Tag Archives: plain

Plain Quaker Nurse-In

I recently read a New York Times arti­cle on the resurg­ing phe­nom­e­non of nurse-ins, designed to high­light the lack of laws giv­ing moth­ers the right to nurse in pub­lic. Lit­tle did I real­ize a plain dress­ing Quaker near Grand Rapids Michi­gan was at the cen­ter of its nurse-in! From the local (link-unfriendly) newspaper:

As a Quaker woman, Jen­nifer Seif lives a mod­est and sim­ple life. Breast­feed­ing is nat­ural to her, and she has nursed her chil­dren while in the gro­cery store, the doctor’s office and dur­ing Quaker meet­ings with­out a prob­lem. So the Grand Rapids woman was shocked and embar­rassed in April when Kent County Clerk Mary Beth Hollinrake approached her while she was breast­feed­ing her infant son, Micah…“It’s shock­ing to me that any­one would be offended.” The mother of three said she was wear­ing a cape dress — a gar­ment designed for dis­creet nursing…

I learned about this through the blog of Jenn and her hus­band Scott. Here’s Jenn’s post on the inci­dent. For those won­der­ing about their local pro­tec­tion, the La Leche League has a fab­u­lous state-by-state list­ing of the nurs­ing laws.

I’d Give the Moon If It Were Mine to Give

I’ve always promised that I wouldn’t let this blog get so seri­ous that I couldn’t share the ephemera of life. In that vein, here’s a cau­tion for any would-be urban plain-dress hip­ster: it’s really hard to keep to the proper side­walk demeanor when your MP3 player queues up the Yardbird’s “For Your Love.“
Espe­cially when the bon­gos kick in.
This I know experientially.

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 On Dress­ing Plain

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,

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.


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


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.


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


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.