As I recently posted, I went to an opera. The setting was a cinema, so dressing up wasn’t an issue. But what do Plain people do when they want to honour an occasion?
Most of my clothes are at the point of looking like I left them on the line too long. Since I don’t keep an extensive wardrobe, I did order some replacements through eBay, dresses made by someone else for someone else, but that doesn’t bother me as long as they are servicable. I’m hoping that the cape, apron and new caps will give my older dresses a longer life, since they cover almost everything but the sleeves and some of the back of the skirt. Nothing has arrived yet from the States, but I am waiting anxiously. I also was able to order two bonnets for much less than buying one new; one will fit me, and I think the other will fit Patience. I ordered a dress with a zipper, of the Mennonite one-piece cape variety. I haven’t had anything with a zipper in years, but I wanted something that didn’t require snaps, buttons or pins to keep it together. Sometimes there is a benefit in being able to dress quickly! That would be an advantage to wearing a snood instead of a cap, since I wouldn’t have to pin up my hair. But I look like I’m working on the french fry sorting line at the McCain’s factory in a snood. They are flattering on young women or women with fuller faces, but I look decidedly odd in one, just out of place.
Plain people often set aside certain clothes for church-going, weddings, or going out to town. The newer dresses and shirts, or maybe the ones with the prettiest colours, are the “special” clothes. For the Old Order Plain women, the crispest cap and the freshest cape and apron spruce up the everyday dress. Men will set aside jeans or pants that haven’t been worn on the farm or in the shop just for “good.”
When an Amish woman marries, she and her bridesmaids make new dresses, sometimes matching. The groom and his supporters may wear a matching ribbon tie, about the only time in an Amishman’s life he will decorate his shirtfront. Most of the clothes will be new throughout – new clothes for a new life. In some groups, the Amish bride will set aside her cape, apron and cap, either for best dress wear or for her funeral, which sounds macabre but is really a remnant of an old European practice. I don’t know how common that practice is anymore. I would be concerned that the apron wouldn’t fit, since the feminine figure has a tendency to expand from youth to old age!
Amish and Mennonite Old Order men will have a plain black brimmed hat for Sunday and formal occasions; around here, they wear the cheaper everyday straw hat in the winter for weekdays. The black hats are expensive, and they do fade in the sun. Most Conservative Quakers of my acquaintance wear the black hat. My husband wears his everyday, and after four years, it really needs to be replaced. He goes through a straw hat a year, and I need to get another one. I think I’ve found a good source for a hat he might like. He finds most straw hats very uncomfortable.
I have just one pair of boots, which I might supplement with a low black shoe soon. I prefer ankle boots, but the shoe may be more practical in the house. I have a badly damaged right foot (animal related mishap, as always) and I need the support of a shoe. Osteoarthritis is one of the paybacks of living an active life!
Right now, my dress-up outfit is a long-sleeved blouse with a collar, a dark blue heathered wool jumper, and a white cap. Sometimes I go the extra mile and wear a white neckerkerchief over that, pinned in the front. And if it’s cold, I have a black shawl to add. I have retired my black bonnet due to fading, which wouldn’t be so bad but I used two different black wool remnants, and they didn’t fade the same! So the Quaker wool bonnet is now the backyard bonnet.