In a Facebook post, a LuLaRoe “coach” (the second-highest tier in the LuLaRoe retailer hierarchy) posted a lengthy three-point dress code for the company’s upcoming convention in California. The post warns consultants that they might “get in trouble” if they don’t abide by LuLaRoe’s “Culture of Modesty.” And in capitalized letters, it reads, “Do not wear leggings as pants.”
The convention to which the coach, Charise Kehaulani Johnson, refers is a pep-rally-style annual event (as described by former LuLaRoe retailers) in which the company’s controversial founders, Mark and DeAnne Stidham, join a handful of other LuLaRoe higher-ups to promote company values, drum up excitement about upcoming products, and share tips on how to sell inventory.
LuLaRoe consultants are not technically employees of the company, as they abide by a direct-selling business model (like that of Avon and Herbalife) and order LuLaRoe clothing at wholesale prices to sell on their own. Consultants pay approximately $400 to attend the conventions.
Johnson did not respond to a request for comment, but LuLaRoe provided a company statement to Yahoo Style, explaining that it had not authorized the Facebook post.
“This was not an authorized statement from the company and has no attribution,” the statement read. “We cannot comment on this as we did not write this. While we encourage retailers, home office T.E.A.M., and consumers to wear the product as designed and intended, people are certainly free to express their own creativity. During our events, we encourage retailers and the home office T.E.A.M. to dress modestly for the family-friendly environment we provide.”
Hundreds of LuLaRoe consultants attended the 2016 convention, held on a hot July day in Ontario, Calif. While most of the convention’s events were held indoors, the food service and company store were held outside, according to one convention attendee. The attendee, a LuLaRoe retailer who asked to remain anonymous for fear of retribution, tells Yahoo Style that several women were taken to the hospital for heatstroke on day one.
To beat the heat, some consultants wear LuLaRoe clothes in modified ways (say, a dress as a halter top). While most people followed the dress code, Jill Brady, DeAnne Stidham’s daughter-in-law, chastised those who didn’t during one of the convention’s general sessions, says the attendee.
“Jill Brady gave a talk where consultants were told, in no uncertain terms, that we were to wear the clothes as they were intended and that wearing the clothes and exposing skin was immodest and inappropriate,” the attendee tells Yahoo Style. “There were several women in attendance who were wearing this halter style and singled out as such for not wearing the dress as it had been designed.”
It’s true that company dress codes are common in corporate settings. Banking employees are required to wear suits, and women, stockings; designer Thom Browne requires his staff to wear items from his collection, though they’re given a generous stipend to do so. And for the sake of comparison, Lululemon, the popular athleisure apparel maker, allows its corporate employees to dress freely, wearing leggings to work if they so choose.
What may be unusual, however, is for a company that touts female empowerment and sells “buttery soft” clothes to mandate sartorial guidelines, especially when the people attending the convention are not company employees, per se. To be clear, LuLaRoe did not release that dress code, but in its statement, it did encourage retailers to “dress modestly,” whatever that means.
Dress codes have been a “cause célèbre” of late, with the most recent one involving the U.S. House of Representatives prohibiting women from wearing sleeveless attire and open-toed shoes. Despite selling casual leggings and maxi dresses, LuLaRoe isn’t safe from social media’s wrath, it seems.
Christina Hinks, a former LuLaRoe consultant, runs the blog Mommy Gyver, which serves as a virtual support group and sounding board where other dissatisfied consultants vent their LuLaRoe frustrations. Hinks often speaks out about LuLaRoe, but she responded to the unofficial dress code post in a particularly fiery way.
“Here they are telling people about empowering women and embracing differences,” she wrote, “but if you get on stage at a conference wearing leggings you shouldn’t be, we’re going to call you out? It’s diminutive, it’s scary.”
Hinks continued, “Anyone going to the convention would think, ‘Oh god, I have a chance of being called out in front of thousands of my peers on stage negatively for a dress code?'”
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Alexandra Mondalek is a writer for Yahoo Style + Beauty. Follow her on Twitter @amondalek.