Sunday, January 31, 2010

Day 117: Modest Formals

I mentioned in my last post that I found a vintage dress that was modest. I have also mentioned in past posts that I am given an occasion to dress up usually about once a week here--either for LMH halls (which, though we don't wear robes, tend to be more dressy), high table with my supervisor (a real treat), or for the rare party or Union event. I should probably elaborate here on my dress policy, that of my Church, and how it has been perceived by my classmates.

As I have said before, temple-going (and most other faithful) members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints abide by principles of modesty. These principles include believing that, as Paul said, our bodies are temples, and that how we dress is "a reflection of who we are inside." Although the specifics of these principles are, as all other gospel principles, up to personal interpretation and inspiration, there are a few guidelines provided in a pamphlet written for LDS youth:

Immodest clothing includes short shorts and skirts, tight clothing, shirts that do not cover the stomach, and other revealing attire. Young women should wear clothing that covers the shoulder and avoid clothing that is low-cut in the front or the back or revealing in any other manner. Young men should also maintain modesty in their appearance. All should avoid extremes in clothing, appearance, and hairstyle. Always be neat and clean and avoid being sloppy or inappropriately casual in dress, grooming, and manners. Ask yourself, “Would I feel comfortable with my appearance if I were in the Lord’s presence?”

(available under "dress and appearance" at )

Modesty for me began with parental guidelines at a young age. At ten I was no longer allowed to wear sleeveless tops, during high school my shorts needed to reach the edge of my fingertips, and my skirts to the top of my knee. Finding modest dresses for formals at that point, even in Utah, was a challenge. (Thankfully, young women in the states now have many great modest options.)

Attending Brigham Young University as a seventeen-year-old Freshman brought an upgrade in externally-imposed fashion standards, where everything needed to reach the knee. Attending the temple for the first time as a 20-year-old was another upgrade, where I needed to be even more careful that shirts were not too low nor tight and properly covered my shoulders. I thought that this transition would be hard, but it was not. Not in the least. I have fully embraced this standard of modesty and enjoy the creative challenge it provides.

Finding modest formalish dresses is still a challenge, and, whenever I find one that is also reasonably priced, I buy it. I received a great compliment from a girlfriend of mine this week. She had a guest attend Burn's Night formal hall (see Day 114) with her. My friend relayed to me that this guest had commented on me and my dress saying how rare it was to see someone be so modest and yet so fashionable and beautiful. I don't know about the beautiful part, but I found it interesting that people noticed my attempt at being both modest and fashionable. I wonder if that sticks out as much as this comment seems to indicate. If so, it is a great lesson to me of the importance of keeping my standards - you never know who is watching and the impact--for bad or good--that one will make!


  1. Can you please share your sources for modest formal wear in Oxford? I need to find a ball gown on short notice, and I'm panicking because I'm not sure where to look. Thanks!

  2. You bet. I would recommend the Ballroom, which is the vintage/formal shop in East Oxford at the road about just over Magdalen bridge. Although most of their gowns are sleeveless/strapless, they have dozens of shrugs in different colors, all of which you can rent.

    Also, they often have a great vintage selection, which gowns are often modest (and gorgeous!).

    Good luck! You are lucky to be so close to that shop - I miss it from here in London.


  3. Thanks for your help! I'll stop by Ballroom tomorrow . . . .