Crazy Kool-Aid Drinkers Play Dress-up on the Prairie

Exactly what are those women wearing, and why?Fundamental fashion From The Arizona Republic by Jaimee Rose – Apr. 21, 2008 12:00 AM click to read moreSee related post.
The peculiarities of polygamy have the nation transfixed on Texas, and once the concepts of sister-wives and teenage brides are digested, it seems Americans can’t help but wonder: Exactly what are those women wearing, and why?     There they are, three in a row, trembling through a Today show chat in matching pioneer-style dresses, or talking softly on CNN with hair poufed to the heavens: no makeup, no jewelry, not an ankle or bare elbow in sight, setting curious tongues afire across the country.     Already, fashion bloggers are waxing snarky about “polygamy pastels,” wondering whether Marc Jacobs might be inspired for his next collection. Radio talkies are twittering about the long underwear worn beneath the billowing dresses, which the women sew from a master pattern.      The look is mandated by jailed sect leader Warren Jeffs, and is intentionally different to set the women apart, says Carolyn Jessop, a former polygamist wife who fled the Colorado City, Ariz.-based Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 2003, and authored the New York Times best-selling book Escape.     As with many religious garments, from the Muslim hajib to a nun’s habit, the women obey the sartorial rules as a symbol of their faith.      The hair   Underneath those poufs and braids, their hair is long, often long enough to sit or even stand upon. This is in preparation for a belief that in heaven the wives will be asked to use that hair to wash their husbands’ feet, Jessop says. It could be symbolic of the New Testament account when Mary Magdalene washed Jesus’ feet with her tears and dried them with her hair.     The hairstyles are more cultural. Makeup, jewelry and even ruffles are contraband, so “about the only thing that a woman can do for herself in that society is to put some time into her hair,” says Jessop, who was married to Merrill Jessop, now the bishop and a presiding religious figure of the raided Texas compound.     Cutting a girl’s hair is a form of punishment, one mentioned by the 16-year-old whose hushed plea for help launched the raid on the YFZ Ranch.     “Long hair for a woman is her glory; it’s her beauty,” says Carolyn Jessop, 40, of West Jordan, Utah. “Some fathers wanted their daughters to be beautiful, to use them as a commodity and gain power through marriage, so they made it mandatory that a daughter brush her hair 100 strokes every night.”     Women are required to wear their hair up, because long hair hanging down the back is considered evil and “enticing to a man,” Jessop says. “It’s ‘That’s what whores do.’ ”     The Gibson Girl waves and back-combed poufs are simply what’s stylish in the sect.

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