The Long and Short of It

by Marcie JoEllen Matthews

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I thought I was doing pretty well—until I realized something about me didn’t measure up.

I’m pretty much an average Latter-day Saint girl. I go to church and activities weekly and have been in my class presidency. I am very outgoing when it comes to talking about the Church and have many conversations about the Church with friends. I don’t use drugs, alcohol, or tobacco. I don’t watch R-rated movies, and I never swear. Most of the guidance that I have been given by my parents and leaders I take to heart and apply to my life.

But there was one area where I knew I could use a lot of improvement. Although I wasn’t extreme in my choice of clothing, and my dresses always had sleeves, I knew that there was still something that I should change—the length of my shorts and skirts. But I didn’t really want to change because my legs are one of my best features.

The first time that I started to see how the way you dress can affect people was during a two-week church program that had a dress code: knee-length skirts and shorts. So, in other words, no shorts at all for me. Since nothing I owned was long enough, I wore pants the whole time. During those two weeks, I was able to meet two young men who were my age. We spent a lot of time talking and developed a close bond. Occasionally we would see girls in the community wearing tank tops and shorts that barely covered them. For the first time in my life, I realized the effect that women can have on men. My friends talked about how they didn’t want to see girls wearing short shorts and skirts, but sometimes it was hard to avoid.

After two weeks were over, I had the opportunity to drive to a lake for a week’s vacation. I went home, packed my clothes, and was off. I found that after being so modest for two weeks, all my shorts and skirts seemed to have shrunk! For the first couple of days I wore the few pair of longer shorts that I had, but slowly I fell right back into my old habits.

Only a couple of Sundays had passed when I walked into a Young Women class that would start a change that will last forever. The lesson was on dressing modestly, and I don’t think that the lesson was all that different than the ones I had heard before. But because of my experience a few weeks earlier, I was finally ready to hear it. After I got home from church, I went to my room and decided I needed to get rid of a lot of my clothes. I told my parents about the lesson that we had just had and that I had decided to make a change.

Later that night my dad came and told me he was proud of me. He then told me that he would like to buy me a couple of dresses so that I could have some knee-length dresses for church. I told him that would be great.

The next night, I had a big surprise waiting for me in my bedroom when I got home. Lying on top of my bed were several different modest items of clothing my parents had purchased for me. I then tried them all on to see if the length was long enough and if they met my parents’ approval. The next step was to go through all my clothes and discard everything that was too short. It was hard for me to part with my favorite skirts and the shorts I loved so much, but I did. You will now never see me in anything that is shorter than my kneecap. I was also surprised to see what I could find in the stores. Now I just have to look a little bit harder, but modest things will show up.

I have never felt better about myself. I love being able to walk into church or go to the temple to do baptisms knowing that I am a child of God and feeling that I am representing Him in the way that He would want me to through the clothes that I wear.

Illustrated by Steve Kropp