Sunday, November 12, 2017

I am what I wear (my strongest suit)

I'm a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also known as the Mormons. When possible on Sundays, I discuss some things related to my faith and what I believe. With respect to your own beliefs, I hope this gives you a chance to get to know me and my religion a little better. For previous installments, click here.

Based solely on my observation, it seems that the Japanese people tend to dress very situationally appropriate. They consider the activity, the weather, and their commute (among other things) into putting together their daily ensemble, more so than I really see in the States. The Japanese are very practical in a lot of ways, and this is one of them. For example, there aren’t a lot of women wearing stilettos whilst waiting for a train, and, if it’s sunny, they protect their skin with hats and long, lightweight sleeves. If they are into a particular hobby, like biking or hiking, they definitely dress the part as if it’s a uniform. I’m sure there are exceptions to all of this, but in daily life in the suburbs I see a lot of practical, situationally appropriate dress.

I have tried to adopt that more than I already did into my own clothing and lifestyle. I wear good footwear, whether or not it really matches, and I’m building a weather appropriate wardrobe so that I can comfortably commute on foot in the summer as well as the winter. Not being able to quickly go from air conditioned/heated car to air conditioned/heated building and back means I have to be prepared to spend a lot more time in the elements. I also am very mindful of what I’ll be doing that day, and wear clothing appropriate to that activity. This particular habit is not new, but if I’m not wearing the right clothes, I have to haul them on my back, and I choose to minimize how much I’m carrying around if possible. So, I choose outfits that will work for all my activities as best I can and potentially only carry small changes (shoes, top, etc.) if necessary. 

Today’s situation was that I would be attending the first two hours (out of three) of church, and then we would duck out and walk a few blocks to a local community center where I would be performing with my taiko club. So, contrary to our church’s culture (not doctrine), I wore pants to church. 

I wasn’t trying to make a statement, I was just trying to be comfortable, practical, and situationally appropriate. The pants are black, wide-legged dress pants that, paired with a nice cardigan and shirt, still made me feel like I was wearing my “Sunday best”. Then, at the community center, I switched my cardigan for my taiko club shirt and the pants were perfect for the freedom of movement I needed to play in this performance and match my taiko mates. 

I’m not trying to justify my choice to those who saw me today and might be reading this blog. Like I said, I wasn’t trying to make a statement and I certainly wasn’t trying to draw attention to myself. Due to the wide-legged nature of these pants, unless you’re really paying attention, you might not even realize it wasn’t a skirt. Instead, I’m taking this an opportunity to continue to ponder how I worship and what my Sunday activities mean to me. When I was in Mormon Choir of Washington DC, I left a lot of church meetings early to attend a concert, and today’s activity was really not so different. The content of the music today was less obviously about Jesus, but in the larger sense of playing beautiful folk music and building a community, I think it still counts.

I actually don’t really care what anyone who saw me in pants thought about my choice, nor did I feel particularly self-conscious. I know that Heavenly Father and Jesus want me to attend my church meetings, but they care less about what I wear and more that I come to worship, learn, and serve. I do think that “Sunday best” is a good goal, as it shows respect for Heavenly Father as well as the people around me and myself. For me, that usually means a skirt or dress, but sometimes that means pants. For Blake, that usually means a full suit with jacket and a tie, but sometimes that means his Navy uniform. In the ward he attended in Rhode Island during training, I went with him once and saw some sailors in PT gear (the Navy exercise uniform of shorts and a t-shirt), but they were there, and that’s really what mattered. 

I’ve heard stories, as recently as this week, of someone wearing the “wrong thing” to church and someone else trying to say something to them about it and having it go horribly wrong immediately. I think Heavenly Father would much prefer we just love people we see at our church meetings and everywhere else, and be glad that they have come, and not worry as much about what they are wearing. Presenting ourselves in the best and most appropriate way in our dress also suggests we should present ourselves in the best and most appropriate in our behavior and judging others for their different choices does not do that. I didn’t feel judged today, but I wouldn’t want anyone who attended with me to feel judged either, and choosing to wear pants today gave me an opportunity to reflect on a lot of the whys and hows of attending my Sunday meetings, particularly for myself. Even after attending the same church regularly for more than three decades, it’s good to occasionally reflect on my personal applications of the gospel, even just because I did something as simple as wearing pants. 


Heidi said...

Six thoughts:

1. My ward is a straight shot from a drug rehab facility near the mouth of the canyon. Several years ago, we had a group from there attend Sacrament Meeting in our ward, and they'd be in jeans and t-shirts or hoodies. Sometimes they smelled like cigarette smoke. One Fast Sunday, one of them got up to bear his testimony, and it was one of the most powerful testimonies I ever heard.

2. My youngest sister is sometimes more comfortable in pants than a skirt or dress, so when my granddad died in 2005, I wore slacks with her to the funeral so she wouldn't feel out of place. If she's comfortable going to church in our ward when she visits, we always tell her to wear what's comfortable and that the people who care are the people we don't care about. :)

3. One of the members of our bishopric is a retired vice officer. When he was in the police force, he was undercover busting meth operations. Before I was in the ward again as a regular, full-time member, I remember seeing him a couple of times and wondering who he was. He would sit next to his pretty blonde wife and cute blonde babies, but he was in undercover mode: long shaggy hair, beard, rough-looking clothes. I was curious, but figured if he was in church, it didn't really matter what he looked like. Years later, when I found out what he was doing, it made me laugh to think what some ward members must have thought.

4. I grew up in a cowboy town, so seeing people in jeans and bolo ties at church was common. But they were their Sunday jeans and boots, unless they had to get back quickly.

5. Some of the Vietnamese and Cambodian and Laotian sisters in my grandma's ward wear pants to church every Sunday, because it's different from their everyday clothing.

6. One of the best men in my ward frequently comes to church with his man-bun, plaid shirt with a thrift-store tie, and rolled-up cargo pants with sandals. He also does frequent baby-wearing. He's a spiritual giant who has done so much good in the world.

I always try to dress nicely, but I also know that there may be times when it doesn't matter how I'm dressed as long as I'm there.

Giggles said...

Tagging on with Heidi's #4 - when I was in Mexico I loved that the guys had their Sunday jeans and boots and their regular jeans and boots. When the Sunday jeans and boots started to look not so new and spiffy they were demoted to regular wear and they bought new for Sunday. On Sunday they wore their best jeans and boots and that made it their Sunday best.

According to Iddo though, you need to wear dresses and skirts a lot more often than I do (just for Sunday) to be a princess.

AmandaStretch said...

I love all of your thoughts! Thank you!