Plain in Winter

This can be a serious problem, really. So many plain dresses available are cotton or lightweight fabric. I have yet to resolve this issue completely except to keep layering on the clothes until I reach a comfort level. This, of course, introduces the waddle factor.

Last winter I purchased a thrift store plain grey wool skirt. It is ankle length, with a pantsuit kind of waist. I sometimes wear it back to front for a more traditional look, but I’ve lost some weight and now that looks strangely poofy. I put it on today because it is a cool autumn day, one of the first here. Atop I have a long-sleeved banded collar black shirt (a clergy shirt without the white collar) and a plain grey sweater and my black shawl. This is quite Quakerly, in a sober modern way. I would have worn these clothes just like this when I was worldly, the difference being the prayer cap.

Who makes decent thick socks anymore? We walk a lot and the regular Anabaptist style calf-high cotton stockings wear out at the toe in weeks. They are undarnable, too: The stitches just pull right out.

I have the black wool bonnet for winter, or I use the black shawl in the babushka style, over the head, wrapped around the neck and knotted. My plain black clergy coat is still in excellent shape, although ornamented with fine white dog hair (thanks, Misty). And for occasions when I really need to be bundled, I can put my hooded cape over all that. Usually I wear black stretchy gloves or suede driving gloves, but I expect to wear mittens this winter, as I will be outdoors a lot more. My husband wears a Navy peacoat and the broadbrimmed black hat in winter, and construction boots with thick socks. For outdoor work such as splitting wood he wears a black watchcap and workgloves. He is a warm person, and doesn’t feel the cold as much as I do.

I am about to sew some bigger aprons from denim and other heavy fabrics, which should extend the life of my dresses and add a layer of insulation. I have worn the full apron but the kind with the little bib on top. I acquired a vintage apron that buttons behind the neck and ties at the waist, and it covers most of the upper part of my dress. My husband, though, greeted this delicate green print confection with “Did you get that from my grandmother?” I have to agree, it looks just like something Nana would have worn. The tiny green rosebud-in-squares print is a wee bit too funky retro, but I intend to use it for a pattern and make my aprons longer.

Sweaters are a necessary but not traditional choice in winter. Some Anabaptist groups don’t wear them. My family is from northern climes, both back in the British isles and in the New World, and we are wool sweater people. (I do prefer the British “jumper” to the unpleasant connotations of “sweater.”) I like mine plain, black, gray, or natural. I have a gorgeous blue Icelandic sweater my mother gave me quite a few years ago, and although not Quaker-plain, I wear it because it is warm and practical without being over the top.

Underneath is the problem. I wear longies of some sort, with whatever is available for warm socks, even oversized handknit ones on top of ballet slippers. We are usually in cold houses in the winter, so feet and head need covering for warmth!

My winter prayer coverings are larger than my usual ones, almost bonnet size, and they are a bit Mother Hubbardish. I keep them for in the house. I am thinking of taking one apart and remaking it into an actual white bonnet for summer, but I have a linen one that covers all my hair and ears that works for cold indoor environments.

Winter itself is a good time for subdued activity, sober clothes, and a sober mind. Once the house is clean, the food prepared and the work done, I have some time for meditative activities like spinning and knitting, and more time for reading (although if we don’t have electricity, I may not be able to do this after dark.) Once the garden is put to bed, and there are no fences to mend, wood to carry or canning to finish, I have more discretionary time and I am not going to waste it running around pretending to have fun at the mall. I don’t want to seek summer in the winter. The Lord gives us the seasons for a reason, so that we can change the pace of our activities. Some seasons are for fasting and intense prayer, others for effort and extra work.

Winter is coming. Some of you are already beginning to see the transition days of autumn. I suggest that you hibernate a bit this winter, and turn your thoughts to the Lord of all, who provides all in due season.


3 thoughts on “Plain in Winter

  1. I couldn’t agree more. Good post.

    I struggled with this last winter, my first in skirts. I’m up here in interior Alaska where it can be below zero (F) for weeks at a time sometimes. Layers, layers, layers and just deal with waddle. The bottom layer closest to you should be some fabric that can wick away moisture.

    When it gets real cold, we grab our furs for head and feet. There’s nothing warmer. In fact if I’m working hard outside, I can overheat of -35. I know it’s not politically correct, but its WARM, light and durable.

    I totally agree with you about socks. The “winter” socks I bought yesterday are only slightly warmer than the summer socks I used to get a few years ago. Regular socks are horrible thin things that don’t last. My son tore his new ones the first day! I can’t find knee highs that stay up. We heat our home with wood. It’s mid-60’s in the day but down to the 50’s by morning and it’s only going to get colder as winter progresses so good socks are a necessity. I hate cold feet. Last winter I got a great pair of cozy fleece slippers made by Acorn.

    I’ll have to consider a headcovering at night. Right now I can keep the quilt over my head, but not sure about when it gets much colder. My room is in the back of the house.

  2. I wear long underwear of some sort, as long as it isn’t too tight (like tights are). And I’m learning to knit socks. God give me the patience for learning, and better eyesight! Try making a little flannel prayer cap or even wearing a knit cotton cap. I have a small head and I can wear a toddler-size cap. Also, cover your windows with an extra layer, like an old blanket, at night, so that it overlaps the molding. Drafts are the biggest problem in bedrooms.

  3. We really went after the drafts 2 years ago when we realized we were going to continue heating with wood after putting more insulation in our attic. We have big windows in our living room. We have double fabric long curtains that we close but we also put that foiled bubble wrap up against the window. It helps a lot. We also cut foam to put in the bedroom windows under the curtains when it gets below zero. You can feel a cold draft come down when I take them off sometimes. We have hand made entry doors which are extra thick. Still, we put bubble wrap on them then carpet.

    I wish I had the patience to knit. I’ve started several times and lost my place or got distracted. Notice I said started not finished. I’ve yet to finish anything. I admire anyone who can. I’ve discovered I need a bonnet sleeping because caps slide off when winter camping.

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