When I was first invited to visit an LDS church, I a many churches, I opted for a dress and a hat, figuring too much dressiness was better than not enough. When I arrived, I saw no one else had a hat, so I removed mine. All the girls wore dresses, and I was relieved to be properly attired.
However, when the lesson began, it included a discussion of proper dress. Within moments, I understood my outfit, conservative by the world’s standards, was not modest by church standards. I was embarrassed, but I realized no one was turning to stare at me in disapproval. The lesson didn’t appear to be directed at me, and no one pulled me aside afterwards to tell me to come more appropriately dressed next week.
It’s a good thing they didn’t. I owned only one dress and had no money for another one. It took many weeks of saving before I could afford a new church outfit, at which time I asked another girl to explain the rules in detail to me.
Often, those of us who join the church, especially if we join in a short time, have a wardrobe problem. We look around and see no one is dressed the way we are. There may even be the occasional rude person who considers it her duty to tell you all about it. It may be that both our Sunday clothes and our weekday clothes are all wrong.
You should be aware that while there are dress standards for both men and women, no one is banned from church for not meeting them. Everyone who walks through the door of an LDS church as a sincere investigator and then as a new member is sent by God and attends as His guest in His home. We are taught to accept you as you arrive. If you’re wearing jeans, a t-shirt, pink hair, and twelve body piercings, you’re welcome and wanted.
Over time, you can begin to alter your wardrobe. Ask someone you trust to teach you the standards and then go through your wardrobe. First, note which things don’t match the standards and can’t be altered to meet them. Those are the first items to be replaced when the time comes. Then note which things can be changed. For instance, the many convert youth in our ward are taught how to layer their clothing. If they have a shirt that is too short, too tight, or too low-cut, they pair it with another shirt that covers up what needs to be covered. This allows them to keep their old clothing and still be modest, since most are on very tight budgets. When they’re able to buy new clothing, they select items that don’t require layering.
Don’t stay home or avoid baptism because you don’t have the right clothing. Come as you are, wearing whatever you have that most closely matches the standards. When we go to visit God in his home, we wear the best we have, whatever that might be.
Terrie Lynn Bittner
The late Terrie Lynn Bittner—beloved wife, mother, grandmother, and friend—was the author of two homeschooling books and numerous articles, including several that appeared in Latter-day Saint magazines. She became a member of the Church at the age of 17 and began sharing her faith online in 1992.