The uniform for men is an expression of their alignment with authority. The uniform for women is an expression of their submission to authority.
But what of the missionary dress code, where elders and sisters alike are presented as "aligned with authority"? Elgren's quote reminds me of the article "A Style of Our Own": Mormon Women and Modesty by Katie Clark Blakesley (Dialogue journal, Summer, 2009). Although the entire article is absolutely worth reading, the section I want to highlight discusses the decision to dress male and female missionaries in business attire:
In a time of professionalism for the Church in the early 1980s, the Church wanted its employees and sister missionaries to project a “business executive” image. Dowdy house dresses and funky florals, although modest, did not fit this professional image, and women employees and sisters missionaries were asked to alter their clothing according. (These guidelines are still in force.)This new professional image for sister missionaries was for the benefit of those with whom the missionaries came in contact. These instructions blurred the lines between what a Mormon woman, at least as a missionary, was supposed to look like and represent, namely a professionally accomplished businesswoman, and women of the world who were professionals. Based on the earlier fears that dressing progressively (i.e., in pants) would encourage Mormon women to become part of the women’s movement, it is surprising that the dress and grooming standards for sister missionaries emphasized the business executive look.
The image that the LDS Church portrays to the world (i.e., that the typical Mormon woman is a conservative young professional) is different from the image it wants its female constituents to assume (i.e., that the typical Mormon woman is a happy homemaker, married to a righteous RM and with 3-5 children in tow).
Personally, I think that the dichotomy portrayed to female investigators is misleading. Although the young businesswoman would be tolerated within the LDS community, I would argue that she is not the intended goal. The "professional businesswoman" is not the role-model image that young Mormon women are provided in their Sunday School classes. Structures are not in place to help YW achieve the goal of becoming professionals. Structures are also not in place to help professional businesswomen successfully navigate the work/family life balance.
One image is given, and then exchanged for another, creating a bait-and-switch.