Me and my Mum went to a friends house yesterday to talk about something called a “10 day cleanse”. Today, we were talking about image and what the 10 day cleanse meant differently to us because we’re LDS mormons and we do some of the things listed on the cleanse already. During the talk, I took the opportunity to say how easy and beneficial it can be for our bodies to cut out alcohol and that I’d seen people go from high alcoholic diets, to not drinking at all in a matter of days. It was so nice to be in an environment where I didn’t feel strange saying those things and where people actually respected me and agreed with me. One of the women actually came to me at the end and said that she would try and cut down because of the things I said. That was all down to us being in a friendly environment and talking with people who understood and supported each other.
This lead me to think about aesthetics, clothing and being judgemental towards others.
Now, I can’t go on without explaining how a typical LDS should dress. Imagine a wet suit with sleeves and a neck like a t-shirt and legs that cover the skin down to your knees, that skin covered by the wet suit is what we choose not to show. We believe this helps us to keep comfortable and to respect our bodies. I really love being modest and I’m not just saying that, it does help me to feel secure and comfortable and I believe it has taught me that my body is something to be respected and not paraded around. In saying that, I’m not one to judge others for how they dress, it’s their body, their money and their choice. Sometimes, I’m not modest because I can’t find skirts that are long enough and that’s ok, because we’re all just trying our best.
So I have some friends who joined my church a couple of years ago. When they joined, they were really enthusiastic and they asked me a lot of questions, particularly to do with clothing and what sort of things they should be wearing. They were afraid of being judged at church for what they wore, because they couldn’t afford to buy new clothes. I was one of the very few people who new how hard they were trying and how self- conscious they were feeling. Some prejudice was being sent their way because they didn’t look the same as everyone else. Almost like they didn’t look “Mormon” enough.
I said something along the lines of this:
“Buy what you can afford, there are lots of tricks you can do to help you be more modest, but if you can’t afford to do anything at the moment, just ignore everyone else and know that you are trying your best. Heavenly Father knows that, I know that and you know that. There are a lot of people here who were born into the church and have had an image of what a Mormon “should” look like put into their brains from birth. It’s not their fault and it’s not their parents fault for teaching them that way, it’s just what we’ve grown up with. Many of them try really hard not to be judgmental but because we’re humans, things like that come naturally to us. What other people think doesn’t matter. As long as God knows that you are trying to do the right thing, then you’re ok.”
Obviously, I didn’t say all of this in a big clump, I said it to them over time and they learned not to judge other people, that judging is Gods job and no-one else’s. I am really proud to say that they now come to Church in modest clothing and they have told me that they feel a lot more comfortable being modest. But it took a lot of accepting themselves as who they are and not being self conscious in these new clothes because it was such a big change for them. They have been so brave to change such a huge part of their lives and it’s helped them and me and countless other members who have seen them change to stop judging other people because of what we think they should look like.
Sometimes, I think it’d be nice if our clothes were the same for where we lived like in the book and film “Divergent” If you’ve seen the movie, or read the book, there are five areas called ‘factions’ you are born into a faction and wear the clothes given to you, usually they have a colour or a theme that is appropriate for the work they do in that faction. So there would be an England outfit, an American outfit, an italian outfit, a Japanese outfit and so-on. I think that’s what I would do if I ruled the world. I would have a theme of clothing for each country and there would be different clothes and things to choose from but they would all be comfortable, affordable and uniform. Like everyone’s on the same team. There would be no fads or trends, it would be impossible for one person to be cooler than the other because of what they wear and no-one would stress about how they look.
Ah, but alas, I am not the ruler of the world and some people would absolutely hate this idea. I just wish that the types of material we drape on our bodies didn’t define us, but I can always dream…