Monday, April 5, 2010

Plain Dress

George Fox:
"Friends, keep out of the vain fashions of the world; let not your eyes, minds, and spirits run after every fashion (in attire) of the nations; for that will lead you from the solid life into unity with that spirit that leads to follow the fashions of the nations, after every fashion of apparel that gets up: but mind that which is sober and modest, and keep to your plain fashions, that you may judge the World, . . ."

A lot of Quakers are choosing to 'dress plain'. I don't want to say it's a new movement but it seems lately, at least to me, when I get my head out of the clouds,someone new is starting to 'dress plain'.

I personally like the look. I think they look kinda cool.

But lately I am brought to wonder what the point is. I see men tearing off their collars of their shirts and sewing buttons on their pants for their suspenders. I see women purchasing bonnets that, well, are kinda of expensive.

I mean, doesn't it cost money to just throw out everything in your closet and buy 'plain clothes'. Why not just make a vow that you will not be wearing expensive clothing and just keep to the non-label clothes? Isn't that what George meant?


I was sitting at meeting a few weeks ago and my mind started to wonder then my eyes started to gaze at everyone. Of course the first people that I noticed were in 'Plain dress'. As in Quaker Plain Dress. Traditional clothing if you will.

I couldn't help but notice them as they stood out, I have known these people for a while and watched the transformation. I have talked to them about this transformation and I do 'get it'. At least I think I get it.

Then sitting there, I started to look at my own feet, saw the same sneakers that I pretty much wear every day. I looked at my jeans, as by the cuffs seem to be fraying due to the many washes. I looked at my shirt, this red flannel shirt which at one point had probably seen a better day. Which I never would of known since I buy most of my clothes at the second hand store.

Then as I looked at my clothes, the last thing I would want to do to these clothes is put rips in them or make the material thinner (which some folks have done) to get the look of 'plain'. When I look at 'plain dress', I cant help but wonder if its going against everything George Fox actually meant.

Don't get me wrong, 'plain dress' will never be In 'fashion'. I don't think Heidi Klum is going to say "for your next challenge, make a Quaker offit for the runway and you have 300 dollars so go make it work". It's never going to happen. Well, who knows, i guess anything is possible.

On the other hand, isn't 'Plain Dress' fashionable for Quakers? If I go shopping and see some Quakers in 'plain dress', I cant help but wonder if they are choosing to set themselves apart, to make some kind of statement. It could be me, but I don't think that is what 'dressing plain' was suppose to be about..

I have dressed 'plain' for as long as I can remember. Clothes and me, well, we never really bonded. You wont find any designer labels in my closet. It's not that I deliberately went out and avoided labels, in fact, it wasn't even about the labels but the price.

If the salvation army had a 'abrocrombie' shirt for 2 bucks, I probably would buy it, but not because it said abrocrombie on it, but because it fit and it was 2 bucks.

Come to think of it, I might have an abrocrombie shirt in my closet but just never really looked at the label, just looked at the size. If you ever shopped at a goodwill store, you will know they just put all the clothes together. S, M, L, Xl, XXL...it doesn't matter. So there really isn't enough time to actually look at the labels also, you would be there all day if you did. For me, It's all about the size and price and of course if the piece of clothing is in good condition that it will last.

Is 'plain dress' more about fashion? Is 'plain dress' setting some Quakers apart from others? I really don't know.

But for me, I get up in the morning, God willing, I'll then open up my closet and take the shirt that's on top, the pair of pants that are folded in the drawer and realize how 'simple' that was. Then put on the same sneakers that I always put on.

Then off to work I go with a humble attitude and a sense of gratitude that I don't need fancy clothes to make feel worthy.

As for 'plain dress'. Well, besides from tearing up my clothes and sewing buttons on my pants for suspenders, you can't get any plainer then me.

But I am forced to look at myself and think, 'what did George Fox actually mean when he talked about 'plain dress'?

For me, it is more about dressing humbly. Not to get caught up in the newest trends and fashions.

Who knows, Maybe I am the 'new plain' and didn't even know it.

6 comments:

  1. 'If the salvation army had a 'abrocrombie' shirt for 2 bucks, I probably would buy it, but not because it said abrocrombie on it, but because it fit and it was 2 bucks.

    Who knows, Maybe I am the 'new plain' and didn't even know it.'

    i think you have it here in a nutshell. second-hand store shopping for the win!

    todd :)
    oh and another thing...when we just 'keep' and 'take care' of our clothes, they just get more comfortable eh? i've got two grey cotton t-shirts that i've had for like 5+ years. I don't want to get rid of them because they are perfect (with tiny holes) and i haven't been able to find the same exact kind.

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  2. I think you're probably dressed plain if you have a sense that you needed to change how you dressed to stay with what God wants of you. Remember that's exactly what all the other folks are trying to do as well.

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  3. I wish to ask, being recently called to Plainness myself, who it is that thinks that putting rips in clothing is "Plain" for I have never heard of this among any Plain folk.

    One of the truths I have found in studying the history of Friends is that they seem to provide a counterweight to the World in many ways. In George Fox's day almost all Christians were modestly dressed, therefore there was much less need to wear clothing that greatly differed from the masses...especially for women. Most lewd entertainments were preached against by most evangelists so there was nothing particularly Quaker in that either. Community was of high value then and Individualism unvalued...therefore Fox was particular in preaching that the individual alone could learn God's will for him/her through the Inner Light and not through Church dogma and ritual alone.

    However, today is very different. The most fashionable clothing is to be as revealing and raunchy as possible. The lowest common denominator rules in TV and music which is loud, sexist and crude. The Individual reigns supreme (or it is preached so at any rate by it's supporters). Is it any wonder that the counterweight to Worldliness that is Quakerism is swinging back to the tradition, modesty, humility and common/community standard that "Plainness" speaks to?

    We don't live in the world George Fox did, the question is not what George Fox said or did then, and what it meant then...nor even what he might say now...but what does the Inner Teacher tell is is needed now for our own soul's sake and the sake of being a Light unto the World.

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  4. Karen: I don't see anything about putting rips in clothing, unless you mean the part about removing collars? Lapels on collars are a modern fashion, serving no utility. So some Plain men alter the shirts to have a simple band collar (like such: http://garytailor.com/catalog/images/options/BandCollar.jpg ).

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  5. "However, today is very different. The most fashionable clothing is to be as revealing and raunchy as possible. The lowest common denominator rules in TV and music which is loud, sexist and crude. The Individual reigns supreme (or it is preached so at any rate by it's supporters). Is it any wonder that the counterweight to Worldliness that is Quakerism is swinging back to the tradition, modesty, humility and common/community standard that "Plainness" speaks to?"

    But why the need to swing all the way back? Why not stop at the mid-point (as Sloane appears to have done).

    I'm not Plain by any stretch of the imagination, but I certainly don't participate in the raunchy-clothes-and-smarmy-TV culture, and neither do the vast majority of the people I know. One can buck the raunchiness trend without going bonnet-and-apron. A pair of jeans and an ordinary button-down shirt is hardly revealing.

    On a side note: I'm always a little amused/confused by the designation of Plain (practiced by any denomination, really) as "traditional" or "historic". Traditionally, Quakers dressed behind the times, yes, but their clothing style wasn't fixed in a given decade. Google "Quaker dress" and you'll find drab, pared-down, versions of almost-contemporary clothing going back more than 200 years. They weren't wearing late-17th century dresses in 1810, which would be the rough equivalent of wearing 19th-century clothing today. They were wearing plain versions of the same Empire dresses that everyone else was wearing. The idea of "antique" plain doesn't seem to have kicked in until the second half of the 19th century, when things got frozen in the 1850's or so.

    Even sects who practice Plain dress on a widespread basis (Amish, Mennonites) aren't actually wearing 19th century clothing. Their clothing styles have evolved over the years. They are based in historical forms but the current styles, while clearly not mainstream, are modernized.

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  6. As a woman I suggest one can start by not wearing earrings, necklaces, shiny belt buckles,shorts, slacks or above the knee dresses/skirts. There are so many nice basic dresses (think basic black dress) that are becoming popular.

    The late Steve Jobs of Apple wore the same exact outift (dark black mock turtleck and jeans) for years and always struck me as being so simple and modern yet plain.

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