Monday, May 22, 2006

Lessons in (modest) fashion
Churchgoers walk the runway to show that cute doesn’t have to mean sexy
By Ron Knox
Thursday, May 4, 2006

The models here certainly walked the model walk — strolling down the runway, sashaying, turning their gaze side to side.
But at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 3655 W. 10th St., there was not an inch of shoulder flesh, not a hint of thigh.
Here, modesty was the rule.
“It’s helping the girls to be proud to be modest,” Kristie Hansen said, “to realize there’s beauty in modesty.”
Hansen and fellow church leaders put together the Modest Fashion Show at the church Wednesday night, hoping to spur interest in being fashionable without succumbing to the urge to wear what they described as “indecent” clothes.
Halter tops. Midriffs.
Anything that showed more than a girl’s arms and neck.
The whole idea was the brainchild of Michelle Hague, a Young Woman Leader at the Mormon church. To her, it isn’t about young women having a choice while hitting the racks at department stores.
While similar movements around the country have pressured big chain stores to sell less revealing clothing for social reasons — to promote healthy body types, mainly — that wasn’t the point for Hague.
To her, its about doing right religiously.
“We believe their bodies are gifts from God,” Hague said backstage.
Gifts, she said, that should not be on display for everyone to see. Sure, church rules dictate so, but for Hague it’s also about the way the girls may appear to guys.
“They’re giving the idea to the world that they’re that kind of girl,” Hague said.
That kind of girl? Isn’t that the guy’s problem?
Sure, Hague said, but the guys are part of the equation as well. To help keep boys in the church complacent, the girls need to hide the flesh, rather than keep it out for everyone to see.
So in the small gymnasium inside the church halls, junior high and high school girls stepped out on the runway wearing clothes that revealed little in the way of flesh.
Which is to say, they wore what many would wear on a stroll down Massachusetts Street — save for some late-night revelers. The majority of the girls wore hoodies and capri khakis, jeans and sandals.
All of this at the direction of church leaders. But the girls, for the most part, seemed to agree with the philosophy that modest meant better.
Liz Beisner, an 18-year-old, hit the modest runway wearing a typical outfit: a pair of jeans, a hooded T-shirt, moccasins.
“We’re just trying to show girls that there are cute things that are modest,” Beisner said.
To her, modest clothing equates to a religious belief. For others, it may be because of body insecurity, a rejection of physical stereotypes, a cold breeze, whatever.
She knows girls are going to wear what they want, she said. But the point is to offer a less revealing choice in clothing, and have girls still feel attractive while wearing them.
Walking along Massachusetts Street with some buddies earlier Wednesday, Alex Swanson, a 15-year-old student at Central Junior High School, said she felt about the same way.
Swanson said that everyone has different tastes in clothes for whatever reasons. She could appreciate that.
“I’d rather have options,” Swanson said.
Swanson’s friend, Akina Kashiwaya, agreed.
“That way,” she said, “you won’t be limited to what people expect either way.”

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