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.