By Elizabeth Stohlton
Modesty is always in style for the Young Women of the Harris 1st Ward in Mesa, Ariz., who are taking a stand for modesty.
The Young Women presented their local Dillard?s department store with more than 1,500 signatures requesting that their store carry more modest clothing.
?I had a difficult time getting in touch with someone that could help me, with the exception of Dillard?s,? said Delynn Bodine, Young Women?s president of the Harris 1st Ward. ?Dillard?s was very responsive. We thought we would probably just end up going to a general manager at one of the depart-ment stores, and presenting them with the ideas, and en-couraging them to carry more modest clothing, but it actually ended up being a lot bigger than that.?
Dillard?s junior buyers for the southwest area met with the Young Women.
?When we met with Dillard?s, they asked us to please come with ideas on what we were looking for, for modest clothing,? Bodine said. ?So, we put together a packet. The packet included suggested de-sign guidelines.?
The packet specified exactly what these girls wanted: longer shorts, jeans that sit higher on the hips, longer shirts, shirts that were not so tight, dresses and blouses with higher neck-lines and sleeves, Bodine said.
?The girls also scanned some of their photos in of them in causal wear, Sunday dress and formal wear,? Bodine said. ?We also had a woman do some sketches for us.?
In return, Dillard?s presented the Young Women with modified sketches of popular clothing items and asked for their input.
Bodine said the junior buyers wanted to know exactly how the girls wanted their sleeves, shorts and necklines.
?They also asked these girls if they?d be willing to sit on a focus committee, and also come back in three weeks to try on some of their sample goods,? Bodine said. ?They are also considering doing a fashion show this spring. The thing we set out to do was to encourage or appeal to the department stores to carry a more modest clothing line, and we feel like we are definitely taking a big step in that direction.?
In an Associated Press article, Kent Burnett, chairman and CEO of the Dillard?s Phoenix division, said some Latter-day Saints in Utah had the same concerns. As a result, the chain has begun carrying more modest clothing.
?We certainly hear them, and we?re concerned about it,? Burnett said.
Robin Crowell, junior manager of Dillard?s at Provo Towne Centre, said the buyers for that store began carrying more conservative clothes after hearing that girls wanted more conservative styles.
Dillard?s in Provo now carries a line of dresses that has sleeves, a hemline to the knees and a higher neckline, Crowell said.
Crowell said the dresses have been popular.
BYU Bookstore Men?s Clothing buyer Hal Anderson said buyers for the Bookstore are not given specific guidelines as far as necklines and length of sleeves, but are given directives to keep within BYU standards.
Anderson said many of the Bookstore?s clients are from the local community, who have had a hard time finding modest clothing elsewhere.
At least one other local merchant is trying to fill the void created by other dress designers.
Walkers? Bride Emporium in Provo specializes in modest dresses.
Jenna Weisman, partner designer for Eternity Prom, a line of dresses at Walkers? Bride Emporium, said they receive orders from all over the world for their dresses.
In October, Walkers? Bride Emporium showcased some of its dresses at a fashion show at a Nordstrom in California.
Nordstrom sponsored the fashion show after they were approached by some frustrated teens who wanted more modest dresses.
Walkers? Bride Emporium supplied 200 dresses for the show.
?We have been trying to make it cool to be modest,? Weisman said.
Weisman said they have a monopoly on the modest dress market because it is not worth it for other designers to have modest dresses, when the other dresses already bring in large profits.
?All this Britney Spears stuff is not for everybody,? Weisman said. ?Manufacturers need to wake up and realize (they) are missing the boat.?
Kristen Monson, 21, a senior from Salt Lake City, majoring in mechanical engineering, said it is hard to find modest clothing.
?You can?t find modest shorts,? Monson said. ?If you?re a long-bodied, narrow girl, it?s hard to find a modest shirt that covers your belly, but doesn?t look like a mumu.?
The bishop of the Harris 1st Ward has been concerned about modesty for a while, and the young women leaders have been responding in different ways, Bodine said.
?We did start to brainstorm in a Laurel class presidency meeting,? Bodine said. ?We came up with the idea, and that?s where it began.?
Bodine said she had heard about similar things being done in California, where a group of Young Women presented Nordstrom?s with similar pleas. When she presented it to her girls, they loved it.
?They just took off with it,? Bodine said. ?They were so great about it. They actually organized a modesty lesson, and that?s where we launched the petition drive, as well as a modesty clothing drive.?
All the Young Women were given petitions, and were asked to take them to school, work, or wherever, and have their peers sign them, Bodine said.
The Laurel class president approached the seminary principal at Mesa Mountain View High School and asked him if he would support the cause. The principal encouraged the youth to involve their priesthood leaders, which they did, Bodine said.
?We started out thinking we would get a few hundred signatures and before we knew it, we had 1,500 in a three week period of time,? Bodine said. ?It was just incredible. I really feel like we have met our objective. Our intent was to encourage the department stores to offer options for our girls, so that they could maintain their standards, and dress cute and trendy at the same time.?
Although Mesa Mountain View High School was not sponsoring the petition, many attending the school have voiced their support for more modest clothing.
?I have gotten phone calls from teachers, friends, neighbors, not of our faith, who have been very supportive because it has been difficult for them to find clothing for their kids that fits the school?s dress code,? Bodine said.
She said the response of people of other faiths has been incredible.
?I feel like this has been an issue that affects people of all faith, and we have had a positive response in that regard,? Bodine said.