A recent New York Times article on the rise of female Mormon missionaries points to the guidelines for appearance described and modelled on the church’s website. We decided to take a closer look at the dress code for this fast-growing religion, which is formally known as the Church of the Ladder Day Saints (LDS).
As described on LDS.net:
You might not immediately be able to spot an individual Mormon by his or her clothing. The clothing Mormons wear is fashionable and ordinary, chosen by the members themselves to suit their style within the guidelines. However, if you were to observe a group of young LDS teenagers, you might notice that overall, there is a difference. These girls will not have low-cut tops or tops that reveal their stomachs. Their shoulders will be covered and their dresses will reach their knees. Their clothing won’t be tight or suggestive, even though it’s fashionable. They’ll have no more than one set of earrings, positioned in the usual place on the ears.
Boys won’t have overly baggy pants that reveal underwear and their waistlines won’t hang low. They also have their shoulders, stomachs, and chests covered and their clothing is designed to cover them, not reveal them. Neither group will have tattoos.
Standards for missionaries, as exemplary Mormons, are even more explicit. Here’s a summary of their guidelines:
Women should wear “professional suits, skirts, blouses, jackets, sweaters, and dresses.” Jeans or pants are only acceptable during certain activities, like exercise.
Shirts with “cap sleeves” can’t be worn alone. But women don’t have to tuck in their shirts. While layering is ok, undershirts shouldn’t be noticeably longer than the top layer.
Skirts and dresses must cover their entire knee when sitting or standing. No mesh, fishnet or lace tights. And if they wear leggings, the bottoms can’t be visible. Wear boots or coloured nylons that match with flat shoes.
And all the above clothing should be”attractive, colourful, tailored to fit well, and conservative in style.”
Hair and Make-up
While there’s no specific style, length, or colour for hair, it should be “attractive,” “easy to manage,” “natural,” and “conservative.”
If women choose to wear any accessories, like clips or headbands, they can’t draw attention or “distract from your message.”
Make-up isn’t required, but the guide notes it can help women look your best. If women do choose to wear cosmetics, they should be “neutral and conservative in style and colour.” The same goes for nail polish.
And of course, “bathe daily, use deodorant, and wash your hair frequently.” Perfume, if worn, can’t be “overpowering or distracting.”
Shoes and Accessories
This section covers it all: flats, everyday shoes, heels, boots, exercise shoes, earrings, necklaces, bracelets, watches, rings, and bags.
For safety reasons, women should wear closed-toe and closed-heel shoes. Also, for safety and security, earrings (only one in each ear) can’t hang longer than approximately one inch below the earlobe. Naturally, tattoos, nose rings, other body piercings, and toe rings are unacceptable.
Lastly, “backpacks are not professional.”
Men should wear wrinkle-resistant suits and ties. When choosing to wear a lighter colour, they should stick with grey or brown. Only polyester blend, white shirts can be worn under suits. In colder weather, sweaters and vests are also permitted.
Men also have to wear closed-toe and closed-heel dress shoes or boots with matching socks. No suede shoes or cowboy boots. No backpacks or hoodies either.
Hair should be kept “relatively short and evenly tapered.” Faux-hawk, crew cuts, mullets, spikey styles, and messy hair are prohibited. They can’t bleach or dye their hair. Sideburns can’t be longer than mid-ear either.
“Bathe, shave, and brush your teeth each day. Use deodorant, and wash your hair frequently.”
While the guide doesn’t mention facial hair, all of the men we saw on the site are clean-shaven.
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