But for a few lapses, I have been plain for as long as I can remember: Jeans, t-shirt, black and white tennis shoes, ball cap, worn until threadbare. I recently argued here on Quaker Quaker that perhaps plain dress in the form of an 80 dollar wide-brimmed hat was not so plain; that to buy the five dollar ball cap and give away the other 75 dollars might be more in line with 'do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink, or about your body, what you will put on...'

But the responses I got from my argument quickly had me re-thinking my position. I was reminded that my cheap clothes were probably made in sweatshops, that the 80 dollar hat was contributing to a fair wage in a local economy, and that it was a fairly plain and inexpensive hat considering its lifetime use.

I had always believed that my cheap made-in-China hat was helping some poor dirt farmer to earn a wage, and this is probably true in some cases. But it seems, after doing a little research, that most workers in Third World clothing factories really are modern day slaves, trapped and exploited by the job they sought to free themselves.

And I realized my old arguments supporting such exploitation were the very arguments that once supported slavery in America: they are better off as slaves than they would be otherwise, unemployed and nowhere to go; and to free them would destroy the economy.

Friends, I have been reached.

And having been reached, I recently set out to find simple, inexpensive clothing made here in Portugal. I was surprised to learn that nearly all the clothing for sale where I live comes from... China.

As I have no credit card, internet shopping for clothes is out of the question. I considered having clothes made for me by a German woman who lives nearby, and I am still considering it.  But then I stumbled upon a shop selling traditional Portuguese clothing, out of fashion for some forty years, except among the elderly. The clothing is all fairly inexpensive, and made in somber colors.  It is made locally, and the people who make it receive a relatively fair wage. By process of elimination, it seems I may soon be plain dressing in the manner of the old Portuguese. Meanwhile, I have still got some sweatshop clothes to wear out.       

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your post is a blessing for me this morning.


a mind can change.


there is hope.


my journey toward plainness is teaching me to sew.  have you thought about that possibility?  there are some very simple pants that can be made.  although, your locally made portuguese clothing, sounds like an opportunity i might take advantage of, if i had that option.


may you be filled with god's grace.

Dear Ken,

Discernment is a process that never ends. I am happy for you that you have reached some sort of peace over the labor angle to dressing plain. Thank you for sharing of yourself and your sense of having been "reached."


Yours in the Light, Paula

Hi Ken,


Great post.  Here are some websites you might want to check out:




Both do not use slave labor and pay a fair wage.  Also, the hunger site's products are made by small co-opts in developing countries and food is donated for every purchase.  The prices for both websites are really reasonable too.


Hello, LC,

Thank you for bringing Dharma Trading to our attention. For those of us dressing simply, pure white is pretty good. But what about bleaches? Do you know anything about the processes used on the fabric, and how workers are protected?

How do we get internet products to Ken and others who have no credit card? Ken, do you have family in America who could help you?

Blessings, Paula

Thanks LC, for your reply. As I mentioned to Paula, I might get my brother in the US to help me out. I like the idea of plain for me and feeding someone in the process.


I do have family in America who could help me, Paula, and I just might ask them!  Thanks (as always) for your comments.
I have thought about the possibility of sewing, and even given it a try! But until i have a few lessons, i fear it is not my 'calling'. Thank you for your response.




Good point Paula.  I'm not sure about the bleach.  I also think that someone can make purchases online using a paypal account.  I had one and you didn't need a credit card... just a bank account.



This is a wonderful thing to me because I had been feeling so much despair about not just standing out in my increasingly old-fashioned clothes but about the comments many other Friends were making about the traditional forms of Plain.


Yes, I agree.  If you feel the Holy Spirit compelling you than I am all for it. Why should I judge?


I am glad that there is a traditional Portugese style. Friends should not have to be all of one style as well as all of one colour. ;P


Hmmm I wonder what California plain would look like?  Maybe boardshorts and a tank top?  Any suggestions ;-)

   I have had the same confusion of opinions tumbling round in my brain.

  Half my clothes are dresses of the plainish species.  Dresses I've made myself and some I've bought from home seamstresses.

  The other half  of the clothes I own are thrift store purchases.  For a great many years I did my attempt at 'plain testimony' dressing by only buying my clothes at thrift stores, so I wasn't supporting the fashion industry or paying for some outrageous advertising campaign.

   Frankly my mate prefers the thrift store things, they're more fitted and there's a lot more variety.  I myself prefer the homemade/seamstress made simple dresses and aprons.  They're looser, they don't slip or creep when I move so don't require continual readjustment, they're good sturdy cotton which I love.

      So.  I've been wobbling back and forth between my two closets for the past few weeks.  Driving myself a little nutty.  Submit to my mate? Submit to my sense of leading? Doubt my mate's good sense?  Doubt my leading?   Arrrgh! 


       Just this morning it occurred to me that in my thrift store clothes although I feel I'm not really supporting sweatshops or the fashion industry-I STILL LOOK LIKE I AM !   Fashion tends to go in cycles, so here I am in things from the '60's, '70's, 80's that look to others like I got them straight from the shops now.  Boho style or whatever they're calling it this time around.

      This is so opposite from my intention.

       Right now, while it's bearing on my conscience, is a good time for me to zip upstairs and pack away the thrifted clothes.  If they're not hanging there easy to reach it'll be easier to not bother with them, and next trip to town they can go back to the thrift store.

       I can use the other closet to store something else ; )


     Thank you Kenneth and Friends for just the kick in the bloomers I have obviously needed!!!





I know your dilemna, Leslie. I have got half 'thrift shop' clothes and half Portuguese plain. I am giving away most of the thrift shop clothes as they are way too cool. 'Surf' or 'gangsta' plain doesn't work for me anymore.   


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