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