OK, here is a challenge for you Quaker ladies who dress plain.

We've had lovely fine weather here today and it got me thinking about summer and then about plain dressing in summer.

As someone with a public facing job, I am modern plain. I don't have to wear uniform (which would incidentally make it easier to be a modern plain), for work but all my clothes must be machine washable at 60 degrees if needed (not done always, but it is a case of if I get contaminated with body fluids, then they need to be washed that way). I also need to be able to move freely (defined as being able to walk backwards for 10 metres at the same speed as if I was walking forwards).

What would you list as a core wardrobe for a modern plain, both summer and winter?

I figure I will be refining my wardrobe over several years towards this, but I figure it is an interesting discussion.

In my favour I can sew, and I have tame family members who could sew for me!


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Haha! You were probably trying to figure out how one modestly wore a "jumper" as a dress.  Isn't language awesome.  So what do you call those pullover dresses we call jumpers?
I wish I was able to answer your question, I am in the process of finding the core of my wardrobe as well. I have done modest dress and headcovering for about a year to some extent and now I know I want to edit my clothes but not yet to what extent and how. I have a huge wardrobe as I love clothes which makes the plain part almost impossible for me. Modest is Ok, you can buy modest clothes just for fun as you can with less modest clothes. The whole idea of plain however is not to have two full wardrobes so I do understand I need to edit. I want to do away with the clothes that I now know are less suitable for the lifestyle I want and keep the ones that work. I will also by and by buy more clothes that are more plain or make them myself. I dream of making a dress which I have already constructed in my mind but I never find the time. The things I know I will keep are dresses and skirts that work in a lot of situations but that is the only sure thing for know. Soon I will know more, Lent is often a period when my mind is called to action so I am in waiting.

Maybe we can work on it together?

I am beginning to "tag" items of my winter wardrobe which will go to charity on the next wardrobe changeover. I am also thinking what I have in my summer wardrobe and thinking about what, if anything I will need to complement it, and what might also go straight to charity.


So far this is where I am thinking with my modern plain/modest wardrobe for a health professional working in the community during summer

- two pairs of work trousers (most likely linen) in dark navy

- two ankle length skirts

- 3-4 shirts with 3/4 length sleves in plain colours (most likely cotton)

- light cotton jersey in a dark colour (navy is most likely)

-3-4 head covers

- 1 pair shoes (toes enclosed)

- 1 pair sandals

- long raincoat (I have a black Mac as they are called here)


Added to that

- modest swimming costume

- below knee running shorts (I run and cycle)

-2 x  mid thigh length heavy weight t-shirts

- 1 pair running shoes

- bandana for headcover when running/cycling

- 1-2 pairs of non-work trousers

- 1-2 work shirts

- light hiking boots


It will take some time to work towards that-I have some pruning to do!



This is what I have figured out this far.



- All my long skirts (3) and dresses (7 out which one is more formal and one is semi-formal)

- About 10-15 of my shorter dresses which can double as summer dresses and an aditional covering layer in winter. Some of them are also used as like an underdress sometimes

- My 3  crochet caps and I will make an additional two more when I find time. After that I will only replace them when they are worn out.

- A couple bandanas and scarves for casual headcovering and to cover skin if needed.

- Two pairs of long shorts (I buy men's size large to have them loose enough)

- About 10 long-sleaved t-shirts and about 10 regular t-shirts

- Two pairs of winter shoes

- The summer shoes I have now, perhaps 10 pairs but I will throw them out as I wear them out. If I buy a new pair I need to throw one pair out.


This is what I have decided so far, I need a bit more clothes than for just one week as I do not have my own washing machine and I must be able to get through a crisis if the communal washing machines in my building are all booked when I need them.


When it comes to winter clothes I will have to buy new ones next winter as many of the ones I have now are worn out. I need to think a bit more on this but I know I will need to get a new warm winter coat but I will be able to keep the two thinner coats I have for at least one more winter. The cold and long winters here in Sweden require that you have at least two winter coats. I also need to get another pair of silk tights, another pair of wool knickers (I love the pair I have) and a pair of wool tights as well. I have worn out my previous pair of wool tights and I have longed for them frequently this winter. I do not need any cardigans even though I use them basically all year round. In summer I have the same cardigans I wear in winter instead of a jacket.


I am a clothes fanatic so I know that giving up so much of my clothes and then not replace them with new ones is going to be a challenge which I do not think I will fully succeed with but at least I hope to get a step on the way.

Ummmm....probably the closest term would be a pinafore dress, but that is a fairly archaic term which I am not sure would be completely understood here in the UK.


Language is amazing - my own native version of english has some really archaic lowland Scots terms preserved in it, particularly in the context of farming. As for words in my working life - food is so culturally specific that you can make some very funny mistakes if you don't know about the cultural context.

In the time since I was a child, more and more Maori and Polynesian words have made it into common use in New Zealand English, so I will sometimes use words like "puku" meaning stomach, without even thinking about it, then have to go into an explanation.

I think it is a journey and the process is as much a part of the learning as the outcome.  I have certainly been surprised at the things that have tripped me up on my journey.


When I was getting ready to go home for the first time in 3.5 years, I nearly reached for the hair dye after a 2.5 year period of accepting that I am getting some grey hair, and seeing that as OK. On thinking on it, I realised it was about being nervous of seeing my sisters again, and their scrutiny of me, like no one else does.

As it turned out, both my sisters had given up the dye bottle, and my cheeky elder sister kissed me on the cheeks, grabbed my head and bent it down so she could look at my parting and said "Grrr...not only are you looking young because of the mild sun in the UK, you also don't have enough grey hairs..." then she kissed me again.

Learning what makes our reactions which migh deviate us from a path of plainness I think is part of the gift.

There are indeed riding skorts - skirts with shorts attached http://www.rei.com/product/764441 like this one at REI.  They're a bit shorter than the knee, but I swear I've seen longer ones... let me look.

I wear 3/4 length leggings (preferably cotton but nylon will do) in summer. I sometimes cut off panty hose or long leggings to shorter than 3/4 to wear to wear underneath longer skirts.


I ride my bike to work and other places almost every day in summer and I do not have any problems doing that in a skirt. Yes, it might blow up but that happens rarely I would say and if it happens it might brighten up someone's day...

(Late to the party, as usual.)


I have to open this with the confession that I'm a sewing pattern collector, which is pretty much the antithesis of simplicity.  Yes, I do sew them whenever I have time, although a few are just too dated to be of use.  On the other hand, I work in a history-related field, and knowing way too much about clothing and patterns has at least been useful in that respect.  My friends and I also trade pattern images to use for reference, so if you start poking around these links and thinking, "Holy moley--how many patterns does she have?", well, I don't own most of these.  I just have pictures of them.  Don't panic. 


There was a trend in the 1970's of releasing "wardrobe" patterns, which were mix-and-match, well, wardrobes, of basic clothing, all in on envelope.  I've thought many times that some of them would make very good bases, depending on how modern you felt you could be, for modern plain clothing.  Most of them were not difficult to sew, and many of them were either not very revealing, or could easily have been made not-very-revealing with some minor alteration, and they frequently lent themselves well to layering (so they could be useful in more than one season).


Picture these with longer skirts and maybe minus the electric colors:


McCall's 4656 (1975): I'm not sure if that's pullover or what, but it could easily have been sewn mostly shut and then just had the button so you could pull it over your head.

McCall's 4966 (1975): A particular favorite of mine; I've got this one lined up to sew once I finish some other projects. 

Butterick 6343 (1970's-1980's): These "boatman shirt" style dresses seem to have been popular in the second half of the Seventies.  I'm kind of a fan.

Butterick 4276 (1980?): Nice starting point, although I'd shrink up the sleeves and lose the ruffle.  I like the apron.

Simplicity 6529 (1970's): Basic pants and kimono-style jacket.

Butterick 3303 (1970's): With a longer skirt.

Simplicity 7264 (1970's)

Vogue 9556: This one reminds me very much of modern Islamic clothing.

McCall's 5773 (1977)

Simplicity 7972

Simplicity 8308 (1977)

I enjoy lapidary at the senior center, my green vynil and my yellow polyurithane aprons speak to modernity and plainess.  The greenn one has a lumber yard logo on it.  My tee shirt advertizes a cafe, my hoodie cardigan a favorite baseball team, my trousers say nothing, though my diabetic shoes and socks have their own message.  I, too, have a garmet favored by Michael Jordan, not because they are but because they come in 2x, are comfortable and have a cloth covered waist band.  I have noticed my homeless brothers and sisters often wear newer clothes than I do, often donated and replete with logos and advertisements.  I think I should get some tees made with a UPC label and "Genaric Friend (Quaker)" printed on it, and hand them out at the Gospel Mission.


Greetings Friends,

       I would like to add to Bridget's comment on page one. The catalog Deva Lifewear is really a wonderful sorce for simple modern plain. They have an excellent website, just Google it. All cotton, modest, no iron, and they have men's clothes as well. Those of you who live in very cold winter climates would need to layer.

Ebay has modest clothes too, if you want more traditional plain, type in" Mennonite".

I really enjoy reading all of your comments, it is nice to know of others on this journey.

I really like the Tara dress.  Which of the two fabrics is the heavier weight, though?


Not that I ought to be buying one any time soon with the current size of my wardrobe... really should do something about the dozen dresses I rarely wear.


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