Stretch Cotton

Guest post by Adela. Adela is a lifelong church member who lives in New England with her family. She is in the toddler-mom phase of life, and is spending a lot of time at the gym these days.

Valentines Day brought me a nice, discreet package of personal clothing this year.

Not lingerie. Garments.

Not just any garments, either– The New Ones. The ones made from soft, fitted cotton that doesn’t cling in the wrong places. The kind where the restrictive, itchy lace has been replaced with a smooth, invisible hem. The kind where the inseam is a reasonable length, the waistband is both functional and comfortable in its material and width. The kind that is designed with sensitive breast tissue in mind, and understands how unforgivably outer clothing can cling to fabric. The kind where the sacred marks have been printed on so finely, they can be placed next to the skin like a secret.

Last night I laid in my bed, brushing my new shirt softly, reverently, pensively. It’s been years since I approached my garments with any kind of reverence.

I’ve been dreaming about the temple, though it has also been (a different number of) years since I wanted to go there.

It’s been a weary time for me to be a Mormon. I gave up full-time garment wearing a few years ago, during the course of pregnancy, and I did so after a sleepless night of prayer. When I rose in the morning I heard a voice like my mother’s, offering a wise and practical solution in a loving and slightly exasperated tone. Go to the store down the road, buy some nice underwear that fits and doesn’t hurt you. And then throw your garments away and buy a full, new set. Wear them when you can.

I tried. I really tried. I never stopped wearing them permanently, but in loosening my regimen I found such sense of liberation; my infections were gone, I could sleep, I could sweat, I could focus on my life instead of my irritated skin and the nuisance of white, conspicuous flashes that could not be trusted to stay put. Taking off the garment increased my agency in tangible, palpable ways.

When my sister received her endowment, she told me that she was excited to wear garments because she thought they would feel like a hug. There is lovely, personal symbolism in wearing the garment. I have missed the touch of the divine in the grimy mundane. But I could not wear underwear that wasn’t functional, that made me sick, that made me resentful toward God (and even more resentful toward the church).

To the people who made it happen:

Getting these new garments in the mail feels like getting a love letter. An apologetic, understanding, repentant, whole-hearted love letter. Like when your sweetheart gifts you not chocolate, but an afternoon of uninterrupted time in a clean place where nothing needs your attention. Because they love you and know that what you need is not frivolity, but function and time and brain power, and just a teeny bit of luxury.

This project has clearly taken you years of invisible research, effort, and skill. Not only are you a talented clothing designer, you were also able to convince the People In Charge to go along with necessary functional changes (a miracle if I have ever seen one). Your name isn’t sewn onto these garments I wear every day, and no one will ever interview you about your inspiration, your creative process, or your consecrated efforts.

It’s not an exaggeration to say that you have changed things for women all over Mormondom. Fewer LDS women will struggle to find an appropriate balance between health and religious observance. Less mental energy will be spent on superfluous tucking and twisting. Big things turn on small wheels.

I know they aren’t everything that everyone has ever dreamed of, and of course they are imperfect (disappointment is the nature of women’s underwear, I’m afraid). But in this time of weary Mormoning, I am grateful for a reminder of the beauty and the tenderness of our faith. They are soft and forgiving, and they are ready to go with me into the unknown, to cover my nakedness and protect me from sin. They do not hamper my agency. They don’t hurt me.

I want you to know I see your labor of love, and I got your message. I see your work, and your dedication both to excellence and to the women of God.

Thank you.



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18 Responses

  1. Megan says:

    How do I order?

  2. Hedgehog says:

    And when are they coming to the UK? Please, please before the summer…

    • Adela says:

      If I was your fairy godmother, you would have them right now 🙂 I’m interested to see how they fare in the summer, but I’m cautiously optimistic

  3. Spunky says:

    Now I’m interested in trying these! Thank you for your post!!

  4. Eliza says:

    This! Every word, this. I have been able to wear garments 3 days this week. 3 days isn’t daily, but after 2 years of being unable to wear garments at all, 3 days feels like a victory. I am so grateful for the time and energy and prayers that led to this change. I am so grateful for the survey I painstakenly and prayerfully completed more than a year ago, hoping it would be read amd hoping it would make a difference. I am grateful we were heard. It took way too long, as change always does, but today, I am grateful.

    • Adela says:

      It feels like such a victory! And also like such tenderness. Congratulations, Eliza; I hope you are able to keep wearing them, and that they are what you need them to be. I am grateful too.

  5. Cathy says:

    I love my new garments as well. Great fit too. Those A B C charts really mixed me up.

  6. Kristie says:

    It’s great that you feel seen, but this new fabric launch feels like a slap in the face for me. I am a tall, fat woman and they do not offer garments that work for me. I’m even willing to accept short garments as long as they fit around the waist. Unfortunately, they don’t. I used to love the Carinessa, then sizing changed and they stopped offering my size in that fabric. All I’m looking for is a 2 or 3x. It’s infuriating to me that if you want anything bigger than XL, you have severely limited fabric choices and are relegated to buying online only. Last time the Church did a survey about garments, I participated and wrote a heartfelt letter about how I liked wearing garments, but it makes me feel like a second class citizen to not have garments that fit. The world makes plus size women feel excluded as it is. It’s unfortunate that garments reinforce that. After the last survey, after pouring my heart out, the big revelation was new hip-hugging garments in the same small sizes. I felt so frustrated. I have since stopped wearing garments. When I saw this post, I optimistically went to the LDS store in hopes that maybe they’d offer a 2x or 3x this time. No such luck. The stretch cotton, this miracle fabric, is only offered up to size large. I’m honestly so hurt and angry. This is where I hang my head and lose the small shred of hope I had that the church would see me and meet my basic needs as a member.

    • Adela says:

      Kristie, your story breaks my heart. Thank you for sharing it here. I was talking with a friend just today about how progress (or revelation) is so often very, very painful to those of us who lived before and then witness the transition. Why did the bad situation exist? Why was it so extremely bad? Why did it take so long, and why did people pretend like it is virtuous to support the hurtful status quo? All of these questions (and more) point to the struggle it is to watch progress as it happens in the LDS church- the kind that is slow and then immediate. It’s not just that you are discriminated against because of your size and shape (though you are, and that is unjust, unreasonable, and uncharitable); it’s that you have every reason to expect that there is a functional option for you, so you can have the spiritual practice you have been taught is both valuable and compulsory. And yet there is no option for you. And it’s personal. And you pushed to make your circumstances known, and you waited with faith and hope, and you were again forgotten. Of course you are hurt, and with every reason to be.

      I’m so sorry your experience has been such a negative one. I hope a better one is coming. In the meantime, I don’t blame you for taking them off. God does not want us to live in pain or shame, and it sounds like you have had plenty of both. Much love to you, Sister.

    • Eliza says:

      Kristie, I am so frustrated for you. I had no idea such a limited range of sizes are offered in the stores. I don’t live near a distribution center and so have ordered my garments online, where the whole range of sizes are always available. I assumed the same was true of physical stores and am incredibly disappointed to learn that is not the case. This shows such a lack of basic consideration and understanding. I am so sorry you haven’t been heard. It is clear we have a long way to go in meeting the needs of all the diverse women of the Church.

    • Sus says:

      They have limited sizes with the lower waist but they make the natural waist up to a 3XL in the new fabric. Perhaps you want the lower waist option but I didn’t notice the different set of size options when I first looked, so I wanted to let you know in case those would work for you.

      Either way, I’m so sorry for the frustration and pain. I wish so many things about the Church were different, but garments are very high on that list.

  7. Adela says:

    Also, I have to say, it seems very unreasonable to me that such a common size would not be offered. I am angry for you.

  8. Ellee says:

    If the stretchy garments introduced a couple of years ago are the ones under discussion, I can share my experience. I am a large, over weight woman and have found that the sizes are odd, but they fit. When I first went into purchase some, the sales lady looked at me and said I should get a size Large! I wasn’t sure because I am a 44DD! I always purchase 3X. But I purchased the large and took it home to try on. I was surprised, but I was able to get it on, and once on, it is surprisingly comfortable. I apparently purchased a short because it only comes to my waist, but I save that top for when I’m wearing an outfit I when I don’t want the line to show below the waist. I went in and purchased a couple of XL and these are the ones I wear for everyday. They are surprisingly roomy and I have plenty of room to grow.

    I have less experience with the pants. I only purchased one and I tried the drop waist. But I don’t care for it. But these are ordered more by hip size, as I recall.

  9. Sus says:

    I wore my new pair on Sunday and by Sunday night, all of the skin on my torso that was covered by the garment top was peeling.

    It’s absurd, but sometimes I ask myself whether I’m being punished or whether I am somehow unworthy of wearing them when things like this happen so immediately.

    • Adela says:

      Sus, that’s completely dreadful!! I wonder what made that happen?

      I’m sorry you have to go through that. I understand that knee-jerk reaction; superstition is definitely a part of our cultural understanding and practice of garment wearing. It’s something I have to actively remind myself to identify and disregard, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t powerful.

    • Traci C says:

      I am having this issue as well, although not as severe as what you describe. I am getting a rash and hives under my arms (even though these garments are looser and so much more comfortable than my old Carinessa ones, which completely rub and cut into my armpit). I was reading online about clothing causing allergic reactions and found an article indicating that some fabrics are treated with formaldehyde to make them softer or wrinkle-free. I am wondering if this is the issue, and if excessive washing might remove the chemical from the fabric so I can continue to wear these since they are so much more comfortable than the other ones. Anyone else have experience with this and if washing in hot water or bleach helped the problem?

  10. Lo says:

    I recognize the symbolism of white garments, bu I’d be very interested in a more functional color for bottoms, on account of discharge and the times I pee myself a little! Sure, I’ve got a healthy vagina, but I’d prefer it was more discreetly healthy than stains on white…

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