Guest Post: Re-defining My Relationship with the Temple Garment

by Anonymous

Annoying. Frustrating. Un-sexy. Unprofessional. In the way. Old-fashioned. Heat Rash. Awkward. Forced.

These are the words I would use to describe my garments. I was endowed at the age of 21, right before my wedding. My sister told me exactly which fabric to buy and what size, warning me that the ladies at Distribution would try to get me to buy larger sizes, but that I would just regret it. She knows I’m 5’8”, but told me to buy petites. I felt guilty buying a different size just so it would be shorter, so I bought regular length. I regretted it. My mom gave me a couple rolls of double-stick tape, because “garments never stay where you want them to.” My grandma saw me pulling out a pair of bottoms where one leg was obviously longer than the other and said, “I used to alter my garments all the time before they announced you’re not supposed to. Better send that pair back.”

Such is life as an endowed Latter-day Saint. You sacrifice your comfort and the autonomy of choosing undergarments that best fit and flatter your body in order to receive blessings that only come from constantly wearing an undergarment which you are told to purchase from a specific vendor without seeing, without trying on and for which sizes do not match any convention or norm. I was told to never let my garments touch the floor. I was told not to take them off for anything except the three S’s: “shower, swimming, sex.” I was told never to alter my garments. But I was never told WHY.

I’ve heard others talk about what a blessing garments are and how honored they felt to wear them. How they felt closer to the Spirit when they wore them. How they felt spiritually protected against temptation. How they considered this a privilege. In the six years following my endowment, I never felt this way. I felt forced. I felt burdened. I felt controlled.

One day, I was folding laundry and noticed that one of the screen-printed marks on my fairly new cotton stretch garments was gone. For some reason, this simple observation sent my brain spinning. What did this mean? What should I do? Were they still “holy”? Should I keep wearing them without the mark? Throw away a barely-worn garment? Use a fabric marker to draw a new one? Could I do that? Do they do some kind of special blessing on garments when they make them? I’m not supposed to alter my garments. But a garment isn’t a garment without the mark. …Right?

I realized how little I knew about the temple garment – so I started researching. I learned:
• That garment styles and functions have changed considerably over time.
• That members were previously allowed to sew their own garments.
• That there is no special blessing or consecration on the garments before they are sold. The only thing that distinguishes the piece of clothing is the marks.
• That military and other police and emergency personnel are both able to purchase tan garments with marks or purchase their own undergarments, of whatever color or brand is needed for their unit, and pay to ship them to Church HQ to have marks sewn or printed on.

I felt angry. There was no doctrinal instruction to base most of what I had been taught about temple garments, except:

1) God desires to bless us with spiritual protection
2) The marks serve as a reminder of sacred covenants

I was driving to work one morning, stewing on what I had learned, and had an idea. What if I make my own garments? It had been done before. There was no doctrinal reason I shouldn’t. Surely, as a Daughter of God endowed with power from on high, I had enough authority to make my own garments. I was tickled by the idea, but also nervous. Was I taking a dangerous step? Was I just doing this to “stick it to the man”? No. I’ve never been the type to be rebellious just to see how something feels. I’ve always been overly cautious and rule-abiding. This was about my personal covenants with God. Nothing else.

That weekend, I went to a department store and browsed. I bought a couple long, white, seamless camisoles and some white seamless shaper-shorts and white boy-short styles. I went to a craft store and bought a white fabric marker.

Before I added the marks, I tried them for two days, just to see how they felt. Wonderful. They felt wonderful. I kept turning to my husband: “Feel these! Aren’t they so soft?” “Oh my word, these are so comfortable.” “Look! No muffin top!” “No extra layers and no lines!!” “See, no big deal if a camisole pops out the top! I’ll just put the marks on the inside!”

It was decided. I went into our bedroom and pulled out all my new garments. I set beside me one of my old garments and carefully used a fabric marker to add matching marks to my new garments. I gently used an iron to heat-set each mark, and then folded it neatly into a basket. When I finished, I brought my basket into my closet and knelt down to pray. I wanted to make sure that what I had done was acceptable to God. I felt warmth. I felt light and goodness and love and joy.

Now, when I put on my garments, I look at each mark that I have carefully added and remember what they mean to me. I’m reminded of the love and acceptance I felt during my prayer. I handle them reverently and with joy. I feel confident and loved and empowered as a Daughter of God. I feel blessed to wear the garments of the Holy Temple of God.

Anonymous describes herself as “a typical, American, female, Latter-day Saint.”

Sources:
Female Garments: The Underwear Business

https://www.lds.org/bc/content/shared/content/english/pdf/callings/military/military-garment-special-orders.pdf?fbclid=IwAR0GbpPabVxdeQx8j049TVikg1MjS9ZO2lComFTarr1wTWfWTlukCtzdiTE

Garments are Symbols of the Atonement

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55 Responses

  1. Abby Hansen says:

    I think that’s brilliant! I know plenty of people might object, but you are totally right that there’s no doctrinal reason for only wearing the poorly fitting ones made by church distribution. Having underwear that fits well and flatters your body feels amazing after years of wearing garments.

  2. Mary says:

    I am just curious, when asked at the temple recommend questions if you wear the authorized garment, will you disclose that you make and mark your own?

    • TLMB says:

      She was authorized. By God. Personal revelation through prayer.

    • Risa says:

      For me, I find it strange and boundary crossing for an adult man I’m not married to ask me about my underwear.

      • Anon says:

        Yes, so true. It is disturbing.

      • It’s not underwear though. It’s worn as a token of promises made in the temple. To wear it means you are committed to those promises. Therefore, the bishop should ask.

      • Risa says:

        Ammon, use whatever mental gymnastics you need to justify adult men asking women they’re not married to about their underwear, but any clothing that touches my naked body first, is underwear.

    • Em says:

      Do people ever ask if you wear “the authorized garment” ? I’ve been asked if I wear my garments day and night, but never any specific questions about where I’m getting my garments.

      • Ziff says:

        I agree, Em. I’m not 100% sure of the wording, but I don’t recall “authorized” being asked. Even if it is, though, I think TLMB has the perfect response to Mary. Authorized by whom? Is the Church greater than God?

  3. Arganoil says:

    This is actually a very good idea. I have never heard someone do this before and I am very curious what the reactions of our other sisters on this forum will be. I am going to think about it carefully. At the moment my garment stack is ready for replacement and I am reluctant to do so. This might be the perfect answer!

  4. EmilyB says:

    Good for you. This post is SO empowering! I have since moved on to buying and wearing my own undergarments too. They aren’t long and two-pieced, though–they are small and feminine and mold to my body in ways that no longer give me rashes and infections the way Mormon-made garments did, and God has told me that this is okay with Him. I don’t feel the need to report to men at church about my underwear anymore–any man that isn’t my husband has no right to know about my intimate apparel choices. My closeness to God is not affected by the kind of underwear that adorns my private parts. My outerwear is modest, but even then, I shouldn’t have to hide my body under more clothing to justify my underwear choices. I just do it because a lifetime in Mormonism makes me believe it will somehow earn me less scorn if I do so. So far so good! 🙂

  5. Allemande Left says:

    The weather is approaching 80 degrees where I live and along with that the problems of unhealthy heat trapping clothing. I have thought of making my own garments MANY times over the years and agree it is an individual decision. I thought of cutting the symbols off a set of garments, sewing them on a swatch of material and then carrying them on my person. I thought of having the symbols tattooed on my body.
    Garments symbolize different things to different people. I’m glad you have found a way to make it work, to feel good about yourself, and to feel heavenly acceptance of your efforts.
    I’m going shopping….

  6. Caroline says:

    Love this post, and love that you made your own garments. If the old ones weren’t working for you it absolutely makes sense to find a solution that does. Thank you for sharing this!

  7. Heather says:

    Oh I love this. I love how thoughtful you were about it. I love that you are now excited to wear them and they feel more scared to you. I don’t believe God wants us miserable.

  8. Anon says:

    I stoped wearing garments about 10 years ago. God does not want us to suffer like this. The “Brethren” do not understand and they never will understand.

    • carbonware says:

      Because you think the men don’t hate them too? Most men I know complain about them. Its not a female thing.

  9. B says:

    When I wore garments, I saw them as the LDS equivalent of a hair shirt: something that constantly reminded me of God because of how miserable I was. It bothered me that (for the most part) men found their garments much less uncomfortable, which implied that women deserved or benefited from misery more than men. Also, the refusal to make women’s garments more practical seems to be based on a fear of women showing their shoulders or lower thighs, which is both a non-issue and pretty condescending in my mind: if women are choosing to wear temple garments, they can also choose appropriate outerwear without being micromanaged. It almost seems like women’s garments are actually supposed to be visible, so that women can face constant judgment for how or whether they wear them.

    If garments had been dependably-sized stretchy tank tops and boy-shorts in white or skin-toned colors—like the ones I can buy at Walmart or Target for less than the cost of a bizarrely-made distribution center set—then I think I might have found garments to be more special and empowering. Maybe I should have tried this approach before giving up on them completely.

    • carbonware says:

      I’m not commenting on anyone’s choice or about the topic in general, only that its BS to claim men don’t have a problem with them. Maybe your mn doers not. Or perhaps most men don’t talk about it in forums. I can promise you there are very few LDS men who like the fit of their garments. And spend a little time in a SInlges ward men’s bath room or dorm where the men are still getting used to them and you’ll hear nothing but complaints about them.

      Men tend to be more stoic and not complain about certain things. That does not mean they fit better, are more comfortable or the ridicules claims that men designed the to be a pain for women. First off, they are designed by women, when the designs change its a committed of RS leadership that decides the changes and designs. If you have issue with them take it up with the female leadership, stop blaming men for everything in life you don’t like. Sure maybe some of it is certain men’s faults. But in the case, women need to own the act that women decided how they fit, feel, and are made.

      Last, I’m old enough to recall when people made their won, the primary reason the church stopped it was because women (not men) were making them that were far outside acceptable modesty. If you’re not for modesty perhaps you’re in the wrong Christian church because it is a core tradition for both men and women.

      As to hating that they are so poorly made and ill fitting, as for this man I agree 100%.

      • rtmtbc says:

        Female leadership is doesn’t exist in this church. Every decision a the RS/YW/primary leaders make has to be approved of by a priesthood (male) leader, including the design of garments. At the local levels, women are referred to the bishop or temple president when they have issues with their garments. If you ask the temple matron, she refers the guidance given by the temple president.

        You’re right- we are in the wrong Christian church. I realized that the LDS church is the wrong Christian church, thanks in part to garments.

  10. MLar says:

    This is beautiful and I love every word of it.

  11. Melody says:

    Thank you for sharing your experience. One of my closest friends sews all her own garments, start to finish. She created the first pattern from her favorite pair of cotton/stretch garments, but made minor adjustments for her particular body shape/size. She uses a fabric marker for the markings.

    Not everyone can do this. Maybe not everyone should. But it strikes me as a loving ritual that has potential to deepen one’s feelings about and relationship with the the garment and its meaning. (As you described.) At very least, it makes her happier to have a more affordable and customized garment.

  12. Eliza says:

    The leg mark is supposed to go over the knee. Sleeve length has changed from ankle to knee, but the mark was always in the same place. Boy shorts move the mark into the wrong place.

    Super convenient to be able to wear shorter skirts though!

    • Tessa says:

      Eliza, I am curious why you assume being able to wear short shorts and skirts was the OPs motivation when she makes no mention of that in her piece.

    • Hedgehog says:

      That ‘over’ has always sounded ambiguous to me. Over in which direction. Over as in on, or over as in above? And which of us actually has the mark on the knee? If over as in on was so important you’d expect a lot more measuring and a lot more lengths to be available. In fact if on was so important they’d pretty much have to tell us to put the mark on the garments ourselves to be sure of getting it in the right place. I’m only 5’ and with a regular length the mark is nevertheless above my knee, and well how ever far above it is still in the sense of above, over the knee. The point is that the wearer knows what it represents, not the exact location.

      • Andrew R. says:

        i agree. Whatever the expectation, the reality is something else. Maybe, when I first put on a pair of bottoms, they are to my knee. One wash and they are not. And from then on they get shorter.

        The straight line mark (to be ambiguous) on my tops is always right of centre, from my POV. I guess that is something to do with my body (and fat). But I can’t change that.

        The marks in the garment represent things; feelings, covenants, relationship with God, and anything else we make it. Actual positioning is far less important.

        The wearing of the Garment is, as we are told in the statement, “an outward expression of an inner commitment to the Saviour”. Keeping that in mind is, I believe, the most important part.

        I think that in time there will be changes that come in this area.

  13. Lady With No Self Esteem says:

    I hold a calling at church that means people report issues/concerns with me. Recently I was discussing extending a service opportunity to a sister in my ward and was disouraged from doing so because this sister is no longer wearing her garments.

    The source of this knowledge? This sister’s hemlines. What the person advising me did not know is that I haven’t regularly worn garments for years. The difference? Nobody assumes this because I wear always wear formless clothing that covers almost everything.

    That must be because I’m super righteous, right? Actually, believe it or not, I think it is the opposite. For over twenty years I have struggled with extreme body shame and loathing. I keep it covered out of a sense of deep, maybe even pathological, shame over how my body looks. I can appreciate my body in the abstract but I pretty much hate it on a practical, day-to-day basis. So am I more righteous than this sister because I am more “modest,” even though she is almost certainly more grateful to and respectful of her body, at least based on how she cares for and grooms it?

    Just food for thought for those who might assume this whole discussion centers around sartorial choices.

  14. Holley says:

    You’re right that people used to make their own garments. But they were basically just long Johns. It was easy to take the underwear they already had and just add marks because the ‘worlds’ underwear back then was close to what the garment was. Not so today.

    No special blessing is given, but the point is that you have not been given the authority or permission to make them. At the very least the members shouldn’t make their own garments without permission because of the chance of not putting the marks in the right place, which it sounds like you haven’t done either. (Eliza is right)

    I know it’s all symbolic,, there’s nothing magical about the particular locations or symbols. But what good is symbolism if you don’t even do it right

    • Anna says:

      What good is a symbol that you hate? People need to be free to pick symbols that work for them. Garments just made me resent any God that would demand that I wear them. Not a very good symbol.

  15. Holley again says:

    Also, I just don’t understand when people complain that garments “aren’t sexy”

    What the heck?? What is wrong with you? Are you so sex obsessed that even your sacred godly covenants should remind you of sexiness? You want to dress like a harlot in the temple?

    How much can one person mock god

    • Tessa says:

      Underwear is involved in sex, so I think it’s fair for a person to desire sexy underwear.

      Underwear is also involved in menstruation. Underwear is also involved in defecation and urination. Perhaps the symbolism would be more effective if it weren’t attached to underwear, a clothing so tied to bodily functions. I would far prefer symbolic pendants than symbolic underwear.

    • Em says:

      Let’s move away from language like “what is wrong with you” and “dress like a harlot.” Questioning the righteousness of other people is against the commenting guidelines for this forum.

      There are billion dollar industries that are devoted entirely to making women feel like they need to be sexually attractive to have value. That individual women aren’t able to completely reject the cultural narrative they’ve been fed since infancy is hardly surprising, especially when they’re hearing it at church too (modest is hottest?) Perhaps in a celestial world all people will be able to see bodies as beautiful gifts without qualification and the clothing won’t matter at all. But hearing constant messages your entire life that you need to look a certain way under your clothes to have value has an impact on people.

  16. All in says:

    I feel like with the recent fabric and sizing updates there is a garment that would suit everybody. It might come with trial and error to find the best fabric and fit for you but I’ve been able to try on garments at the distribution center before purchasing. The “new garments” the author made for herself sound like the new stretch cotton ones. I wonder if she has tried the new styles since making her own. I’ve worn garments for 10 years in all climates and weather conditions and they haven’t hindered me in any way or driven me crazy or given me rashes. Find the right size and the right fabric for you. I’ve made a commitment to wear them so I’m going to wear them.

  17. Ziff says:

    Wow, Anon, I love this post so much! I love that you took hold of your own religious experience and found a way to make it work for you.

    I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, since we Mormons are such a conformity-obsessed people, but it’s bizarre to me that people feel the need to come on the thread and correct you over this. Really? Do they really think God cares that your garments came from the Holy Distribution Center? I think if anything you’re clearly taking the question of garment wearing far *more* seriously than the average member.

  18. carbonware says:

    (comment removed by moderator)

    • B says:

      I’m pretty sure you’re misreading the article, as nobody here (besides you) has suggested that women blame the poor fit of garments on men. It sounds like you actually agree that garments are uncomfortable and that people should be empowered to make their own choices about them, which is all that the OP is saying.

    • Ziff says:

      Wow, carbonware, that’s sure a lot of vitriol for someone who claims to be okay with what the poster is doing.

      I appreciate that you think that any problems anyone has with the church is just BS that we’re projecting. I think you’re completely wrong, though. The church actually does make mistakes, sometimes some whoppers. For example, it’s great that when you heard bad advice about wearing garments during sex, you *knew* that of course that was promulgated by rogue local leaders, and that since time immemorial, the church has stayed out of couples’ sex lives. It’s great that you were able to ignore things like Ezra Taft Benson railing against the evils of birth control in the 1960s, or the church’s brief attempt to ban or*l s*x (asterisked to avoid the spam filter) in the 1980s. Were Benson and the 1980s First Presidency rogue local leaders?

      It’s also kind of bizarre that you’re so sure that men hate garments just as much as women do. I don’t think anyone has data, but it might be worth considering that many women do two things that garments make much more difficult and that men generally don’t do: menstruation and breastfeeding. You might find this post from 2013 on women’s issues with garments enlightening:

      https://bycommonconsent.com/2013/05/13/female-garments-the-underwear-business/

      • DB says:

        Ziff, what vitriol are you reading in carbonware’s comments? I’m not seeing it so maybe you could point it out to me. And while you’re at it, would you also point where he says that any problems anyone has with the church is just BS that they’re projecting? I’m not seeing that either.

        And why do you take issue with someone recognizing and ignoring bad advice and false doctrine?

      • Ziff says:

        No thanks, DB. I already know how this will go. I’ll point out things, and you’ll offer alternative interpretations based on carbonware’s deep love for the poster, and how he’s just trying to guide her back to the covenant path. And then it will devolve from there. I understand that you dislike most of what you read here, so I understand that you feel the need to jump to the defense of anyone who criticizes the posts, regardless of how absurd they are. You already know that my bias is in the opposite direction. I like the stuff here.

      • Risa says:

        “It’s really no different that minorities who blame all ills of life on some other race further up the food chain and take zero responsibility for their own circumstances.”

        Vitriol. And really racist.

        “that’s just playing victimhood and virtual signaling for sympathy and praise.”

        Vitriol.

        I’m actually surprised Carbonware’s sexist and racist comment made it past the moderators. I’m also not surprised that DB is being an apologist for him.

      • DB says:

        Ziff, clearly you don’t understand me at all. I like most of the stuff on here too, I only disagree when I read something disagreeable. There is nothing wrong with disagreeing, disagreeing is not attacking, and disagreeing can lead to productive discussions that foster better understanding of different perspectives. One thing I do find disagreeable is when someone is attacked and falsely accused for having a different opinion. No one needs to be attacked for disagreeing though there are some commenters on here who disagree with that. I do feel the need to jump to the defense of those who are attacked just because they have different opinions. It happens to me on here a lot and I have often been accused of saying things that I never said just because someone doesn’t like my opinion. If you don’t agree with what someone says, just say so. There’s no need to make accusations just because you don’t agree with someone though I do understand that not everyone is capable of engaging in amicable disagreement.

        Risa, I haven’t apologized for anything that carbonware said, nor have I agreed with, defended, or condoned anything he said. But that’s pretty obvious from my comments so I assume you already realize that. He has made statements that not everyone will agree with, such as the ones you quoted, but those are his opinions and are hardly vitriol. He has not made any personal attacks, derogatory statements, or false accusations toward anyone. The same cannot be said for all commenters on here.

      • Risa says:

        Racist comments aren’t vitriol?

        I guess I know where your standards lie.

      • Risa says:

        >>>It happens to me on here a lot and I have often been accused of saying things that I never said just because someone doesn’t like my opinion.

        The problem with your comments is not that people disagree with you, it’s that you gaslight the women here. You tell them that their experiences aren’t valid. You tell them that that’s now how things are run in the church. You presume you know better than the actual real lived lives and experiences of women. The purpose of the Exponent is to give women a voice in a church that often keeps us voiceless. I don’t think you like the Exponent at all. I think you like to tell women “how things really are,” which is why I will always call you out.

      • DB says:

        Risa, you’ve accused me of gaslighting on prior occasions but have never provided examples of how I’ve done that. I will tell you that I have never gaslighted anyone here, certainly not intentionally. However, I recognize that unambiguous communication can be difficult to achieve especially among parties with varying perceptions and perspectives so I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt that I’ve written something on here that you have perceived as gaslighting. Please give me some examples so that perhaps we can both understand each other a little better. If not now, at least for future comments. Thanks.

      • Risa says:

        Every time you have gaslighted, I have pointed it out. I refuse to do anymore emotional labor for you. You’re so sure you’re not one of the sexist patriarchal types we get on here, but you’re sure quick to defend the sexist comments assuring us women that we just misunderstood the comments and they’re not sexist at all! (Gaslighting) If you’re unsure about why you get the reactions you do, you should do some more self-reflection.

  19. Anna says:

    Also, no one projected any bad thoughts or getting off by asking women about their garments. We just said that some women find it creepy. The women are uncomfortable, not the bishop doing something creepy. Yes, the bishop has been instructed to ask that question, but church instructions don’t mean that women are not uncomfortable with the question. No body suggested anything improper about the bishop’s thinking or behavior, just that in the normal world, a man asking about a woman’s underwear, would by highly inappropriate, thus women feel uncomfortable. The idea that the bishop was out of line was all in your head.

    You come on here and tell women how they should feel, talk about not getting the point.

    • DB says:

      Anna, where in his comments did carbonware tell women how they should feel?

      • Anna says:

        He was telling us that because bishops are instructed to ask about garments, that we women should feel comfortable with it. He has no right to tell us how we should feel. It is not his business when what we do feel is that it is mildly uncomfortable to downright creepy to have a man we probably don’t know well judging whether our reason for not wearing the approved garment is justified or whether it makes us unworthy to enter the temple. I feel that it is a violation of my privacy to have to answer such questions. It is also a violation of what I feel is between God and myself, and yet here is some man butting his nose into when and how I wear my underwear.

      • DB says:

        Anna, I see your point though I don’t believe that he never explicitly said anything about how women should feel comfortable with bishops asking about garments or anything else about what women should feel comfortable with. I feel that his statements had a different intent but I appreciate your perspective on how his comments were received. Thank you.

  20. Vicki says:

    Men who are here to tell women that garments aren’t problematic: You haven’t ever menstruated. You haven’t been pregnant. You haven’t breastfed. You haven’t had the experience of having rashes or infections in a female body. Stop telling us that you know better about garments and female bodies than we do.

    You don’t know our experiences. Men in the LDS church need to repent of not listening to women. Read this post again. Read the posts that have been linked here. LISTEN.

    • DB says:

      Vicki, I’m not sure which men you are referring to. Ammon Hallsted said that garments aren’t underwear, which makes no sense to anyone, but didn’t say they’re not problematic; carbonware repeatedly stated that men don’t like garments either and that they’re ill fitting and poorly made; Andrew R. complained about how badly they shrink and how the marks are always off; Ziff agrees with everything every woman says; and I’ve said zilch about garments. All in could be a man (it’s impossible to tell from the handle) but I assume All in is a woman since she comments on the stretch cotton garments which have been available to women for a while but only became available to men this week. The only ones who seem to be saying that garments aren’t problematic appear to be women (based on their feminine handles). Did I miss something?

      • Risa says:

        I think Vicki was talking about men in general, and not the men specifically on this thread.

    • Vicki says:

      I’m mostly replying to the comment by carbonware stating that “men also don’t like them, we just don’t complain as much.” This statement sounds to me like he’s saying women shouldn’t complain, because men are in the same boat. Which they are not.

      I’d also like to push back on his statement that women design garments. I’m old enough to know that women don’t do anything in this church without a man’s permission so just stop with that. I’m sure women are involved in garment design but men make the final decisions.

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