Dress Codes: Mixing Fashion with Faith

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Sarah Shultz, Conservative Christian

At St. Joseph's Hospital, in Kokomo, Indiana, Sarah Shultz is the only ICU nurse whose scrubs are in fact a skirt. That's because Shultz is a conservative Christian who refers to the Bible when deciding what to wear. That goes for her hairstyle, too: "In Corinthians it says, 'But if a woman hath long hair, it is a glory to her: for her hair is given to her for a covering,'" says Shultz, who has never cut her waist-length hair. "I believe abiding by those words makes me a good Christian."

Shultz attends the same conservative church she and her husband were raised in since childhood. "I grew up dressing modestly," says Shultz, who also wears no makeup. "I rode bikes, roller-skated, and skied in skirts. My parents thought it was the right thing to do, and really, it didn't stop me from being active. In junior high I was the only one in gym class who wore a jean skirt instead of shorts. But I made it work."

There are no clear-cut dress guidelines for conservative Christians the way there are for, say, Orthodox Jews. But Shultz and other women from her nondenominational church know to wear their hemlines below the knee and their necklines well above the breastbone. They set their standards according to Bible passages that say that women should dress modestly, avoiding elaborate outfits or fancy hairstyles. "We live by that, and it informs how we appear out in public."

Shultz buys all her clothes from mainstream department stores, but it's not always easy to find the right thing, especially when it comes to work attire. For instance, her scrub skirts aren't sold anywhere. "The only scrub dresses I've seen for sale are borderline too short," she explains, "so I just started buying material and making skirts myself."

Ironically, when Shultz and her friends from church go to stores and restaurants, they almost always turn heads, since their humble and unassuming appearance makes them stand out. "People sometimes approach us and ask what church we belong to. I think that's their polite way of checking whether or not we're a part of some cult," she says with a laugh.

Wearing her faith on her sleeve is important to Shultz -- for her, it's a way to celebrate her relationship with God. But she knows the choice can sometimes make others uncomfortable. "People think I might judge or condemn them for not being pious enough," she says. "But really, I don't think what I believe is the only answer. It's just what's right for me."

Continued on page 4:  Sarah Elizabeth Sagal, Orthodox Jew


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