No this is not a blog post dedicated to "Field of Dreams..." We are talking about building your missionary wardrobe! I was in the store talking to a mom tonight about why it matters so much what her daughter takes on the mission. It dawned on me that a blog post was called for! So, here goes...
First of all, let's talk about what LDS Sister Missionaries are doing. They are teaching the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ to those who are seeking to know the truth, and through this teaching, they are inviting people to change their lives and futures forever.
That is huge.
The church recently posted the following video that was so moving about what Sister Missionaries are doing.
Many people who join the church chart a new course in their lives because they are cast out of their families for believing. In my mission, I saw people who had to change their professional careers to embrace the gospel. Even harder, we saw people who had to make great sacrifice to be active members of the church. In all of these specific instances, I have seen firsthand that these beautiful people have been blessed beyond belief for their faith. Truly, not all who join the church find that they have to make such extreme sacrifices, but it is a big change for almost all of them.
Why do I bring this up?
Well, if you are going to profess to represent the Savior, Jesus Christ, you had very well look the part and be the representative that the Lord has in mind for you to be.
So often when we see sister missionaries come into our shop, they are just looking for the current fashions. This is not a sin, but without fail, if we happen to meet up with them again after their missions their perspectives have changed. Although it is important to look sharp, it is less about fashion and more about looking the part.
Now, to look the part, you don't have to be frumpy, shapeless, or dowdy. No way! We dropped that stereotype a long time ago! The LDS church itself actually updated the guidelines for sister missionaries in August 2010. The photo shoot that came later can be found on the church website. It is a great example of how to be polished, well dressed, and neatly pressed--and these girls are invariably fashionable within reason. So, in your shopping it is important to look for pieces that are easy to wear and care for.
Secondly, after realizing what you are doing as a missionary, realize that it takes a little effort to prepare temporally to serve. This not only includes being physically fit, or able to serve, and keeping your finances straight so you can leave for your mission--it includes planning your wardrobe so it is hassle free and appropriate.
This is where we come in. We have built a business on helping sister missionaries to serve better by providing a place where they can shop and get value. What we mean by this is that our products may not always be the least expensive, but they are the most competitively priced for what we offer. We work really hard to make sure that the garments we carry are appropriately cut, appropriately opaque, and washable. We try hard to toss in a little fashion as well to "dump the frump" and keep our looks, colors, and cuts updated.
(we have a little bit of a lookbook that scrolls on the homepage of our website. Check it out here. or just look online www.sistermissionarymall.org)
Finally, getting at the main reason for this post...I wanted to express that when you build your missionary wardrobe, you are not just travelling.
Missionaries do travel, but their main purpose is not travel.
They may take in a few sights where they serve, but they are not tourists.
They may fly in a plane to get to their mission, but they are not frequent flyers.
They are missionaries.
They are moving away and relocating for the time of their mission where they will live among other people, and preach the gospel.
So the temporary "travel" tips that one might think would affect how or what a missionary packs, is not the big concern.
The bigger idea is "How can I maximize my wardrobe, reflect my values, and minimize my efforts to stay pressed and polished as a missionary?"
The general guidelines for what to bring to each mission are usually decided by the mission president (with input most likely from his wife...) I know this is true because I called the Missionary Department at Church Headquarters in Salt Lake and asked point blank. The woman I spoke with said that each mission list is based on general guidelines, but that each mission president had it as his prerogative to determine what the missionaries would bring to their missions. So, when you get your call, you may have very detailed information, or you may not.
This is our take on it.
How to Build your Sister Missionary Wardrobe1. Look in your closet for pieces that you already own that are mission appropriate. This means that they are sufficiently modest to cover garments, new enough that they will last, and easy enough to care for. Set these aside to begin to build.
2. We start out with the skirts and dresses. We suggest taking a minimum of 6-8 skirts if you are taking a couple of dresses, or the maximum of 8-10 if you are not taking any dresses. The reason for this is that as a missionary you only do laundry once a week. That means if you have any accidents that soil your dress or skirt (splashed by mud, dirtied by the children of an investigator, jumped on by a dog, spill at lunch, or issue of a personal nature) you are covered with backup. You would need to plan to have a skirt every day for a week--which is 7 days--7 skirts. Then, by having a couple more, you can plan for warmer or cooler weather by having a couple of seasonal skirts. You also have enough to rotate for your whole mission so you aren't scrambling for clothing as yours wears out.
So, take the ones from your own closet, and see how many you have. Then decide how many more you need to acquire, and whether or not you are going to take a couple of dresses
3. Make sure you have a blouse to go with each skirt. Look through what you already have, and then decide how many more you need to acquire. The rule on the blouse is that in order to make the cut, it has to go with at least 3 of the skirts to be "mission worthy" for your wardrobe. Also, take note if everything you are choosing goes with just 3 of your skirts...that means you have to rethink what you are taking and make sure the skirts are similar enough that you can mix and match... Make sure that if you are taking some layering shells that have to be worn under a blazer or cardigan, that they don't dominate your wardrobe. They aren't bad to take, but they do limit how often they can be worn.
4. Add in the cardigans, blazers, and sweaters. Depending on your mission climate, decide how many cardis, blazers, and sweaters you will be taking and choose basic colors and styles that will compliment your blouses.
5. Add a couple of belts and scarves, and jewelry to change it up a little. With a few little accessories, you can really stretch your wardrobe. Little accents like a skinny belt to wear over a cardigan, or a scarf to dress up your dress will make a world of difference to liven up your outfits. You are living on this wardrobe after all!
6. Always buy new shoes for your mission. The one mistake that sister missionaries make is that they think they can get by with the little ballet flats they wore for the couple of years before their mission. Truthfully, shoes are the one place where you should spend some time and money researching out what works for you, and spending the money to get the best. If your feet hurt or you are getting blisters and can't work--it doesn't matter how darling you may look. You are incapacitated. If you have hard to fit feet, take the time to go visit a boutique that has people trained in fitting you (...shameless plug for our store...) It is definitely worth it. Women with very tiny feet that can wear children's sizes, please don't buy them! Children's shoes that are inexpensive, but look nice, are not really built as sturdy as adult shoes because it is assumed that children will not wear them for long. There are some shoe companies that do decent shoes for children, but you will also pay more for them. Be willing to spend the money. You will not regret it.
The wardrobe math here is staggering.
If you take 8 skirts and 8 tops that can be interchanged, you have 64 outfits. Add to that the variables of 2 cardigans and 1 blazer, and you have increased the number of outfits from 64 to 192 unique combinations. Now, add 2 scarves to the mix, and you have increased the number to 384 outfits. If you add a couple of dresses to that, you could wear them with the scarves, cardis, or blazer and you can add another 12 outfit combos with the dresses, for a grand total of 396 unique outfits. Considering that you only have approximately 540 days as a sister missionary, that means you won't even wear each unique outfit twice... Plenty of clothing for you on your mission.
So, build your wardrobe to be low stress and hassle free, and the time and headache you save will help you to focus more on your missionary work and those you were called to teach.
Build it, and they will come...unto Christ. What you wear does matter, so plan accordingly.