Polygamist Dress Borrows from Pioneer and 1950s Fashion

April 24, 2008 12:00 PM
by findingDulcinea Staff
Reporting on polygamist sect the FLDS, the media has turned the spotlight on the female members' distinctive dress and coifed hair.

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Evocative of the garments worn by the original Mormon pioneers who settled in Utah, the puffy, pastel-colored dresses also incorporate elements of the 1950s New Look—notably minus the cinched waist.

Fashionistas have taken note. Web site Glam jokingly heralded the coming of the Pantone color “Polygamist Pastel.” Of course, polygamist prairie style has already hit the racks, with ruffled, high-necked shirts becoming en vogue.

On a more serious note, enforcing a uniformity of dress was one means by which members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-Day Saints had their behavior controlled. Girls who thought of fleeing one of the FLDS compounds were discouraged by threats that outsiders would force them to cut their hair and wear makeup.

Carolyn Jessop, a former wife of Merrill Jessop, the head of the Eldorado compound, said the dress code is “a uniform … You’re just part of a whole.”

Some 37,000 people live in polygamist families in Canada, the United States and Mexico. Of the 11 renegade Mormon sects represented in the state, many are integrated into modern society, as portrayed in the HBO series “Big Love.”

The Associated Press describes Heidi Foster, a member of the polygamist Kingston Clan, as a normal suburban Salt Lake City housewife “in black dress pants and a white blouse with a charcoal-colored jacket.”

Blog Done with Mirrors writes that the Kingston Clan is among the groups that offer some freedom in dress, with female members allowed to wear form-fitting apparel. “They’re more overtly sexual than other women in polygamist groups,” says former Kingston member Rowenna Erickson.

Since the 1980s, female followers of polygamist leader Tom Green have worn what Done with Mirrors describes as “a knee-length version of Jessica McClintock’s Gunny Sack.”

Headline Link: Can polygamist clothing make inroads today?

Video: ‘It’s Spiritual for Me’

Background: The raid and polygamist women say they were ‘misled’

Opinion & Analysis: Fashion is power

Reference: Polygamous sects and how to help the children of YFZ


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