Editors’ Note: At Meridian, we believe in standing for something and we try to highlight people and organizations who will stand for the values that we all share. In a recent trip to Utah our 16-year-old daughter, Mariah, pled with us to see if we could shop with her and find a modest formal dress. Such a thing does not exist in Northern Virginia. We said, “Do some online searching and then let us know what you come up with. We’ve got about two hours we can spend shopping once you’ve found something.” She did some ‘googling’ and before long she came to us and said, “I’ve found something. It’s called Allyse’s Bridal and it’s close by in Orem.” We said, “Okay, you know how these stores are. We may not find anything that’s modest, but, we’ll give it a try.” To make a long story short, we walked into this place and we were blown away. Every dress was modest and beautiful and they had a huge selection. It was the first time we were all smiles looking for prom dresses. We wanted all of our Meridian readers to know what a great resource for modesty was as close to them as the computer (www.beautifullymodest.com) By the way, don’t miss the schedule of upcoming fashion shows sponsored by Allyse’s Bridal and Beautifully Modest at the end of the article.
Kieth Halls already had plenty to do with his time. As the senior vice-president of NuSkin, a billion dollar company, he certainly didn’t need to consider taking on a cause. Yet he had the common – and shocking, experience so many parents do the first time he went with his daughter shopping for a prom dress.
“We shopped in Provo and Orem and we couldn’t find one modest dress. Not one,” he said. “I was shocked! We drove to Salt Lake and the same thing happened. Everyone told us that we should buy an immodest dress and then alter it if we wanted to. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing and seeing!”
He found out that what he thought would be a rather easy chore, to find the perfect modest dress for his daughter and then purchase it for her, was next to impossible. If that was happening to him in Utah, he believed and quickly found out that parents and girls all over the U.S. were probably experiencing the same thing. They wanted to look modest, they wanted to dress modestly and to listen to and obey what they have been taught by their parents and Church leaders, but it was impossible to find a modest dress – even in Utah.
“I left that shopping experience thinking about opening a small, retail company that deals exclusively with modest formal and wedding dresses,” he said.
Driven by a Higher Purpose
Allyse’s Bridal, a store in Provo, Utah’s University Mall, and Beautifully Modest, an online store (www.beautifullymodest.com) were the happy results from Keith’s miserable shopping experience. Now, thanks to Keith’s vision, thousands of girls can make the choice to be beautiful and modest.
In some ways, Keith Halls seems like an unlikely candidate to have tried to take on the fashion world. He was born in a small farming community in Nacogdoches, Texas. He readily attributes the success he has found in life to good parents and good friends. “Like Nephi of old, I too was born of goodly parents. They taught me many things and set near perfect examples.”
“I can remember that my mother would come out and talk to each of us kids as we worked. She would say, ‘Keith, find something you can do with your life where you can teach people how to dream and teach them how to make their dreams come true. Teach people that if they mix hard work, dedication and a firm conviction to never quit, their dreams can become a reality.'”
She also said, “Find something to do with your life where you can help other people. She said that happiness, in all of its forms, would come and would only come by helping others and by obeying our Heavenly Father. The more we helped and the more obedient we are, the happier we will be.” With these two goals in mind, Keith attended and graduated in accounting from BYU.
After graduating, he was working as a CPA, when a good friend approached him and asked if he would be the accountant for his newly created company. He did and was able to have been one of the first shareholders of Nu Skin International, a billion dollar company that employs thousands of people worldwide.
Keith said, “I read and learned a lesson from the life of George Washington Carver. He did so much to help feed the people of the world. Many thought that it was because of his incredible brilliance (which he did have!!) that he succeeded. One day, a group of scientists asked him how he could accomplish so much, especially when he was orphaned as a baby, came from a poor background and had little formal education as a child; yet he changed the world and it has been estimated that he has saved over one billion people from starvation. How did he do it; what was the key?
“He humbly replied, ‘Every morning about 4:00 a.m., while most of you are sleeping, I either go out to the woods beside my house or I kneel by my bed and ask God to guide me, so I can help people. Often, I pray for hours looking for guidance. When I am done, I go to work and I feel as if He is guiding me.’
“I learned that lesson from his life and also from the life and teachings of my parents and good church leaders, Every day, while most are sleeping, I kneel by my bed and ask Heavenly Father for help. I beg and plead. I am not doing this for me. It is for you. I want to know how to spread modesty through out the world and to help make this a better world. Many days, I feel His hand or voice guide me. My hope, my dream and my prayer is that I will be able to share modesty with millions through out the world.”
The Opportunity to Be Modest
Parents, like Keith, know that giving the girls the opportunity to dress modestly has implications that are enormous. This isn’t a small cause that captured Keith, who with his business acumen and financial resources could have spent his time on anything he chose. Modesty sends messages about who a girl is, what she expects and where she’s going. It says everything about her. Modesty influences not only what happens to her the night of a dance, but her whole life.
Keith said, “Modesty is a cause and a way of life, yet few companies or people have gone out of their way to make it ‘their cause.’
“As a society over the last 20 years, we have become more obsessed with sex,” said Keith, “and it has influenced the way we dress and act. What our company is trying to do is to create a complete paradigm shift so that girls don’t think they have to wear things that are too revealing, so instead they can put their emphasis on who they really are and what they stand for. We want the whole industry to recognize that modesty is a fashion statement in and of itself. If we can do that, whether girls buy from our stores or another store, then we have succeeded. We’re moving the fashion industry to where it should be.”
Keith said, “It’s a complete lifestyle thing that we are trying, conveying to girls that they are truly daughters of our Heavenly Father and they should stand up and be who they are.”
In the recent past, girls haven’t had many modest options. Most companies just aren’t willing to spend the money to design or carry a modest line. Department stores offer formal dresses and wedding gowns that are too often immodest. Flip through the pages of any bride magazine and you’ll see the same thing- wedding dresses that are strapless, plunging and wildly in fashion. On the other hand, sometimes in the past modest has looked frumpy, an announcement at a school dance that you are not high style.
“Modest Won’t Sell,” They Laughed
The motto for Allyse’s Bridal and Beautifully Modest is “First in Fashion, Elegant by Design and Modest by Choice.”
May it be cool, current, and lovely to be modest. May you feel like a princess or a queen when you wear a modest dress, beautiful, radiant, glowing from the inside and out. Women of all ages are getting the message.
The first year Allyse’s Bridal opened was discouraging because it was hard for them to get their name and goal out to people.
“Our first store was less than 700 square feet. Many people thought we were crazy. We were going to convert a successful woman’s clothing store to a modest-only store. We were told that we would fail and that we were wasting our time and money. It was at that time that I remembered what my mother had taught me about dreaming and making those dreams come true. We mixed hard work, dedication to a cause, and a firm conviction to never quit until our goal of providing what so many people so desperately needed was reached.
The first store manager and the girl the store is named after, Allyse Sedivy, and her husband Patrick, as well as a partner, Seth Mulder flew to Taiwan and tried to buy a modest line from some manufacturers. They were laughed at and told that modesty doesn’t sell.
The word spread and Allyse’s Bridal moved to a 3,000 square foot store and then a few years later to a 10,000 square foot store. This year, they expanded their store to nearly 15,000 square feet and opened a “branch” in American Fork. Their new branch is more than 7,000 square feet, making the “branch” one of the largest stores on its own. The store already has plans of opening two more “branches” in the next 12-18 months.
Girls Throng to the Stores
The Saturday morning after Christmas this year, a long line of girls and their mothers stood eagerly waiting for Allyse’s Bridal in Provo, Utah’s University Mall to open so they could hurry in and begin to choose elegant formal wear and wedding dresses to buy. This is the season for special excitement at Allyse’s. Girls became engaged at Christmas. Spring will bring dances and opportunities to look fabulous.
When the doors opened, they were ushered into a store, with 40 dressing rooms and 10,000 dresses in inventory to choose from, the largest modest-only store in the nation – and it is a one-stop-shop for bridal needs. In addition to prom and homecoming dresses and a line of everyday wear, they have everything for a girl and her entire wedding or dance party including a full line of bridesmaid, mother of the bride, flower girls as well as accessories such as veils, tiaras, shoes, jewelry, and more – all beautifully modest.
Contrary to those who cautioned that this might not be a burgeoning business, Keith has seen the business double in size in the past two years.
Part of that growth also comes from the way girls are treated when they come in. Keith said, “From the minute a girl is interviewed and hired, we talk and teach them the importance of customer service and give them an intense training period. It is our belief that most girls make up their mind in the first minute or two they walk in the door whether they are going to buy from us or not. Each girl is greeted with a smile and thanked for coming in and then a consultant is readily available to help the customers.
“We may be the largest modest only store, but that only goes so far. We must also be the nation’s kindest and friendliest store. Since we are selling for the most important occasions in a girl’s life, we want to make sure each consultant is well trained and can give the best help possible assistance to our customers.” Each one of their employees is thoroughly and completely devoted to the cause of modesty.
To create the styles that the girls will love, Allyse’s five designers meet often and talk and plan new styles. One of the keys to their success has been the creation of their Fashion Team. This consists of girls from around the nation who come to Utah for four days and learn about modesty. They are also taught the fundamentals of designing, but the most important role of the Fashion Team is that these girls provide feedback of what their peers want.
After the board makes their suggestions, the designers begin to do renderings, making sure that every dress is temple-worthy.
Keith said, “We might have 75 good ideas, and then ask our factories to send us samples for each one. “Then,” said Keith, “every dress has to pass the test. The girls try on everything to make sure the dresses are completely modest – when they cross their legs, when they lean over, when they raise their arms. We pick our top 30 or 40 dresses and we order very deep – ordering from 200 up to 1,000 of every dress.”
If a dress arrives and somehow still doesn’t pass the modesty test, Allyse’s Bridal and Beautifully Modest would rather lose money than carry it in their stores. Keith said, “One of the manufacturers sent us a dress that was two inches above the knee. We had a choice to make. Do we go ahead and lose the amount of money we spent for that or stay true to our mission? We went ahead and lost the money, because our name isn’t ‘usually modest.’ We have set a standard for ourselves, for the industry and for these young girls. We don’t want them to think when they come in that it is usually modest. It always is.
“We also want our manufacturers to know that we are very adamant about modesty. These are our specifications and our standards. We don’t want girls ever wondering when they come into our stores what they will find.”
To Us Every Girl is Beautiful
Keith said, “One of our concerns has been that there has been a push in the fashion industry for every girl to look like a Barbie doll. I was reading the other day that the fashion industry is now creating a sub-zero size. All that is going to do,” he said, “is to push more girls to eat less and to do things they shouldn’t do to their bodies.”
“We carry dresses for every size up to size 30 and every budget. We want to make sure that every girl can buy a prom dress and look her very best.”
Many times this means the company has to operate with a smaller margin, but, said Keith, “We’re not profit driven, but cause driven.
“So many think they have to look like the girls in the pictures. They start to sacrifice so they can look like models. We want every girl to know that she’s very important and she truly is cared for. Every store can improve, but our aim is for every girl that walks in to know we care. No matter what she thinks she looks like, to us, she’s the most beautiful girl in the world, and we are going to do our very best to take care of her.”
Expanding the Opportunity
Once Allyse’s Bridal had met the goal of creating dresses that reflected the latest in fashion and design that were priced for all budgets, the vision became to provide the chance for girls from all over the nation to have the same opportunity.
It isn’t only Latter-day Saint girls who would like to be modest, but girls everywhere are expressing that wish.
BeautifullyModest.com is the online store where dresses can be ordered in several categories: formal, semi-formal, bridal, mother-of the-bride and bridesmaid. When ordered, dresses arrive in two or three days and can be returned easily if the girl would prefer something else.
Each year, girls from around the U.S. apply to become part of the Fashion Team. Applications for this year can be downloaded and filled out by clicking here and are due April 1, 2007. Those chosen come to Utah for a three-day workshop in the summer to learn about color, make-up, fashion and design and become a standard for modesty in their area. Fashion Team members also plan and carry out a fashion show, so the word about modest dresses can spread.
In addition, mothers may become representatives in their area, helping girls find modest dresses and earning extra income while they spread the word about the importance of modesty. The company also puts on weekend seminars about modesty.
Keith gets letters back from grateful parents, daughters and even sons who are glad there is a modest choice available.
A mother from Montana wrote: “We have taught our daughters the importance of modesty since they were young. Our six daughters are the love of our life. When prom time came, we couldn’t find anything, anywhere. I got on the Internet and searched under modest dresses and your name came up. I was nervous at first. I usually don’t buy things I can’t see, but this was the only chance for our daughters to be able to go to the dance. When we got the 3 dresses we ordered, we were amazed. They were happy and so were my husband and I. They can now go to prom, look like a queen and set an example. Many thanks for what you are doing!”
One boy wrote, “We want to thank you for all you are doing. Our parents have taught us and our sisters about the importance of modesty. Yet, every time we go to pick up a date for a dance, they are dressed in a way that would disappoint our parents. We are very thankful that you spent an entire weekend teaching girls about modesty, helping them learn how to dress, and then helping them find a dress that was so cool and was modest.
“Then, you hosted a dance and over 150 people were there, all dressed modestly. We even called our parents and they came and saw. Mom had tears in her eyes. You are doing a great thing and just know, as boys, we actually want our dates dressed the way they should be. The evening was so much more relaxed and we felt like we were following our parents and the Prophet. Thanks from a bunch of us guys and keep doing what you are doing.”
Keith said, “It would be the last thing you’d think of that a young man that age would think to write a letter thanking a company for making modest formals. It makes all the long hours worthwhile.”
Upcoming Fashion Shows
Here is a list of upcoming fashion shows either sponsored by Allyse’s/Beautifully Modest or where the company is a major participant. Though these are all in Utah, the company is willing to do fashion shows across the United States.
2) Thanksgiving Point; American Fork; 3:00-8:00 p.m. on the 12th and 10:00 a.m.-6-:00 p.m. on the 13th
2) Provo High; Provo; 10:00 a.m.-6:00 p.m.
2) Tahitian Noni; Orem, Utah 4;00-9:00 on the 26th; 10:00-7:00 on the 27th
For those across the country, here is a fashion show, right here on Meridian or click on www.beautifullymodest.com to see a full store of modest options.