Katie Wonsik and Clothing

Name: Katie Wonsik
Meeting: Fairview Friends, Wilmington YM, FUM
Branch: Evangelical Quaker

I love to read fashion magazines. As a magazine editor I could call it “research,” an examination of what works and what doesn’t — layouts, fonts, word count, advertisements, editorials, inserts — but the truth is I love the color combinations, the cuts of the clothing, the photography and the modeling, the lighting on the jewelry, and the ever-changing trends.

The apostle Paul tells us not to be “fashioned after” this world (Romans 12:2, The Amplified Bible) and reminds us that fashions of the world are fleeting (1 Corinthians 7:31, KJV), but does that mean in order to be a Quaker I must give up saffron and turquoise in favor of grey?

Early Quakers elected to wear “plain dress” in order to separate themselves from the hierarchy of the world in the same way that they used “plain language” to level the playing field. But today’s Friends are drawn to dressing plain for different reasons. For some it is a matter of buying clothing that you know was made locally or purchased ethically. For others it is a statement to the world that you don’t support materialism and greed and their accompanying lifestyles. For yet others it is a reminder that beauty comes from within.

Dressing plain can be a method of evangelism — inviting conversation from your friends and neighbors and the guy selling kale at the farmer’s market — providing you with an opportunity to share your faith. It can also be a way to find space in your life to nurture your spirit — imagine how much free time you’ll have to spend with God now that you aren’t staring blankly into your closet in frustration that you have “nothing” to wear.

But does the testimony of simplicity mean you have to dress plain? I don’t think so. The point of simplicity is to remove from your life the things that aren’t life-giving — the things that separate you from God — be they relationships, television, food, work, or matching your shoes to your purse.

If God is asking you to buy secondhand, fair-trade, or locally made clothing as part of your testimony, then do so. If God is asking you to wear solid colors and no jewelry so that you can focus on your inner life rather than your outer looks, then do that. But don’t feel bad if that is not your witness. I love colors and am grateful that at this point God isn’t asking me to mute my style, but God is also dealing with me in lots of other ways. The Holy Spirit speaks to each and every one of us and it is that still, small voice that we are to listen to; we just need to make sure we’ve simplified our lives enough to hear it.

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