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What are the positive aspects of wearing garments?

For me, one of the most interesting things about studying religious clothing is seeing the variation and individuality in how people engage with these clothing items and the meaning they give them. Current church messaging focuses on LDS garments as a daily reminder of a covenant with God. (Garment info from LDS website is posted below) This survey question was designed to see what women felt was personally positive for them about wearing garments, separate from what is said in church messaging. I consulted with LDS women when writing this survey and this list was constructed collaboratively. Participants had the option to choose multiple answers and write in their own in the "Other" category.


Below are 2 graphics: The first one shows the results from the entire surveyed group. The second shows just active LDS women (TD and NP). Participants were asked to answer these questions about the time they were wearing garments, and many EX women specified in the write in box that they answered for how they felt when they were active in the church and wearing garments consistently. You will see that "I feel that I am being obedient" was the most marked option, but when EX women are separated out, "Reminder of temple covenants" becomes the top choice.


Results from all respondents:

Results from active (TD and NP) women:



Just a few thoughts about EX women and how they answered this question. This data suggests that when women leave the church, they let go of the meaning behind garment wearing and therefore look back on the experience as being mainly one of obedience. I think there is another thing to consider that is significant. Women who are faithful, but struggle with the day-to-day experience of wearing garments, may experience an erosion of their faith if there is a poor garment experience. Nancy Ross and Jessica Finnigan, in a 2014 study on LDS garments and agency, saw this in their work and wrote a very insightful assessment:


"In discussing women and religion, many scholars use a framework of embodiment for the

idea that the body can produce religious knowledge. One of the difficulties with garments is that ongoing medical, menstrual, pregnancy, and nursing issues can change the relationship between Mormon women and their garments from one that is positive or fairly neutral into one where women begin to question their faith or their belief in the LDS Church. If the fabric creates difficulty for the wearer, and that article of clothing represents elements of belief that are at the center of the LDS Church, then physical problems can contribute to friction in faith and religious practice." (Study linked below)


There were 788 women who used the "Other" category to write in their own positive aspects. The top 3 most-consistently listed things were:

  • Prevents chaffing and panty lines

  • Protects from social judgement

  • Makes spouse feel more comfortable or respected when garments are worn

I am very intrigued by women who wear garments for their spouse and the amount that wrote it, but let's unpack that later. Here are the other written-in aspects that were identified as positive:

  • They are a symbol of your worthiness

  • Extra layer of clothing in the winter

  • Reminds me that my body is precious

  • Gives me a sense of ownership over my body

  • Hides weight gain

  • Helps me fit in with social norms (in LDS majority areas)

  • Makes me feel special or set apart from others

  • I feel like part of a community when I wear them

  • Shows Heavenly Father that I'm willing to stretch and grow to be like him


References:


LDS Garments and Agency study by Nancy Ross and Jessica Finnigan:


Podcast interview with Nancy Ross about the project:


Official church messaging on garments:


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