not in Primary anymore

your dress is too short, again

Guest post by Desiree Chavez

mormon leg modesty

I recently went to the temple to do some baptisms for my friend’s family. Instead of feeling the peace of the temple or focusing on connecting with the Spirit, I spent my time over thinking the length of my dress. I noticed other girls or woman at the temple all wore dresses which were at least a bit over their knees. Mine barely touched just above the knee. With an anxious whisper, I leaned over to my guy friend to ask, “is my dress too short?” Automatically giving me a quizzical look he replied with, “You’re fine. Don’t even worry about it.” Once the temple workers came in the waiting room to escort us, I instinctively started to pull my dress down as we stood up. As if the dress would magically grow a couple inches longer. I was worried about receiving glances at the length of my dress because I wasn’t modest enough in the House of the Lord.

I noticed that as my time progressed in becoming more familiar with Mormon culture, I started to become more obsessed with the clothes I was wearing and if it was covering me up enough.  I would try on different dresses on Sunday morning and the first thing I’d check for is to see if they were long enough.

I also found that with time passing, the gap between the worlds I lived in was becoming wider. Like one foot was in my life pre-convert and the other was in post-convert and as the gap became wider, I was forced to do the splits: something I didn’t work up to.  I’d have friends who say, “Why do you dress like that? You’re so sexually repressed.” And on the other side of the spectrum, I’d have people tell me, “You skirt length is a little too short here. You probably can wear that out with friends but not here at church”.  In my mind I was thinking, “I just wear what I feel comfortable in. Some days I just throw on sweats and other days I dress all girly and attractive for my own sake.”

The emphasis I want to make with this picture is that, one can’t judge a person by the length of whatever they are wearing. You never know the circumstances. I believe that while assessing a situation, one must take everything in context. For example. What if a woman chose to wear her dress down to her ankles because she has swollen ankles? Or what if a girl is wearing a short skirt because she deals with sexual abuse at home. Or what if she is wearing a cute skirt to not tempt those poor Mormon boys but to just enjoy her own female sexuality. Or what if a girl chose to wear what she’s wearing because she just wants to wear it.  It really can be as simple as that.

 While I personally do believe that dressing modestly is my best way to represent how I’m confident in myself and don’t feel the need to show off my goods, I still have no right to make an assumption about somebody’s character because of what they wear.

I also want to raise awareness in how girls in general overthink about their bodies. Our bodies are a beautiful gift given to us from our loving Heavenly Father. Not something we should be ashamed of.  Or something we should hide.

The length of my dress/skirt does not define me.  What defines me is how I attempt, to the best of my abilities, to show Christ like love to everybody in my life, no matter who they are. 

22 Responses to “your dress is too short, again”

  1. Nouner

    I appreciate your comment, but I don’t understand the problem. The reason to dress modestly is to prevent temptation in men. All you have to do is read the minds of the men you’re around and dress in such a way as to prevent bad thoughts in their heads. It’s okay for them to think of you as cute or attractive, but if they start thinking about having sex with you that’s your fault.

    Just read men’s minds and dress not for yourself, but for others. It’s the Mormon Way ™!

    • personal reflection

      Load of crap. Dressing modestly is out of respect for your body. You could be dressed as a nun and a “man” could be tempted. Part of how to deflect that temptation is in how you feel about yourself and how you respond to others. Real “men” control themselves AND their thoughts. If they don’t they may be adults and they may be male, but that would only make them adult males. You don’t need to read anyones mind but your own. THAT is the real MORMONS WAY. I know this because I am Mormon.

      • hutch

        Don’t be so polarized, I think both points are true. And to clear one thing up… men are not turned on by nuns, that’s the whole reason nuns dress the way they do. I’ve heard this argument before and it doesn’t make sense, or your point, which is that men are responsible for their own thoughts (a good point).

        I understand that mostly women contribute to this blog, but unless you are a man or a sex expert women really don’t know what they’re talking about when it comes to the male perspective. When a man sees a scantily clad woman, he has an immediate physiological response of increased heart rate, blood pressure, dilated pupils, all the normal signs of arousal. Men usually don’t know this is going on, they just know they like what they see. Studies have shown that virtually all men respond this way (and actually women too), but the response is not present if a woman is dressed modestly.

        Different men handle it in different ways. Personally if I walk by a girl that is wearing a low cut shirt that show’s her cleavage, I look the opposite direction and think about something else for a while because I don’t like those feelings unless they are instigated by my wife. That is what a real man does, a real woman dresses modestly in the first place. It’s a two way street. Usually it’s not a big deal to me unless I actually have to have a conversation with that woman… and then I become extremely uncomfortable.

        I completely agree with you that you should dress modestly out of respect for your body. But we can’t ignore the fact that how you dress affects other people. To me, respecting your body means not flaunting it, using it to manipulate others, or causing discomfort to those around you.

    • OldFriend

      I think it’s tragic that these ideas about female modesty are so common in Mormon culture because it’s demeaning to -both- men and women.

      For women, it implies that there is something inherently evil about their bodies and their sexuality. Women should never feel guilty about being sexually attractive and it saddens me to see young preteen and early teen Mormon girls indoctrinated with an understanding that their femaleness is something to be ashamed of. The end result of this is Mormon women (and men) often feeling shame about their first sexual encounters – even within ‘worthy’ temple marriages.

      This is also demeaning to men. It characterizes men as walking tanks of testosterone – ready to explode if they see too much skin. There is definitely merit in -both sexes- learning to properly respond sexual feelings and thoughts, but there is also great merit in learning to recognize and appreciate sexual attraction. Moderation in all things, right?

      This kind of guilt shifting (to women) and hypersexualizing (of men) really needs to stop in Mormon culture. It’s the Right Way™!

    • Megan Rossoni

      I am not Mormon (Roman Catholic), and I read this article because the author is a friend. I speak not from a religious standpoint but from a women’s rights standpoint. As a survivor of a sexual assault I know that whatever I wear is completely irrelevant to what a rapist is thinking about me. It’s not up to us to read men’s minds. It’s up to us to erase rape culture and the shame that comes with expressing ourselves with what we wear- regardless of our faith. I hear all the time of women being told they were “asking for it” by the things they were wearing at the time of their assault. I would like to propose that every thought that goes through my mind (and the minds of faith-filled women) is not to please men, but that everything I do brings glory to God. A lower reply I read is correct in saying a real man can see beyond what a woman is wearing. It is not my wardrobe that must change, but the culture surrounding modesty through fashion. I choose to dress modestly for my own self-respect, not because I live in fear of my own body (which has been given to me by God) turning against me to lure in unsuspecting males. My body is a gift. I take care of it, and when the time is right, it will be used as a way to fulfill my vocation of having a family and further spreading Gods love. It is not to be protected as a lethal weapon but valued and cherished as a true blessing. I am healthy and I am beautiful. Like everything else that is good, the human body and its sexuality comes from God. It is not my responsibility that my rapist had sexual thoughts of me. That’s his own struggle. That’s a conversation for him to have with God, who will forgive in His loving way. What we wear (like every other decision we make daily) is to glorify Him. If we want to show off His handiwork, that shouldn’t be scary or shameful.

      In case you wanted to make sure I wasn’t asking for it- I was wearing baggy navy blue pants and a white polo with a navy cardigan.


    • tayrobison

      There is no way it is a young women’s fault if a young man has inappropriate thoughts. He should be keeping his thoughts to himself. We as young women should not have to worry about what we are wearing just because a young man can’t control his mind. If we have to keep thoughts to ourselves. They can to. That is the most ubsurd thing I have ever read in my life, it is people like you that make me want to leave the church.

    • Anonymous

      Who cares. Wear what your comfortable in! God commands us not to worry. So don’t sista! And to those who say we need to be concerned about causing discomfort to others will only lead to be an insane worry wart as everyone has something they may perceive to make them uncomfortable and you may never have any clue it does. This is my thought, when u get dressed ask yoursrlf would I wear this around jesus and if the answer is yes. Wear it! Who cares about Tom Jane and dick!

      • Anonymous

        2 Nephi 28:8-9 And there shall be many which shall say: eat drink and be merry: nevertheless, fear God-he will justify in commiting a little sin; yea, lie a little, take the advantage of one because of his words, dig a pit for thy neighbor; there is no harm in this; and do all these things, for tomorrow we die; and if it so be we are guilty, God will beat us a few stripes, and at last we shall be saved in the kingdom of God.
        The standard we keep by wearing knee length skirts is for respect to the body’s God gave us. Just as you would not add graffiti to the Mona Lisa or hang her portrait without a frame. We do not show needless or vain amounts of skin.
        It is important not to use inconvenience as an excuse not to respect yourself or to fall into the trap set by the adversary. Resisting the temptation to say it is too hard and give up is at the cost of your everlasting happiness. The teachings of the church of Jesus Christ of Later Day Saints does not state that women’s choice in dress is solely to prevent sexual assault nor is that the main reason for modest dressing. Modesty it is hard but it would hardly be a test if it wasn’t.

  2. Keth

    Nouner, that’s funny. I have always dressed very modestly. I prefer long sleeves and turtlenecks. I even prefer longer skirts. That never stopped men from leering at me. So tell me again how the way I dress prevents temptation for men.

  3. Nouner

    Keth, it’s very easy. Can they see skin? Then you’re a harlot. Are you talking to them? Strumpet.

    The most important thing for Mormon Women to do is dress the way that old men tell them to. If you don’t know how to dress in a certain situation, just wear more clothes. Remember, your body is sinful and not covering it is a worse sin.

    Well I mean all “Hey you’re a daughter of god and stuff eternal beauty blah blah blah” but COVER UP THOSE KNEES.

    Make sure to be like the author and constantly question yourself. Can’t have women out there doing what they want! The more time and effort and emotional capital women spend trying to figure out how a mixture of vague principles and rules of thumb laid down by geriatrics, the less time and effort women will have to spend doing anything important.

    The ideal situation for mormon women is to spend so much effort on dressing that they never even get a chance to do anything important, like speak in church or run for office or question a man’s authority. Everyone knows that women whos knees are showing don’t have anything important to say.

    Men dress pretty much however they want, but the sisters of zion gotta spend half their freaking lives wondering if they’re dressing “right”

  4. Mungagungadin

    We’re between generations. Right now, the older generation espouses Modesty Culture which is, of course, rape culture. This generation believes that men act violently toward women because women fail in their clothing choices. This is the source of the culture that causes Utah to have higher-than-average violence against women (because in the male Utah mind, women are to blame and men are not really responsible). Then, we have the up and coming generation which despises Modesty and Rape culture. This generation says that women’s autonomy should be respected no matter what she is wearing, and that men alone are responsible for their thoughts and actions and women are responsible for their thoughts and actions, none of which in impacted at all by what people wear. When those ladies give you those “tips” at church, just categorize them by their generation and according to their weakness and just let it go. The world is moving toward justice and individual responsibility. The church will be dragged with it, as seems to be the trend.

  5. Man

    I am in the army, and sometimes my hair grows out longer than it should be. Not necessarily too long, just long enough that i don’t look like a soldier. I get really self conscious and start asking people around me if they think my hair is too long. I’ve found the best remedy is to get a hair cut.

    It sounds like you get really self conscious when you wear a skirt that’s too short. Don’t you think the best way to deal with that would be to wear one that is a little bit longer? People probably aren’t judging you as much as you are judging yourself. In the temple, the only person that was suggesting your skirt was to short was you. So, get a longer skirt. It will save you from having to worry so much.

    And i understand that you have friends who aren’t members, but honestly, if they pick at you for adopting new standards after you joined the church, then they really aren’t great friends. Just saying.

  6. erincita33

    True modesty does not come from shame. It comes from respecting our selves and our bodies. What other people do is not for us to judge. But it’s not wrong for us to make judgments about our own choices and to teach the truths that we know. I, too, am a convert and I remember very clearly a super short skirt I wore to one of my discussions. The sister missionary said- super cute skirt. And it was. Later I learned about modesty. My understanding grew and it felt right to me.

    Do we teach things because we believe them? Or do we teach things to feel better than those who do not believe them? There is nothing wrong with teaching the beauty of modesty. We simply must not judge other individuals who may or may not understand things the way we do.

    Read Bikinis and Burkas. Fascinating article questioning which woman is more “free”- the one in the bikini or the one in the burka? Neither or both? Very thought provoking.

  7. oawolski

    This is a fabulous post that I thoroughly enjoyed. I don’t normally read posts on this topic from a perspective such as yours.

    Ironically, I was in the midst of overthinking my outfit and Googling different ways I can wear a short dress without showing legs when I found your article.

    I mean, I like the way I feel in it. I like the way I look in it. You can’t see cleavage and you can’t see butt…but…

    Ah, the eternal worrying.

  8. M

    Like oawolski, I was googling something about ‘how short is too short for knee length’, while getting ready on a Sunday morning. I’ve changed between two skirts and two shirts in every combination at least five times already, one hitting mid knee when I’m standing and the other staying over the knee when I sit.
    While I still can’t really decide which I’ll wear, it’s nice to hear other people are having the same problem. I do agree that it shouldn’t be the first thing on our minds when we ought to be enjoying really beautiful spiritual moments, but it’s so much easier to feel that connection when you’re not feeling the need to constantly check your hem hasn’t moved up.

    I still kind of want the definitive ‘this short is too short’ type diagram I originally went googling for though…

  9. Lyn

    I think that calf-length skirts are so graceful and beautiful. Most girls don’t have the legs for shorter skirts. That’s the truth. Though I know that real men (it’s hard for them to admit it, because society beats them up for it) like to see women wearing 1950s dresses, because the clothes are so beautiful and ideally feminine, I dress for myself. I feel lovely and happy in the graceful length.

  10. Anon

    Honestly the modesty “rules” change wherever you go. Even From west to east coast in on country. I grew up in a “skirts have to touch the floor when you kneel” area and never had a problem with it, We wore plain tshirts and skirts ( it was a small branch and a lot of us were poor). When I got older My family moved across the country and got a bit of a Mormon culture shock, girls in low cut tops and skirts at mid thigh when sitting. Their response was “we are far away from salt lake so it doesn’t matter”. The farther you are from Mormon hubs the more people don’t really care.

  11. dallan52

    Honestly, everyone needs to stop caring what other people think and focus on what the Lord thinks. Strengthen your relationship with him and stop worrying about other people. Life is hard enough, everyone, even the people that are judging you or you think are judging you are going through hard things… loved ones dying, diseases, cancers, temptations and sins.

  12. Anonymous

    The “Mormon” culture on women dressing modestly isn’t about attractiveness of women but about respecting the bodies we have been given by God. The standards women are expected to follow are the same as the men’s the difference is the world’s standard of dress for women and what is appropriate is significantly lower, and that is what we should be scared of. That men have convinced us that we want to walk down the street in our under wear. But heaven forbid a man does the same thing because that would be saxual harassment.

  13. anonimo

    Hi, I’m a catholic and I don’t really understand why some religions mix clothing or food with God. It doesn’t make sense because he loves everyone and he sees more important things in people, not that stuff. I agree with you it doesn’t define you. I’m glad some people are intelligent and really analyze.


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