What surprised me most about attending the LDS Church on Sunday? The way the attendees were dressed.
Let me speak a bit first about the way my Quaker Friends dress for church. The men generally wear khakis, jeans or shorts with t-shirts, polos, or button-downs. Occasionally one will wear a sweater. I don’t recall every seeing a tie, suit, white dress shirt, or dress shoes on a male Friend.
The women’s clothes are quite similar. Some of the women wear nice jewelry, as in a pair of amber teardrop earrings. A few of the older female friends wear dressy scarves or jackets. I’ve seen the women wear loafers, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen a pair of pumps, wedges, or high heels in Meeting. Clogs, sandals or athletic-style shoes are most common. Many Friends wear the same clothes each Sunday. I usually wear my serviceable long-ish black polyester skirt (this same skirt that I’ve had for 10 years and accompanies me on all of my overseas travel because of its indestructibility) with a t-shirt, sweater, or blouse. Sometimes I wear pants, but not as often as a skirt because we do laundry on Sunday afternoon and I rarely have any clean pants on Sunday morning.
Allright now, back to LDS. Many of the younger women looked dressed as if they were headed to a club. Slinky, clingy fabrics. Very short skirts. Plunging necklines. All in the latest fashions (at least, I am making that assumption given that I know so little about fashion) With all of the makeup, jewelry, and high-heeled shoes to match. The men, of course, wore the requisite dark suits, white shirts, and ties. With expensive-looking leather dress shoes and belts. I found the men quite intimidating–I haven’t been around ‘suits’ in months (no one in academia dresses like that). I hadn’t realized how overwhelming such clothing can be. It gave me pause as I considered how the LDS might appear quite daunting and over-the-top corporate to newcomers.
As I reflected on this later, it seemed odd to me that the LDS women were dressed so worldly, so ‘immodestly.’ At Quaker Meeting I’ve never seen a mini-skirt or any cleavage. Yet Quakers have no rules or restrictions about the clothing of their members. And the LDS are counseled to dress modestly, even having this reinforced/policed by the nature of their temple garments.