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Mormon Underwear, 1915

By: Ardis E. Parshall - December 15, 2010

Now that I have your attention (and the attention of who knows what kind of Googlers)…

This advice to prospective LDS brides was published in 1915. Don’t be afraid, gentlemen; there’s nothing here to embarrass you, I think.

Pertinent Questions on Clothes.

“It has been my desire for some time to see … some suggestions regarding the trousseau of the Latter-day Saint girl – advice as to styles which should be used for underwear, as well as wedding gown, etc., of particularly a temple bride.

“I think many of our young girls dress improperly and immodestly in this regard, and are apt to regard the holiness and proper use of garments, and corresponding outer dress, with lack of thought and seriousness, just because of their ignorance on these subjects and lack of friendly suggestion and proper recommendation from those who are experienced in these lines. One of the most perplexing questions I find among brides to be, is the subject of night dresses – just what kind of sleeves they should have. Many are averse to having proper length sleeves on account of their plainness and unattractive appearance. Personally, I am of the opinion that should we become used to these styles, they would appeal to us as much and could be made as daintily and attractively as the more frequently seen, yet more undesirable (from the church standpoint, at least) form of extreme short sleeves or none at all.”

The quotation is from a letter received … in the early summer months. … This subject is often discussed but it is a rather delicate one, for we believe that brides, of all people on earth, should have their own sweet will in everything. But knowing Mutual girls are anxious to use common sense and judgment in all things, we venture a few suggestions along these lines.

First of all, a good looking jacket-suit of unobtrusive color is in better taste as a coming and going costume for the Temple bride than a brightly colored dress or even an elaborately made white one. Either is apt to call forth unpleasant comment from a certain class of people on the street, especially if the girl wearing it is going Temple-ward accompanied by a suit-case. It is a good plan to reserve the orange blossoms and all real bridal paraphernalia for display at the reception.

The dress for the Temple ceremony is best made of some sort of pretty, white washable material, not crushable and plainly made.

For underwear, corset covers, underskirts, etc., hand embroidery, lace, and embroidery flouncings, or edgings, are trimmings which no one can object to. Surely sensible girls will want to avoid the huge bows and rosettes of colored ribbon and immense sprays of artificial flowers which we see glimmering through some of the gauzy gowns we occasionally meet on the street and elsewhere.

One who knows anything about the garment knows it was never intended to be publicly displayed. Our grandmothers were so careful of its sacredness that the garments were never hung to dry with the common washing, but were put in some secluded spot or carefully covered with a thin cloth to shield them from the gaze of the curious. It would seem that the garment should mean everything or nothing to the girl. The one who takes it upon herself to wear it should do so with a full understanding of what it means to her, and a determination to wear it properly. A thin wash silk or crepe de chine under slip makes it possible to wear thin waists. Many modest women, who do not wear the garment, prefer some such arrangement rather than make a display of fancy underwear or show too much neck and arms.

Let the young girl who is embroidering night gowns beware of low necks and short sleeves, especially in those designed for her trousseau box. A goodly supply of night dresses becomes a tantalizing burden when their beauty is spoiled by the unsightliness of underwear which shows below the short sleeves and above the dainty neck-finish. Quite recently a sensitive young matron suffered considerable embarrassment during a hospital experience. Although her night dresses were of the loveliest, she realized all too late that they did not meet the requirement. In her heart she feels to say to all young girls who are preparing their trousseau: “Make your night gowns with long sleeves and the necks reasonably high.”



7 Comments »

  1. I would like to point out that my current wardrobe is filled with dolor, obtrusive and unobtrusive.

    Typos aside, this article is filled with charming reticence. I love phrases like, “a hospital experience” and “unpleasant comment from a certain class of people on the street.”

    Were garments always called garments? What I mean is, I just realized that the term has never really changed much, has it? People would not say “the garment” now, they would use the plural in all cases. Does this reflect the change from a one to two piece construction? Or just historical colloquialism?

    Comment by Mina — December 15, 2010 @ 9:00 am

  2. They have always been called garments in my experience (even when my parents talked about them) and I have lived through a lot of one-piece years.

    Comment by Marjorie Conder — December 15, 2010 @ 9:32 am

  3. I found and corrected two typos (one of which was only a missing third dot in an ellipsis) — if there are typos giving problems in understanding, point them out and I’ll correct them instanter (that’s true with every post. I welcome whatever help I can get with this one-woman publishing operation).

    My experience is like Marjorie’s: “garments” — plural — is the way people speak of the physical clothing pieces (whether one-piece or two-). But “the garment” — singular, with definite article — is also a very common term when speaking formally of the meaning or purpose of the clothing.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — December 15, 2010 @ 10:05 am

  4. “One who knows anything about the garment knows it was never intended to be publicly displayed

    Ezra Taft Benson’s talk “What I Hope You Will Teach Your Children about the Temple” comes to mind. He moved into his topic by remembering the sight of his mother ironing her temple robes, not many years before 1915, him asking what she was doing, and her setting down the iron to talk with him about the temple. Somewhat ironically, I suspect that talk is the only place the phrase “temple robes” has ever appeared in the Ensign.

    Comment by John Mansfield — December 15, 2010 @ 11:56 am

  5. Did a man write this? That’s what I want to know.

    Comment by Michelle Glauser — December 15, 2010 @ 12:24 pm

  6. Michelle, the article is unsigned, but I believe the author was a woman.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — December 15, 2010 @ 1:48 pm

  7. Maybe you should put up a poll, Ardis–if the author is unknown.

    I think a woman wrote it.

    If a man did, he should follow Henry V’s advice. (Act IV, scene iii, line 67.)

    Comment by Mark B. — December 15, 2010 @ 1:48 pm

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