I came across this passage in Joyce Appleby's Inheriting the Revolution (Harvard Univ. Press, 2000) talking about changes in clothing and attitudes about clothing that came to the post-Revolution generation of Americans.
Methodists, Baptists, and Presbyterians, like the Quakers, announced their new devotion by spurning fancy clothes, lavish entertainment, and slaves, enjoining their members to wear plain clothing and avoid frivolities. They kept a strict watch over each others' behavior. Displaying their religious convictions through their dress, evangelical Christians often provoked reactions from the less religious. (p. 145)
That passage kind of rings a Book of Mormon bell. Women may like a sharp dressed man, but the Book of Mormon not so much:
And I also saw gold, and silver, and silks, and scarlets, and fine-twined linen, and all manner of precious clothing; and I saw many harlots. (1 Nephi 13:7)The Book of Mormon regularly criticizes upscale dress. Why? Apparently as an indicator of pride, wealth, and invidious social distinctions:
They rob the poor because of their fine sanctuaries; they rob the poor because of their fine clothing; and they persecute the meek and the poor in heart, because in their pride they are puffed up. (2 Nephi 28:13)Even apostasy:
And the angel spake unto me, saying: Behold the gold, and the silver, and the silks, and the scarlets, and the fine-twined linen, and the precious clothing, and the harlots, are the desires of this great and abominable church. (1 Nephi 13:8)
The Book of Mormon sees riches and pride as highly correlated with fine dress:
And the hand of providence hath smiled upon you most pleasingly, that you have obtained many riches; and because some of you have obtained more abundantly than that of your brethren ye are lifted up in the pride of your hearts, and wear stiff necks and high heads because of the costliness of your apparel, and persecute your brethren because ye suppose that ye are better than they. (Jacob 2:13)As well as with personal apostasy:
And he began to be lifted up in the pride of his heart, and to wear very costly apparel, yea, and even began to establish a church after the manner of his preaching. (Alma 1:6)Instead of buying expensive clothes, one should give the money to the poor:
For behold, ye do love money, and your substance, and your fine apparel, and the adorning of your churches, more than ye love the poor and the needy, the sick and the afflicted. (Mormon 8:37)
In the Nephite Church of Alma the Younger, where "the preacher was no better than the hearer, neither was the teacher any better than the learner; and thus they were all equal, and they did all labor, every man according to his strength" (Alma 1:26), members of the Nephite Church avoided costly apparel:
And they did impart of their substance, every man according to that which he had, to the poor, and the needy, and the sick, and the afflicted; and they did not wear costly apparel, yet they were neat and comely. (Alma 1:27)Those who were not members of the Nephite Church engaged in a variety of bad acts, including wearing costly apparel:
For those who did not belong to their church did indulge themselves in sorceries, and in idolatry or idleness, and in babblings, and in envyings and strife; wearing costly apparel; being lifted up in the pride of their own eyes; persecuting, lying, thieving, robbing, committing whoredoms, and murdering, and all manner of wickedness .... (Alma 1:32)
Frankly, the obsession the Book of Mormon seems to have with "costly apparel" sounds a little odd to the modern LDS reader living in a world where rock stars and dot-com millionaires wear blue jeans and tennis shoes. Latter-day Saints wear dresses and suits to church while most other Sunday churchgoers sport business casual, at best. Instead of a "wear pants to church" campaign, maybe we need a "dress down on Sunday" campaign.