Mike Brown: How I Broke into the Wild World of Mormon Fashion


My friend Laura Kiechle always seems to be happy about her job. Me, on the other hand, I almost always hate my jobs. I think it’s natural to always hate your job because if you don’t, how do you enjoy your time off? People who love their jobs must hate their days off. I, on the other hand, get to bask in the glow of my Xbox while lying in my underwear with a bottle in my mouth, whimsically procrastinating my next obligation.

Anyway, Laura is a wardrobe stylist. Basically, her job consists of grabbing a bunch of clothes from places, making an intern hang them up on racks, and then throwing the clothes on some models to her liking while someone with a camera takes pictures of the babes, thus creating fashion. Oh, the intern is also responsible for the beer and coffee runs, the most important of responsibilities.

Mike Brown got to make all his wardrobe stylist dreams come true. Photo: Jessica Bundy
Mike Brown got to make all his wardrobe stylist dreams come true.

Basically, Laura gets to play Barbie with real-life mega-dolls. Growing up with four sisters has made me familiar with how much fun this could be, so I asked her if I could tag along. She one-upped me and said that she would make me the fashion director for the day and make all my wardrobe stylist dreams come true.

Seeing how I don’t know shit about fashion, I needed a lot of hand-holding for this process. I dress myself in the dark and just end up wearing the first garments that my lazy arms can reach, which is usually vintage Utah Jazz t-shirts, a pair of dirty shorts and a fanny pack. I’ve been styling myself this way for the last half of my life.

The first thing I had to do was pick a theme for the shoot. Laura said it could be whatever I wanted. This part was easy. Just imagine, I could make some smoking hot models wear whatever I wanted them to wear and how I wanted them to wear it. I knew instantly what it would be: Mormon dresses.

I’m not ashamed to admit my Mormon-dress fetish. Growing up in the LDS faith and getting boners in church is responsible for this. Nothing turns me on faster than seeing a pale-skinned girl in a long flowery dress with a shitty French braid or plain ponytail sitting cross-legged on a pew. Let’s just say, if I’m walking through Temple Square, I have to bring an extra pair of pants with me.

Prior to the shoot, Laura made me make a mood board. I had no fucking idea what this was. Basically, she gave me a bunch of copies of Vogue and other silly fashion magazines and made me cut out the dresses, faces and poses that I liked. I’ve never been good at setting the mood with women, so this part intimidated me a bit. But from years of making zines, I am pretty good at cutting and pasting. So my mood board turned out all right.

Mike Brown
Mike Brown made sure the models had the fake-female-Mormon smile down to an art.

Studio Elevn was kind enough to provide us their space for the shoot on a calm Sunday evening. Laura picked up plenty of Mormonish dresses and jewelry from Apartment 202, Koo De Ker, White Elephant Exchange Boutique, Uptown Cheapskate and Maeberry Vintage. I brought some Diet Cokes to fulfill our needs for Mormon props.

When I got there, Megan Gorley was doing the hair and makeup on the models, and Laura picked out a perfect pair of professional mega-babes to model for the poses. It turns out that the longest part of the job was having to wait for the hair and makeup to get done. I eased this stressful part of my job for the day as the fashion director by directing everyone to drink beer with me. I’m a good manager.

Then the fun stuff happened. Laura just told me to go to the racks, grab whatever I liked and the models would wear them. Then you tell them how to pose, what faces to make and whatever else you need to capture the essence of the shoot. The funny thing about this was that I was the only person in the room with a Mormon background. So none of them knew the significance of Diet Coke or my asking the models to give the fakest smiles they could.

If you’re Mormon, you know the fake-female-Mormon smile. It comes with a scowled forehead and is like an upside-down smile, where it almost looks like they are crying. I made the models make that face for pretty much the entire shoot. And boy, did Dani and Marikh nail it.

We did four shoots in different outfits. On the second shoot, I made one of the models wear one of the long, flowery dresses backward, because I thought the long zipper in the back would look hot in the front. Boy, was I right. Laura initially protested the maneuver, and I had to quickly reminder her that I, Mike Brown, was the fashion director.

I also had them wear fishnets underneath their flowery dresses and blouses because, well, I like fishnets, too. There was plenty of silliness and confusion, but I really think I fulfilled my creative vision of making Mormon fashion super-duper sexy. I’m not quitting my job anytime soon, but Laura said I did great, so if anyone needs any fashion direction, I’m your man.