I make Historic Clothing-copies of garments from history. I attend meetings and events of Living History groups where everyone I see is wearing clothing from the era the group covers. For many years I have contemplated moving into the field of Historic Plain Dress (female only, as I never took the 7-year-long Master tailoring course.) But whether I do that or not, I'm left with a dilemma; As a professional costumer, is wearing Plain Dress myself a witness, or advertising?

(I wore Plain Dress from the 1830s for a few college semesters, until my then-husband objected. Loudly. Often.)

As if the issue of Plain dress were not complicated enough, I also wear and teach historic clothing at meetings of the Living History group to which I belong.  I have "outgrown" my once-legendary collection of upper-class Tudor clothing, dripping with silks and jewels, that was both my pride and my best advertising. I already know I will never go back to those excesses, but what replaces them? Why? How soon?

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Comment by Barra Jacob-McDowell on 7th mo. 11, 2011 at 1:16am



I can identify with your dilemma. As a professional, traditional Celtic storyteller specializing in Scottish and Welsh tales and music, performing as "Barra the Bard", I often dress as a Scotswoman of ca.1745 in my airsaid (see picture!) at Highland Games, festivals and other events. I feel a drawing towards Plain Dress, but don't want others to think of it as a costume, that is, just worn as one instead of as a witness. Also, I was given almost an entire wardrobe of almost-new clothing (including several suits) by a late friend at a time when I really needed them...and since I've been jobhunting for over a year, and it's hard to find a job, I'm uneasy about how much employers would be willing to hire me for a front-desk position if I look too different. Paul Gallico wrote in one of his cat novels that a cat's motto was "When in doubt, wash." My inclination is to wait until I see more clearly.  But it IS a concern.

Comment by Martin Kelley on 7th mo. 11, 2011 at 10:50am
I read an academic article that said that popular contemporary ideas of Quaker plainness have more to do with historic re-enactors dressing up for special days at their meeting than to their actual plain-dressing ancestors. The modern Friends would pull the clothes from their attic and insist that these were the uniform of earlier Friends, whereas there weren't strict uniforms. If you read the old testimony, there's no dress requirements listed--it's all a state of mind, a readyness to wait in meekness toward God.
Comment by Honour Horne-Jaruk on 7th mo. 11, 2011 at 4:20pm
True, there were no "uniforms" in the military sense of the word; but there were standards common to each Yearly Meeting area, and departing from those standards too widely could, and did, get you read out of Meeting. The problem is that those standards kept changing. In 1801, wearing a high-waisted gown in a light color was a major, and dangerous, deviation. By 1830 _not_ wearing one was.
Comment by Honour Horne-Jaruk on 7th mo. 11, 2011 at 6:10pm

Correction: 1820.



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