On Dressing Plain

A guest piece from Rob of “Con­sider the Lillies”:http://consider-the-lilies.blogspot.com/
Rob describes him­self: “I’m a twenty-something gay Mid-western expa­tri­ate liv­ing in Boston. I was inspired to begin a blog based on the writ­ings of other urban Quaker blog­gers as they reflect and dis­cuss their inward faith and out­ward expe­ri­ences. When I’m not read­ing or writ­ing, I’m usu­ally with my friends, trav­el­ing about, and/or gen­er­ally mak­ing an arse of myself.”

Con­tinue read­ing

Buying my Personality in a Store

A guest piece by Amanda

Orig­i­nally posted as a com­ment to “My Exper­i­ments with Plain­ness”, Amanda’s story deserves its own post: “I’ve noticed that I’m becom­ing really attached to my clothes. As I was grimly and method­i­cally culling my closet, a whiny, des­per­ate voice in my head piped up, and I began to have a seri­ous con­ver­sa­tion with myself… [A] reser­va­tion I have is that plain dress­ing may just be another way of telegraph­ing the image I want the world to have of me. Only instead of that mes­sage being ‘I am cool and wor­thy of your atten­tion and envy’ the mes­sage might be ‘I’m so hoooooly’.”

Hi there!

I am 21, and the only mem­ber of my fam­ily who attends meet­ings of Friends. (I am not a Friend yet, being young to the whole expe­ri­ence, and an ex-catholic, and hav­ing wan­dered for sev­eral years in strange paths!! :) How­ever, I am tak­ing it very seri­ously, and read­ing all I can get my hands on. I feel a strong call towards plain dress, and have gone through fits and starts of it spon­ta­neously, even as a Catholic child. At 12, I decided I would no longer wear colours in imi­ta­tion of all the siants habits I saw in my books, and my friends and I (I grew up in rural Canada, home­schooled, the old­est of 11 kids, an anar­chon­ism to begin with) tried sewing our own clothes our­selves, praire dresses and pinafores.

When I was 14, we moved to the States, to the sub­urbs, away from our uber-traditional Catholic enclave, and I began to nor­mal­ize myself out of the “home­schooler uni­form” (its own sort of plain dress — those ter­ri­ble jumpers with ankle socks and can­vas sneak­ers! Ack!) and into main­stream fash­ion, where I’ve been solidly entrenched ever since, espe­cially since mov­ing to NYC.

I am now in the process of purg­ing a lot of my stuff, and seek­ing a sim­pler way of liv­ing. I quit smok­ing, and have decided that drink­ing as a recre­ational activ­ity is out unless it’s an orga­nized event. This may become more strict in time, but I have to ease into it a lit­tle bit. I got rid of sev­eral bags of clothes and a bunch of house­hold items I was hoard­ing “just in case I might need them some­day”. Clas­sic. A lot of things have pre­cip­i­tated this, but one of them is my absolute hor­ror at how I’ve gone from mak­ing $12,000 a year to nearly $30,000, and I still am sav­ing no money at all, nor am I mak­ing any last­ing purchase/investments, etc…I’m just spend­ing it on vain and use­less things. I’ve noticed as well, that I’m start­ing to have more and more big-salary fan­ta­sises, and recre­ation­ally go to stare in shop win­dows at clothes, not just to appre­ci­ate the asthetic value of some of the most gor­geous gar­ments in the world (after all, this is Man­hat­tan) but also to drool and covet. I found, while exam­in­ing my con­cience, that it wasn’t even the thing — the piece of cloth­ing that I wanted, and it wasn’t a sim­ple desire to have some­thing pretty. I saw myself link­ing these clothes and things to my self worth and future hap­pi­ness. You know:

Once I am thin and rich enough to wear this, I will be happy. I will be so happy. So very happy. Every­thing will be per­fect, and my hair will always be straight, and I will have my teeth veneered, and I will have a hand­some man who wor­ships the ground I walk on, and three bright-eyed chil­dren who appear only on Sun­day morn­ings to snug­gle with me in my California-king-sized bed with the white crisp sheets, while I lan­guidly smile at their frol­ic­ing and plan to buy them a golden retriever puppy later that after­noon as I stroll through an antique fair and buy a vin­tage wicker bird cage, which I will fill with finches and hang from my sun-drenched porch in my sec­ond house in the south of France, and I be happy. So happy. So very happy, if I am only thin and rich enough to wear those clothes.”

I really, really woke up one after­noon to find myself stand­ing on 5th Ave and 59th street, on my lunch break, star­ing in a win­dow, and hav­ing that fan­tasy with absolutely no inter­nal ironic monolouge at all. At all.

It com­plet­ley pan­icked me.

I’ve noti­cied that I’m becom­ing really attatched to my clothes. As I was grimly and method­i­cally culling my closet, a whiney, des­per­ate voice in my head piped up, and I began to have a seri­ous con­ver­sa­tion with myself.

You can’t get rid of so many of your cool clothes. The clothes are you, they’re a huge part of who you are.”

Wait,” the other voice in my head, the stern one, said (I am a schiz­o­phrenic and so am I) “You are say­ing that I am what I wear. That’s sup­posed to make me want to keep them? Do you even hear what you’re saying?”

The first voice was totally backtracking.

No, no, no, I didn’t mean you were your clothes, or that you were only worth as much as your clothes, why do you always have to be so lit­eral? I meant that your clothes tell peo­ple about you, about who you are and what you believe in. They’re an out­side sign of who you are.”

Ah.” said the sec­ond voice, rather sar­cas­ti­cally, I thought, “So we’d rather have peo­ple learn every­thing they need to know about us by our clothes, instead of hav­ing them take the time to get to know us from expe­ri­ence of us.”

Well, that’s all very well!” said the first voice. “That’s nice in an ideal world. But the truth is, the sad truth is, most peo­ple won’t take the time to get to know you if you don’t seem cool.”

Wow.” said the sec­ond voice. “Wow. This has noth­ing to do with fash­ion, does it? This totally has to do with your infe­ri­or­ity com­plex, dat­ing back to about sec­ond grade, doesn’t it?”

At this point the first voice began to suck its thumb, and I real­ized to my hor­ror that the sec­ond voice was right. It’s always right.

Fash­ion is what you adopt when you don’t know who you are.” ~Quentin Crisp

I’ve actu­ally begun buy­ing my per­son­al­ity in a store, and telling myself that it’s okay because I’m buy­ing it in a thrift store. I know from per­sonal expe­ri­ence that the right head­scarf or pair of vin­tage shoes, or funny t-shirt will sud­denly raise the value of my social cur­rency off the charts. And I’m becom­ing really depen­dent on that, to the point where I’ve started to actu­ally feel anx­i­ety around my “style” and my clothes. I iron­i­cally played the role of fash­ion police for a boy at a party who was mock­ing me for being from Williams­burg, and although I was kid­ding around when I exco­ri­ated him for his American-Eagle shorts and surfer-boy hair, it struck me, I’m spout­ing all these “rules” as if I’m mock­ing them, but I actu­ally live by them, don’t I?

And I’ve increas­ingly begun to obey them out of fear instead of out of a love of neat clothes or a sense of aes­thetic. I have cooler clothes than ever, and sudenly I have a need to make more money so that I can keep look­ing cool, and keep fit­ting in, and keep prov­ing to every­one, most of all myself, that I should be invited to Angelica’s birth­day party because the whole rest of the class is and it’s not fair…oh wait. That was sec­ond grade.

Ben­jamin Franklin wrote: “Money never made a man happy yet, nor will it. There is noth­ing in its nature to pro­duce hap­pi­ness. The more a man has, the more he wants. Instead of its fill­ing a vac­uum, it makes one. If it sat­is­fies one want, it dou­bles and tre­bles that want another way.”

This seems like a huge cliche, but you know, the more I think about it, the more it seems that the mod­ern hor­ror of cliches may have less to do with a love of orig­i­nal­ity than with a fear of the truth.

So those are the moti­va­tions — that much is worked out. But the prac­tice of it is hard. Was I expe­ri­en­ce­ing a gen­uine call­ing to plain dress as a child, or did I just read too much “Lit­tle House”? (Is there such a thing as too much “Lit­tle House”?) And now, am I just a costume-loving poser?

I feel a bizarre attrac­tion to head-covering as well, though I recoil with my whole post-feminist self from those pas­sages in the bible. I don’t think I believe in sub­mis­sion to any­body. In fact, I’m not sure even God wants me sub­mis­sive –I feel he wants my co-operation.

I will not now call you ser­vants: for the ser­vant knoweth not what his lord doth. But I have called you friends: because all things what­so­ever I have heard of my Father, I have made known to you.” John 15:15

Another reser­va­tion I have is that plain dress­ing may just be another way of telegraph­ing the image I want the world to have of me. Only instead of that mes­sage being “I am cool and wor­thy of your atten­tion and envy” the mes­sage might be “I’m so hoooooly”. Or, per­haps more pos­i­tively, it might be a mes­sage that is “wit­ness” — a con­cept I am strug­gling with on its own — what if I make mis­takes and my wit­ness is mis­taken, etc.

My com­pro­mise was to get rid of all the clothes I’d bought just for atten­tion, all the clothes I was keep­ing for purely sen­ti­men­tal rea­sons, every­thing that didn’t fit, or match with any­thing else, etc. And to be hon­est, that just pared it down to where I can actu­ally fit all my clothes in my 1 closet and dresser, a feat hereto­fore unknown to me. Also, a big part of this move was to start tak­ing care of my clothes, some­thing I’ve never done. I’ve made an active dici­pline of some­thing as sim­ple as hang­ing up my clothes each night, as an act of respect and grat­i­tude. It occured to me that when I am so for­tu­nate as to have many poses­sions, it seems extremely wrong that I should mis­treat them the way I’ve been doing.

Wow. For­get plain dress, plain speech is going to be an even big­ger prob­lem. I’ve writ­ten a novel.

* blush *

Any­how, it is won­der­ful to see it dis­cussed, some­times I feel like I’m just nuts. I mean, I know I’m nuts, but I don’t like feel­ing that way. :)

in friend­ship,
Amanda

Gohn Brothers, broadfalls, & men’s plain dress

A few years ago I felt led to take up the ancient Quaker tes­ti­mony of plain dress­ing. I’ve spo­ken else­where about my moti­va­tions but I want to give a lit­tle prac­ti­cal advice to other men who have heard or even got­ten ahold of the “Gohn Bros.” cat­a­log but don’t know just what to order. I cer­tainly am not sanc­tion­ing a uni­form for plain dress, I sim­ply want to give those so inclined an idea of how to start.

Just as back­ground: I’m a thirty-something Philadel­phia native, brought up with­out any for­mal reli­gion in a Philly sub­urb. I first started approach­ing Quak­ers (Friends) back in col­lege. In my early twen­ties, I started work­ing at a collectively-run paci­fist book pub­lish­ing house and liv­ing in what was then the sort of down­scale hip­ster neigh­bor­hood of West Philadel­phia. In 2002 I attended a week-long work­shop that had some plain dress­ing Friends and felt the nudge to exper­i­ment. I’ve left Philadel­phia to become a res­i­dent of a small farm­ing town in South Jer­sey (what love will do) but I still spend a lot of time in the city and in decid­edly urban set­tings. I don’t aim to be his­tor­i­cally cor­rect with my plain dress and I don’t want to sim­ply “look like an Amish” person.

Gohn Broth­ers is a store in Indi­ana that sells “Amish and Plain Cloth­ing.” It is cur­rently cel­e­brat­ing it’s 100th year in busi­ness. It’s known for it’s sim­ple print cat­a­log, which is updated every few months. It does not have a web­site. You should get a copy of the cat­a­log to get cur­rent cloth­ing and ship­ping prices. It’s address is:

PO Box 1110, 105 S. Main St., Mid­dle­bury IN 46540
Phone: (574) 825‑2400. Toll-free: 800–595-0031

When I first started “going plain,” I sim­ply wore reg­u­lar dark pants with sus­penders found at a generic depart­ment store. It was impor­tant to me that I was wear­ing clothes I already had, and I wanted to be “Sears Plain,” by which I meant I didn’t want to go to any extremes to find plain cloth­ing. When I first bought a pair of broad­falls (the zip­per­less pants favored by plain men), I didn’t wear them for months. Slowly I started started wear­ing them out and feel­ing more at ease in them. They were made of rugged denim, wore well and were quite com­fort­able.
As my pre-plain clothes have worn out, I’ve started replac­ing them with Gohn Brothers-produced broad­falls. They’re just as inex­pen­sive as any cheaply-made jeans from Old Navy but they hold up and are pre­sum­ably made in Indi­ana by seam­stresses earn­ing a decent wage.

Broad­falls

Gohn Broth­ers offers many dif­fer­ent weights and fab­rics for their broad­fall pants, num­ber­ing them for ease of order­ing. I have bought two pair, both of which I like:

  • #66: 10 oz. solid grey denim, 100% cot­ton: $22.98
  • #92: 100% cot­ton blue jean denim (11 oz.): $24.98

Coats

Gohn Broth­ers pro­duces a num­ber of coats, also called “over­shirts.” In these pur­chases I have tended to be more dis­tinctly Quaker. I have two Coats:

  • #225: 9oz. Poly, cot­ton. $41.98 at the time of this post. I have opted for a few alter­ations: A “reg­u­lar cut” for $3.00, a “standup col­lar” for $2.00, “but­ton holes with metal but­tons” for $3.00 and a “quilted lin­ing” for $5.00.
  • #125 9 oz. Black drill denim. Poly/cotton. Unlined Jacket, black drill. Alter­ations: “standup col­lar” for $2.00. (for this I had the default “snaps” in place of but­tons and the default “full cut”).

I’ve pref­ered the spe­cial­ized “reg­u­lar cut” coat over the stan­dard “full cut.” The reg­u­lar cut feels more like the stan­dard suit jacket that most pro­fes­sional men wear to work, while the full cut felt more like a wind-breaker. I also pre­fer the but­tons, as the snaps con­tributed to the wind-breaker feel.

Sus­penders

Also known as “braces,” all you need are dark broad­falls and sus­penders to really look “plain” to the world. “Tabbed” sus­penders fit over but­tons in your pants, while “clip-on’s” use alli­ga­tor clips to fas­ten onto stan­dard pants. Tabbed look bet­ter but I can’t help think­ing of Michael Dou­glass in “Wall Street”; a lot of ordi­nary anabapist men I see have clip-on’s.

I’ve heard the story that there’s a good-hearted rib­bing between the Iowa and North Car­olina Con­ser­v­a­tive Quak­ers about whether thin or wide sus­penders is more plain. I’ve started to throw my lot in with Iowa and have got­ten the three-quarter inch sus­penders. (Fash­ion­istas will remem­ber that thin sus­penders were pop­u­lar with a cer­tain kind of high school geek in the mid-1980s–think Cameron in _Ferris Beuler’s Day Off_; fair dis­clo­sure requires that I admit that I wore them around Chel­tenham High). Again Gohn Brothers:

  • #550T 3/4″ tab. Black: $7.98
  • #552C 3/4″ clip. Black: $6.98

Hats

While Gohn Broth­ers does hats, I haven’t bought any of theirs. Instead I’ve gone for the Tilley T3 hat. I’m not com­plete happy with this, as Tilley’s seem to be asso­ci­ated with a cer­tain kind of clue­less trav­eler, but I’ve noticed that there are a lot of men in my yearly meet­ing who wear them, I think as an uncon­scious nod toward plain­ness. The Tilley is also friend­lier to bike com­muters: its tie-down strings wrap eas­ily around bike han­dle­bars, and it’s very crush­able and washable.

Not a Uniform

Again, let me stress: I am not try­ing to spec­ify a mod­ern plain dress uni­form. The only time you should adopt plain dress is when you’re feel­ing actively led by it. Some­times that lead­ing is an intu­tion, which is fine, but you need to fol­low it on your own terms. My prac­tice has evolved over time and yours should too. I’ve become more plain since I started this wit­ness sim­ply because I had to replace worn clothes and couldn’t see spend­ing more money for shod­dier clothes than I could get at Gohn Broth­ers. You don’t need to get broad­falls to be “plain,” as “plain­ness” is as much a state of mind and an atti­tude toward God and your spir­i­tual com­mu­nity as it a set of clothes. I think of it now as a spir­i­tual dis­ci­pline, one very fit­ting for our con­sumeris­tic times.

I’d love to hear from oth­ers about their plain dressing.

Avoiding Plain Dress Designer Clothing

A guest piece by “David,” orig­i­nally posted on the Plain and Mod­est Dress Yahoo Group.

From: “mquadd” <mquadd@y…>
Date: Wed Jul 21, 2004
Sub­ject: Intro­duc­tion and questions

Hi. My name is David and I attend but am not a mem­ber of the Friends Meet­ing here. I was actu­ally raised as an Epis­co­palian although I had sev­eral uncles who were birth-right Quak­ers. I grew up (for my first 10 years) in Chester County, PA which tra­di­tion­ally was an area with a high con­cen­tra­tion of Quak­ers. I would expect that this is no longer true as the area has become quite sub­ur­ban with a big influx of new res­i­dents. Nonethe­less, I grew up attend­ing meet­ing now and then with rel­a­tives at var­i­ous meet­ings in Chester County and north­ern Dele­ware. That was in the 1960s and was a time when some peo­ple, mostly older peo­ple (peo­ple most likely born in the 1800s mean­ing these peo­ple were in their 70s or 80s in the 1960s), still used plain talk. Even in the 1960s, in a fairly rural area, this was more of an except­ing than the rule and was lim­ited to the old­est mem­bers of the meet­ing and never used out­side the Quaker com­mu­nity. Those who used plain talk never used it out­side of the Quaker community–home, Friends, and meet­ing. As far as I know, they never used this type of talk for busi­ness or rela­tions or out­side the community.

At age 10 we moved to Lan­caster County. At that time, many Mem­monites who now no longer dress plain or wear cov­er­ings did still did both of these. I went to school with many Men­non­ite kids. In addi­tion I became friends with sev­eral Old Order Amish fam­i­lies (and one Beachy fam­ily) with whom I am still friends. That was 35 years ago, I have wit­nessed the plain tes­ti­mony weaken in each of these groups includ­ing the Old Order Amish. I actu­ally spent much of my child­hood and teenage years hang­ing out with one patic­u­lar Old Order Amish fam­ily as way to escape the insan­ity of hav­ing drug addicted and alco­holic par­ents. In their very sim­ple and unstated Chris­tian­ity, they were very will­ing to pro­vide food, shel­ter, and love to a very con­fused boy (me).

Any­way, the Lan­caster Con­fer­ence Men­non­ites (now part of the largest Men­non­ite group) seem to be totally main­stream. Per­haps there are some who still fol­low the for­mer order. The Beachy Amish now dress like con­ser­v­a­tive Men­non­ites and less and less like Amish. Finally, I was watched the Amish allow lots of mod­ern changes in their dis­ci­pline although their basic cloth­ing is pretty much unchanged but sun glasses are now allowed and many Amish girls and women pluck their eyebrows–both not allowed in the 1970s. By the way, in the late 1960s they had already adopted cotton-poly blends for both cloth­ing and quilts!

The rea­son for that, per­haps odd, bio­graph­i­cal sketch is to give some back­ground on my expo­sure to plain groups and, more impor­tantly, plain thought. I have toyed with the idea of plain dress­ing although I can’t give a clear rea­son why I feel this. Is it a call­ing or am I just crazy? I do know that the sta­bil­ity I found in that Amish house in the 1970s most likely had a giant influ­ence on me (a happy Amish fam­ily where I had fun vs. liv­ing in a fam­ily that was in the self-distruct mode due to addic­tion). I also I have clear mem­o­ries of hav­ing Quaker teach­ers in ele­mently school and van­ity and world­li­ness was a bad thing. It was dur­ing the height of the Viet Nam war, so there was this odd hippy-Quaker thing going on with some of my teach­ers. I am sure some of you who were around the RSF in the 1960s can relate. So here I am still toy­ing with these ideas and still attempt­ing to define my own reli­gious feel­ings at the mid­dle of my life (I am 45).

Here are a few things I do know that apply to me. First, I feel very at odds with our soci­ety that focuses on the most superf­i­cal things. Our soci­ety spends BILLIONS on make-up, hair dye, plas­tic surgery, breast inplants, push-up bras, designer clothes (that are no dif­fer­ent that basic clothes except the label and might even be of lower qual­ity).… Peo­ple are judged on the these issues. Char­ac­ter and moral­ity (a loaded term that seems to have been high­jacked by the rightwing and ultraconservatives)seems to be sec­ondary to these very super­fi­cial things. What we tell our­selves and our chil­dren is that we are not ade­quate as we are. We have to change our body and then drape it was overly priced clothes to count. The out­side is more impor­tant that the inside. This is sick. It is dis­truc­tive. It is a sin.

Beyond that, my feel­ings about plain dress­ing get less clear. Is a uni­form what I am seek­ing? Those groups who were very uni­form cloth­ing tend to be insu­lar and often attact as much atten­tion to them­selves as a belly shirt and designer jeans! If you doubt this, go to Lan­caster County and attempt to drive on Rt. 340. The attrac­tion that the plain peo­ple attract in that area rivals any movie star or rock con­cert. Lan­caster gets lit­er­ally mil­lions of tourists each year. So is that type of uni­form dress­ing that is quite dis­tinct serv­ing a good pur­pose? I am not sure but am just offer­ing a ques­tion rather than a judge­ment. Other groups that dress quite plain such as ultra-orthodox Jews are not so much a tourist attrac­tion but clearly are insu­lar and seper­ate from the larger soci­ety. Many peo­ple view this as being “stand off-ish” which I hope is nobody’s goal. I have heard peo­ple apply this type of judge­ment to plain chris­t­ian groups also.

So, I would be very inter­ested in hear­ing what dri­ves oth­ers to dress plain? If you are a Quaker, what has been the reac­tion at your meet­ing? I once met a plain dress­ing Quaker who said that he had received more neg­a­tive than pos­i­tive reac­tions when vis­it­ing other meet­ings. Are there any meet­ings where all or most mem­bers dress plain? In my child­hood expe­ri­ences, there was no plain dress­ing in any Quaker meet­ings in Chester County or in Dele­ware. I have not even run into any­one who uses plain lan­guage for over 30 years except that one plain dress­ing man. Clearly, I know no Quak­ers who have been raised with the idea of plain dress­ing or plain lan­guage includ­ing some of my cousins who are worldly to say the least. What makes plain. I know of “black bumper Men­non­ites” who drive a black bumper Mer­cedes. Is that plain? Why is a Volvo often con­sid­ered ok but a BMW is bad? They both cost $40K. Often I see this type of think­ing in those who claim to fol­low a less than worldly life style. I think there is always a risk of falling into the mind­set of some labels being good and oth­ers being bad. Once a par­tic­u­lar brand, say a type of hat or type of jeans, is thought to be the proper “plain uni­form” does that not become the designed cloth­ing of the plain dressers? I am not sure. What I find is that once you jump into this topic, it becomes com­pli­cated and that is not the point.

One final ques­tion, what ben­e­fits do you recieve from plain dress­ing?
Thanks. David

Plain Quaker Dressing at FGC

As we got onto the cam­pus of UMass Amherst to help set up for this year’s FGC Gath­er­ing, Julie & I real­ized that this is the first time we’ve been to this venue since we started plain dress­ing (last year we stayed home since Julie was very preg­nant). FGC Friends tend to turn to the Lands End cat­a­log for sar­to­r­ial inspi­ra­tion. Hip­pie cul­ture is another font, both directly as tie-die shirts and in muted form as the taste­ful fair-trade clothes that many older Friends pre­fer. Because the Gath­er­ing takes place in July and in spo­rad­i­cally air-conditioned build­ings, peo­ple also dress for sum­mer camp–khaki shorts & once col­or­ful faded t-shirts are the de facto Gath­er­ing uni­form. In this set­ting, just wear­ing long pants is cause for com­ment (“aren’t you hot like that?!”) Try broad­falls and a long-sleeve col­lar­less shirt, or a long dress!

Con­tinue read­ing

Plain Dress Discussion on Yahoo

Julie, my wife, has just started a Yahoo group called PlainAnd­Mod­est­Dress.
Here’s her description:

This group is for Chris­tians inter­ested in dis­cussing issues of reli­gious plain and mod­est dress. It is not nec­es­sary to have grown up in a plain or mod­estly dress­ing group. We are espe­cially inter­ested in the expe­ri­ences of those who have come to this point as a sort of con­ver­sion or a “recov­ery” of tra­di­tion that has been lost. Tra­di­tional Catholics, Anabap­tists, con­ser­v­a­tive Quak­ers, and other Chris­tians wel­come here. The­o­log­i­cal points and demon­i­na­tional dif­fer­ences are open for dis­cus­sion (not argu­ment), as are the specifics of what type of plain dress you have been called to. Dis­cus­sion of head­cov­er­ing is also allowed here, as are gen­der dis­tinc­tions in dress. We may also share prayers for one another, as well as the chal­lenges we face in try­ing to live in obe­di­ence to the Lord. This is not a forum in which to dis­cuss the valid­ity of Christianity–no blas­phem­ing allowed.

There is much to be said about plain dress. This is not an easy wit­ness. It forces us to deal with issues of sub­mis­sion and humil­ity on a daily basis–just try to go to a con­ve­nience store and not feel self-consciously set apart. Explain­ing this new ‘style’ to one’s more worldly friends can be quite a chal­lenge. These are eter­nal issues for those adopt­ing plain dress and I laugh with com­rade­ship when I read old Quaker jour­nal accounts of going plain.
Even so, I have a bit of trep­i­da­tion about a news­group on plain dress. I don’t want to fetishize plain dress by talk­ing about it too much. The point shouldn’t be to for­mu­late some sort of ‘uni­form of the right­eous,’ and adop­tion of this tes­ti­mony shouldn’t be moti­vated by peer pres­sure or ambi­tion, but by a call­ing from the Holy Spirit–this is the crux of what I under­stand Mar­garet Fell to have been say­ing when she called pres­sured plain­ness a “silly poor gospel”. (I should say that some non-Quaker do dress more as an iden­ti­fy­ing uni­form, which is fine, just not nec­es­sar­ily the Quaker ratio­nale).
But like any out­ward form or tes­ti­mony (peace, Quaker process, etc.), tak­ing up plain dress can be a fruit­ful course in reli­gious edu­ca­tion. I think back to being sev­en­teen and buck­ing my father’s wish that I attend the Naval Academy–my “no” made me ask how else my beliefs about peace might need to be acted out in my life. It became a use­ful query. Plain dress has forced me to think anew about how I “con­sume” cloth­ing and how I relate to mass mar­ket­ing and the global cloth­ing indus­try. It’s also kept me from duck­ing out on my faith, as I wear an iden­ti­fi­ca­tion of my beliefs.
So join the plain dress dis­cus­sion or take a look at the ever-growing sec­tion of the site called Resources on Quaker Plain Dress, which includes “My Exper­i­ments with Plain­ness”, my early story about going plain.

Plain Dress–Some Reflections

A guest piece by “Melynda Huskey”:mailto:mghuskey@msn.com
When I was a kid, I yearned for plain dress like the kids in Obadiah’s fam­ily wore. I loved the idea of a Quaker uni­form and couldn’t imag­ine why we didn’t still have one… And now, at nearly 40, after 35 years of bal­anc­ing my con­vic­tions and my world, I’m still han­ker­ing after a truly dis­tinc­tive and Quak­erly plainness.

Con­tinue read­ing