Clothing is a tool used to control and save money at Gloriavale, with theories that red is a “bitch color” and strict rules about how tight your belt should be.
A Gloriavale leaver has revealed what it’s like to wear the infamous long blue dresses and how much pressure women are under when it comes to clothing.
The suit was put on display in Christchurch in an employment tribunal case involving six former members who argue the domestic work they did for years at Gloriavale was as employees and not volunteers.
Groups of members came and went from the court.
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Joy Courage, who is not a witness in the case, said she worked long hours in the sewing room – a pressured environment where a group of women had six months to make hundreds of new dresses every two years from mountains of cheap imported polyester fabric. from China which is “horrible to wear”.
The Gloriavale website says the blue garments were designed for modesty and the uniformity means they are instantly recognized by the public, helping them to “witness as followers of Christ”.
“We chose blue because it’s a color that goes with any skin color or complexion… We decided around 1988 to standardize the type of clothes we wear to avoid as much as possible the expression of vanity, and to make our purchases of materials and the sewing of clothes more economical.
Men agreed to wear long pants and long-sleeved shirts buttoned at the neck and cuffs, so they lived to the same modest standard.
Courage, 30, said the women worked to strict deadlines to make all the clothes for the community of 600 people. They also made elaborate costumes for biennial community concerts and previously made hundreds of jerseys from imported polar fleece.
She said the sewing room was a production line during dress races, with one person cutting patterns, another making belts and another making collars.
She worked long hours and often took the sewing home and did it by hand to meet demand.
She returned to work shortly after giving birth and was given a portable radio so early childhood teachers could call her if her baby needed breastfeeding. The dress is designed with openings to allow easy feeding.
She said the dresses were uncomfortable and especially hot in the summer.
“It’s a lot of fabric and you have to wear the belt tight. I never felt comfortable with the belt around my waist. If you wore it loose, you’d get scolded for being messy… You can’t be too thin or too tall. If you’re too thin, you’re vain,” she said.
He was told former chef Hopeful Christian, who died in May 2018, came up with the design, which he said would look nice while still allowing for one size.
However, she said that in reality, they had to tailor dresses for the women, which was very time-consuming with fittings and sizing.
“People always ask me what is blue? Hopeful chose this. As far back as I can remember, bright colors were bad. Red was a bitch color. Black was only allowed for married women’s underwear because it was sexy.
Head coverings serve as a sign to angels that a woman has submitted to man’s authority and the Bible says women should let their hair grow long.
She said the women made all their underwear except for bras, which were purchased from op stores.
“I have never been equipped. We were only given used ones. There was a box of bananas you could look in and take maybe two,” she said.
She liked the sewing room because it was a break from the other grueling jobs – in which women worked in shifts on a four-day rotation of cooking, cleaning, laundry and getting ready for the next day, a- she declared.
“It’s a question of money to build the place. As long as people live in fear, they can do whatever they want with you. I’m so thankful that my kids don’t have to grow up there.
She left in 2013 despite immense pressure to stay after her husband was kicked out for disobeying leaders.
On the outside, she started a sewing business with her sister, but quickly decided it wasn’t for her.
“I got over it pretty quickly. I thought I liked sewing clothes, but that’s exactly what I did at Gloriavale. Being free to decide to quit was just amazing. I now work part time on a dairy farm and in a coffee shop and love it.
Adjusting to different clothes was a challenge – especially wearing pants, which was a manly and ungodly thing for women to wear, she said.
“It was extremely overwhelming. I didn’t know what I liked. I made mistakes and bought clothes that I wear many times, then I realized that I didn’t like it.
She laughed when told that all women make fashion mistakes – now she’s free to make them.