It wasn’t Milan or Paris, but the show these Louisiana youth put on was more than a modest success.
When you think about being fashionably dressed, you probably think about exotic places—places like Milan, London, Paris, and New York. Or, if you’re not into high fashion, you might think about places a little closer to home. Perhaps the local shopping mall or discount store are the first places that pop into your mind when you need new clothes.
But it’s probably pretty safe to say that no matter who you are, when you think about new clothes, Slidell, Louisiana, doesn’t figure into your thoughts.
Unless, of course, Slidell is where you live.
Some of the youth in Slidell were having a difficult time keeping the standard of wearing modest clothing. And while it’s true that modesty can be a challenge no matter where you live, in Slidell it can be particularly difficult.
“It gets very hot here,” says Kelly Skinner. “Even when you know your standards, it can be a temptation to wear immodest clothing.”
And it’s not just the weather that makes it difficult.
“Most of us go to school with just one or two other members,” says Kristen Davis. “Sometimes you feel like you’re the only one who is trying to be modest. It can make you feel kind of weird.”
Many of the youth in Slidell were wearing modest clothing despite the challenges. But with fashion trends leaning toward short, sleeveless, or otherwise inappropriate styles, the Slidell Louisiana Stake youth committee decided to take action.
“We tried to find a way to make modest dressing fun,” says Kristen.
On the catwalk
As the youth committee met together to find a solution to the problem of immodest and inappropriate dress, they talked about why the youth in their stake might choose clothing that isn’t in keeping with Church standards.
“First, we decided that part of the problem is that to find modest clothing, you have to work a little harder,” says Kristen, who serves on the youth committee. “In most stores, there will be lots of immodest choices and only a few modest ones.”
But the youth committee knew there were ways to dress well without compromising standards. After all, most of them were doing it successfully—their closets were full of good examples. And what better way to demonstrate good fashion sense than by putting on a fashion show?
“None of us who are participating as models went out and bought new clothes,” says Shawna Windom. “We all just went to our closets and pulled out things that we wear all the time.”
In it together
But the fashion show was only part of the answer to this problem.
“It can be really hard to keep your standards when you feel as if you’re the only one doing it,” says Aaron Martin, another youth committee member. “We wanted to somehow create a feeling of unity so that when the people from our stake are at school, they’ll remember that they’re not living the standards all by themselves.”
So Aaron talked with other youth in his ward, and he and his friend Jacob Snell read For the Strength of Youth. Then he and Jacob wrote a contract of sorts; those who signed it would agree to live the dress standards they outlined.
“Some guys think that modesty is only a standard for girls to keep,” says Jacob. “But how you dress sends messages to other people, and that’s true for boys and girls. It shows other people that you respect them, as well as yourself, when you dress appropriately.”
Dressed up with someplace to go
The night of the fashion show, the runway is ready, the refreshments are waiting, and there is a bit of chaos in the dressing rooms. With youth modeling everything from jeans to prom dresses and tuxedos, it’s hard to navigate the hallways. But even with all the excitement, it’s easy to see that the youth are not only modestly dressed but fashionably dressed as well.
Homemade New Era posters, touting the benefits of dressing modestly and appropriately, line the cultural hall walls. The lights dim slightly, and the music begins to play. Boys model clothing suitable for hiking—shorts that reach the knees and heavy boots—as well as appropriate attire for passing the sacrament. Girls wear everything from jeans and sneakers to dresses for the spring formal.
When the show ends, everyone has a chance to sign the modesty agreement. As a reminder of the promise they’ve made, everyone receives a CTR ring. Throughout the year, the agreement will be displayed at stake dances and other events to remind the youth of what they’ve agreed to.
“Being in this program has made me think a little differently about making clothing choices,” says Krystina Quist. “I think I’m more careful about what I choose when I’m in the store now.”
Many of the young men also felt that the fashion show was a worthwhile effort.
“I’m glad we did this activity,” says Bradley Hogan. “I feel good when I follow the standards, and I’m glad this might help other people do it too.”
Back to the trenches
For most of the youth in Slidell, the fashion show and modesty agreement won’t mean a huge change. Perhaps just a few items of clothing will be thrown out or forgotten, and maybe a little more thought will go into clothing selection. But for the most part, this lesson was just an enhancement for an already great group of youth.
“The kids at school know who we are,” says Shawna. “They watch what we do, and dressing modestly just makes us seem like a class act.”
So from now on, when you seek fashion inspiration, you might look a little further than pictures of runway models wearing the creations of fancy designers. Think about a youth group in Louisiana helping each other stay strong. Then think about yourself and the clothes hanging in your closet. They may not be high fashion, but if they are in keeping with high standards, it will be just the kind of style you want.