Sisterhood Blog

Going Mormon for Modesty

By Debra Nussbaum Cohen

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I’m going Mormon.

After all, I do love watching “Big Love,” and I can’t deny the appeal of having a “sister-wife” who wouldn’t mind doing the laundry for everyone in the family.

But mainstream Mormons no longer practice polygamy — it’s been against official church policy for more than a century — so the “sister-wife” situation is off the table. And anyway, there’s no way I could join a religion whose leaders sanction converting dead Jews to Mormonism for “the benefit” of their eternal souls.

But I have converted to their shopping.

You see, my older daughter, Girlchik, is now a tall 10-year-old and at that hard-to-fit age where kids’ sizes no longer work and she’s not ready for adult sizes. And mightily though I’ve tried, it seems impossible to find a junior-sized dress that doesn’t look like it’s made for “The Girls Next Door” or someone in a rap video.

Complicating matters further is that with my husband having grown up in a Chasidic family, we attend lots of frum weddings and other simchas where girls really need to be covered up — and a shrug over a spaghetti-strapped bit of tulle-y party froth just won’t cut it.

So off I set, in search of an appropriately modest dress for my Girlchik.

I looked high. I looked low. Multiple times I maneuvered through Macy’s and Mandee’s, and bobbed through Bloomies. I targeted Target, looked through Lands’ End and noted Old Navy’s too-casual offerings. H&M was hit or miss and Limited Too is now so limited it no longer exists. She’ll have to wait about 11 years before she’s ready to wear something from Forever 21, where the dresses look more appropriate for streetwalkers on 11th Avenue than an almost-11-year-old girl.

Combing through all of the girls’, juniors’ and even petite women’s departments for something appropriate, I came up with zilch.

So I turned to the domain of the desperate, that Magic 8 Ball for the modern. I Googled.

Googling “tznius (meaning modest) junior’s dresses” led me to a couple of Web sites touting products aimed at Orthodox Jews: “Funky Frum,” and “Modest World,” which says that it’s “the first rabbinical approved clothing store on the web,” but neither had anything other than boring, solid color long skirts.

So I branched out, Googling my way into the world of “modest junior dresses,” which got me to a bunch of Web sites for the Christian and Mormon sets.

I found a cute long denim skirt with silver grommets on this Web site tailored to the needs of Muslim women, though it wasn’t what we were looking for for Girlchik.

At the online store of “The Kings Daughters,” which seems to be run by and for ultra-conservative Christians, the dresses there look more like what the ultra-conservative Mormons favor – like those prairie dresses we saw so much of during the 2008 raids on the polygamous ranch run by Warren Jeffs of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

I’m not much of a fundamentalist anything, so I preferred what I found on this mainstream Mormon clothing Web site, the slightly misnamed “Great Lengths Shorts,” which carries more dresses and skirts than shorts.

I ordered Girlchik a pretty skirt and a dress, and when both arrived this week, bingo — they fit and looked great.

Of course, the dress is way more covered up than what we saw at the super-fun bat mitzvah party of the daughter of friends that we attended last night, where Girlchik’s 5th grade friends were wearing spaghetti strapped, short party dresses. We’ll see if she’ll feel comfortable wearing the cute but not as bare dress to the next bat mitzvah party.

But at least now she’s set for the engagement party we’re going to in Crown Heights later this week.

And for the time being, at least, the Mormons have my business.

Judy BF Sun. Jan 24, 2010

Delia's and Anthropologie.

Abercrombie and Fitch is evil.

Jill Hamburg Coplan Mon. Jan 25, 2010

I'm a none-too-prudish Conservative Jew, but at my 2 nephews' recent bar mitzvahs in Short Hills, NJ, I was about to vomit at the sight of armies of child-women in tight dresses so short they barely skimmed their underwear--paired with towering stiletto heels. What parents let their girls out this way? Your joke about "streetwalkers on 11th Avenue" is just too real. With only boys myself, it won't hit me personally, but I'm just SAD about the dearth of cute, appropriate party dresses. (Cedarhurst? Ave. J Midwood?) Anyway you've solved the problem...for now, so job well done.

Jessica Seigel Mon. Jan 25, 2010

Loved your post (I'm a friend of Jill Hamburg Coplan's). It really is possible to sew a long-sleeved shrug that will cover these problems -- which I know since I've sewn them. We DD girls don't need it hanging out either. I actually did find some patterns on line a while back posted exactly for this reason.

alan tarragin Mon. Jan 25, 2010

what's wrong with the Streetwalkers on 11th Avenue? How judgmental!

Sarah Mon. Jan 25, 2010

I feel your/her pain! I remember coming to the shocking realization that I actually didn't like shopping - because it was so utterly discouraging. Woe to the nice, helpful saleslady who would ask if she could help me - the response being "Probably not. I need something with a top, a bottom, sides, front and back, sleeves to the elbow, skirt (not pants) to the knee (even when I sit) (I'm 5'8"), high neckline, not too tight, and no slits above the knee. Yes, all on one dress. And I also have to like it and it has to fit me (hah) and look good and not cost too much." It's great that we have all these web resources now!

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