« More on Sex Ed | Main | Babies Bring Out the Best »

October 25, 2011



I think there's a beauty in not having to be a sex object for strangers, just being yourself. But on the other hand, I can go out with my husband and get dressed up for him--not feel plain then--it's just a matter of context I think. Good post.


I peak in on Quaker Jane from time to time. She's quite sincere, so I balk at bringing up a criticism, but here is my breaking off point from some of the super-plain Quakers. If she was drawn to the bonnet and what it represents and adopted a plain lifestyle as a way to satisfy a need to distinguish herself, that is, by definition, immodest. I don't pray out loud because I don't have to show off that I'm praying. By the same token, if I attend a wedding or other event where people are standing/kneeling/sitting etc., I can rise and kneel when they do because to remain in my seat while others stand and kneel, I'm showing off that I don't "show off". Toning down a wardrobe to plain durable fabrics and keeping articles out of fashion until they've lost functionality is one thing, wearing a bonnet in 2012 is another. I find it hard to believe that the bonnet wearing Quakers don't realize that being THAT out of fashion is a form of attracting attention. The bonnet no longer serves a function. If it isn't functional, it is only costume plain, not true plain.


Alice, I hear what you are saying. My impression from what Jane has written is that she wears the bonnet as an obedience, because she feels God is calling her to it. It is less about the bonnet itself and more about the fact that it is something God has asked her to do. This is the impression I get from many Quakers -- that the exact nature of one's clothing matters less than the obedience of following an inner leading. I get the impression she was confused about why she should want the bonnet, and yet, she did. Of course I don't really know, but that's just my impression. Thanks so much for your comment! :)


I do agree with Alice, except Jane actually became a part of a part of society/religion that this is the norm. So in her environment, she's not seeking attention but blending in. Now I have seen, spoken with, women who are run of the mill Christian denominations who cover with a bonnet, a kerchief or even a hijab (but is a Christian) and THEY stick out. Some come across as wanting to be seen and thought of more pious than everyone else. I personally cover at church, but it's always something modern, like a scarf folded like a wide headband or a beret, etc.


The paradox of modesty is that anyone can use it to feel superior and more pious than others. A bonnet is not required. A woman in a knee length skirt and blouse that blends in perfectly can still be looking down at a woman in a short skirt and tank top and feeling Pride. One can feel perversely Proud of how well one blends in and attracts no attention.

Most Plain Folk DO blend in, in fact too much. So much so that most people think they are almost totally gone. They can recognize each other perfectly well though. It seems they have it easier....all the benefits of membership in the special group whose members recognize each other instantly but no outsiders mocking them, or whispering behind their backs about how "Vain" they are for standing out so much. Seems cushy.

Christians and Jews both are told to be a people apart, and to stand out from people still mired in sin and people of other faiths. It's the REASONS why that make the difference. You're supposed to make yourself a billboard for God, not yourself. I no longer dress noticable Plainly or religiously, but when I did, I was the one people sought out for comfort, just to talk because they were lonely or curious, for spare change, for help lifting a buggy up a set of steps.... my dress instantly signalled my lifestyle and told people help and kindness was available from me. It was a huge expectation to live up to, and quite humbling, as I was reminded daily how much I didn't live up to the ideal. I suggest you not knock it until you've tried it.


I love the Plain Catholics!

Rasha Trumbo

I had the same experience with headcoverings! For most of my life I didn't wear one, or only wore it to church, but when I started walking to my job every day I noticed that I was constantly objectified and hooted at by strangers. As a protection first, I began to wear scarves that then became longer scarves and long sleeves and tunics. When I began to dress that way, something else happened; I grew up shockingly because covering myself that way reminded me that to actually value myself, to deal with people mind-to-mind rather than on appearances, and to speak up bravely when someone did do something out of line. The scarves helped me accept myself in a profound way that I'd never known before.

Sarah Attias

There is something intrinsically feminist about valuing and covering your body and your beauty and having control over WHO gets to view you. Whether it be your hair and/or your body (and to what extent is up to you) the idea of having total control over this aspect of your life is in fact totally liberating.

I cover my hair with scarves or wigs and I dress very modestly but fashionably. I have a lot of fun with clothes (no pants). I wear pencil or long skirts, funky boots and flats, scarves, chunky necklaces, adorable jackets, and I enjoy that I limit myself to clothes that cover my body (high necklines, long sleeves). This gives me the LINE that I need to draw SO that my body NEVER becomes an accessory - something to be objectified/criticized/eroticized in ways that I cannot control. I can still have fun with fashion and feel artistic and attractive and communicate something about my personality without showing any skin. While this is different from choosing "plain" (which I sometimes do as well) I think it gives artsy types who want to dress to express themselves some options without the need to wear immodest clothing. The truth is every time i see skin tight pants or mini skirts, tank tops and bare legs I feel really sorry for the woman inside those clothes. There is something that she is losing by wearing clothes that reveal her desperate need for attention.

And as for looking for clothes for my 2 1/2 year old daughter - I am shocked by what the fashion industry is putting out there for little girls to wear. I hope that I will be able to communicate to my daughter that modesty is true power and freedom.

The comments to this entry are closed.