Friends - For more than a year now I have been dressing variations on Quaker Plain. I have gone past the stage of feeling self-conscious and uncomfortable generally, but I am still a bit at a loss when people ask questions. Most commonly they will ask "Are you Amish? (or Mennonite?)" I reply, "No, I'm Quaker." Now one problem is that I'm immediately aware that this does not answer their question, which really was "Why are you dressed that way?" They then either say something like "Oh. I have a friend who is Quaker and she doesn't dress like that," or "What is that?" The first question requires a complicated answer that I am never completely satisfied with. I could explain that not all Quakers dress plain, but then that still leaves them wondering why I do. So I then fumble and mumble about leadings and individual choice, and no, it is not required of Quakers etc. And though not complete this is okay cause the person is really just curious, not deeply interested. The other question gives me more trouble: "What is a Quaker?".....Okay, go for it!

I have given some very unsatisfactory answers to this question which always leaving me wishing I had gotten their email address so I could correct whatever I said! One girl, who really wanted to know, said "So, is it a religion?" after my long-winded and confused attempt to encompass the life-changing importance of Quakerism in a paragraph or two - so you can see what a botched job I did.

So my question for you is, what do you say to these inquiries? 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! Do you have good answers ready? Do you feel you are communicating something?

And, by the way, I really only get these questions if I am wearing a cap and not a veil or snood.

Best to all,

Barb

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I've been having the same problem Barbara...only it is always happening during my work shifts, when I am very aware its against work policy to be discussing anything not store related with customers. I've tried to find a concise way to explain, but am at a loss really. A couple of times I was asked "Are you a Mennonite?" I have just said yes because I know it wont lead to further questions, and then I end up feeling really uncomfortable about it...if anyone has found a good way to explain I would be very happy to hear it!

I have been questioned even when what I wore was a metal bun cover.  Amish?  Jewish?  A nun?

My first, quick response is, I am not required to wear this, it is something I felt was the right thing for me to do.  Sometimes that answers the question.  

Others would like to know more, so I tell them that over time I felt drawn to covering my head especially while praying, and that I found the buffs not only cover my head, but are very practical for the work I do.

That's usually about it.

Q: Are you Mennonite?

A: No I'm a Plain Quaker

Q: My Quaker friend doesn't dress like this.

A: Indeed, most Quakers are not Plain

Q: What's Plain? 

A: One of our testimonies is to simplicity and the bible asks us not to be of the World so some of us interpret this as modest, understated attire.  

Q: And the cap?

A: For me it's a leading, an act of prayer. For others it goes to the bibles admonition for women to cover their heads.

Q: So what's Quakerism?

A: It's part of the Anabaptist movement out of Christianity.  We feel that there is no need for intercession between man and God, so no doctrine, no clergy, no religious hierarchy.  Stuff like that. We have testimonies of peace, equality, simplicity, integrity, and community.

Q: So are you Christian?

A: I am.  Many Quakers are, and the movement is out of Christianity, but there are Quakers who hold no affiliation.

In my opinion it doesn't have to be a big deal. Answer the question asked, don't feel the need to be all things to this person, and speak from your heart about your belief without shame or apology.

Paula

Paula, those are wonderful straightforward answers!

Plain spoken, Paula! :)

I think people wonder about my modern plain style but few actually ask me. When it has happened lately it's been with people of faith and I've been able to talk about it as a personal spiritual practice to remind me that I am not the center and materialist consumption is not the way to God's Kingdom. They usually understand.

If they ask about Quakers specifically I'll say there's only a few who hold this witness these days but that as a religious society we're encouraging of personal witnesses. Then I'll go into the traditional philosophy behind plainness and how those goals are ones Frienda should hold in mind whatever their outward fashion.

I participated in a small group discussion of evangelism at Ohio Yearly Meeting one time when an older OYM member told the group that issues of faith never came up with outsiders when she went about her daily life.  I advised her to wear a bonnet and her problem would be solved!!

I dressed like this before I started attending Quaker Meeting, back when all I knew about Quakers was that they were pacifists during the Civil War (so when my Catholic elementary school had Civil War Week, I declared myself a Quaker) and didn't actually know whether the religion was still around. So it is a weird question for me, and I give the answers I gave before: "I like it" "it suits me."

I've been asked about my snoods before (which I started wearing after a visit to the Renaissance Festival!), and I still give those answers, maybe with a note that it gets my hair up and out of the way, since like a hippy, I don't cut it. 

The most interesting has been from other Quakers. I was discussing "the simplicity testimony" with someone after Meeting, and another Friend turned around and said "Oh! Is THAT why you dress like that?" and I boggled at her. A pared-down wardrobe that easily mix&matches (black skirts, they go with everything, especially black shirts) and wearing things til they're truly worn out,  mending, taking in, ignoring makeup, jewelry, just not bothering with all that unimportant stuff... this had been my way for a long while. I made attempts at makeup and jewelry in high school (experimenting after the rules of Catholic School), but it didn't stick.

So, to say that Quakerism is WHY I dress this way would be wrong. But to say that the values that make Quakerism the right fit for me are the same values that make me dress this way...yes, that's correct.

Mackenzie - I can see you have had some of the same mix of confusion and short answers etc. that I have. i may not have made it clear but my problem is not that I don't have comebacks for these questions but rather that I want my answers to be authentic and also to touch the other person in a meaningful way. Too much to ask??? Yes, probably. Like you said, I usually end up implying that it is because I'm Quaker, which of course it isn't. So we are all confused and haven't communicated anything. Simplicity? Not quite. Because I want to would leave most people thinking I'm very odd, and they wouldn't learn anything at all from that. Because I have wanted to dress like this since I was a little girl - even stranger, though true I think. I'm still working on it. It seems very important to me and I can't let it go as some obviously have been able to. Maybe because I see clothing as a way of communicating to other humans I want to feel that I know what I am communicating and can articulate it. I may give this up at some point, but for now I'll keep praying about it.

Barb

 I don't plan on giving up plain and simple dress anytime soon.  It has been more than six months for me

now, and in time before that my start was with long skirts and modest tops when the right style for me was elusive. Found it months ago. Had a long wait for my prayer coverings, which are just the soft pleated white caps with strings.  I had been praying for the "right way" God wanted me to dress, and this was after learning that the way I have always personally prayed was that of a Quaker. So onto meetings and such I go, plain dress and all. My leading was in prayer, didn't occur overnight, and the profound sense of  peace and joy sure feel like the genuine experience to me. Things fell into place gradually because this is a sense of how to dress as I mature physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Still kept the long skirts and the modest tops. they may one day be needed. The nice thing is not being concerned with what  one puts on when one knows all the choices available are modest, plain, and simple. The variety of that does not make me feel rigid in choice, but comfortable physically and spiritually. I have been out several places now dressed plain and have not had any real issues to contend with.  My life was simple enough before and has  become easier when the concerns don't have to be so much with things like hair and makeup, just being content with being neat, clean, and covered.  My decision to cover was made after the months of long skirts and finding prayer coverings. What a variety there are, so much to choose from. But it didn't take me ten minutes to know what was the right one for me. It is not Amish, it is much the same as any plain woman might choose. Some dresses are cape and some are not. I like the half aprons because they suit my lifestyle and prefer them made of the same material as the dress when possible. If not I use white ones the same color as the covering.

  These are some of the reasons I have 'gone plain' in a non-plain environment. My experience 'out' has been that people seem to respect the appearance and in general are quite polite. This in itself is a peaceful pleasure, in a world where some are neither nice nor peaceful.  Rarely am I out and not in the company of  my husband. Its a quiet life and Jesus is always in my heart.  Nobody is alone unless they choose to be.

     Do any of you ladies who dress simply go out for walks by yourself? I want to try that, maybe shorter distances  at first.  What will happen when the cars go by while I am walking our dogs? This is my goal, for plain dressing, to be simply and happily able to 'go it alone'. Please let me know what your experiences have been like if you live in a city. I would appreciate knowing. I keep praying about it, also.

Carolyn

I lived in downtown Washington, DC when I switched to full-time skirts (not reverting to jeans in winter) and started wearing my snoods more and found Quakerism. The way I dress is definitely modern-plain, not the historic stuff. But living in the city, I of course did plenty of walking alone--to the metro stop, the bus stop, or just to the grocery store. At my age, street harassment is of course a problem. I got less of it (but still not *none*) as I got plainer. Now I live in the suburbs (where I can garden), so I do considerably less walking.

carolyn taylor said:

 I don't plan on giving up plain and simple dress anytime soon.  It has been more than six months for me

now, and in time before that my start was with long skirts and modest tops when the right style for me was elusive. Found it months ago. Had a long wait for my prayer coverings, which are just the soft pleated white caps with strings.  I had been praying for the "right way" God wanted me to dress, and this was after learning that the way I have always personally prayed was that of a Quaker. So onto meetings and such I go, plain dress and all. My leading was in prayer, didn't occur overnight, and the profound sense of  peace and joy sure feel like the genuine experience to me. Things fell into place gradually because this is a sense of how to dress as I mature physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Still kept the long skirts and the modest tops. they may one day be needed. The nice thing is not being concerned with what  one puts on when one knows all the choices available are modest, plain, and simple. The variety of that does not make me feel rigid in choice, but comfortable physically and spiritually. I have been out several places now dressed plain and have not had any real issues to contend with.  My life was simple enough before and has  become easier when the concerns don't have to be so much with things like hair and makeup, just being content with being neat, clean, and covered.  My decision to cover was made after the months of long skirts and finding prayer coverings. What a variety there are, so much to choose from. But it didn't take me ten minutes to know what was the right one for me. It is not Amish, it is much the same as any plain woman might choose. Some dresses are cape and some are not. I like the half aprons because they suit my lifestyle and prefer them made of the same material as the dress when possible. If not I use white ones the same color as the covering.

  These are some of the reasons I have 'gone plain' in a non-plain environment. My experience 'out' has been that people seem to respect the appearance and in general are quite polite. This in itself is a peaceful pleasure, in a world where some are neither nice nor peaceful.  Rarely am I out and not in the company of  my husband. Its a quiet life and Jesus is always in my heart.  Nobody is alone unless they choose to be.

     Do any of you ladies who dress simply go out for walks by yourself? I want to try that, maybe shorter distances  at first.  What will happen when the cars go by while I am walking our dogs? This is my goal, for plain dressing, to be simply and happily able to 'go it alone'. Please let me know what your experiences have been like if you live in a city. I would appreciate knowing. I keep praying about it, also.

Carolyn

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