I remember walking through the mall a few years ago with my mom, my sister, and my youngest brother. My siblings are big into snowboarding, and with snow season quickly approaching, my sister wanted to find a cool, new coat to wear on the slopes.
We stepped into a popular board store that’s well known for its gear and clothing. Almost immediately, my eyes were drawn to the two employees managing the front desk. They were both young men who looked to be between the ages of 17 and 19. Barely perched on their heads were matching, gray, Smurf-like beanies that bobbed as they walked. Both were wearing dark jeans, and the seats of their pants were low enough to make me awkwardly squirm as I walked. They also had on electric blue shirts that were at least two sizes too big and fell to mid-thigh, which I guess was supposed to make up for the lost length in their pants.
As we wandered around the store, I found myself getting uncomfortable and irrationally annoyed by their outfits. Looking through breaks in the coat rack at them, I’d wonder who their manager was and why they thought it would attract customers to make their employees look so careless. I didn’t really care so much that it was likely a way to attract all of the cool boarding kids. At the check out, I noticed the way they shifted around behind the desk, slumping with their shoulders up and swaggering because they couldn’t do anything else in those pants. I wondered why this was the standard management wanted to represent the company. Their employees looked like they didn’t care for themselves, the job, or the people they were employed to serve. As a result, I didn’t really want to hang around that store for long.
Thinking back on that experience causes me to consider how I dress and why I dress the way that I do. It’s a pretty popular question these days. These days, it’s easy to get caught up in the societal drama and blame games surrounding clothing. Some say they dress the way they do for themselves only. Others say they dress modestly because they don’t want others to have bad thoughts.
But why do I dress the way that I do? I’ve wondered.
When I think about it, I realize that I don’t dress modestly because it’s convenient or even because I necessarily want to at times. I don’t dress modestly simply because my Sunday School class a few months ago was entirely focused on calling attention to how girls need to shape up when it comes to their dress standards. While I respect the views and struggles of the men I associate with, rarely do I think before I walk out the door, “I’m going to dress modestly for the boys today.” I guess that those things are a part of it, but the truth is that I dress the way that I do to please.
I, like those board shop boys, dress the way I do because I’m trying to please the two men that I have promised to represent: my Savior, Jesus Christ, and my Heavenly Father.
Every week in Sacrament Meeting, I take upon myself the name of Christ and covenant that I will remember him by representing him well. This is his church, he is CEO, and I am, to an extent, his employee. As an “employee,” I have been asked to follow the managers he’s selected to lead his church. I know, through them, that _the Lord does not want himself or his church to be represented by a relaxed dress code. _It doesn’t matter that I want to look cool, it doesn’t matter when I feel the desire to wear shorter skirts or sleeves. As a member of his church, I have committed myself to representing him, and that means that I must sacrifice my wants to dress the way he as asked me to.
What _is _his dress code? This:
Your body is sacred. Respect it and do not defile it in any way. Through your dress and appearance, you can show that you know how precious your body is. You can show that you are a disciple of Jesus Christ and that you love Him.
Prophets of God have continually counseled His children to dress modestly. When you are well groomed and modestly dressed, you invite the companionship of the Spirit and you can be a good influence on others. Your dress and grooming influence the way you and others act. Never lower your standards of dress. Do not use a special occasion as an excuse to be immodest. When you dress immodestly, you send a message that is contrary to your identity as a son or daughter of God. You also send the message that you are using your body to get attention and approval.
Immodest clothing is any clothing that is tight, sheer, or revealing in any other manner. Young women should avoid short shorts and short skirts, shirts that do not cover the stomach, and clothing that does not cover the shoulders or is low-cut in the front or the back. Young men should also maintain modesty in their appearance. Young men and young women should be neat and clean and avoid being extreme or inappropriately casual in clothing, hairstyle, and behavior. They should choose appropriately modest apparel when participating in sports. The fashions of the world will change, but the Lord’s standards will not change.
Do not disfigure yourself with tattoos or body piercings. Young women, if you desire to have your ears pierced, wear only one pair of earrings.
Show respect for the Lord and yourself by dressing appropriately for Church meetings and activities. This is especially important when attending sacrament services. Young men should dress with dignity when officiating in the ordinance of the sacrament.
If you are not sure what is appropriate to wear, study the words of the prophets, pray for guidance, and ask your parents or leaders for help. Your dress and appearance now will help you prepare for the time when you will go to the temple to make sacred covenants with God. Ask yourself, “Would I feel comfortable with my appearance if I were in the Lord’s presence?”
It’s a dress code that’s fought over every single day, a dress code that girls like me blog about to speak their minds. But what it boils down to is the closing line of that first paragraph: by how you dress, “you can show that you are a disciple of Jesus Christ and that you love him.”
Working in a bakery, I have learned the concept of representation well. Every day, I wear a hat, a black collared shirt, a name tag, work shoes, black pants, and an apron. There are practical reasons for this ensemble — the hat’s to keep my hair out of food and the apron’s to keep food off of me — but they aren’t the only reasons. The collared shirt, name tag, black pants, and work shoes are worn so that there’s no question that I am an employee. How are unsuspecting shoppers supposed to know that I can help and serve them if I just dress like everybody else? How might Iact if I could wear whatever I wanted to work?
The minute I put my collared shirt and my apron on, I recognize that I am my store and should be and act my very best. The thing with Christ’s church is that we are _always _asked to be in the proper attire, every second of every day. The Lord has a higher standard for us and wants us to be distinguished disciples.
Think, for a second, about Adam and Eve. Ashamed, they made clothing for themselves, but their fig leaf aprons were not enough, and so the Lord gave them coats of skin, despite the fact that they were all alone in the world. The only person they could really dress to please was the Lord, and even in their isolation, they were expected to represent Him with a higher standard of modesty.
If we have a deep understanding that the Lord knows how to operate His church and guide His people, then we should be doing everything we can to follow him and those he has chosen to lead us. That means that we must dress and act with modesty.
I can’t deny that dress has influence, or that people are weak and fallen. When we understand how powerful our influence is as a child of God, we dress in a way that respects ourselves and the weaknesses in other people. When we understand the Atonement and our covenants, we don’t get defensive about our clothing, but instead, choose to defend Jesus Christ by dressing as if his name is our own. If we take the Sacrament each week, his name _is _our own. It becomes the name tag we wear, and we tarnish it by not representing it as best we can.
Modesty is a sacred distinction through which others can find the Savior and their Heavenly Father. If we don’t dress with that distinction, other people may never ask and never find it in us.
That’s why I don’t dress for me. I dress for them.