The modesty movement is, well … on the move! After many years of going from store to store to find acceptable clothing, Latter-day Saint youth and others who want to dress modestly have finally had enough. Two great examples of how LDS youth are fighting the increasingly fashionable battle for more modest clothing come from Arizona and Illinois.
The youth of the Tucson Arizona East Stake have great taste in clothes. They also have something much more important—a strong commitment to Church standards. They youth received a lot of attention when they put on a local fashion show that not only displayed modest fashions, but demonstrated their love for the gospel.
The fashion show came after the young women and young men in the stake spent a year preparing and building community support for their efforts to promote modesty. More than 4,000 community members signed a petition encouraging stores to provide more modest clothing options, and more than 500 attended the fashion show, which was held at the stake center.
The youth met varied responses as they took the petition around. “I went to a public library to get signatures,” says Sydni Dunn, 13. “One woman I asked even started to cry because she so appreciated what I was doing.”
Not everyone cried when they heard about the petition; some people laughed. Wallis Rothlisberger, 15, says, “Some people said it was no use to try to influence fashion, and what did we think a bunch of teenagers could do anyway.” But, she adds, “I was actually surprised at how many people were supportive and commended us for our efforts.” Wallis explained to people that the petition did not mean that Latter-day Saints are trying to impose their standards on others; they only want local retailers to increase their selection of modest clothing.
The theme for the stake’s fashion show was “Discovering the Beauty Within.” Ward and stake leaders worked with the young women and young men to make the show a success. The youth were also joined in their efforts by several girls of other faiths.
In the show, the Laurels modeled, and the priests were ushers and escorts. On the runway the young women wore clothes from their own closets to show others it is possible to find modest, stylish clothes without spending purse-loads of money.
As the youth prepared for the show, local newspapers and TV and radio stations interviewed many of them and their leaders. “The fashion show was a blast,” says Ed Rothlisberger, 17, who spoke to the media. “I felt we were being an example—a light on the hill for Tucson.”
Ed helped get petition signatures and escorted some of the girls in the fashion show. So did Sam Rogers, 17. He told the media: “Girls think they have to wear certain clothes to interest us, but they don’t. I just like to see girls dressed modestly.”
Besides the petitions and the fashion show, the youth and their leaders also set up a Web site called “Modesty Turns Heads.” It includes helpful resources, like a link to For the Strength of Youth at www.lds.org and information on how others can get involved in promoting modest dress standards.
“After doing so much work to promote modesty in our community, I have come to recognize that I am not weird or out of fashion for dressing the way that I do,” says Lindsay Orton, 17.
The modesty movement is catching on in a lot of places. Youth in the Naperville Illinois Stake also recently organized a modesty fashion show in their area. The youth and their leaders worked with local and online vendors of modest clothing to put on their show of beautiful dresses with appropriate necklines, lengths, and fits. (For dress and appearance guidelines, see For the Strength of Youth, 14–16).
The Naperville stake also has a “style committee” that works to help adults and youth in the stake learn how to dress modestly and where to find helpful community resources. This committee, along with the youth, organized a fashion show titled “Modest Elegance: It’s for ME.” Committee members Josetta Nair, Julie Koch, and Hillary Kennefick all have experience in sewing and fashion design.
“The style committee teaches us about fashion,” says Lauryn Moon, 17. “They weren’t just helping us find modest dresses, but cute modest dresses.”
“Dressing modestly gives me self-respect,” Amelia Weinert, 17, said. “I want boys to like me for me. Wearing the kind of dresses you find in most stores, you get attention for the wrong reason.”
For the Strength of Youth spells out what the youth from Illinois and Arizona are trying to express when they promote modesty: “When you are well groomed and modestly dressed, you invite the companionship of the Spirit and can exercise a good influence on those around you. … Through your dress and appearance, you can show the Lord that you know how precious your body is. You can show that you are a disciple of Jesus Christ” (14–15).
The youth in Arizona and Illinois found strength in banding together for the righteous cause of modesty in dress. Ariel Lewis, 15, from Tucson, says, “Every time I told someone why I wanted them to sign the petition, it strengthened my testimony that modest clothes really matter. I stood stronger for what I believed in. This experience has really strengthened me.”
Brittany Blotter, 17, from the Naperville stake, agrees: “I have completely changed,” she says. “The way I feel is different. The way I act is different. I’m just so happy!”
In their quest for more modest clothing options, Latter-day Saint youth have made people in their communities more aware and supportive of modest clothing, but, more importantly, they have also made a difference in their own lives by strengthening their testimonies and their commitment to being modest.
Through your dress and appearance, you can show the Lord that you know how precious your body is. You can show that you are a disciple of Jesus Christ.” —For the Strength of Youth (2001), 14.
To see how other teens have stood up for modesty, read these articles in the Gospel Library at www.lds.org: “Dressed Up!” (New Era, May 2003), by Nikki Miner and “Evaluate Your Style” (New Era, Jan. 2002), by Caroline H. Benzley.