Modest is Hottest: Are Mormon Fashionistas Bringing Modesty Back?

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[quote]Modesty isn’t about covering up our bodies because they’re bad, or about hiding ourselves…. It is about revealing our dignity.[/quote]

—  Jessica Rey

Probably no other religious group has had their underwear talked about more in recent years than Mormons, due to political cartoon fodder for Mitt Romney and John Huntsman’s presidential candidacy, pop culture icons like Killers’ lead singer Brandon Flowers coming out in the ever-expanding “I am a Mormon” campaign, and the unexpected Broadway hit Book of Mormon.

Although you can see replicas of the underwear onstage, you won’t find Mormons posting pictures of the garment anywhere, or talking about it much, because it’s just that - a sacred garment worn more like underwear than the external indicators worn by other religious groups, like the kara for the Sikhs, the tzitzit for the Hasidim, or the burqa for Islamic women.

The preferred term for the underwear is “temple garment,” and they are worn as a reminder of the personal covenant made with God in the Temple, and, like the burqa, also serve as a symbol of modesty. Mormons are granted the garments during an “endowment ceremony,” which usually coincides with leaving to serve a mission or getting married, and is characterized by vows to live chaste lives, to obey God’s commands, serve in the church, and wear the garment throughout their lives. Latter Day Saints interpret this to mean wearing the garments underneath clothing both day and night, next to the skin, so that a bra or tights are worn over top, and the most common exceptions are made for swimming and sports.

The temple garment resembles a lightweight white t-shirt and pair of boxer shorts with several simple reminders of gospel principles on them. Although the color, length and cut are conducive to Mormon values for purity and modesty, their more basic import is to symbolize their commitment to God and offer a meaningful way to take “the temple into the world” on a regular, and fashionable, basis.

While some might assume the temple garment creates an obstacle for LDS fashionistas, Mormons are actually excelling at fashion blogging, seemingly because of their religion and the modesty it requires.

Here are five examples of Mormons who are embracing their religion while exporting stylish modesty – and attracting the attention of both Mormons and non-Mormons alike:

1. Clothed Much

L.A. based fashion blogger Elaine Heam works for Shopzilla by day and runs one of the most popular Mormon fashion blogs by night. She reports that her faith significantly influences her fashion, especially in the modesty department. Not just modest in dress, Elaine is also modest in terms of money, gearing her fashion picks towards items for those on tighter budgets.

2. Elle Apparel

Leanne Barlow of Elle Apparel is known for her clothing tutorials, especially modest skirts and dresses, but she also branches out into shower curtains and canvas totes. With over 6,500 hits a day and over 3,400 followers on her Pinterest site, Barlow is definitely one of the up-and-coming Mormon fashion bloggers.

3. North Meets South

Based in New York, but from the south, Erica of North Meets South combines southern belle with city living, for a feminine, modest, and in her words, “quirky” style. “No joke,” she writes, “I can totally get away with quirky things because I’m Mormon. Not only am I the only Mormon most of my coworkers know, but also many of them hadn’t even heard of Mormons before meeting me…. So just as my lack of alcohol consumption and marriage at a young age is chalked up to being Mormon, I think my quirky outfits are, as well. I’m OK with that.” Her many followers obviously are, too.

4. Twist Me Pretty

Based in Provo, UT, Abby of Twist Me Pretty is a singer turned blogger, most widely known as a hairstyle guru. Her book, The Ultimate Hairstyle Handbook, comes in hardcopy and ebook form, and offers over 40 step-by-step picture tutorials. More than some of the other popular Mormon bloggers, Abby defends and promotes her religion to her followers online, in between DIY, fashion, photography, home decor and food posts, of course.

5. Thread Ethic

Melody and Desirae Brown started Thread Ethic in December of 2010 in order to highlight high-end fashion and trending street style that had one particular thing in common: modesty. Their tagline is, “Brave enough to make strong fashion choices, confident enough not to bare it all,” and they truly believe that “modesty thrives in style” and doesn’t have to be a restriction on the red carpet or the runway.