Architecturally, our roots seem deeply planted in low church sensibilities, at least when it comes to chapels. No stained glass windows anywhere in sight for us; no gilded reliquaries, stations of the cross, imposing statues, or pictures of any kind adorn our chapel walls. Our meeting houses are modest, simple, functional, and spartan. Nothing that could be construed as an icon presents itself.
Nothing, that is, except perhaps ourselves. This joy in simplicity, so evident in our places worship, seemingly goes out the window when it comes to the female body, on which we concentrate the lion’s share of our interest in visual aesthetics. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that in certain wards sacrament meeting bears more than a passing resemblance to an out-an-out beauty pageant. I’ve had roommates who spent more time curling their hair and applying their make-up in preparation for church than they spent at church. In a sense, we women are the decorations that adorn our bare chapels.
In spite of this, there seems to be a bizarre concern among some that Mormon women are not sufficiently fashionable and are committing greivous sins on the order of dressing in floral print jumpers and incorrectly curling their bangs. Is this concern warranted? Is this entire pageant phenomenon unique to singles’ wards, where women are expected to throw themselves into netting a mate with all the precision and forethought of a military assault?
I’m not sure where the happy medium is when it comes to aesthetics in worship (or what their relationship should be). I personally like dressing up for church. I like showing respect for sacred space. So I’m not sure where the line should be drawn between dressing nicely out of respect for God’s house and dressing for the Governor’s Ball. (But then, I also like cavernous cathedrals with their imposing stone statues and glowing stained glass images.)
And although I feel it appropriate to show a certain sartorially manifested deference in a building dedicated to God, I have to nevertheless remind myself that all indications are Jesus would have skipped the ball to dine with the women in the floral print jumpers.
- 11 April 2008