SALT LAKE CITY – The women of a polygamous sect are selling their distinctive handmade children's clothing online.
The enterprise was initially started to provide Texas Child Protective Services with clothes for the 440 children seized in an April raid on the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints' ranch at Eldorado, Texas.
Now, the polygamous sect's women hope to earn a living from the site. The venture has drawn queries from across the U.S. from those seeking modest clothes for their kids.
"We don't know what to expect on demand, but we have had a flood of interest," said Maggie Jessop, an FLDS member. "Our motive is not to flaunt ourselves or our religion before the world. We have to make a living the same as everyone does."
The sect is offering many items of clothing including dresses, overalls, shirts, pants, nightclothes, onesies for babies and ankle-to-wrist underwear. Women's apparel could be added if there is demand.
FLDS mothers took to their sewing machines after children in state custody were pressured to stop wearing their unique underwear and don "gentile," or conventional, clothes. CPS said they had no source for purchasing FLDS-style clothes.
"We said, 'Yes you can. You can buy them from us,"' Jessop said.
Income from the business will be shared among the mothers, some of whom have not returned to the Texas ranch, even though their children have been released from state custody. Legal counsel advised many mothers not to go home until CPS completes its investigation of families, and some now face unfamiliar financial hurdles.
"Now they are renting homes and apartments and have to figure out how to pay for that," said Cynthia Martinez, a spokeswoman for Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, which represents 48 mothers.
Jessop calls the FLDS clothing "washable, durable and children proof," and said the conservative style preference is based on religious scriptural references. Some cult experts have alleged the prairie-style dress is an outward sign of brainwashing within the sect, but members defend it as a reflection of their values.
Jessop said she likes wearing plain clothes because it lets her "focus on doing things for others rather than on seeing how darling I can look."
The FLDS number about 6,000 with the group based in the twin towns of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz. The sect split from the Mormon church more than 100 years ago after the Salt Lake City-based church abandoned polygamy as a condition of statehood.
The Texas ranch was raided as part of an investigation into alleged marriages and motherhood involving underage girls and older men. The Texas Supreme Court has ruled that the children at the ranch were improperly taken from their parents.
The clothing is available on their Web site FLDSDress.com.