not in Primary anymore

on finding meaning in uncomfortable white undies

Guest post by Collette Charles, who blogs here. 

I always dreaded the day when I would give up my cute tank tops, sundresses, short-shorts, and panties for the mysterious white garments my parents wore. Of course, I never would have admitted that out loud back then. But whenever I’d catch a glimpse of my mother changing, I would notice how high waist-ed the bottoms were, or how the tops had such large portions set aside for the breast area, and I would think, those look so uncomfortable compared to my low-rise “booty shorts” and cute lacy bra. It was confusing, because I desired a temple marriage, wanted that promise of forever, but I didn’t understand why all sexiness and comfort had to be sacrificed to achieve it. And the fact that I wouldn’t find out what the symbolism of the garment was until the moment I was supposed to commit to wearing them didn’t ease my dread or worry. 

Many of my leaders in the Young Women’s program advised us girls not to buy clothing that wouldn’t be garment compatible. “It will be harder to switch over if you have to change the way you dress.” A phrase I heard many times. And then there was the one Young Women’s teacher who surprised me with, “Enjoy it while you can, wear whatever you want.” I suspected I wasn’t the only person who resented the looming dread of eternal modesty. 

When things started getting more serious with my now husband, Travis, I started to consider the clothing purchases I was making. Should I start buying clothing I can wear with garments? For the most part, I took the advice of “enjoying it while I could.” But soon, we were engaged and setting a date for our endowments and sealing. My mom took me to the distribution center to buy temple clothes and garments. Somehow, I was supposed to know which fabric and style of garment to buy without being able to try anything on. The dread and subsequent guilt mounted.

Then, the day of the endowment arrived. As I stood in the temple, trying on my garments for the first time, the only thought running through my head was, I can’t do this. I can’t wear these for the rest of my life. I’m going to have to back out and quit the church and everyone in my life will disown me. Somehow I made it through the rest of the night.

The next morning my mom and I set out to find a pair of garments that fit me correctly. The size bottoms we had picked out were too small. The tops were too big. The waistband of the bottoms came up to my rib cage, taking “high waist-ed” to a whole new level. The garment top had these “boob bags” that were even too large for my C cup bra. I couldn’t stand the sight of myself in my garments. How was I supposed to feel about my soon to be husband seeing me on our honeymoon the following week? How was I ever supposed to feel sexy again?

At the distribution center, I tried to explain to the sales women what the problem was. “Do you have anything that isn’t quite so high waist-ed? Do all the bottoms come clear down to the bottom of my knee cap?”

The women seemed to think I was trying to “get out of” wearing garments or that I was trying to find a size that would allow me to show more skin. “You’re just going to have to realize that garments don’t fit like your old underwear because they are more modest.” I was told. I tried to explain how I was uncomfortable with a tight waistband that exaggerated the area of fat I have around my belly button. I was in tears and my mom was angry by the time we left, because I felt so bullied and judged by those women.

Meanwhile, my fiancé Travis was adjusting to his garments quite easily. And why shouldn’t he? Besides being a few inches longer than his boxer briefs, they fit the same. He told me he preferred sleeping shirtless, so wearing the top at night would be an adjustment, but other than that, no major life changes for him. He assured me he would find me beautiful and sexy no matter what I was wearing, which did help a little, and when he did see me in my garments, he told me over and over how much he liked seeing me in them, that I looked beautiful. Plus I finally found a size and style that fit me right.

But several months after we were married, I was still having trouble with wanting to wear my garments. I wore them dutifully, albeit begrudgingly. I was afraid to talk to anyone about how much I didn’t want to wear garments, how it seemed my whole identity had changed to this matronly, boring, restricted old married woman. I was the first of my good friends to wear garments, and I felt such jealousy about their freedom to wear whatever they wanted. To be able to walk up stairs wearing a skirt and not worry that the person behind them could see white peeking out. I kept thinking, why Heavenly Father, why do I have to wear these things?

Then one day I understood something big. Travis and I were home one rare afternoon at the same time and naturally, planned for some intimacy. I changed into something sexier, as I didn’t (and still don’t) like wearing my garments while “getting it on.” As we were laying there together, making out, I took notice of something simple. Travis was wearing his garments. I was wearing a white bra and white panties. We were both wearing white. But he was wearing the white that God required, while I was wearing white that our culture dictated I should wear.

Later on, I thought more about the contrast between my garments and my old undies. Thought beyond just the comfort factor. Thought about what it means that my male counterpart and I are required to cover the same amount of skin with our garments. Thought about the difference between boxer briefs and g-strings. Or little black dresses that barely cover the essentials and a comfortable tuxedo or suit. So many differences between what our culture dictates women and men should wear, women zipping themselves into tight, low cut, low rise sexy everythings, heels so high we can’t walk straight, clothing sizes meant prepubescent bodies, while men wear t-shirts, jeans, and shoes created for comfort. What does it mean if the clothing God commands Travis and me to wear, is the same?

Hint, I think it means that we are equal. That God doesn’t value me for how hot I can look in a thong. That maybe the notions I have about how important it is to be sexy aren’t what really matters.

But here’s the thing. Somehow our idea of what it means to be modest has gotten all messed up. Like how you can wear clothing that covers your garments, but still isn’t modest. Like how all the BYU student wards are meat markets. When I was single and going to student wards, I got dressed on Sunday for one purpose: to look smokin’ hot in a tight skirt, high heels, and fishnet stockings. How else was I supposed to attract a “worthy eternal companion?” It was clothing that could be worn with garments, sure, but in no way was it modest.

And what about the time one of my friend’s husbands complained to me about how “boring her garments are.” Or the time my friend, who happened to be a new convert, was preparing to be sealed to her husband. One of her male friends told her, “What a bummer for your husband, having to have you switch from sexy panties to garments.”

Kind of seems like we are missing the whole point here, about garments and how God wants to help us love our bodies for the right reasons. And can we please do a better job teaching the Young Men to respect the women, instead of the Young Women always being told to help the men “honor their priesthood.” Maybe the women’s priestess-hood could use a little more honoring.

Don’t get me wrong. I love clothes. I love sexy clothes. I wear a bikini to the pool. Gasp, are you sure that qualifies you as temple worthy? I have a giant sack full of lingerie in my closet. When I go to the gym, I wear spankies and a tank top. I’m not saying we should never get to feel hot and sexy or appreciate our attractive bodies. I’m just saying that garments are there to remind me, (among other things that I covenanted not to talk about) that men and women are equal in God’s eyes, and that He values me for so much more than my body. And how great is that.


P.S. It is a true fact that women’s garments are super uncomfortable and could use updating in the way they fit. I would love to get into designing them. If anyone knows how to break into that market, please let me know? Kthanks.

21 Responses to “on finding meaning in uncomfortable white undies”

  1. sshheelleeyy

    I loved this. Loved loved loved this. I think you’re spot on.

    I ordered some garments online a few weeks ago and they ended up being WAY too big. So when I called to talk about setting up a return, I tried to muster up the courage to ask if there were any plans to update the garments (like lowering the waistband, making tops with different cup sizes, or making the petite bottoms actually petite) but I was too scared to ask. I wish I would have.

  2. yikes32

    I appreciate your openness, honesty and candor. But I respectfully disagree about the garments being the same as men means we are equal in Gods eyes.
    In a religion which celebrates the differences between male and female and proclaims gender is eternal. Then one would think they would also celebrate female sexuality and be supportive of underwear that is comfortable ( mentally, physically, emotionally ). Instead what we have is an afterthought that women also should be endowed and also should wear garments and so for years, And I mean years , women wore men’s garments. They then fashioned some women’s based off of men’s but never put much thought or effort into them. For those of you who have just gone through the temple recently, the women’s garments have become even longer than they were just a cew years ago. And when comparing the recent womens garments to the men’s garments (side to side )the women’s are longer at the knee and the waist band is higher. This not an equal playing field but imposing even stricter modesty guidelines…
    I feel the current garments are based on traditional non inspired patriarchal thought . And would love to wear my own white under wear of my choosing since it is symbolic anyways…maybe purchase iron on symbols and bless them in your home and call it good.
    As for your thoughts of equal garments means equal in Gods eyes. This leads me to think of gender not being important at all then, and man would that stir things up at headquarters .

  3. DrIsIn

    Thanks for sharing your experience – both amusing and thought-provoking. I admit I gave up on garments after about a year of wearing them. They were so uncomfortable, they gave me rashes, and they made me me feel even more self-conscious about my body than I already was because of the terribly unflattering fit. I really wish there was an alternative to the current styles because I like the idea of wearing symbols that remind me of my convenants with God. But, until there are some significant revisions, I’m going to have to continue to pass…at least until another sibling gets married and I have reason to go back to the temple. :T

  4. Anonymous

    To yikes32: I think you’re missing the point that Collette was trying to make. Just because two things are equally good does not make them the same. If I say I think both apples and oranges are equally good by no means am I saying oranges are apples or apples are oranges. Rather, I think Collette’s trying to say these garments are a reminder that women do not need lingerie to be sexy or valued, just as men do not need any sort of underwear to have sex appeal. Unfortunately in our society we’ve been trained to appreciate a certain look, one that emphasizes sexy a little too much. Once you make that commitment to God and your husband, I think you’re being asked to forgo society’s standard of sexy and focus on other, more important things. I’m not Mormon therefore I don’t wear garments but I definitely appreciate this point of view on the topic. I have plenty of friends that complain about this but I feel like they aren’t looking at the grand scheme of things. This seems like a logical, worthwhile trade, leaving behind the constraints of worldly sexy for temple worthy/celestial happiness.

  5. Yikes32

    Ohhhh, Well if she was meaning to emphasize we shouldn’t need lingerie to feel sexy I agree with that. We should all be comfortable in our own bodies and media and patriarchal society does a good job at making us feel bad about that. But replacing one form of underwear to say that you don’t need it with another I feel doesn’t fix that and I personally don’t feel is the answer. Also just because we shouldn’t need it doesn’t meant that one shouldn’t wear it if they don’t want to. Much like wearing makeup, dresses/ pants, shaving hair in places our society has deemed to be sexy….But if one wants to that’s fine … Ones perception of sexy is and can be different than others…
    I guess I may have got lost on her meaning of the article in the quote below.
    “… What does it mean if the clothing God commands Travis and me to wear, is the same?Hint, I think it means that we are equal.”
    This being a feminist blog just seemed inaccurate to me. Not just because women may seem or feel unsexy but just in the facts that history shows that garments were designed for men And it wasn’t till after “they” decided women could go through the temple and be endowed that they too should wear garments… At that point women literally just wore men’s garments. Do I think it was on purpose ? No. I think it was because of male privilege and a male guided church that they simply didn’t think about what would be more comfortable for women nor did they ask. they eventually refashioned them abit for boobs a lot later and then two pieces came in the 80’s (? ) but now you see the women’s garments being produced even longer than their male counterparts garments -to cover up more than the men. It doesn’t seem to me to be spiritually based or symbolic unfortunately 😦 but more controlling and covering up of women. Honestly it scares me , because I see them gradually becoming longer and stressing the modesty rhetoric more and more with stricter guidelines and body shaming and it borders with rhetoric I hear within Muslim cultures and their view of women. ( I’m not slamming Muslim cultures but saying its similar with how they view the body and their reasoning for covering the women’s body seems the same…and personally feel its harmful for both men and women)
    I personally feel if it is supposed to be symbolic ;which the intent originally supposedly was just to be a tactile symbolic remembrance of the covenants one makes with God -so really modesty and garment lengths should not be an issue- and letting the individual choose the underwear of their comfort is important ESP in equality. instead what we have is underwear that is designed for Men and their comfort and tell us we’re equal in gods eyes; sexiness is not important and if you feel unsexy in them, discomfort/rashes, tpo hot, cant find clothes to fit/ cover, your heart is the wrong place. This is wrong too.
    I also think God created us as sexual beings both male and Female …But I agree that is a whole other topic . It seems many issues were addressed here. And it’s ok to disagree. 🙂

  6. Yikes32

    Please forgive my many typos I’m on my phone. I do not have access to the Internet via laptop at this time.

  7. sally

    Agree with Yikes 32 – The differences between men and women are so highlighted in the church that it would be strange if this one area was where equality entered the picture. And women – at least this one – try to feel beautiful not to please others but, rather, to feel good about themselves. It’s difficult to feel beautiful in garments for me.

  8. Anonymous

    THANKYOU for this. I am getting married in December and have had a really hard time accepting how I will have to wear garments. I have ordered a couple to have for my endowments and was horrified at how high the waist band is…why do they make it the same length as the legs!? Anyways, you saying how we are equal and why should women be expected to wear a g-string and a lacy bra to be sexy is spot on! I never thought of it that way! It makes me feel much better! (I will still wear those things occasionally :P) but that makes me not so dread wearing them all the time.. I feel better now. 🙂

  9. Caramel

    The word’s clothing for women is uncomfortable and insensitively designed, so the world must be perceiving women as inferior.
    God’s clothing for women is uncomfortable and insensitively designed, so G

  10. Caramel

    The word’s clothing for women is uncomfortable and insensitively designed, so the world must perceive women as inferior.
    God’s clothing for women is uncomfortable and insensitively designed, so God must perceive women as equal.

  11. Allison

    I’m glad I stumbled across this, because at least now I know I’m not alone! For the last part of my pregnancy I could NOT wear garments despite how hard and long I tried to. I was told by my doctor that any undergarments which leave a red indent in your skin are too tight, but for me wearing garments went beyond just that and I even invested in several different types and also pairs of the largest maternity kind. They were so stinking PAINFUL! Just to sit down I’d literally have to hold my garments out away from my body, because otherwise they began to cut off my circulation. It was so painful and I knew it could in no way be good for the baby. The day that I finally quit wearing them I felt so ashamed and broke down into tears. But it was so very nice to finally have something that was feasible to wear! My baby now born, I feel like such a total mess and in no way do I feel attractive. I feel like I’m trading in my feeling attractive for being able to only wear frumpy clothes for the sake of covering up my garments. I never purchase immodest clothing and even the vast majority of cute modest clothes still can’t cover up garments anymore. I really feel that this is damaging not only my self esteem but also the intimacy I have with my husband. It’s not my intention to “show off” for the world, but to look attractive for him. Note that I don’t want to be immodest- just attractive for him! Finding clothes just to cover my garments usually means getting things in sizes too big for the extra fabric, or adding layers (and sometimes more layers) of clothes just to hide them. I feel like somewhere I’ve lost my womanhood. Of course, I can’t help but be ashamed for feeling this way. They’re supposed to be sacred. 😥

  12. Jo

    One thing that has helped me is I actually wear guy bottoms, the bands on some styles are more comfortable. And I have been pregnant four times, I never wear garments, they hurt my stomach, a huge billowy place for your tummy with this tight elastic going right across the tummy. owch

  13. Rand

    I have two issues with garments: not understanding their purpose and being very uncomfortable. I’ve worn them for more than 20 years, so I’m not going to “just get used to them” like so many suggest. It’s also not a question of ignorance. I do not understand them from a doctrinal point of view because there is little to support them and explain them.

    By the way, it’s not just women’s garments that are super uncomfortable. Men’s garments are terribly so as well. Frankly, I dislike them so much that I’ve stopped wearing them after decades of putting up with them. At times the heat is a problem, but the greater issue is simply that they never fit right regardless of size or material. Some of the materials are downright atrocious.

    My manner of dress is not an issue. I wear the same things I always have. It’s very simply that I don’t believe God wants me to be uncomfortable for the rest of my days. When garment design improves I’ll likely return to wearing them, even if I don’t understand them.

    As to not understanding, it’s pretty simple. I comprehend what modern day mormons say the garments are about. But…that’s not an explanation from God, it’s not an explanation found in the scriptures, and it’s not something expounded on much by the twelve. I’m not content with members’ rationalizations about what they might stand for, or what it means to them. There’s little effective scripture on the subject. As time goes on, I’m more convinced that this is something we do culturally than it is something of godly significance.

    That’s my chief issue. I despise cultural mormonism. I say that as one who grew up in the church, who served a mission, who married in the temple, who still studies lessons and dives deep into the scriptures, who still prays several times daily. If you can’t convince a man who is otherwise very faithful about their meaning, and who has invested a significant amount of time in studying the topic, they must not be all that important.

    We’ve culturally adapted to all the men wearing white shirts. Everyone sees them and associates us with white shirts and ties. Now, as a teen I wore whatever color shirt I wanted. I blessed and passed the sacrament many times in a pink shirt, a blue shirt, or a striped shirt. Sometimes I wore colored suspenders (hey, it was the 80’s). There has been no great revelation regarding the Lord requiring white shirts that I have found…it’s just something the men all do, because over time it became expected and now, somehow we can’t be considered holy without it (likely in part because President Benson said he liked a white shirt). Nevermind that the Lord looks upon the heart. Nevermind that the wearing of some other color sets us up to subtly judge the wearer. And nevermind that I look my best in blue and believe that’s acceptable to God. Somewhere that aspect of our dress became one size fits all, and worse, many of our number believe that a white dress is now a requirement, nearly equivalent to the garment.

    And that’s probably the only post I’ll ever make anywhere on the topic. I have no conclusion, just a ramble of thought.

  14. Bambam

    You know, I am lazy enough that I never want to have to get dressed specifically for sexy times. I just want my partner to like me and be turned on by me “despite” my garments. It always bugs me how we’re expected to wear them and then are made to feel undesirable for wearing them.

  15. omcswriting

    Tonight I reapectfully got rid of all my garments. I have worn them for 3 years and can’t do it anymore. I believe in the church. I will still attend church. My clothes have always been modest enough to cover garments even when I was a kid. But tonight I had a long and hard discussion with God in a way. I have really bad anxiety about comfortable clothes. Ive spent approximatey 500 dollars trying to find the best fitting ones. I finally found the best fitting ones but they are still so uncomfortable that I usually get one anxiety attack a day on a good day. More on a bad day. There have to be more people out there like me. I’m perfectly fine with being modest. But now I have come to the point where I can no longer go to the temple because of how garments seriously affect my mental health.

    • kwik

      I know this is an old post! FWIW I’ll add my 2 cents.
      My mental health has never quite been as it should be as I suffer from depression and anxiety (since I can remember), I’ve tried seeking professional help and so far nothing works. I’m close to trying out meds for the first time as that is a last resort for me.
      I’ve always struggled with certain aspects of the church as I’m a convert. I’ve always believed in God, but in some ways I wish I could go back to the just being baptised days and never having gone through the temple, received garments etc. All have filled me with worry, dread and even hatred. Hatred for the physical clothing that is uncomfortable to the point it drives me mad and to tears! Only on a weekly basis but the rest of my days are filled with adjusting, fiddling, pulling, you get the picture. Until there is a perfect fit for me and not a “one size fits all” I will have to give them up. Hubby and I don’t attend the temple often so it’s not a problem (causes me anxiety attacks). So I’ve packed mine away dutifully in a storage cupboard until it’s time to get rid of them correctly because I’ve found a replacement or otherwise. I’m reverting back to the blissful days where God loved me no matter what I wore and attending church was spiritual not just a habit.

      • Angela

        Sweet friend, I also have depression. I’d just like to encourage you – there is nothing wrong or shameful about taking medication for it! It’s an illness that’s out of your control, and there are options to help you. Work with a trusted doctor and counselor, find the right medicine. Try not to be discouraged if the first medicine doesn’t work for you – it may take time, but there are many different types of drugs out there . You’ll find the right one (or combination) eventually!

        On the spiritual side of things, full disclosure – I’m a Christian, not a Mormon. Remember, your righteous acts do nothing to earn your salvation! It is the gift of a merciful God. Then, your obedience to his commands are a natural result of your changed heart and (Ephesians 2:8-10).

        I’ll be praying for you!

  16. LaLa

    I have read quite a few blogs in my effort to cope with the immense discomfort and mental/emotional strain my garments have caused me. I’m always sweating and always feel overweight in them. I spend far too much time staring in the mirror noticing how the garments muffin-top and bunch under my clothes. I cry in dressing rooms bc dresses are rarely long enough or have a high enough neckline or long enough sleeves. Finding fashionable clothing that is thick enough to conceal my ribcage garment waistband is unheard of. I pray to eventually love the garments and to understand them. I have read blogs stating that women who complain about the garments are in poor spiritual condition. Those people are rude and incorrect. I am spiritually strong but have always suffered body dimorphia. I really hope the garment designs and materials for women are changed. I want to spend my lifetime protected by garments but don’t want to hate my image. For now all I can do is try to lose weight to feel better about them.

  17. Anonymous

    I’m grateful for this blog and happy for this woman that she came to appreciate the garment. I wish we all could. Sometimes I try to do some self-convincing about why these might be worthwhile, but it just doesn’t last. It explains many of the feelings I have and what my husband has seen me go through for years of wearing these together, and I have more years of wearing them even before we met. It tears me apart to wear pants above my hips and a shirt below my hips and still not be able to lean over or to the side without the garments showing. (And the new temple recommend question asking if you “adjust or alter garments” I feel was aimed at women who learned modesty was not having your underwear peek out of clothing.) I want to be comfortable in my own skin again and not adjust my movements for these things. I did not have the insight of church leaders or parents preparing me for the garment as this blogger did. It was not discussed, and I realized a few years ago that I covenanted to wearing something and had no idea what I was covenanting to. It does not seem fair to make someone promise something they never got a chance to realize would cause so much self-consciousness. Why not let people try the garment out and decide before marriage if it’s right for them rather than have garments be such a disagreement between husbands (who experience easier transition periods) and wives (who feel burdened)? The garment may be the destruction of my marriage, since my husband feels it goes along with the sealing ordinance, which leaves him uncomfortable with my removing them. I don’t desire to remove them, but I’m starting to think that’s the only option to get my self esteem back,

    • Anonymous

      My husband has hardly said a word about my choice to not wear garments. I think he gets it. He’s always worn his, though. Maybe he hopes he’ll get a more faithful wife in the eternities. I know a lot of men would complain, though.

      • Anonymous

        My husband and I fight a few times a year about this issue if I bring up the emotional hurt they cause me or mention that they make me uncomfortable. He asks how I can feel worthy to enter the temple when the Bishop asks in the interview if I alter them. I for years have not felt comfortable getting dressed in the same room as him (and dress elsewhere when possible), since has expressed concern more than once that I’m not worthy of the temple, since I have purchased shorts/skirts specifically to work with my garments that turn out not to work, since the shorts move up on my leg when I bend it, but the garments don’t. I have since stopped buying shorts, but I haven’t gotten rid of the modest ones that turned out not to work upon movement. He says if I stop wearing the garment I will be putting my feelings about the garments above our marriage and hurting him, and I feel that the garments have been hurting me for years and causing unnecessary discord in our marriage. He says if I take off the garments I may destroy his faith, since much of it is based on the hope of an eternal marriage, and that I must be “picking and choosing” what is true in the church causing the whole church to be invalid. (I feel I believe in the doctrine of the church but acknowledge a difference between the doctrine and its changing policies, and he says I should wait until the policy changes. That’s difficult to do, since 1 I’m here on this blog and 2 I give Christlike love and support to community members church policy doesn’t necessarily make feel welcomed.) I know it’s unfair that he should place such responsibility on me for the future of his faith, yet at the same time he tells me I’m already unworthy of the temple while I am wearing them, so either way won’t I be a failure? I feel trapped that if I wear them without adjusting we argue about my emotions, if I adjust them I’m told I’m not good enough for the Lord’s house, and if I take them off I’m putting myself before our relationship. I do love my spouse, and he loves me, so please try not to tear him down. I know this presents him in one of the most negative lights, since the topic a source of conflict in our marriage. He is a good person. That said, I welcome advice or words of hope.

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