The first explicit call to modest dress occured in 1951, when Church authority Spencer W

The first explicit call to modest dress occured in 1951, when Church authority Spencer W

But there is a way in which this attitude can be read as subversive in terms of Church doctrine, especially when one considers the history of sumptuary laws in the Mormon Church. (There is a useful article in the Mormon periodical Dialogue that outlines the subject in more detail.) Though we might imagine the discourse on modesty to call back to the conservativism of the Einsenhower era, this is not the locus of the nostalgia for modest behavior-it is, in fact, its origin. Kimball extolled young, unmarried Mormon women to distinguish themselves from their non-member peers explicitly through a more conservative code of dress:

“There is no reason why women need to wear a low-cut or otherwise revealing gown just because it is the worldly style. We can create a style of our own.”

It is important to note that this address, given at a BYU devotional, was aimed mostly at unmarried young women. As Kimball argues,

“We knew of one mother who remonstrated with her lovely daughter who intended to buy a modest evening gown. When you are married in the temple that will be time enough to begin wearing conservative clothes.’ What can be expected of the new generation if the mothers lead their own offspring from the path of right. The fellows could show courage and good judgment if they encouraged their young women friends to wear modest clothing. If a young man would not date a young woman who is improperly clothed, the style would change very soon.”

Kimball assumes that women who are married are already living the law of modesty because of the nature of their temple garments; here, as in most of the discourse that follows, the concern is that unmarried women might delay that sense of responsibility until after they take their temple vows. Continue reading