The Cold Shoulder: To See or Not to See?

by Jen on May 6, 2008

By Jennifer Loch

Latter-Day Saints believe in covering the shoulders for modesty, and I recently received this email from an LDS teen:

“Ok, so i still have a hard time staying modest. Especially when summer is around. I went shopping yesterday and i found it so hard to stay away from racerback styled tank tops. I don’t understand why its such a big deal, i could see spaghetti straps but racerbacks? Its not like guys get attracted to our shoulders like more feminine parts of a womens body right? I just don’t understand, i’ve fallen in to the habit of just slipping on a tank top everyday for school, putting on a sweatshirt for seminary and taking it back off the moment i get back in the highschool building. Even my mother has started noticing. Please help me understand why tank tops are so bad?”

I felt the same way when I was a teen. I wore tank tops, and I didn’t understand why I wasn’t supposed to wear them. It’s not that wearing a tank top is so bad; there are worse things you could be wearing, or doing for that matter. Tank tops are comfortable and I loved wearing them. But I also felt guilty that I wasn’t following the rules of my religion and it crept into my mind that I could break other rules as well, so it lead to other things.

I’ve heard that you should think of it like a test; it’s a part of the religion that you believe in, so you believe that God is asking you to do it. He’s asking you to do something that you might not understand, but if you obey him you are proving your obedience to him, and he will bless you for it.

If you’re looking to date a good LDS guy who goes on a mission and lives the gospel, he will be looking for the same in you. If a guy like that sees that you aren’t following the rules, he might think that you don’t live the gospel in other ways and you aren’t the kind of girl for him.

Shoulders may not be as sexy as cleavage, but men do find them attractive. It’s not something they think about, it’s more subconscious. Now that I’m married and wear garments, my husband has said on several occasions when I wasn’t dressed or was wearing a swimsuit “Oh, your shoulders! I never get to see them when you’re dressed. I never thought about shoulders being sexy but now I see why garments cover your shoulders and back because they’re really sexy.”

And if you think about it, most outfits that are supposed to look sexy show your back and/or shoulders. Just think about what the female celebrities wear on the red carpet. It’s almost always something that shows the shoulders or back. When I wore tank tops, I always thought I looked better in them than in tops that covered my shoulders. “I have nice shoulders,” I thought. But it actually goes back to the fact that subconsciously we think of showing shoulders as more attractive, sexy or glamorous, and that’s why I thought I looked better in tank tops.

When I got married at 20, it was frustrating because I didn’t have much I could wear with garments. I wished I had prepared earlier by wearing the kinds of clothes I could wear with garments. I had to change my habits, get rid of some clothes, and start layering.

Sometimes I miss the cool comfort of a tank top, which makes me wish I hadn’t been spoiled by wearing them in the first place. But I still buy and wear tank tops; I just use them as layering pieces now. So you can still get use out of your tank tops while covering your shoulders. Just wear them over or under something that covers the shoulders instead of wearing them alone. Wearing a little shrug over a tank top can be a good place to start.

Hope this helps!     -Jen

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Kelli K May 29, 2008 at 9:06 pm

I really like your explanations- and personal experience. It just makes sense to me. Thanks for taking the time to share, both of you!

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Karen May 31, 2008 at 10:25 am

On the other side of the scale, my mother raised me by telling me that I need to prepare for temple marriage so I could not wear tank tops. So I may have suffered a little in the heat, but I got used to it and never regretted following her advice. She was not raised in the church, but she joined a couple years before she got married and she sticks to everything she has been taught. Now that I am married, I am forever grateful that I did listen. I never wore tank tops, so I am not missing anything, I love the covenants I have made and love the idea of being modest. Men cannot really control their thoughts, and if they love you, they will still think you are hot even without showing shoulders. ^-^ Just ask my husband. When women dress immodestly, they are dressing for the type of guys that look for loose women, not consciously, but those are the type of guys that are attracted to those girls. So if you want to marry a man with morals, you have to show in your dress that you respect your body and the covenants that you will make when you get married in the temple. It’s better to avoid a bad habit than to have to try to break it later.

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Anonymous June 3, 2008 at 7:19 pm

Wearing a tank top may or may not have eternal consequences – but your willingness to obey the prophet will.

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Audrey June 4, 2008 at 7:04 am

Loved the way you put all that Jen. :o) Thank you!

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Ryan and Paula June 30, 2008 at 11:24 am

As Karen says, most of YW aspire to get married in the Temple, and that will require you to be modest afterwards. I was raised up in the church and my parents were always VERY obedient to everything. When I was a teen I was really modest, and when I started to accept my body the way it was and earn my own money to buy my own clothes, I started to wear shorter pants and sleeveless T-shirts. I got married on a Spring, and every time summer comes around I miss my shorts and my sleeveless shirts… and I wish I had never tried wearing a little less modest clothes! (they weren’t totally immodest, they just showed a little more than modest clothes would, and I wore them mostly around the house). And that little experience helped me understand that even for a very practical reason we have to do as we are told by our church leaders and just wear modest clothes and not ask why! And now that I have my own daughter, and although she’s only 19 months, I’ve decided that she won’t wear tank tops or those cute bikinis for babies… because she will grow up used to that and I think as a mother I can do better than repeating my same mistake!

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Anonymous June 30, 2008 at 4:14 pm

Jen thanks so much for that response! I just recently started college in florida and its so hot here! I see all the girls on campus with there tank tops (and short shorts) and I keep thinking “it’s so hot why can’t I just wear tank tops like the rest of them”. Your response really put things into perspective!
thanks again

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Anonymous June 30, 2008 at 4:27 pm

Jen, thank you for all the great info on style for the modest people. My daughter is 13 years old and with society welcoming more skin and less clothes its great to see some changes for the younger crowd. THANKS!

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Emily June 30, 2008 at 4:32 pm

Thank you SO much! This was a total answer to my prayers! I am really careful about being modest, especially around my guy friends. I could see why other immodest clothing was a problem but I had wondered lately what the big deal was about wearing tank tops, if it was really that bad, especially because I see so many girls wearing them and it doesn’t seem to be a big problem or to bother guys that much. :p I have never worn a tank top (except in layering) and I wasn’t planning on lowering my standards because I want to follow the counsel of the prophets, but it had been on my mind a lot lately and had really been bothering me. Thanks so much for talking about this! It’s just what I needed. Now I understand why I should keep my shoulders covered. I am so happy I haven’t lowered my standards!

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We are all the possibilities June 30, 2008 at 8:51 pm

When my boyfriend had to choose between two amazing girls he’d like to date, the only difference was one of them liked to wear tank tops and the other did not. He choose me. Now we are dating seriously and all just because I followed the Prophet’s counsel. It was worth it 🙂

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Anonymous July 1, 2008 at 8:12 am

I often hear, “Aren’t you hot in that long skirt”? My response is always, “I am cooler than you are in those shorts! I don’t know how you wear them – I’d be to hot!” If I’m wearing a light skirt, it’s like walking around in your underwear! Shorts hold all that heat in, while light skirts let it out. As far as tank tops, I have to agree – you never know what your missing if you never start. You may think, “It’s just my arms, elbows, feet, etc”, but in our society today there are many fetish’s that people have. As women, we need to take responsibility of our bodies and consider our world when we dress.

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Rachel December 20, 2008 at 7:42 am

My mother taught me young – she never bought us clothes that were immodest (tank tops, sleeveless, shorts, etc). Only until I was a teenager did I wear shorts and they had to be to the knee. When I asked her about it as a teenager, she said, “If you can’t wear garments with it, don’t buy it” The garment is the Lord’s standard for underwear and modesty. If you always wear clothes that meet that requirement, you will never have to break a bad habit once you make temple covenants.

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Leos Toro March 24, 2009 at 10:20 pm

Why are women not allowed to choose something as simple as their everyday wear especially on a hot summer day. Why does it matter what a guy thinks? Isn’t it more important to improve yourself and grow mentally and spiritually rather than worry if it’s your fault a teenage boy is attracted to your shoulders? Please. If wearing a light tank without a cap sleeve will be the determinant factor in your everlasting unhappiness… you really should take a second look at your priorities and what you hold dear. God doesn’t care about fashion. Modesty is only exuded if you are comfortable with yourself internally. Don’t fool yourselves.

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