I'll probably start a storm with this, but, here goes...

Plain dress. ...is it?

Is it plain? I've seen the price of a pair of broadfalls... seriously?? 

What I' getting at is, the Friends "dress code" was all about simplicity... avoiding buckles, shiny buttons, flashy hats ad clothes, etc, all to make a testimonial statement about simplicity and function... to deliberately NOT stand out, in order that ones' life, not ones style of dress be the testimony the world would see. 

  So, doesn't deliberately dressing in a 19th or even 18th century style have precisely the opposite effect in 2018? Wouldnt the wearing of current, practical, functional work clothes be more in keeping with the idea of "plain dress" than bonnets and suspenders today? 

   Not taking a shot at anyone in particular, just  bit baffled by "plain dress" because it really doesn't see all that plain to me. 

  Hope I haven't offended.

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Person's gotta do what a person's gotta do.

Margaret Fell thought it was silly to have a dress code; I don't think anyone today would want to impose it on anybody else.

But for anyone who feels led to witness to his beliefs/affiliation/practices in that way, it wouldn't come down to whether you or I agree.

I agree that it is a form of standing out, but they part about letting your life be the testimony instead of your dress isn't quite true for me. I find that dressing plain (my plain is denim pants, denim shirt, suspenders) and my beard with no mustache helps me testify by my life - because I don't blend in. It helps me be aware that people watch what I do, and for good or bad, calls attention to my actions. It can also invite conversation.

Totally, and same for plain speech.  To say "thee" and "thou" is hardly plain today.  I've sometimes gone too far in the casual / informal direction with the costumes, whereas when the goal is to blend in (aka conform, but not compete) I sometimes should dress more formally, where a tie more maybe?  Fashion is so fickle.

First, regarding the price of broadfalls: the point isn't merely to be cheap. If those are made by someone being paid appropriately instead of in a sweatshop, is that not more to the better?

Second, the plain men Friends I know just wear any ol' black pants.

I wear a blouse from the thrift shop and a black skirt I sewed (with big, functional pockets!). I also sew my own head coverings, because I have an awful lot of hair, and it doesn't fit well in ones I've tried purchasing. This is very functional. I can easily layer leggings and an extra petticoat under my skirt for warmth in winter. In summer, my skirt keeps the air conditioner in the office from being too awful. I can wear the exact same thing in the garden as I wear to a wedding. I wash and put up my hair every two weeks, ignoring it in between. I also have a dress I had made by a seamstress for an appropriate wage. No, it wasn't cheap. I wasn't about to cheat her out of money, as we have come to accept as normal in our modern society when it comes to any job involving physical (vs intellectual) labor.

I don't believe the goal was ever "to not stand out." It was to not conform to fashion, with all the literal gold and silver that entailed. They didn't have mylar to make fake gold and silver. Those death's head buttons that were the height of fashion in the 17th century? Real gold. Real silver. Real silk. Friends said they were stepping out of the world's vain fashions. That Quakers were distinctively visible was already true in the 18th century. Our clothes never froze, but they were just as noticeably out of place then as us plain Friends are today. Or at least as visible as the Pink Ladies in Grease, with their matching jackets. If past Friends thought it was wrong to stand out, they'd have taken off their hats, bowed to the king, and done everything else they could to conform to the world.

And, as Mark notes, it offers both accountability and an opportunity for evangelism. If I am visibly a Christian, I'd better hand a dollar to that homeless guy. Don't wanna make the Church look bad. And I carry cards with a listing of all the local meetings because I get to have conversations about religion on a regular basis when people see my clothes and head covering.

I'm not sure "thought it was silly to have a dress code" is even  as specific as what she said. She called dressing alike "a silly, poor gospel." Gospel is good news. Compared to "Christ has victory over sin and through his Light shining on your heart, you can too" ... yeah, "we all dress alike" just doesn't really make the bar for "good news."

Forrest Curo said:

Person's gotta do what a person's gotta do.

Margaret Fell thought it was silly to have a dress code; I don't think anyone today would want to impose it on anybody else.

But for anyone who feels led to witness to his beliefs/affiliation/practices in that way, it wouldn't come down to whether you or I agree.

Good point that "blending in" was not the point, as Quakers were habituated to make a nuisance of themselves and made waves in many dimensions.  I stand corrected.

As far as 'good news', I don't know how many people today would find "Christ has victory over sin" to be the first thing to pop into their minds. Neither would it have been the good news Jesus announced: "God's government is in you, between you, within your grasp, here."

Granted that people over the centuries will respond more effectively to different concepts and different ways of interpreting them... How should we best be talking about that 'Kingdom of God' Message?

Fair call on the variety of good news found in the New Testament. I was thinking of the "in the state Adam was in before he fell" perfection doctrine early Friends seemed to be enamored of. (Or as Penn put it, "true spiritual liberty is deliverance from sin.") It seems they thought "you can overcome your vices, with God's help" was also good news, in addition to the good news that the kingdom is within. 

As to how to talk about the kingdom today, I think the language of "communing" with God resonates with many today, which is handy for us since "communion in the manner of Friends" (waiting worship) looks a lot more like what people think of when you say "communing with God" than some bread and wine do.


Forrest Curo said:

As far as 'good news', I don't know how many people today would find "Christ has victory over sin" to be the first thing to pop into their minds. Neither would it have been the good news Jesus announced: "God's government is in you, between you, within your grasp, here."

Granted that people over the centuries will respond more effectively to different concepts and different ways of interpreting them... How should we best be talking about that 'Kingdom of God' Message?

There was always more to 'the Government of God' than improvements in our personal behavior.

Somewhere in there was that old pre-Monarchy Israelite tradition of "You people don't need kings; you've got Me!"

So this "Kingdom" was about restoring  the people's right-relation to God -- which would technically be abt eliminating 'sin', except that w'all are still wrestling with what that really looks like.

"_Repent_ " in that context isn't just "Behave yourselves!" but "Rethink your whole attitudes."

In that actual communing, what I've been seeing lately has been a recognition that God keeps right on tidying right in the midst of my own evident screwups; that God's Government has always been in session and goes on using even the imperfections in its perfection -- It's less about a state where we arrive & more about a direction we find ourselves moving:  " 'Worthy' or not, here It comes!"

Puritan-era theologies made this process sound misleadingly like self-annihilation. I'm seeing it more as: "Me 'seeking the Kingdom of God' "  means that

'The Kingdom of me is coming to an end" (but I still get to live here.)

It isn't that who we are and what we do does (or doesn't) matter -- but that there's a whole river pulling us along as this develops.

I think the question I'm asking for is more along the lines of, how can we call it "plain dress" if it's really anything but "plain" in 2018? 

Wouldn't ordinary work clothes be more in keeping with the idea of not putting on adornments?

Well explained. Thank you and I whole heartedly agree. I dress plain because I wanted as little to do with the pollution that goes along with the fashion world and the big stores who cheat people from earning fair wages. Also, to have nothing to do with unethical child slaves used to produce clothing for same stores. I figure if I don't know where my clothes come from, who made them and under what circumstances, I would no longer lend my energy, as far as possible. Ignorance as to where my clothes or other items come from, for myself, is no longer an acceptable excuse.


Mackenzie said:



Mackenzie said:

First, regarding the price of broadfalls: the point isn't merely to be cheap. If those are made by someone being paid appropriately instead of in a sweatshop, is that not more to the better?

Second, the plain men Friends I know just wear any ol' black pants.

I wear a blouse from the thrift shop and a black skirt I sewed (with big, functional pockets!). I also sew my own head coverings, because I have an awful lot of hair, and it doesn't fit well in ones I've tried purchasing. This is very functional. I can easily layer leggings and an extra petticoat under my skirt for warmth in winter. In summer, my skirt keeps the air conditioner in the office from being too awful. I can wear the exact same thing in the garden as I wear to a wedding. I wash and put up my hair every two weeks, ignoring it in between. I also have a dress I had made by a seamstress for an appropriate wage. No, it wasn't cheap. I wasn't about to cheat her out of money, as we have come to accept as normal in our modern society when it comes to any job involving physical (vs intellectual) labor.

I don't believe the goal was ever "to not stand out." It was to not conform to fashion, with all the literal gold and silver that entailed. They didn't have mylar to make fake gold and silver. Those death's head buttons that were the height of fashion in the 17th century? Real gold. Real silver. Real silk. Friends said they were stepping out of the world's vain fashions. That Quakers were distinctively visible was already true in the 18th century. Our clothes never froze, but they were just as noticeably out of place then as us plain Friends are today. Or at least as visible as the Pink Ladies in Grease, with their matching jackets. If past Friends thought it was wrong to stand out, they'd have taken off their hats, bowed to the king, and done everything else they could to conform to the world.

And, as Mark notes, it offers both accountability and an opportunity for evangelism. If I am visibly a Christian, I'd better hand a dollar to that homeless guy. Don't wanna make the Church look bad. And I carry cards with a listing of all the local meetings because I get to have conversations about religion on a regular basis when people see my clothes and head covering.

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