Dressing Up Plain

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.


4 thoughts on “Dressing Up Plain

  1. It was interesting dressing plain on a cruise last spring. I brought mostly basic dresses and a few skirts. There were several formal nights you had to dress up. Some of the ladies had very expensive, fancy clothes loaded with satin and sequins. One lady told my husband her outfit cost $1200. For formal nights I had 3 dresses with more fancy fabric, print, or trim and a plain kerchief instead of print. They were all very modest cape dresses. My husband wore a tie and coat instead of just his shirt. My daughter had some velvet dresses (second hand) and a frilly flower print dress.

    Formal dress always seems prideful to me. A way to say look at me, I can dress better than you. See me flaunt my money. I did feel a bit out of place at times, but I wasn’t out to impress them. If they had a problem with my plainer dresses, it was their problem. However, no one said anything. I even got a few compliments.

    • Even before I was Plain, formal wear seemed an unnecessary expense to me. I had a black velvet suit that covered most formal or dressy occasions. I tried other things from time to time, like a red dance dress, but only wore it twice and felt rather conspicuous.

      I am so glad you enjoyed that cruise. Sometimes even simple-living folks need a break, and a cruise with family on a smaller ship would be suitable.

  2. I guess if the lady could afford to spend $1200 on a dress good for her, at least the $1200 went to pay wages for all people involved in the bringing about of the dress.
    That said, $1200 is a lot of money, and why brag about how much you spent?? And truly, when you think of the reason for clothing, how could anyone justify spending that kind of money on one item. Just think how many school supplies $1200 could have purchased and to be donated to a charity, or how many medical supplies could have been purchased to help out hospitals in poor countries. But for all we know this lady may be very generous to the less fortunate.
    I prefer to dress modestly, I don’t dress “plain”, but I choose to wear skirts, jumpers, and modest dresses, at times I feel that I don’t blend with the crowd, but that said, on the rare occasion I might wear a pair of jeans I feel very, very out of place!
    Dressing in a manner that is respectful/modest/neat and tidy, each day means that you are ready for whatever comes your way each day as you are always dressed appropriately.

    • Very occasionally, especially if I have to jump out of bed and run out the door, I really wish I could just pull on jeans and sweatshirt! I don’t own anything like that now, though, and I would feel out of place, too.

      Not everyone is called to be Plain, but all Christian women are called to be modest!

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