Mary Linda McKinney and Clothing

Name: Mary Linda McKinney
Meeting: Nashville Friends Meeting
Branch: Liberal Quaker

I posted this on my blog back in August:

Modesty, Humility, and Submission

About a month ago, in a on-line Friendly discussion group for people interested in plain dress and simplicity, in reply to a discussion about modesty, plainness and hair, I wrote this:

“As for modesty, hmmm…I’m not very modest at all. I’m 46 and have had 3 babies. My body looks like what it is but I’m really happy with it and wear some clothes that show lots of skin. Oddly, about the time I became involved with my plain dressing Quaker man, I also became comfortable wearing dresses and summer tops which showed my cleavage, something I’d never done before. He’s fine with it although I’m sure we occasionally discombobulate people.”

Writing that and posting it on a public forum has made me really consider what I said and what I meant.

I’ve never been particularly modest; ok, I’ve always actually been pretty immodest both in attitude and in dress. I’ve always had fun with dress and having fun has been more important than being modest. My clothes are flashy and my demeanor has always been pretty flashy, too. But lately, since falling for my sincere, Friendly and God-led Plainman, I’ve had cause to further examine the ways in which I interact with the world.

1: freedom from conceit or vanity
2: propriety in dress, speech, or conduct

1: not proud or haughty : not arrogant or assertive
2: reflecting, expressing, or offered in a spirit of deference or submission

Yeah, uh…ahem…not even close.

I’ve been considering humility and what it means to me. Give over, I think: give over my ego, my self-ishness, my pride, my conceit, the delight I take in my uniqueness but also my gifts, my abilities and my joy; give myself fully over to God. Submit myself to God, allowing myself to be formed by God and used. At the least, it means being aware of how I reflect that of God within me to the world.

I don’t think there is anything inherently wrong with wearing a dress and camisole with a little cleavage showing. I don’t think of sin as an action so much as a state of being. I’ve written before how I think sin is whatever we allow to come between us and God. So my wearing clothes that show a lot of skin may have no more meaning than me wearing a coat in winter. On the other hand, given my propensity to have my ego tied up in what I wear and how I choose to present myself in my interactions with others, there’s definitely potential for vanity.

I’m slowly beginning to examine my life and my daily choices. I’m not called to plainness but I am feeling that letting go of some of my attachment to how I package myself when I interact with other people is what I should be doing. I don’t even think I really need to dress differently than I do, only that I allow dressing to be a prayerful activity rather than a self-ful one.

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