100 years of Mormon temple garments

Religion News Service | 6/25/2019 | Staff
Zorra (Posted by) Level 4
Click For Photo: https://religionnews.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/1920.5-Garment-Ad-Model-Knitting-Works-Improvement-Era.jpg

On a recent trip to Utah I found a treasure trove: a collection of century-old issues of Improvement Era and Young Woman’s Journal, with the whole set of 19 issues going for under $100. I’ve had a wonderful time learning more about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints 100 years ago–including the evolution of temple garments.

I already knew, thanks to Ardis Parshall’s excellent blog Keepapitchinin, that individual retailers used to produce temple garments for sale before the Church took over exclusive production and distribution. And I understood from Devery Anderson’s fascinating Development of LDS Temple Worship: 1846–2000 that garments used to resemble full-on union suits.

Thing - Head - Thing - Garments - Sale

But it’s one thing to know that with my head, and another thing entirely to see garments for sale over a hundred years ago from competing retailers who hawked their wares in Church publications right alongside ads for Jell-O (yes, that was apparently a Mormon obsession even then) and fire insurance.

Here are the earliest ads I have, from 1908 and 1909:

Garments - Undergarments - Jury - Point - Historians

But are these temple garments, or just undergarments? The jury is out at this point; historians, please weigh in with your thoughts. It doesn’t make sense to me to show a young child wearing them, they’re not advertised as temple garments, and they don’t seem to have the front ties that were at that time mandated as the approved method of closure.

By 1913, the Salt Lake Knitting Store had some healthy American competition . . . and was presenting a more overt connection to the temple in its ads. All three companies touted the fact that their garments were Church-approved (and in fact the SLKS claimed it was the “only” provider of approved garments, competitors notwithstanding).

Retailers - Pictures

So, we’ve got multiple retailers by 1913, but no more pictures. I’m not sure if this is just due...
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