  174. At the risk of facing more wrath for my extensive collection of novelty ties, I use for part of my defense the well-documented and often-discussed (on T&S, at least) love that Mormons have for kitsch. Kitsch, it’s not just for doctrinally incorrect fiction anymore….

  175. Ki-yi-yi, what a great post.

    Some of the comments, however . . .

    Bolo ties are ALWAYS right, if worn with cowboy boots (the hat is optional). Age is no object.

  176. Gabrielle,

    There is so much wisdom in your litmus test. Thank you for sharing that.

  177. Gabrielle,

    Interesting test. And lawyers won’t talk to you if you have a flower in your hair? Yikes. What a dull, colorless bunch we are.

    (Perhaps that partially explains the odd looks other lawyers gave me when I wore a flower in my hair at the office . . . )

  178. Re #114

    A porkpie hat is squat, flat-topped with a groove, and brimmed. They’re usually felt. I’d recommend against wearing one unless you have an African-American, very dressy and bold casual style– bright silk with a gold watch, e.g.
    However, a white straw porkpie with a band (mine is black) looks very good with daytime, not too dressy, dress clothes. Not so good with a beard, though.

  179. Yes Adam–porkpie was defined (121), but I’m asking for the general tutorial. Not that I want to wear a hat, but I’m interested to learn what sorts of hats men wear/wore in the U.S. and their names.

  180. Sometime, we could discuss how language — both its level of usage and native/foreign — also is used as a social marker. It seems like “What Not to Wear” and “No More Foreigners” are running some strong parallels re: stratification and assimilation.

  181. Fedoras

    derbies/bowlers (round) – associated with butlers for some reason, though extremely respectable people wore them

    homburgs (a dip in the middle) – Winston Churchill wore one

    tyrolean caps–often made of cloth

    cloth caps (think golf, Newsies, e.g.)

    boaters (flat, straw hats with larger brims. Think political conventions)

    top hats

    cowboy hats

    shapeless, battered thingamajigs (the popular choice of the 19th Century)

    No one wears hats these days as part. Certainly no one wears homburgs, bowlers, and so forth. You will see an occasional fedora or tyrolean hat, especially straw fedoras. Black Americans sometimes will wear porkpies. President Hinckley wears a kind of tyrolean when its cold. He’s a well-dressed man.

    Do a google search for men’s hats and you’ll pick up a lot of examples.

  182. I believe Pres. Kennedy is credited with starting the hatless trend when he appeared bareheaded for his inauguration in 1961. Maybe his bounce from the TV debates prompted him to show his face better for the inauguration.

  183. Mat,

    The reason I’m confused about your position is that in the very paragraph you acknowledge that clothing marks social class you suggest that I’m the only adult who still notices it. (I can’t tell if you’re saying that clothing used to mark social class, but doesn’t anymore, or if noticing the distinction between social classes is something we’re supposed to outgrow, and poor people should just get used to the fact that rich people want to distinguish themselves from the poor.)

  184. Hippodrome Hatters in Baltimore has a good set of pictures of the various hat types that Brother Adam listed. A nice hat is one thing that will generate compliments, even from strangers, especially hat-wearing strangers.

    In that vein, back in my bachelor days, a bow tie would prompt the same one-word response from several women: “Impressive.” That’s a tip I’ll pass on to my sons someday.

  185. Gabrielle,

    I think your approachability test is a great metric. Here’s something that I’ve found works wonders: when you think someone may be looking for help, look directly at them, as though you’re expecting them to ask you a question, and they will.

    As for signalling our approachability with our dress, I think people who are dressed especially nice (especially if they’re physically attractive to boot) communicate that they believe themselves to be important, a communication that severely reduces their approachability. This is one of my fears about wearing nice clothes, even when I got them cheaply. (Fortunately I have a boyish face and easy smile!)

  186. Want a hat, come to Brooklyn. My dad (who never quit wearing hats) needed a new hat while serving a mission in New Jersey. He and my mother came up for a visit on New Years Day, and we went down to Borough Park (the Orthodox don’t give much of a hoot for these newfangled holidays–their new year is in the autumn) and found a huge selection, reasonable prices, and New York service.

    Mostly he wears a fedora, but he had a nice Tyrolean that he picked up in Vienna back in the 70’s.

    Kennedy may have signalled that something was about to happen when he showed up for his inauguration (on a bitingly cold day) without a hat, but sometime in 1962 it was as if someone had thrown a switch, and all men in America quit wearing hats. It may have been the Cuban missile crisis that pushed them over the edge.

    If hats came back in, it would force big changes in our lives. Hat etiquette, which we’ve either never learned or completely forgotten, would have to be taught. I can see remedial schools popping up all over, helping those with hat etiquette learning disabilities. Actually, I think I’d enjoy one or two priesthood meetings a year on the subject (it’d beat those home teaching lessons!). We’d need hat racks again. We’d need hat cleaners and blockers–good luck finding someone that can clean and block your hat nowadays.

  187. Rosalynde,

    Your comment to Ivan overlooks the obvious fact that clothes cost money. Assuming that Ivan doesn’t care about fashion from his not having better clothes is like assuming he doesn’t like exotic vacations because he spends his free days at the local swimming hole. It’s important to remember that almost no one is ever wearing the clothes they would wear if money and time were no object. No tie I’ve ever bought is one that I would design were I to design them myself, so even ties that I’ve chosen myself aren’t my first choice. And of course my “choices” have always been constrained by cost.

  188. Ana –

    I’m from Alaska and plan to return there, but currently I’m attending college in Texas.

    Rosalynde –

    Go back and read many of the posts, putting yourself in the frame of mind of the tragically unfashionable and (relatively) poor. Even if I tried to read a sense of humor, many of the comments come across as self-righteous and judgmental about fashion because they condemn others for not meeting a certain standard. I try to look as nice as I can on a grad school budget, but the standard pushed here insinuates that’s not enough.

    However, I’m not taking any of it as actively malicious. It seems to be more passive judgmentalism on the part of the fashion concious.

  189. Julie in Austen, thanks.

    Please share pictures of the flower in the hair. And I apologise for making assumptions about lawyers. Maybe they were bankers, but mid-town? arriving to work between 9:00 and 10:00 am? dressed in suits? Probably lawyers.

    I agree, eye contact works wonders. I find it more difficult to make eye contact, if the person is behind me. Lucky for you Matt — you have an easy smile and a boyish face. For those of us who don’t, we can compensate for this with our dress.

    Also, I agree the person you’re describing in #212 that’s dressed so nicely does not sound very approachable — maybe he needs to reevaluate what he is wearing per my recommendation. My question for dress: does this make me approachable by the largest number of people? It’s obviously possible to have an unhealthy focus on clothing that is self-centered and vain-glorious. On the other hand, you can’t just wear anything. For example, if you are 25 and you’re wearing a suit from the 70’s, you may be attempting to not care about clothes, but to people around you, it is more likely to look like you are trying to cop some attitude. If you shop at Bergdorfs that doesn’t make you approachable. If you shop at a thrift store, that doesn’t make you approachable. If you shop at Lands End, that doesn’t make you approachable. I don’t think you gain in virtue by spending or not spending money on clothes. What I am trying to suggest, is that it’s possible to have a healthier focus on clothing that’s based on being approachable.

    Matt, I think you’re important. (Not in the self-important way, but in the You are a Child of God way.) :)

  190. Clothes are communication. We are products of our culture and we can’t escape the fact that what we wear communicates, like it or not. If you don’t care about looking nice, fine, but just know that you’re communicating that you don’t care about your appearance. That’s all.

  191. “Go back and read many of the posts, putting yourself in the frame of mind of the tragically unfashionable and (relatively) poor. Even if I tried to read a sense of humor, many of the comments come across as self-righteous and judgmental about fashion because they condemn others for not meeting a certain standard. I try to look as nice as I can on a grad school budget, but the standard pushed here insinuates that’s not enough.”

    The tone put forth by my initial post (and hopefully many of the fashion commentors) came from the fact that I named it “What Not to Wear” after a somewhat cruel but very informative self-help fashion program. As I stated before in my answer to Maria about how to approach people about their fashion offenses, I only give advice to those who ask for it. I will add now, when I given this requested advice, it is never in the same tone as my post. The tone set out was purely done for entertainment value and I believe that many of the other comments should be given that same reading.

  192. Carrie, kudos for a well-written and well-intentioned post. At the risk of going unnoticed among the cacophonic din of the foregoing comments, I feel compelled to submit yet another comment. Although some of the readers here would apparently be better suited to the plain white robe and naked bosom sported by resurrected beings, Carrie’s advice is entirely appropriate for those of us who maintain a terrestrial identity. Moreover, I think Carrie’s fashion pointers are worthy of going forth to all men, Jew and Gentile, and not just to the high-minded-yet-fashion-challenged Saints here, some of whom obviously have far more spare time than I do as evidenced by the ad nauseum responses posted above.

    This topic reminds me of a joke that bears repeating. Q: Why are missions only two years? A: Because that is how long it takes for a suit from Mr. Mac to fall apart. Carrie is absolutely correct in that clothing wears out and needs to be replaced. If you (as in all of you reading this) donate your old clothes to Deseret Industries, Goodwill, or the Salvation Army, you need not feel any guilt about buying new clothes every season. Someone else will undoubtedly use them, and if nobody shopping at a thrift store wants to buy your clothes, you probably shouldn’t be wearing them either.

    To those of you who decry the worldliness of fashion sensibility, you have a fair point whenever we judge those among us who may be coarsely appointed to be inferior based on their clothing. Men’s fashion has historically taken its lead from clothes worn by the upper classes, European aristocracy, and Hollywood celebrity. But I submit that most fashion historians consider the Depression-era 1930s as the height of elegance in men’s clothing — not because of the well-heeled dress of the privileged class, but because the common man’s fashion sophistication was not far behind. It is indisputable that modern church dress for men has evolved into its present standards based on the traditional Anglo-American business suit and its standard accoutrements: a long-sleeve dress shirt, tie, belt, dress socks, and business shoes. Yet I am consistently amazed at how few men actually wear a suit to church. And even more surprising to me is the jacket-less, sloppy, wrinkled, scuffed-up attire that frequently passes for “Sunday best.”

    My father, a poor Mexican immigrant and product of the Depression era, never dressed richly, but he always dressed properly. He always wore a suit and tie to church and he always shined his shoes on Sunday morning. My mother taught me and my brother how to properly iron a shirt, and neither of our wives can come close to matching our skills. (And yes, I use medium starch.) My blessed mother also taught me how to match ties with a shirt and jacket, and that my socks should match my pants and that my belt should match my shoes. My parents both grew up dirt poor, but they always looked sharp, because people made an effort in those days to look their best with whatever they had. Maybe I was just raised old-school, but I am consistently amazed at how many people I observe (both at church and elsewhere) who just look slovenly, for lack of a better description.

    Unfortunately, many of the principles of traditional men’s fashion and grooming have simply been lost on this generation, or perhaps we have simply dwindled in unbelief. I personally view the disappointing downward trend in appropriate church attire as merely indicative of the casualization of men’s fashion as a whole. Because this is an area that I tend to pride myself on (yeah, that’s right, all you self-righteous Philistines, I said PRIDE), I humbly offer some additional comments, not with the intent to judge or condemn, but to inform and to empower men to look their very best in both business and church attire:

    1. Carrie’s first point bears repeating. No short-sleeve shirts with a suit or sport coat. Period. And I strongly counsel against wearing short sleeves at all with a tie — short sleeves are best confined to sportswear, regardless of the fashion proclivities of certain television detectives, cartoon characters, professors, or techno-philes.

    2. Buy quality that will last. This applies particularly to suits and shoes. I have a pair of Allen-Edmonds wingtips that cost $300. I have worn them for over ten years now, they are still in fantastic condition, and I expect to wear them ten more years. (If you polish your shoes regularly with a good coat of stain wax, they will be protected from the elements and they will last much longer.) The same goes for suits — find a high quality wool suit with a hard finish. It will spring back into shape when you hang it up and you won’t have to have it pressed as often. Soft, loosely woven fabrics look great, but only for a couple of years. I tend to eschew designer labels for the most part in favor of classic English and American tailoring, but that’s just personal taste — the Italians make great clothes too. I will vouch that clothing from mid-range department stores such as Nordstrom and Macy’s, while tending toward the mid- to upper- end of most members’ price ranges, will last far longer than clothing from JC Penney and Mervyn’s. As for the comments regarding Costco, I would prefer not to buy my clothes at the same place I can buy a bag of 20 frozen burritos and a gallon of peanut butter. But what do I know.

    3. Learn what size you are, buy clothes in your proper size, regardless of the style. Most men buy their clothes too big because they think they will be more comfortable that way. They just end up looking sloppy and ridiculous. Being fashionable is not necessarily co-extensive with being comfortable — just ask the women who trot around in high heels and hose all day. As an FYI, fitted shirts are in fashion right now.

    4. Find a good tailor you trust. Even a $3,000 Armani suit can look absolutely horrible unless it’s properly tailored. Everybody has a slightly different body shape, and very few clothes come off the rack with a proper fit. Different suits and shirts have different cuts, and you should make sure that yours accommodates your body type (a good salesperson can advise you). Moreover, a good tailor can help significantly extend the life of your clothes when you get fatter, skinner, or if something needs mending. Sleeve length should be enough length for the shirt to bend without pulling on the cuff, and definitely should not extend beyond the base of the thumb. French cuffs are a stylish variation, but please do not use those fake “buttons” that come with the shirts — get some real cufflinks.

    5. No piece of the male business wardrobe offers more room for subjective expression than the tie, and there are virtually no hard and fast rules, but there are certain guiding principles about color, texture, and pattern that ought to be followed when attempting to coordinate with a shirt and suit. For those with an untrained eye, a wife or a significant other female ought to be consulted for a second opinion. For those who insist on coming to Jesus in their novelty ties, I doubt He sincerely cares about your fashion indifference, but I really think that having the Tazmanian Devil dangling from your neck during a worship service says it all about you as a person. Moreover, nothing screams middle-management like a tie bar, and I would personally avoid them at all cost, but I admit they may come in handy when you encounter wind or soup (not necessarily at the same time).

    6. Some miscellaneous style comments. I disagree with Carrie’s comment regarding double-breasted suits — although they are not in fashion at the moment (other than with David Letterman), they will come back into fashion eventually, and rather than view them as old and conservative as Carrie does, I view them as a bit stylish. In addition, I disagree with Carrie’s comment on pleats. Although flat-front slacks are quite popular at the moment, pleated wool slacks will always be a classic style. The key is to make sure that the pleats lay flat and don’t gape open, because then you will look fatter. A basic rule of thumb is that flat front slacks should be left un-cuffed, but pleated slacks should be cuffed. I prefer a moderate to slight break in the trouser leg, but this is governed by the kind of shoes that you plan to wear with the trousers — a full break is appropriate with loafers or slip-ons to cover your socks. Make sure you have the tailor measure your slacks with everything in your pockets that you normally wear — wallet, keys, etc. — so that they will drape properly for the fitting. The point about the tip of your tie reaching your belt bears repeating, and I note that larger knots are in right now (full Windsor or Prince Albert) with spread collars, which are also popular at the moment. Learn to tie a few different knots. The tie knot should be in proportion to the jacket lapels and shirt collar — a pointed collar should have a smaller knot. I’m personally partial to the four-in-hand as it seems to be quite versatile. In my opinion, cotton slacks should be exiled from church attire entirely, but if you insist upon wearing Dockers (aka Casual Slacks for the Big-Butted Man), make sure that they are the wrinkle-free variety and prefereably are a lighter color, since dark cotton slacks fade terribly.

    There are too many other details to enumerate here, so I respectfully suggest that those seeking to improve upon their own style and fashion sensibility read any one of Alan Flusser’s books, Dress for Success (a little dated, but most of it is still applicable), or Esquire’s book on men’s style. There are also some other excellent books that are out of print (e.g., Elegance, by Bruce Boyer). Unlike other kinds of art or skill, men’s fashion is frequently less intuitive than it is learned. Carrie has been kind enough to offer a few basics that would vastly improve 75% of the fashion emergencies appearing at corporate offices and ward meetinghouses across the country. But frankly, this is the tip of the iceberg for those of you with enough panache to care. As several those above have stated, the better you look, the better you feel. Those of you who simply don’t care about how you look are in the majority, so there are plenty of slobs to keep you company.

  193. Daniel,

    Should the men who buy our old shirts at the thrift store feel comfortable wearing it to our wards? If the shirts aren’t good enough for us, but are good enough for them, we’ve problematically communicated that we’re better than they are.

    I bought a pair of sharp, black wingtips before my mission with leather uppers and heavy, faux-leather synthetic soles. I wore them throughout my mission, then to church and law firm interviews for more than ten years. They cost $50 at DSW. $300 worth of those would last for 72 years, and never need to be resoled! (I finally replaced them because my wife found a newer pair of wingtips at Goodwill last winter.)

  194. Regional differences. I gave up wearing white shirts with patterns with them as I left my twenties. These days I just buy white shirts from lands end. On the other hand, “short sleeve dress shirts” are not dress shirts, and even worse, you can’t roll the sleeves up (you look like you are working harder with your sleeves rolled up, a useful skill).

    Button down white shirts with suits — all the time in court, though Rex Lee did have the SCOTUS guys tell him to dropp the button downs for appearances there after he had made a few in button downs.

    Daniel M. Flores excellent comments, would have made an excellent guest column in follow-up.

    But on shoes, always wingtips for professional wear (well, maybe an endcap or two). Get them resoled every-so-often, and keep them shined. It is interesting how many people decide who to take seriously based on shoes.

  195. Ana –

    I’m from Alaska and plan to return there, but currently I’m attending college in Texas.

    Neat, I lived four years as a kid in Alaska, currently live in Texas.

    I should add that we have students in our ward and all anyone expects of them is to wear clean clothes if they have them. I grew up in trailer parks myself. I understand poverty much better than many students.

  196. Matt, I think there’s an underlying assumption in all of your posts that people who spend money and care and time on their own clothing will necessarily think less of others who don’t. I can’t speak for everyone, but I know it’s not true in my case. It may be only a measure of my own narcissism, but, while I worry a lot about my own clothes, I don’t pay that much attention to other people’s clothing, except maybe to notice and admire someone with distinctive style. There’s a woman in my ward who dresses almost entirely in funky castoffs she buys at Goodwill, and the only thing I’ve ever thought about her clothes is that I wish I had a sure enough sense of my own style to pull that off.

    My mom was a purist, like you seem to be, believing that it was immoral to spend money on being fashionable, and that people who would judge you by your clothing were not worth having as friends. As a result, I spent all of jr. high and high school miserably conscious of my clothing, looking forward to the days when I could wear something that made me blend in a little better. Even as a grownup (well, sort of), I find that spending a little money on clothes that I feel confident in frees me to worry less about myself and my looks and be more interested in and concerned about other people. Of course it would be better if I could be more truly humble and self-forgetful, but in the meantime, if dressing well (by my own lights, anyway) helps me *act* more humble and charitable, I’m willing to engage in that bit of benign hypocrisy.

  197. Kristine,

    The tension I’m addressing is what you mention as the importance of wearing clothes that allow you to “blend in a little better.” It’s probably not the case that the clothes you wore in junior high didn’t allow you to blend in with any group, but that the group you blended with wasn’t the one you *wanted* to blend with. Like most kids I knew and know, you presumably weren’t concerned that your clothes were too nice to allow you to blend in with the poorest kids, but concerned that your clothes prevented you from blending with the group of kids in nice clothes.

    The intuitive solution is to buy better clothes so everyone can fit in, but this doesn’t work because the goalposts keep moving. Even in affluent California schools (and I should add that most American schools are affluent) there are kids who wish they had better clothes to blend in with a group higher on the social ladder. And besides the problem of moving goalposts, there’s also the fact that our elevating our clothing standard to blend with a better group increases the pressure on those in our former group. They are implicitly rejected by a former equal, now one fewer in number, and that much more conspicuously an out-group.

    The only genuine solution, I believe, is to work towards a classless society that doesn’t distinguish according to clothing, or other contemporary social markers. A world where everyone blends in: no in-groups, no out-groups, no one told to be uncomfortable because they have only a digital watch.

  198. Dan,

    Tie bars are not only practical (I cannot get my tie to hang straight without one), they are also totally in style. You need to read GQ and Esquire more often.

  199. Dan: “many of the principles of traditional men?s fashion and grooming have simply been lost on this generation”

    Today’s generation, epitomized by the rising internet entrepreneurs, know where to look should they want to find tips on traditional men’s fashion and grooming. The fault isn’t that the principles are lost, they’re easy to find on Google, it’s that they’re rejected. We’re moving beyond the contrivances of the past. Cry for knickers and powdered wigs, if you must. : )

  200. Matt,

    We all have goals. And any time people are encouraged to do anything, others will feel left out. Do we go to college, or grad school? Oh dread! Someone who didn’t go to college will feel left out! Do we talk about books we like? Oh no! Someone who can’t buy them will feel left out! Do we talk about our children? Oh, terrible! Someone who doesn’t have children will feel left out!

    Therefore, let’s talk about absolutely nothing. We will simply stare straight ahead for three hours at church, and all blog posts will be completely blank. We wouldn’t want to offend anyone, would we?

    . . .

    As a side note — you’re a proprieter of the blog, and you’re continuing to be the major driving force behind a threadjack despite the fact that Carrie (1) isn’t discussing this issue in her post, and (2) is discussing it in her other post. It’s not fair to roll out your arguments on a thread that focuses on the minutia and assumes some level of acceptance of the premise, when the more appropriate venue — the post that discusses the premise itself — is both obvious and obviously available.

  201. Hmm, maybe Carrie has abandoned this post, but I’m wondering where Carrie gets all of her fashion ideas. Magazines? TV shows (Elsa Klench?)? Besides the obvious fashion disasters, how can you spot something that is edgy and “up and coming” without turning it into a fashion faux pas? Seems to me there is a fine line between fabulous and frumpy (or just plain ugly). Thanks!

  202. Matt,

    You are a smart guy–go back and reread my comments and see if you can’t make better sense of them. First, I didn’t say you are the only adult who notices that clothes can mark social class but that based on your comments you seem to attach more importance to clothes as class markers than most people. Surely you can understand a difference of degrees. Surely you can understand that such a difference can make the difference between seeing something as benign or malignant.

    Second, I don’t think my writing is so muddled that I somehow inadvertantly expressed the idea that poor people should just get used to the fact that rich people want to distinguish themselves from the poor. I take comfort, however, that you haven’t singled me out but have employed the same sort of uncharitable reading to this entire thread.

    As usual, I don’t doubt your convictions but question their correctness. And as usual, it isn’t personal.

  203. Kaimi,

    Some goals are compatible with the gospel, and some goals aren’t. President Hinckley has encouraged us to get good educations, and the scriptures command us to read great books. The scriptures do not encourage us to set goals to replace our nice white shirts with better ones, to buy a second watch, or to make people feel uncomfortable because they can’t afford to go shopping every season. On the contrary, the scriptures repeatedly warn us about clothes, and Nephi even prophesied that in the last days, there would be many people who “rob the poor because of their fine clothing.”

    This hasn’t been a thread-jack — a discussion of gospel principles about apparel is germane to a discussion about what men should wear (or not wear) to church.

  204. Matt,

    Let me ask you straight out: Why the incessant need to make everything a black and white issue? Why do you presume that your solution is correct? And why should I answer your question when you are determined to find in my words what you want to hear rather than what is written. But I’ll make a deal with you, I’ll answer your question if you will go back, read what I’ve already written and give me a short, accurate explanation of what I’m really saying. Start with comment #94.

  205. Mat,

    I’ve read everything on the blog, but don’t have the inclination to re-read it. It’s black and white because Mormon fascination with clothing is either moving us closer to or further from Zion. If you agree that clothing fosters and perpetuates class divisions, and that that class divisions are obstacle to Zion, then hopefully we agree that we should be wary of promoting the fashion sensibilities of affluent urbanites as the standard for determining appropriate church attire, and that we should be careful that our clothing choices don’t highlight or exacerbate social inequalities.

  206. Matt,

    If you agree that misrepresenting another’s words and positions is wrong, then hopefully we agree that we should be wary of exageration, misconstruing motives and allowing our own convictions to unfairly color another’s mode of expression.

  207. Matt said, “If you agree that clothing-based class divisions are an obstacle to Zion…”

    I’ve seen the Matrix at least 5 times, and I don’t recall anything about class divisions that were clothing-based, or based on anything else, for that matter. The only meaningful obstacles were those weird mechanical robot creatures who crashed through the ceiling and tried to kill everybody. Thank goodness for Keenu Reaves and Jada Pinkett Smith, who saved the day.

  208. wow. i don’t think i’ve ever been that entertained by t&s. good job, carrie.

    a couple of comments:

    1. while carrie’s post did not take itself too seriously and was made in the spirit of fun, it is still a serious issue. we don’t like to hear that people might think our choice of clothes is inadequate. that gets into those uncomfortable feelings many of us had in junior high and high school when we wanted to look like the cool kids. our clothing and appearance is what most people use to form a first impression of who we are—whether that’s at church, at work, or at the grocery store, it’s a big deal. and, judging by the response to this post, people are feeling the emotional nature of the topic.

    2. our relationship with clothing (whether it’s what we wear or what we think of what others are wearing) clearly has spiritual ramifications. though i’m not sure we completely understand the connection. as has been stated, there are warning about costly apparel in the scriptures. are those warning just about the amount of money spent, are they about accompanying attitudes (which can also be had while wearing cheap apparel), or are they about something else?

    and then there is the whole discussion about just the outer shell at church. i gave up believing that there is a connection between what we wear and our level of spirituality on my mission. i learned that i didn’t have to change clothes between playing soccer and teaching the gospel. i could do both in a white shirt and tie. i started wearing colored shirts to church when i moved to nyc because i started having colored dress shirts in my closet (i only had white dress shirts before). when i had kids, i stopped wearing my nicest dress clothes to church because it didn’t make sense to me to ruin my nice clothes with drool and other baby fluids at church. i started wearing only white shirts to church when i was called to the high council and told that my “uniform” was a white shirt. since then, i wear only white shirts (even in arizona where i’m not on the high council) just to look, i guess, like a party man. (at least as much as i can with my hair sticking up on my head.) but that gets to the issue, i don’t think God cares what color our shirt it. i don’t think he cares if we wear dress clothes or jeans. but there are people who do care. many of them are our leaders. if we wear something other than what is commonly accepted as appropriate church apparel, and do it knowingly (i hate to sound like a lawyer), aren’t we putting ourselves in a position of potentially distracting someone’s worship? don’t we have a duty to help create an atmosphere that doesn’t distract from worship? since people are distracted by different things, we certainly can’t cover all the bases (i know my talks in church distract some people), but on something like clothes where there is a generally accepted standard, is it more helpful to just accept and adopt it than to constantly pick at it and risk harming others because we don’t want to wear a white shirt?

    3. carrie, how do you deal with the issue of kids damaging your clothes at church? any suggestions? like i said above, i usually where my old white shirts (not mission old, but old) and faded cotton pants or old slacks (sort of like the t-shirt and jean skirt nursery uniform aluded to above). it drives sara crazy, but i find it doesn’t bother me nearly as much when my kids inadvertently draw on me, wipe their nose on me, or worse. any suggestions?

  209. Mat,

    Deliberately misconstruing anothers’ words is wrong. I was honestly confused about the role my own inclinations played in your argument, not being sure if you meant them to show that the moral problems surrounding apparel were unique to me (everyone else has moved beyond them), that they disqualified me from discussing the subject, or gave me additional impetus to expose those moral problems. I didn’t mean anything personally, I was genuinely uncertain about your position. Sorry to have offended you.

  210. Elisabeth,

    I haven’t abandoned this post, just certain threadjacks. To answer your question, my personal fashion opinions are shaped by everything around me from very visual things like magazines, tv, people on the street, to more abstract things like changing cultural values and ideas. I joke with my friends, when they ask why I think a certain color or style is going to hit big, that I can just “feel it”.

    Anyone who knows me, knows that I’m not “trendy”. This is because I feel the same way as you “there is a fine line between fabulous and frumpy (or just plain ugly). On how to recognize something that is “up and coming” – you’ll just have to trust your instincts on that.

  211. Adam,

    On your point #3, I will go into this in What Not to Wear Part 2 because many women have this same question. While it is nice to hear that you are concerned with being able to do your part in parenting your children at church, it does not have to be a reason to always wear your more shabby clothing.

  212. Matt –

    keep grinding the axe. While Carrie’s initial post was a bit of fluff (if a bit snarky), I’m surprised most people haven’t realized just how elitist and condescending their follow up comment posts sound to those of us who just can’t afford to be fashionable.

    To make further use of an analogy you used earlier, the comments posted here sound like people who see others swimming at the free local pool and then start loudly discussing how the pools in the private clubs in tropical resorts are so much better, and anyone who wants to really swim should go there.

  213. Hi, Carrie – thanks for responding.

    “you’ll just have to trust your instincts on that”

    I was afraid you would say that. My instincts usually lead me to buy the exact outfits the mannequins are wearing so I don’t have to worry about putting together an outfit myself.
    Is it possible to develop fashion sense? Or are you just born with it?

  214. I’ll second the request for info. on how to deal with snot-nosed kids at church. Nothing is more irksome than having boogers smeared across a suit I have just had dry-cleaned.

  215. Ivan, I’m having a hard time seeing you as a victim being a graduate student, in whatever you’re studying. All of us have hobbies, where I spend a lot of very fulfilling time trying to lower an abysmal handicap with some of my closest friends on the local links, and would love to discuss that–and its potential gospel relevance–with anyone that is interest, so Carrie is sharing her passion for clothing–and its potential gospel relevance–with us. Some might have similar thoughts with regards to day-trading, colonial history, or, well, law and economics. Ahh, the internet.

    One need not be donning a Robert Talbot tie to make condescending remarks . . .

  216. rd –

    I never claimed to be a victim.

    Yes – we all have our hobbies/interests/jobs. However, I don’t see it as my job to spend my time telling people that because they don’t have my literary tastes they are therefore somehow lacking. That there are certain books (outside the scriptures) that everyone MUST READ or they are less than real. Yet, that’s what this thread turned into early on.

  217. A few things –
    #187 – Dressing in “Sunday Best” is the norm just remember that for some that isn’t so fancy. (this stems from the flip flop raggety T-shirt comment which I think is mostly a problem with the YW.) I really don’t care what others wear, as long as the Brethren passing the Sac. are in white and everyone is clean and not smelly. I like fashion so I like to play with it, so it’s a hobby thing as someone mentioned before. But I also agree with Rusty in #219 completely. No matter how poor you are you can still find good classic clothing on the cheap -even if you do wear it every Sunday – who cares? I can hardy remember what I wore last Sunday, how am I going to keep track of you?

    Also, I’m suprised that no one has mentioned the “eternal smile!” This is a number one fashion no-no in my book! For those of you who don’t know it’s wearing a scoop neck G with a white dress shirt. Argh! It isn’t as if G’s don’t look weird enough under white dress shirts, but to have the visible line in the middle of your chest? Please! Another issue with the G is the see through-ness of Poplin dress shirts. If you can purchase Oxford or Pinpoint, do it! They’re thicker, will last longer and solve these issues for the most part.

    A very tightly woven fabric with a very high thread count per inch, making the fabric very soft, a cross between poplin and oxford.
    Tightly woven, durable cotton made with a plain weave.

    Wrinkle free was mentioned – try Eddie Bauer – I have a shirt from them that I could get wet, wad in a ball and sit on for a week – after hanging overnight it looks like I just got it from the dry cleaners! http://www.eddiebauer.com/eb/cat_default.asp?nv=2|21460|22976
    My hubby wears nothing but Van Heusen – they seem to do okay except for the ring around the collar thing – haven’t figured that one out yet!

    This has been the most entertaining post yet! Thanks! I keep laughing here at work and I fear everyone thinks I’m losing it!

  218. Also,
    Men can get manicures, but DON’T TELL ME ABOUT IT. I was saving the last scrap of respect I had for you for use as fire starter.

  219. Ivan, it seems you have brought a few of your own issues to the table in reading the initial posts here. I would bet that none of the commentors to this post see it as their job to spend their time telling people what to wear. Nor did any of them suggest that someone without the same taste in clothing is somehow lacking. But if someone asked you to express your opinion regarding literary tastes (should I assume that this is related to your post-graduate education?), and a forum was created specifically for such a discussion, would you not have strong opinions? Surely there are books that had such an affect on you that you would tell others they MUST READ them. Moreover, there are others that you would probably find so incessantly boring or without insight that you woud stear people away. If somone who disagreed with your literary tastes took it personally or felt you were judging them personally somehow, that would say more about what that person brought to the discussion than it would about your opinions.

    Or at least I hope it would. There are some people who give the impression that others are, in fact, lacking somehow because they have not read the proper books or cannot read this website without the aid of a dictionary. I am not accusing you of doing this (I simply don’t know you that well and haven’t read enough of your posts), I just find it interesting that a post on fashion brought up so much underlying defensiveness that could easily apply more broadly. I suspect that if the less academic lurkers out there were not so intimidated to post (as Carrie was prior to being asked to guest blog), you would find that many people see implications in the other posts on T&S similar to those you have found in the comments regarding fashion. T&S posts can often be viewed as the intellectuals versus the rest of the church members. And if “the rest of the church” brought to this site the same biases you bring to fashion it would be very easy to view the intellectuals as snotty and judgmental.

    Readers should give the intellectual comments the benefit of the doubt, but those who find themselves defensive about posts on fashion should likewise take both the comments and themselves a lot less seriously.

  220. Matt,

    You are going to have to work harder than that to offend me, but if your goal is to drive me slightly mad, then mission accomplished:)

  221. Todd –

    Interesting post. A very erudite way to tell me I don’t belong in the “in” crowd.

    Perphaps, as other commentators have said, the initial flurry of posts caused me to think too much of jr. high and high school, where even in the church I was mocked by my peers for wearing thrift store and closeout fashions.

    Also, perhaps people should take themselves more seriously, and realize that the comments they make do have some power and don’t exist in specially protected vacuums.

    I’m done commenting on this post, because I’ve decided I don’t care about being part of the in crowd.

  222. Good grief, Ivan – Todd was right when he stated you bring your own issues to the table. This isn’t junior high or high school, just a blog that clearly 258 people have been interested in participating in. Relax!

  223. wow, i have lots of comments here. i have strong feelings about this whole topic. i’m glad that my friend dan pointed it out.

    1. i’m the job coordinator in our ward. people come to me all the time in cruddy clothes, and ask me, “can you help me find a job?” i tell them that, among other things, instead of spending 150 dollars on a yankees jersey or a fubu sweatshirt, they should invest in some good fitting dress clothing which looks good. this is all lost on them, of course, which just astonishes me, but oh well . . .

    2. let’s put this white shirt only thing to rest. if a church leader tells me only to wear a white shirt (to say nothing of the fact that I ought to wear a dark suit and be clean shaven all the time), a fight’s going to break out. If I’m wearing a pink custom-fitted dress shirt with no symbols on it, and a church leader tells me these things in a white short sleeve shirt with a disney tie, another fight is going to break out.

    3. jesus runs this church. he always has, and he always will. if you possibly think that he wants us only to wear white shirts, i’ve got florida property i’d like to sell you. it is possible for church leaders to be wrong, and for those same leaders to stay in their positions of power for a long time. it’s not like god is going to release them right away after they give completely idiotic advice.

    4. it is true that it is important to dress pretty well. in line with my first comment, it shocks me how many members live in abject poverty (dirty kids, minivans, lots of debt) despite having a college degree. i strongly believe this poverty arises from the way they look, among other things. if you dress like you’re schlepping kids around all day in a minivan, and if you look like you haven’t come back from your mission (by wearing, say, doc martens at 30 years of age), you’ll be schlepping kids around all day in a minivan. and you’ll be asking people in your ward for free services — if i had a nickel for every member who asked me for free legal advice, oy vey . . . people choose their lives. reading lots of hte book of mormon and paying a full tithe is not a guarantee that you’re family will be provided for.

    So, to me, appearance is important. what is critical is that you can look nice, and have decent threads, without spending lots of money. it is wrong to assume that nice looking clothes costs lots of money. they don’t. go to lands end.com, and then get a good tailor.

  224. Westsider,

    You lost me when you equated minivans with abject poverty.

    But then I remembered that I’ve read Kristof in the times, complaining about how wage slaves in Zimbabwe and Cambodia have no food or water, and live in one-room hovels with dirt floors, with nothing to their name except minivans.

    So perhaps you’re right. . .

  225. It’s nice to know that the dress standards of the world are now clearly a part of the Church. Too bad I chose to spend my money on food, education, and transportation to and from work. Clearly I made the wrong decision there. It’s how I look that matters. I’ll keep going to church, but I’ll have to avoid eye contact now that I know my look is what really matters, and really, I can’t keep up with the Jones’ of the world with my current economic state.

    As for this Zion thing, clearly we don’t need it. It’s much more important to dress nicely, and if others can’t meet the world’s standard that is now the Church’s standard, then certainly we must look down on them.

  226. Kaimi, come back to us when you’re living in a minivan, down by river, eating government cheese!

  227. Well, if I’ve learned anything from this discussion it is that clothes (and apparantly minivans :)) are highly symbolic. Their symbolic power is evident in the residual pain remembered by those who felt judged for their poverty even after many years have gone by. Rather than telling people that they have issues, I hope we can just tell them that we hear them and can feel compassion for that distress.

  228. Westsider,

    It is not the policy of this website to advocate physical violence against our leaders or to characterize their advice as idiotic.


  229. What did Jesus wear? And how about the fine linens in the Book of Mormon? Just pondering. You should look good, based upon budget. And to my liking” white shirt, tie, suit pants(or equilovent), and shoes are just fine. Remember, when the economies start to fall and reduce, no one is going to look at the fine linens.

  230. Hamster: You bring up an interesting question. One of the things that we do know is that at his execution, the Romans cast lots over Christ’s garments, so they were apparently nice enough that they thought they were worth keeping. John goes into even greater detail say that “his coat was without seam, woven from the top through out.” Obviously, I am no expert on fashion and textiles in first century Judea, but this sounds as though it was a high-quality (and presumeably expensive) piece of clothing.

  231. i’m the job coordinator in our ward. people come to me all the time in cruddy clothes, and ask me, “can you help me find a job?” i tell them that, among other things, instead of spending 150 dollars on a yankees jersey or a fubu sweatshirt, they should invest in some good fitting dress clothing which looks good. this is all lost on them, of course, which just astonishes me, but oh well . . .

    And, with many employers, a “good” dress shirt means a white one.

    Kaimi and Nate — really appreciated your posts.

  232. I agree with Daniel M. Flores. Men who want to look good, he’s got to learn how to do it. Now that grungy and messy looks are so common among models and celebrities, normal guys have nowhere to look to see how to dress up in a stylish and classy manner.

    Alan Flusser’s books are the best place to start. I recommend Dressing the Man: Mastering the Art of Permanent Fashion, because it is rich with photographs, pictures, diagrams and examples. He reduces everything to simple rules that transcend this season or the next and answer simple questions like how much contrast should you maintain between your shirt and tie and coat given your coloring, what collar shapes should you wear give the shape of your face, how do your suits need to be tailored, how do you match odd trousers with sport coats, and how do you match three separate patterns. By the way, Flusser says that he’d never buy a pair of pants that wasn’t pleaded. Perhaps his history is wrong, but he traces the introduction of flat fronted pants to fabric shortages in WWII.

    Women, if your husband is reluctant to read such a book, because their pride won’t let them acknowledge that they need help dressing themselves, buy the book for him and make him read it!

  233. OK … stopped reading around post #50 (don’t have the time, though I’m sure it’s fascinating).

    Anyway, the pointy end of the tie should end squarely in the center of your belt buckle. Short ties make you look like a Hitler Youth (or like you’re not confident in your tie selection in the first place). Besides, ties are a really nice looking addition to monochrome of the male wardrobe. Show off a bit.

    White shirts are always appropriate and always look nice (if taken care of and replaced regularly). Colored shirts look nice too. While I have nothing against a tasteful colored shirt, you’re taking a gamble if you wear one. Not every color looks good with every guy’s face. White is always correct. Dark blue might be the completely wrong choice. If you don’t have much fashion sense. Play it safe and go white.

    Note: If you wear a white shirt, wear a crew neck undershirt. That “eternal smile” thing just looks tasteless and ugly. I’m sure you don’t need to share your underwear preferences with everyone at church.

    The belt should match the shoes. The socks should NOT necessarily match the shoes. They should match the trousers (whether patterned or solid).

    Make sure your collar covers your tie in the back.

    If you want people to take you seriously, wear a suit. Maybe it is shallow, etc, etc. But it’s also true. Husbands in church without suits look like overgrown deacons. Besides, suits look great and the women dig em …

    Leave the outer side pockets the way they came at the store: sewn shut. Nothing makes a suit lose shape quicker than removin those stitches and storing things like keys, cell phones, baby’s chew toy, etc in the outer pockets.

  234. Not for everyone: Wooden Necktie

    I have a beautiful hand carved mahongany necktie made from real wood. It is about 1/8 inch thick and has two hidden hinges in it so it bends and moves on my torso much like a regular necktie. You have to look twice to realize that it is not made from cloth. I bought it at an antique store deep in the Georgia mountains. It comes in especially handy when I am asked to teach the youth, they really get a kick out of it. I also threaten to whack them over the head with it when they get rowdy. I only wear it on special occasions.

  235. Todd (Comment 255),

    I don’t know that the analogy you used with Ivan, comparing fashion and literature, works. It seems that an acknowledgement of some sort must be made of the fact that God has told us to read good literature (“seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom”), and also that we should not concern ourselves with fashion (“Take no thought for . . . your body, what ye shall put on.”) I don’t believe we have to understand “take no thought” literally, but here and elsewhere Christ warns against our natural fascination with material goods, and suggests a constant tension between What Really Matters and the Passing Things of the Fallen World (those things which rust and moth corrupt).

    Because God doesn’t seem to look upon literature and fashion equally, I think it would be a mistake for us to do so. I can’t think of any scriptural admonition to concern ourselves with the style of our dress that parallels the affirmative commandment to seek wisdom from good books.

  236. Kaimi–was that a riff on Reverend Lovejoy?

    (“Have you ever _read_ this thing, Homer? Technically, we aren’t even supposed to go to the bathroom.”)

  237. Great post, Carrie, and a lot of great comments. I especially enjoyed Dan Flores’ remarks. I really don’t have the style capital to say much (I’m shamefacedly sitting here in Banana Republic khakis — they’re just too easy!) but I’ll gratuitously take sides on some of the more interesting controversies:

    –No pleats (even on those dorky khakis).
    –I think it’s ok to have loosen up a bit with watches. A cool Swatch, for example, is sometimes the perfect complement to a dark gray Brooks Brothers suit. But if you can use your watch to find due north while deep sea diving, it probably doesn’t go.
    –I’m with Dan on tie bars (and tie tacks, for that matter), no matter what GQ says.
    –I’m with Carrie on double-breasted suits. The jacket looks silly when it’s not buttoned, and too conservative when it is.

  238. Matt, I think you miss (twist?) my point. I agree with you that from a personal perspective it is important to study from the best books and not that important spiritually to be fashionable – though I would argue that dressing well for Sunday does affect your spiritual mood. But Ivan’s criticism (and yours throughout this post) is that by enjoying fashion and, heaven forbid, discussing it as it relates to church, we destroy the unity necessary to build Zion. My real point is not that everyone should give up their books and spend more time shopping for ties, but that our attitude toward anything when taken to the extreme or taken too seriously can be a hinderance to unity. When my wife and I first moved to New York, there were many in our ward who felt excluded by the “intellectual” crowd. In fact, there were two Sunday School classes and we used to joke that one was the “remedial” class (it was the one my wife and I would attend, so I was poking fun at myself, not others). I strongly suspect that differences in attitude regarding the importance of worldly learning was much more of a hurdle to unity in that ward than anything the members were wearing. It divided sunday school lessons right in two, with half the ward not daring to speak when the other half was present.

  239. Hmmm, late (as usual) to this, but my wife and I were packing for our trip to Alaska tomorrow, and we were having a conversation about my attitude towards clothes. I take time and care with my clothes on Sunday, but during the week I couldn’t care less, as long as there aren’t any visible holes in my clothing. Kristen said she is a bit uncomfortable with men who care a lot about clothing. I’d have to agree. One can look nice and well-groomed without obsessing over the details.

    My mother told me last week that I inherited my sense of style from my father, who cares a lot about his clothes. He’s not terribly fashionable, but has a nice conservative business style. I learned the value of a good pair of shoes from him. If you wear dress shoes every day, it’s worth getting two nice pairs and alternating them — they’ll last longer. And you can get thirty years of use out of a pair if you invest in a good pair and take care of them — I’ve had my two pairs for seventeen years, and they are still in good shape.

    I think men who have the means should wear a jacket and tie to church. If you have small children, though, you can claim an exemption. Last week I received a nice nearly-new charcoal-grey pinstripe Bill Blass suit as a hand-me-down that might as well have been tailored for me (the break in the pants is big, but acceptable, and the jacket is a perfect fit). I can’t see myself wearing it to church for at least a year. If it’s not machine-washable, I’m not wearing it until the baby is weaned.

    A general rule: if people notice your clothes at church, you’re making a mistake. This applies for both ends of the spectrum, the rumpled I-don’t-cares and the well-accessorized fashionplates.

  240. Bryce I: A general rule: if people notice your clothes at church, you’re making a mistake. This applies for both ends of the spectrum, the rumpled I-don’t-cares and the well-accessorized fashionplates.

    A hearty AMEN to that. And it is true for most other places as well, not only church.

  241. Todd, I fully agree about the importance of establishing unity across all potential sources of class distinction, and think we must be conscientious about the ways all of our behaviors can create in-groups and out-groups, even without our trying. The battle to rid our churches of all “manner of -ites” (4 Nephi 1:17) is multi-faceted and all uphill.

  242. Matt,

    Why should we want to (or think that we _can_) rid our church of all manner of ites? Any number of great examples — Nephi, Moroni, Alma, and others — seem perfectly content to exist within the established ites system.

  243. Kaimi,

    I’m not saying we can rid ourselves of “all manner of -ites,” only that it should be our goal. The concept of no-ites is endorsed in 4 Nephi, when it’s offered as evidence of the people’s great happiness and unity, for there were no “manner of -ites; but they were in one, the children of Christ.” I suppose the temporal connection between Zion and no-ites might not be necessary, but given the way it is used in the text, I don’t see reason to believe the connection was coincidental. For that reason it seems safe to assume that our working to have “no manner of -ites” is a worthy objective.

    As for Nephi, Alma and Moroni, they lived during times when the Nephites would have been happy just to have the Lamanites stop trying to kill them.

  244. Prudence,

    Your hit-to-miss ratio is depressingly low lately. Try to limit yourself to goofy asides that are actually funny, will you?

  245. Admin McAdmin,

    C’mon! That was the funniest thing Prudence has posted. She should be encouraged after that one, given that the rest has been pure meanspirited troll.

  246. I always thought the “Celestial Smile” garment line was part of the uniform of the Priesthood.

  247. At Ms. Lundell’s invitation to continue dropping derailments here, rather than on the Part 2 thread she has started, I do so with the following.

    I returned last night from a several-day canoe trip down the Green River, a periodic exercise in wilderness and relative solitude that I’ve come to treasure. Packing for the trip got me thinking about the nature of fashion and the discussion on this thread. I’m not enamored of clothing generally and would be content if we never started the practice, so I don’t tend to have a fashion sense that I want to push.

    While on the river, I encountered a couple of dozen people over the course of the week, and I made a point of noticing what they were wearing — from simple underclothes and river sandals to more elaborate (and perpetually damp) layers. One gentleman even sported a necktie, though he didn’t apparently see the need for a shirt to go with it. With that as the backdrop, I got to thinking about the basic purposes of clothing. Ms. Lundell may have much more informed insights than I, but I got to these points: 1. protect wearer from elements (sun, wind, water, abrasion on rocks or sand, cactus thorns, rattlesnakes, and the like); 2. endeavor to reduce attention to sex (I’m not really sure that this is a meaningful purpose to clothing, since I think that concealing something tends to increase, not decrease, curiosity) but it seemed like a reason that I’ve had provided to me enough to believe that those who said it meant it); and 3. self-expression.

    In re-reviewing this thread, it seems like self-expression is really the purpose that many are focused on, with some criticism coming from those who oppose using clothing as a form of self-expression because of its propensity to create class schisms based on distinctions of economic status.

    I’m not sure I’m right, but as I was on a river with few to argue with me, I continued down this line of thought: if I’m right that that is the problem, shouldn’t we look for a fix for the economic differentiation, rather than limiting self-expression?

    Also, as others have noted above, any kind of self-expression – by definition – has the potential to distinguish the individual from the group. The requirement that all dress in uniform, whether that uniform is white shirt and tie or jumper or JK Rowling’s house elves’ grey rags, is essentially a prior restraint on expression. In this vein, I’m a bit surprised at those who endorse clothing that says as little as possible (#277 and 278). Surely that position is limited to clothing, given the commenters. But what principle so limits it?

    Can clothing become a separating force? Sure, but for it to do so, don’t those involved have to engage in perverse thinking – on the one hand, those selecting wardrobe can choose to express self-aggrandizement. On the other hand, those viewing another can choose to feel “under dressed.” In this context, it seems to me that feeling underdressed is the fashion equivalent of the envy King Benjamin condemned in certain of the poor of his society. But in either situation, the sin is not the clothing, but the assertion or perception of superiority associated with the expression.

    If quality is a function of cost (my experience is that in most commodities, it certainly is) and if it is externally perceptible (any distinction that relate to quality over time will tend to become known either through advertising by the manufacturer or through word of mouth), the ownership of the quality brand can act as a surrogate of cost. On the river, cheap river sandals will wear out very fast. I’ve had more than one pair fail me in a variety of interesting ways in the past. So I brought Tevas on this trip. Most of the couple of dozen people I saw were wearing something akin to Tevas, as well. There’s a bit of a fashion thing going on, as I discovered the last time I bought Tevas, finding them considerably more expensive than I thought that a rubber-and-velcro composition for my foot should cost.

    Still, once beyond the utility of varying qualities, self-expression is the operation. Fashion is self-expression. One particularly memorable teenaged, male canoer wore shorts, if the term can be used for such a vast amount of fabric that ended mid-shin and looked like something Odysseus might have swiped from Polyphemus’ cave on his way out. He had something to say about himself, perhaps, that couldn’t be said via something smaller and less likely to launch the wearer aloft in a burst of unexpected canyon wind.

    While looking at that young man, it occurred to me that his choice of shorts (while outlandish to my taste) wasn’t different in kind than the exercise my wife and I engaged in a few weeks ago as we decided to purchase a couple of paintings from a gallery in Tucson. There was something about the artist’s style, her choice of subject, her expression, her thinking, that appealed to us. One of the paintings hangs now in my office where I can look at it. Though I bought the painting because it appealed to me, by selecting and displaying the painting, I’m derivatively saying something to others, even if it is nothing more substantial than “look — isn’t this worth looking at?”

    This rambling thought led me to think more generally about the marketplace of ideas in printed expression; notably, T&S’s interest (echoed through the blogosphere) in its readership “circulation” and influence (by reference to T&S in news articles, etc.). There are various kinds of evaluation for any form of expression. Some artists never read reviews, preferring to evaluate their work via means other than popular opinion. Other artists create work with the express intention of involving others – others’ ideas, others’ responses, others’ reactions, others’ conversions. T&S seems an inevitable example of that kind of communication.

    So back to the Book of Mormon’s condemnation of “fine twined linens”…

    Is there something about visual expression that is more likely to lend itself to abuse and sin than other forms of expression? I don’t think so, but I’d be interested in others’ thoughts, as I’ve not long considered the question, nor do I have much expertise with it. But from my amauterish perspective, I can see no greater propensity for schism, self-aggrandizement, and envy resulting from visual self-expression than from any other form of self-expression.

  248. Greenfrog,

    Thanks for your thoughts and the time you obviously put into them. Some people just want to push fashion and the discussion of it into the “fluff” category. The points you bring up here are thought both thought provoking and interesting–and where I thought others would have put their commenting energy instead of immediate dismissal of the subject. I am not good at expressing thoughts in writing or arguments, so for me, visual expression is very important. I agree that visual expression isn’t more likely to lend itself to abuse and sin than other forms of expression, it might get picked on more because it is visual and cannot be hidden.

  249. yeah, um, sorry if someone already posted this, i didn’t care to read all 287 preceding comments, but I believe Elder Holland spoke about white shirts being the uniform of the priesthood in General Conference a few years back.

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