Clothe Yourself in Righteousness is a project focusing on Quakerism and nakedness.
Quakers have historically practiced plaindress, a testimony that we are famous for. While the practice has mostly become extinct, the theology behind the practice is often still held amongst Friends. What is your relationship with clothing? Does your clothing set you apart from the mainstream in some way? Here is Friend Mark Wutka’s response. Click here to give your own.
Name: Mark Wutka
Meeting: Nashville Friends Meeting (member of Atlanta MM)
Branch: Liberal/Conservative Quaker
I’m Mary Linda McKinney’s “Plainman”, and I never pictured myself going for Quaker plain dress. During my first School of the Spirit retreat, Lloyd Lee Wilson spoke to our class. I had known LLW for a few years already, he has been a tremendous influence on me, but I hadn’t before felt any leanings toward plain dress. In his talk, he said a bit about his style of dress, including his beard, which he called a Tauferbard (believer’s beard). I found that giving it a name somehow gave it power for me.
When I got back to my room, I wrote in my journal that I felt led to grow such a beard, and it felt like there were three specific reasons why it felt right. First, as a statement of Christian pacifism. Second, as a way of making myself more conspicuous so that I couldn’t so easily blend in with the crowd. It wasn’t that I wanted to show off and say “hey, look at me!” but that I wanted to be aware that people were watching me, so that I would be more aware of my behavior – sort of a spiritual discipline. Third, I wanted to invite people into spiritual discussions.
My wife at the time, Ceal, was a bit skeptical about the beard, but she was willing to let me try it, and eventually found that she liked it as long as I let her trim it occasionally. I tried trimming it once about 2 weeks before she died, she had gotten too weak to do it herself, and it was a disaster. Now I just let it grow.
By my second School of the Spirit retreat the beard had grown out enough that I had shaved off the mustache and I had a Tauferbard going. At that point, I was still dressing the way I always had, t-shirts and jeans, or dockers and a golf shirt. Mike Green, one of the core teachers, remarked that pretty soon I’d be wearing white shirts and black pants. I felt strongly that I would not.
Within two months, however, I felt inclined to go to plainer dress and began dressing in white shirts and black pants with suspenders. I felt that it helped me be more of the person I wanted to be, and that it felt comfortable and right. One person on my SotS support committee remarked that it seemed like my exterior matched my interior.
I also wear sort of a blue plain – long or short sleeved denim shirts and jeans, especially if I am working in the yard or going out for a walk. I also got a couple of hats, one is straw, the other a black felt one. Mary Linda thinks the black one looks too stern and that the straw one looks friendlier. People do occasionally come up to me to talk, although most of the time it is to ask if I am Amish (sometimes humorously, such as the person who confused Mormons and Amish, or the one who suggested that Amish was a nationality).
In addition to not having to worry about what to wear (not that I worried, but now I just pull the next shirt and pair of pants off the hanger), I like the awareness it brings – not that I am stoic or anything, but I do find myself giving extra consideration to my actions.
Quakers have historically practiced plaindress, a testimony that we are famous for. While the practice has mostly become extinct, the theology behind the practice is often still held amongst Friends. What is your relationship with clothing? Does your clothing set you apart from the mainstream in some way? Here is Friend Patrick Lozada’s response. Click here to give your own.
Name: Patrick Lozada
Meeting: Davidson Friends Meeting
Branch: Liberal Quaker
My relationship with clothing has gotten more complicated since I’ve graduated from college and started a job in Washington. In college, I dressed very simply–mostly jeans and plain t-shirts. But in Washington. I’m swimming in suits, ties, and immaculately polished shoes.
This is relationship is more complicated by the fact that I’m both a Quaker professional and a professional Quaker. Working at the Friends Committee on National Legislation, the Quaker lobby for peace in Washington, I’m seemingly confronted with a conflict between living my faith and advocating for it. After all, did George Fox dress up in finery and doff his hat to Oliver Cromwell when he went to petition the English leader? No. But I wouldn’t dream of meeting with Senator Cantwell or Representative Garamendi in anything other than the suit I had tailored in China.
I’ve tried to absorb the contradiction by recognizing what I wear most days as a costume. I’m changing from my plain clothed self to play a game–to dress up to play a part. Maybe I am just playing the part of an insincere Quaker, making compromises and walking away from the naked experience of the spirit. But I suspect many of us make these small concessions in our lives to do what we feel we must.
Quakers have historically practiced plaindress, a testimony that we are famous for. While the practice has mostly become extinct, the theology behind the practice is often still held amongst Friends. What is your relationship with clothing? Does your clothing set you apart from the mainstream in some way? Here is Friend Karla Moran’s response. Click here to give your own.
Name: Karla Moran
Meeting: Indianapolis, IN
Branch: Evangelical/Conservative Quaker
Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.” (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints.) Revelation 19:8
I delight greatly in the LORD;
my soul rejoices in my God.
For he has clothed me with garments of salvation
and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness,
as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest,
and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. Isaiah 61:10
God has given us beautiful clothes to dress in. He does care about the way His wife (church) dresses, and the way he wants us to dress is in good deeds by showing love to one another so that everyone will know who we are (John 13:35). Through out the history of humanity the way we dress has been a way to show who we are. Like the saying “clothes make the men”. For example a poor peasant could never dress as a majestic king. The way we dress people know who we are. Quakers for example adopted the plain dress form of dressing but their reasons for dressing this way went further ahead than just trying to be distinguished among society. Quakers dressed this way for equality reasons. God also wants the world to know who we are, but not the way we usually think about it because God has bigger plans for us.
I also want the women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, adorning themselves, not with elaborate hairstyles or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God. 1 Timothy 2:9-10
Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. 1 Peter 3:3
The deeds are not necesary for salvation, but instead we do them to show the world that we are already saved. But what are this good deeds, to treat each other with love. Its interesting how the Quaker testimony of Equality translated into dressing plainly.
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.
Name: Ashley Wilcox
Meeting: Freedom Friends Church
Branch: Liberal Quaker, Evangelical Quaker
I am in a relationship with clothing and it is complicated.
I have never liked shopping for clothes. For me, it is a frustrating chore. I am short, so it is hard for me to find something in a store that fits (unless it has a petites section), and I never know what is in style.
I also have all of the usual guilt about how our clothing is made. That can be a handy excuse to not buy new clothes. Instead, I wear the clothes I have until they wear out, and mend any holes when they appear.
In addition to being short, I am curvy, which creates a whole other set of issues. Clothing that might seem perfectly modest on a woman with smaller breasts sometimes looks obscene on me. I stopped wearing shirts with writing on them long before I became a Quaker because I didn’t want to draw any more attention to my chest, and now I joke that the clothes I wear to work (usually a sweater and slacks) are my “Quaker plain.”
When I was 20 years old, I was sexually assaulted by a stranger who followed me home. At the time, I was wearing a big, baggy coat and a hat that I had pulled down to cover most of my face. Even so, my then-boyfriend was convinced that it happened because of how I looked.
Afterward, I dressed to be invisible―in dark, solid colors.
A few years ago, my sister gave me a bright red coat for Christmas. I love it and I frequently get compliments when I wear it. At the time, I was feeling led to stop trying to be invisible and to let my light shine. Wearing my red coat is one of the ways I remind myself to do that.
In the picture above, I am wearing that red coat along with my bridesmaid dress from my sister’s wedding (I was determined to wear it again!) on Easter morning at Freedom Friends Church.