Plainness & Simplicity


Plainness & Simplicity

Some Friends have recently been dubbed the "New Plain" for their experimentation with Quaker plainness and simplicity. Tag: plain

Members: 233
Latest Activity: 6th month 23

Plain Links

The New Plain, a 2004 essay by Rich the "Brooklyn Quaker" that used the term to describe a new wave of plain dressing Quaker bloggers. Quaker Jane has become the best source of information on the why's and how's of this new wave of plain dressing Friends.

QuakerQuaker's Plain Resources page has a longer list of quotes and links about plainness.

Plain Friends Page, a wonderful collection of essays on plainness from Crossroads Friends Meeting in Michigan.

Discussion Forum

plain dress contentment?

Started by Anne. Last reply by Anne 5th month 31. 19 Replies

Plain dressing patterns

Started by Anne. Last reply by Anne 5th month 23. 5 Replies

I thought this was an interesting article on modesty in women's dress.

Started by Patrice Wassmann. Last reply by Zaley Warkentin 4th month 27. 3 Replies

Christmas celebrations the Quaker way?

Started by Patrice Wassmann. Last reply by carolyn taylor 4th month 8. 17 Replies

Featured Blog Posts on Plainness

Speaking Plainly

The last couple of days I’ve been squarely in the middle of an lengthy academic debate. Each argument is full of so many arcane terms that making it through it is painful. Truthfully, it gives me a headache. Recognizing that, I understand why Quakers placed such an emphasis on speaking plainly and with Truth. Specious arguments sound good, but they collapse after enough careful analysis.

Matthew’s Gospel addresses the lack of humility and mistaken priorities common to the time, and perhaps ours?

And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words.

I may have always been a Quaker writer in the way I phrased my thoughts. My father impressed upon me the economy of words and a compelling desire to get immediately to the point. I wish I could show others that their conversation is predicated upon mistaken motives and ego-driven intentions. Identifying the futility of what to them is the most impressive-sounding, footnoted, fourteen-page polemic ever constructed is only wasted time.

As Friends, we can rely upon an economy of language, one that is easily comprehensible to others, but not dull. The books, essays, and memoirs I enjoy reading these days never forget to broaden their audience while preserving the power of the written word. Academic discourse continues onward in its own self-limited universe. I’ve stopped trying to engage certain speakers, because I have learned that they cannot and will not understand. I seek to convey ideas for all, but they do not and likely will not.

What follows next in the Gospel of Matthew is the first telling of the Lord’s Prayer, a perfect encapsulation of Christian faith in which every single word packs a punch. Though it could have been written by a Quaker, I know it influenced several for similar reasons. Where do we use economy of words in our own lives? 

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come, your will be done,
on earth, as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.

Normcore: Fashion for Those Who Realize They’re One in 7 Billion

Fashion has become very overwhelming and popular. Right now a lot of people use fashion as a means to buy rather than discover an identity and they end up obscured and defeated. I'm getting cues from people like Steve Jobs and Jerry Seinfeld. It's a very flat look, conspicuously unpretentious, maybe even endearingly awkward. It's a lot of cliché style taboos, but it's not the irony I love, it's rather practical and no-nonsense, which to me, right now, seems sexy. I like the idea that one doesn't need their clothes to make a statement.martin_kelley

Barbara Smith: Learning to be Led

The leading may seem to have no clear positive outcome. Or perhaps we can see no point to it at all. Or maybe we have many misgivings about the outcome, but it feels compelling nonetheless.martin_kelley

Answering questions about your Plain dress

I feel we have an opportunity to witness here, and also to spread awareness of Quakers, which ups the ante and the pressure on me to make sense!martin_kelley

Jo on QQ: struggling with call to Plain dress in UK

I am very much feeling like I am struggling against the tide at the moment. I am feeling led to plain dress and have been for about 6 months or more, but have great difficulties explaining it to family and friends.

Tags: quaker plain

Bruce Arnold: Quaker Plain II

I hope we all know there’s no standard for plain dress among 21st century Friends. We are, to a great extent, on our own. We can’t tell each other what to do, but we can learn from each other. So, in the absence of clear direction, I want to talk about some guidelines that have been helpful for me.

Tags: quaker plain

Geoffrey Black: When does a Plain Friend take off his hat?

I would like to find a way of understanding and practicing this "accidental discipline" that is somehow specifically Quaker. It need not be in keeping with historical Friends' practice; I would just like it to connect in my own heart and mind more clearly with my Quaker beliefs and values.

Tags: Quaker plain

Plain Comfort

    My daughter has been changing drastically over the last year.  She was a beautiful college student with a 4.0, journalism awards, passionate about the world’s injustices (an over-achiever).  Within the last 4 months she’s lost 60 lbs.- is a skeleton, using narcotics, stripping, dropped out of school, quit her job, and is furiously angry at everyone, especially God.  I knew something was horribly wrong, and the more I tried to help her, the more she pulled away.  
    As her world crumbled I found myself also more angry at the world than I had ever been.  We’d already suffered through cocaine addiction with her brother and to watch her in the thralls of the evils of this world was too much to bare.  I’d been searching for a church, a faith, that felt real and true - I desperately, passionately loved God and wanted to worship Him with reverence and awe.  He’s held me up through every heartbreak and struggle of my life and helped me to grow from each experience, teaching me personally along the way. 

    I was also being led to plainer dress (after dressing modestly and now wearing a headcovering).   The more I learned about the Friends beliefs the more I felt like I’d found a ‘home’.  When a particularly bad event would happen I found myself turning to Quaker reading - advices and queries, or testimonies, and found such comfort.  I would go on websites that sold plain clothing and headcoverings and even just the images would make me feel better - like there was goodness, peace, and simplicity there.  I’d been wearing veils I’d made, but felt like maybe I should change to a kapp, and finally ordered a beautiful one.
    Three days ago my daughter finally told me that she’d been molested by a family member when she was very young.  It explained so much.  My world was shattered.  I had been molested by my uncle when I was around 10, and knowing that she’d experienced the one thing I had always feared most for my children, and that it would haunt her the rest of her life, I found myself tormented all over again.  
    Yesterday my kapp arrived in the mail.  The day had been filled with crying and sickness and heartache, inability to literally breathe at times. Finally at the end of the night I opened up the package.  The white material was much softer than I had envisioned, light and almost silky feeling…the detailed stitching and pleats, ruffles and ties… it was a thing of simplicity and beauty.  And suddenly I felt peace wash over me, and I felt God’s immense mercy and love, and grace, upon my head.  I knew He was holding me tight, and also my little girl, wherever she was, out there in the world.  
    So I am being led to plain dress, to this peculiar way of being and life, for many reasons, but now I have felt it’s effects personally and powerfully.  I can’t explain it, but of the many things it means to me, it is also a source of security and safety and great comfort.  

Ashley Wilcox and Clothing | Clothe Yourself in Righteousness

A few years ago, my sister gave me a bright red coat for Christmas. I love it and I frequently get compliments when I wear it. At the time, I was feeling led to stop trying to be invisible and to let my light shine. Wearing my red coat is one of the ways I remind myself to do that.

Tags: Quaker plain Oregon

Karen Mercer: How much clothing matters

I know that it might be easy for critics to point out that in chosing religious dress I am merely repeating my own past. It may be so....but now I am doing so consciously. I don't sneer at people for taking my dress as the reality anymore.

Tags: quaker plain

Jon Watts: What’s Your Relationship With Clothing?

If you take a moment to tell us about your personal philosophy, submit a picture and tell us where you’re from, we’ll compile it into a page called “Modern Quakers and Clothing”, and… viola! We’re in a real conversation.

Tags: quaker plain

Barbara Smith: Needing to "explain" your plain

So now I understand why I have been feeling obligated to have a ready explanation for my appearance - because it is unheard of in my world to do something like this because you are following your heart, let alone following the leading of Jesus, unless you can then "explain" it - in terms of theology, or the rules of your denomination, or whatever.

Tags: plain outreach philadelphia

Barbara Smith: Self-image, simplicity and change

I was struck by the commonality of the experience of trying to change, as adults, the image we project to the public (and maybe to ourselves!). It challenges me to think about the concept of "self-image", what is that, and why does it seem to stand in the way of what we feel we are led to do?

Tags: quaker Philadelphia plain

Kevin-Douglas Olive: Going Plain

I have vacillated my entire life between my call to gospel ministry and gay pop culture.  And then, this weekend, I was hit by the holy spirit in meeting... I need the hedge.  There are places that I can't and won't go if I am plain. There are activities that I can't and won't do if  I am plain.  And there are people in my world who can't and won't accept me because I am plain. Friends, that is a good thing.

Tags: quaker sexuality baltimore plain christianity

How Do You Know You're Worldly? (QQ Discussion)

I dress "modern Plain" still but I like music like some Lady GaGa and such. I'm a big fan of action movies from the 80s until now, and really enjoy watching tv.When I was a fundie you had a person telling you what was worldly and what wasn't. I am kind of lost with what is "worldly". Is it on a personal level different for everyone?

Tags: quaker quaker.plain

Meetups, Events, and Resources


You need to be a member of Plainness & Simplicity to add comments!

Comment by Sophia Shapira on 9th mo. 20, 2012 at 2:54pm

I have many times in my life *wanted* to go plain --- and even twice have *attempted* to do so --- but was always thwarted by knowledge that doing so would end up isolating me completely.

Comment by Zaley Warkentin on 3rd mo. 15, 2012 at 9:10am

Karen & Barbara - Thank you for sharing with me, I'm glad I'm not alone in this :) It was also the case for me Karen, that once I put on plain clothes I never wanted to go back to modern. I have at times bowed to pressure from my family and switched back though, but every time I was very aware of how uncomfortable I feel in my "normal clothes" occurred to me today, that perhaps one reason I still have them is to remind me why I gave them up in the first place... :)

Comment by Karen D on 3rd mo. 10, 2012 at 10:31am

Zaley - if your still nervous about letting them go, then wait longer. Or perhaps examine if it's a desire to hold on to things more than it is about the clothing. I have recently gone plain and it was more that as soon as I put the clothes on, I didn't want to change back again. I plan to get rid of most of my clothes except for a few items that will fit in one container for storage. That will balance both my commitment to simplify and still leave a safety net as well.

Comment by Barbara Smith on 3rd mo. 10, 2012 at 7:51am

Zaley - I also am finding that if I am still feeling uneasy about something like that it is because it is not yet time. There will come a time when you say "Today's the day." and you will wonder why it seemed so hard. On the other hand, Isabel wrote that we must be prepared for God to remove leadings just as he started them. So maybe you are not to toss them yet for a reason. This is why the only sure guide is The Guide.


PS I also have a box of other clothes - but mine are still in my room on their way to the attic. Maybe I'll keep them to prove to my grandchildren that I didn't always dress this way!

Comment by Zaley Warkentin on 3rd mo. 10, 2012 at 12:14am

I have been switching over to plain dress these past few months and I am feeling so much more at peace! I think my biggest hurdle to face this summer is to actually let go of my non-plain clothing, which is currently packed in boxes in the basement, awaiting donation for much too long now...any advice would be appreciated :)

Comment by clarissa ann wade on 3rd mo. 2, 2012 at 5:33pm

well i must that i have been lead to dress plain by my bible reading . now i am at the stage of trying to sew a plain dress by hand as i have no sewing machine  but all that i do is by faith that  and covering my head agree?

Comment by Meg Hill-Grigson on 7th mo. 21, 2011 at 12:58pm
I'm still at the figuring out how I am going to be simple stage. I haven't moved to the plain stage (and am not sure I am led to - at least not yet). However - reading all the posts here are a HUGE help in my journey of discernment so I really thank everyone for being so very up front and open. If I were to become plain I think my meeting would be very supportive of it. I would not be the first or only person who would be dressing in a plain manner - but ironically enough - I would be the first woman! Thank you all for your help and wisdom. I am going to keep reading and keep being simple - even if not yet plain! ; )
Comment by Paula Roberts on 7th mo. 20, 2010 at 10:00am
One of the things I've changed is where I get most of my clothes. Underwear is still coming from commercial sources, but I have found an excellent seamstress in Katie's Mercantile They have made slips, skirts, caps, snoods, and jumpers for me. The jumpers have been extremely versatile - appropriate for walking the dog, running errands, and probably when the semester starts, appropriate for teaching. They also make flannel shirts and petticoats and slip dresses. I anticipate ordering some flannel slip dresses so that I can wear my skirts in the winter.

The conversation has helped me remember a couple of other changes I've made along this same route. Versatility has become really important to me. For example, I have a soap that I use to wash dishes, wash floors, and can use to wash laundry. I've become friends with borax and white vinegar for household cleaning. I have a body soap that works as a body wash, shampoo, hand wash and dog wash!

So I guess sourcing and versatility have become very important to me on this Plain journey.
Comment by Javaughn Fernanders on 7th mo. 20, 2010 at 9:47am
Thank you Paula. I am trying to do a few things.
Become a better steward of my time and money by purchasing less clothes, even gleaning what I have.

Next, finding clothing that is not made by child labor or unfair practices.

Reflect my commitment to the testimonies of simplicity, and equality.
Therefore, my request is a practical one. I guess I want to know where people are with their simple dress (which is more what I am trying to do). Does one consider it simple to have one plain skirt then just wash it more frequently or have a few, and wash less. Yep, I'm just juggling these thoughts around and around as I take boxes of clothes to Goodwill.

I appreciate your post and am contemplating it as well.
Comment by Paula Roberts on 7th mo. 20, 2010 at 9:23am
I know for me going plain was full of traps and pitfalls. For example, I am very type A and it was easy to find myself going plain with plainness as the goal instead of the state of mind I sought. I think it is easy to get to that place where, for example, you are patriotic because you have a flag on your car. No doubt you gave patriotism a great deal of thought, but ended up buying yourself patriotic (the flag) instead of having a real change of your state of mind. Having established that this is a caution I write from a purely personal point of view, beware of trying to meet the criteria of plainness with the right colors, or the right number of items in your wardrobe, and thereby losing sight of the goal. Plainness, I have found, is much more about the journey than the destination.

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