I understand that this Sunday some Mormon sisters plan to wear pants to church to protest what they feel are some inequality issues. I’m not going to get into these issues and am not trying to make light of their concerns, but I do wonder whether wearing pants will get them the attention they want. It’s not that uncommon to see women in pants in our society and it’s certainly not a shock to see us wearing them in our LDS church buildings. We already wear them to functions during the week. Even on Sundays, nobody raises an eyebrow if a guest shows up in pants or if one of the sisters wears them for say, some health issues. I’m not sure we’d be that shocked if a member of the Relief Society presidency showed up in pants on Sunday. We’d probably just figure she had her reasons. I can tell you with certainty, however, that if one of the High Priest group leaders showed up in a dress, that that would get some attention. Men, it occurs to me, are far and I mean FAR more limited than women when it comes to fashion not only at church but in our society in general. Though there are always exceptions—the occasional elder who decides to grow out his hair, here is a list of what I’ve observed to be differences in the fashion norm when it comes to male and female church attire.
1. Basic clothes: Women can wear a wide variety of styles from simple tailored suits to flowing dresses made out of fabrics in all kinds of colors and patterns. Men, on the other hand, feel the need to stick with a standard suit in a neutral color, or shirt and slacks and ties with possibly a conservative pullover sweater. Some of the younger men will wear colored shirts, but you look on the stand at an LDS conference, or any church meeting, for that matter, and it’s pretty much the sisters who are wearing the color.
2. Accessories: My husband adds a tie, a watch, and a ring—that’s it. I feel free to pick from a wide assortment of costume jewelry from necklaces, pins, broaches, rings, and earrings. I’m partial to bracelets and don’t dare count how many I have. As far as handbags are concerned, my son-in-law was seriously hesitant to take what’s called a “man bag” to church for his electronics out of concern it looked too much like a purse. My daughter, on the other hand, could haul a beach bag the size of Kansas into the chapel and nobody would give her a second glance.
3. Shoes: Now we’re really talking inequality. We women, or “sisters” can wear dress boots in the summer, and sandal-type shoes in the winter if we want. We don’t feel conspicuous in ballet slippers with no heels, or shoes with heels the height of your average footstool. Men? They’re stuck with pretty much two styles— dress shoes with laces, and those loafer type slip-ons, both of which have low, standard-sized heels even though, I can guarantee you, there are some priesthood holders who would love being a few inches taller.
4. Hair and nails: Women have the option of wearing their hair boyishly short, shoulder length, layered, or extremely long in intricate or simple styles. They can feel free to color their hair and nobody so much as blinks. And speaking of colors—any color goes these days when it comes to nails–well, for women. Some sisters have gone the acrylic nail route. In fact, women even get to decorate their feet. I sat by a sister in Sunday School one week whose acrylic toenails had little jewels in them. What’s the norm for men?—short and trimmed and (hopefully) clean. This unspoken rule applies to both hair and nails. I’ve yet to see a priesthood holder come to church in even clear polish.
5. Makeup: A woman can feel feel free to improve her appearance by adding color to her face in the form of mascara, blush, lipstick etc. Women even feel free to draw on brows if their own are lacking. Men? They don’t wear makeup. My husband doesn’t even feel comfortable being seen putting on chap stick. Lip gloss would be out of the question, he tells me.
Nope, when it comes to fashion, our priesthood bearers just don’t seem to have the freedom to express themselves that women do. I’d say that if the feminists that I mentioned earlier, are trying to draw attention to their cause, they would get much more of a reaction if they recruited the men in their lives to wear something feminine and adorable this Sunday or anytime really. But good luck with that. I very much doubt they’d do it. In fact, I don’t even think they’d do it for any cause—not even to protest their own lack of freedom and equality when it comes to fashion. 😀