A Year in Pants (Trousers*)

by: Hedgehog

December 19, 2013

Has it really been a year? Sunday 15 December was the second annual ‘Wear Pants to Church’ event. Of course the first time around I had no idea this would be an annual event. Back then it took me a while to decide what I was going to do. I love trousers. I wear them all the time. Jeans usually. But then I’m a SAHM and don’t need to dress for the office. Still my wardrobe did contain a nice pair of smart trousers I’d felt impressed to buy two or three months previously. They were there, they fitted, I liked them, and could afford to buy them. Back then I thought maybe this signified I was going to have to re-enter the job market. And I can guarantee that if I’d waited until I needed them to buy them, I wouldn’t have been able to find anything suitable. So there they were, and I’d worn them once, for a funeral.

Background

As a child I wore dresses and skirts. Back in the 70s that wasn’t unusual, and anyway, these were mostly items I’d inherited from my older female cousins, and which would then pass to my sister. I think I was 10 the first time I wore trousers, and for my 12th birthday I requested a pair of jeans, which seemed so daring I was almost afraid to ask. I loved those jeans, and wore them for years. By the time I was 16 I wore trousers most of the time. I cycled to seminary and VI form college. I’d only ever tried cycling in a skirt once – it was a disaster. The only time I wore a skirt or dress was to attend church, and I was becoming increasingly irritated by how restrictive I found them – having to straighten the skirt beneath me as I sat, finding that I would be slipping on my seat inside a skirt – things that didn’t happen the same way in trousers.

Still, I grew up in a somewhat conservative ward, for some things. The cohort taking seminary ahead of me weren’t allowed to wear jeans to class, and girls had had to be in skirts. As a laurel, I remember attending a RS lesson prior to turning 18, in which one member firmly expressed the opinion that little girls should be raised wearing dresses and skirts. My own mother seemed to feel that ‘women in trousers’ and ‘chapel’ did not go together. I once wore trousers to a fireside to the tune of her dismayed “but it’s in the chapel”. For many years I grudgingly accepted that church on Sunday meant wearing a skirt. And since I had to wear a skirt, I liked them to be relatively long, and not too tight, as this permitted greater ease of movement, and I didn’t have to be quite so careful about how I was sitting. Gradually my wardrobe accumulated a selection of these long, vaguely A-line skirts, which I only ever wore for church. And they grew older, and faded in the wash, and the corduroy developed tiny pin-sized holes, and my winter skirts could hardly continue to qualify as my best clothing. Yet I hadn’t seen a new winter skirt that I liked enough to be willing to spend money on it; the shops were full of trousers. I supposed I could always make a skirt, but that would mean hunting down a suitable fabric that I liked. So I continued to wear my old and worn skirts. Clearly, I’m not too fussed about fashion, but I am very picky nevertheless.

The first Wear Pants

The idea tossed around and around in my mind. I could wear pants. I could wear purple. I have lots of purple. It’s a favourite colour. Wearing purple would signify nothing. I frequently wear purple anyway. What would wearing pants do for my sense of worship, as a ‘daring’ thing, as a specific and deliberate act? And round the thought’s went, rising and falling for days. It wasn’t until I climbed into bed on the Saturday evening that the thought crystallised in my mind that I needed to wear trousers. And I did. I wore them for me. I wore them for my daughter. A few people were obviously startled, because I’d always seemed the epitome of an orthodox member, though that was never true. And I was nervous. And it was fine.

The rest of the winter I wore my trousers. And I felt like me. And I felt confident. And I was confident. And I greeted people more often, and smiled more, and spoke out more, and felt less constrained, less silenced, less held back in a corner, a corner I hadn’t realised I’d been in. Spring came, heralding summer, and I really didn’t feel like going back to a skirt. My long vaguely A-line linen blend skirts hung in my wardrobe, and my heart sank at the thought of going back to a skirt. Of going back to that sad and silent corner. Which isn’t to say I had never spoken whilst wearing a skirt, that would not be true, but I had held back a part of me. So I went out and found the perfect pair of summer trousers. I wore them when I gave my sacrament meeting talk. I wore them all summer. I experimented with wearing a skirt again to attend a wedding, and I didn’t like it. And as autumn approached winter, I took out that first, winter pair of trousers and wore them again.

The second Wear Pants

Of course, I wore trousers. And purple. And no-one so much as blinked, because to see me in trousers, with or without purple is nothing new. It’s normal. And that’s what I want. And I am me. And I speak out. And I guess I am also my father’s daughter, who, over the years with his pastel coloured shirts, fancy ties and bow ties, decorated waistcoats, and whiskers ignored, and in his own way continues to ignore the over-rigid orthodoxy of that which is solely and exclusively cultural.

Discuss.

 

*I’m British; I feel the need to clarify.

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8 Responses to A Year in Pants (Trousers*)

  1. NewConvert on December 19, 2013 at 2:16 PM

    When I first began attending services 1.5 years ago, I was thrilled to wear skirts and I lived it as a celebration of the special differences between men and women. I had come from churches that were not dressy as all so I enjoyed the formality of dress at the LDS ward. I liked the homogenized culture. I can understand how someone raised in the church would like a change though.

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  2. Rigel Hawthorne on December 19, 2013 at 6:33 PM

    I attended a Community of Christ Church on Wear Pants day. I did wear a purple shirt and tie, though nobody there recognized the significance. There were 6 attendees, and the 4 women were all in pants. The prelude music was a Ray Conniff Christmas recording. The Pastor clicked a remote for the sound system to play the music for the congregational singing. While I sympathize with the over-rigid orthodoxy, I also believe that the formality of dress described by number 1 (along with other more formal proceedings) can have the effect of increasing the respect and dignity of one’s mood for worship. Most photos I saw of last year’s Wear Pants day demonstrated tasteful and dignified dress that would not seem out of place by my perspective. Tastefully chosen pants are a much better fit than the T-shirt, skirt, and flip flops that seem to be more culturally acceptable.

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  3. Anon on December 19, 2013 at 11:00 PM

    When I first converted, I felt that I was being forced to be something/someone I was not by having to wear a skirt or dress. I had more dressy pants suits anyway. When I saw the casual skirts some women wore, and some with flip flops, I just didn’t really understnd how that was still considered more acceptable than me wearing a classy pants outfit. I realized it was about outdated gender roles/stereotypes and that everyone was just trying to play their socially and culturally acceptable part. Talk about a real letdown.

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  4. Hedgehog on December 20, 2013 at 1:31 AM

    NewConvert, that’s certainly a different, and perhaps refreshing perspective. Speaking as someone who’s grown up with it, I’d like a little more acknowledgement of the similarities between men and women. The differences have been over-emphasized my whole life.

    Rigel, Anon, I have to admit I really don’t know where the line is drawn in defining a dress skirt or a casual skirt. I don’t think it stops at whether or not the skirt is denim, but other than that I really haven’t much of a clue. That it was a skirt at all seemed to be the only thing that mattered.

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  5. annegb on December 21, 2013 at 3:39 PM

    I wore purple. I don’t want to wear pants to church. Also, I think it’s an empty statement since women regularly wear pants to my ward anyway. Still, I wish the church was more fair in regard to many of its policies and women. Temple sealings, for instance. So I wore a purple blazer over a black dress. I was the only person in purple.

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  6. Douglas on December 21, 2013 at 10:23 PM

    Toga…Toga…Toga…Toga….

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  7. Hedgehog on December 21, 2013 at 11:44 PM

    I have no objection to you wearing a toga Douglas, though these days even in Rome I think they are seen as the stuff of a fancy dress party. Back in the day, of course, they were formal dress.

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  8. Douglas on December 23, 2013 at 10:05 AM

    #7 – correct-a-mundo, they were. And ONLY the Emperor could wear a purple robe or even have it fringed in purple, for anyone else to do so would have been treasonous. Legend has it that Empress Theodora of the “Baselius Rhomaion”, encouraging her husband Justinian to stand up to the ‘Nika’ rioters, declared that “purple makes a fine winding sheet” (e.g., she’d die as an Empress).
    The point is to wear one’s best. For some, a ten-dollar shirt with a three-buck tie and a pair of trousers scrounged from Thriftown, along with some “Postman” shoes, buffed to a high shine, is all a brother with modest means can manage. Methinks the Lord is far more pleased with that than with a well-heeled brother with fifty suits, each with labels like Armani, Halston, etc etc.

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