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Polygamist Sects: A Lesson In Style

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Have you ever wondered what exactly the deal is with Fundamentalist Mormon hair and the Little House On The Prairie-esque dresses?

Because I have.

And I've searched long and hard, far and wide to try and find something that would explain it to me. There were lots of articles on the rules for the women, like how they had to dress and how they had to wear their hair, but nothing on why. And, considering that the news of late was starting to feel like a 24/7 Big Love marathon, my interest was getting increasingly piqued.

And then I found this.

And so, I bring to you, the only (and therefore most comprehensive) article on what is up with Fundamentalist Mormon Style.

In elaborate polygamy fantasyland, the idea of a haircut can keep a sheltered wife in line.

When the elders of YFZ Ranch in Texas tried to quash a 16-year-old bride's rebellion, they warned that the outside world would force her to have sex with "lots of men." Apparently equally important, she would have to cut her hair and wear makeup.

As threats go for a young woman in polygamy, a bob or a bit of blush seems minor. But the girl's terror about changing her appearance is heartbreakingly naive and very real.

The compound fence isn't the only cage for the women of polygamy. There is also a prison uniform - yards of pink and blue fabric, inches and inches of hair and ugly orthopedic shoes.

Utah and Arizona television stations and newspapers have been photographing the polygamy costume worn by Warren Jeffs' followers for years. But for the rest of the country, the billowing dresses and poofy French braids must look like a cotton-candy variation on 19th-century fashion or the voluminous folds of a burka.

Clothing and hairstyle distinctions between individual polygamous families and sects could fill an anthropology notebook.

"You can modify people's behavior just by putting them in a certain kind of dress," says Carolyn Jessop, a former spiritual wife of Merrill Jessop, the bishop of the Texas FLDS enclave. "It is a uniform. You have nothing about you that's individual. You're just a part of a whole."

The homespun prairie styles - most can be traced to modest Mormon pioneer fashions - are intended to make polygamists stick out from the rest of us and band together.

"By dressing the same, you have this solidarity," says Janet Bennion, an anthropology professor at Lyndon State College in Vermont who has studied fundamentalist Mormon polygamists.

Read the rest of the Salt Late Tribune article here.

Oh, and if you think my concern with their hair is, well, inappropriate considering the rampant sexual abuse rumors running around, I'm not sure what to tell you. Other than: at least it's less inappropriate than this!