Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Plain dress November - Plain beautiful

Let me put together a few apparently unrelated paragraphs for you, in the hope that you will see where my muddled mind is going.

Sometimes I look in the mirror and I think I look just awful. Old, grim, overweight, and kind of slightly sour. Blessed with an overall vaguely purplish hue. Dear me. As things were, when this happened, I used to try to do something about it – lose weight, change my hair cut, put on make-up, buy some new clothes. And what was the result? I looked in the mirror and saw – an old, grim, marginally thinner, slightly sour face surrounded by a different haircut and new clothes that didn’t look quite how I’d imagined they would. What a waste of money. A facelift? Would a facelift do it? We should have asked Michael Jackson while we had the chance.

Sometimes when a woman has a new baby, it won’t stop crying. Having jiggled it and walked it and patted it, she (and all her advisers) decide to change its food. ‘Put him on the bottle, dear.’ She does. He still cries. But she feels a bit better somehow, like there was something she could do.

We are what we are and things are as they are. What we wear won’t make us beautiful and bottlefeeding won’t make cranky babies peaceful. Changing things gives us a temporary feeling of power over our situation that makes us feel better for a while.

I love Plain dress. I think it is beautiful; but I have to concede that it doesn’t make me beautiful – I look in the mirror and I just look like me, only in Plain dress.

I have met quite a few people now who think Plain dress is not beautiful, and nor is anyone who wears it. They find it disconcerting and vaguely threatening too. My mother came to stay a few days ago, with a friend. As they walked in my house, with no preamble, the friend said to me:

‘You’re looking very… er… very… well, shall I say traditional, today!’

‘Very austere.’ (my mother’s contribution).

I was wearing a green poloneck soft fleece top, a taupe jumper (pinafore dress UK) with dark red buttons, a green and cream checked kapp, and a red and white checked apron. Jazzy, possibly – but austere?

The last retreat I took, we had a session about Plain dress and some of the people in my group left me in no doubt of their views – ugly, frumpy, inconsiderate (because other people have to look at us) etc etc. What surprised me, and I had to be very careful in my response as a result, was that the people so loud in their criticisms evidently thought they themselves looked elegant: I know this, because they said so. They told me that they (unlike Plain dressing people) took great care over their appearance and felt it a responsibility to society to do so. The thing is, had they not told me so, I wouldn’t have known.

Joanie wrote a comment here a few days ago with a little cry for help. She was feeling frumpy, and Plain dress wasn’t helping. Her determination was flagging.

Some days I feel frumpy in Plain dress, but I have looked at other people and my own eyes tell me that hair lacquer and dye, crusts of mascara, artificial colour in my cheeks, red lipstick, and drifts of face powder                                             
a r e   n o t   t h e   a n s w e r
It’s not the Plain dress. It’s the woman. Look at this person. Would she look better in tight jeans and a crop top? I ate out at an Italian restaurant the other night. A crowd of teenagers, excited and voluble were out together having a party. One young lady stood up to shout across the room at her friend. She was wearing a bright red backless mini-dress with, somewhat surprisingly, her regular bra underneath. She has advice to give Amish teenagers on dress and deportment? I think not.

Some days, we just feel ugly and inadequate. I don’t know why. It’s being human. That’s the deal. As we get older we sag, we lose tone, our skin and hair and eyes look dull, everything slides south. We can stay thin, which is good for us but looks a bit ascetic, or we can get fat, which looks plump and cheerful to other people but makes us feel like failure writ large.

What makes us feel good is being loved, being liked – friendship and affection and acceptance. What makes us look good is kindness, laughter, gentleness and joy in life.

Sometimes we worry about our menfolk. The first time I had a serious go at Plain dress, I became seized with anxiety that my husband didn’t fancy me any more. He probably didn’t, but it was more likely because he was tired or worried about work or something. I thought the problem was my clothes, so I should fix it by wearing different ones.

I don’t think that any more. I think it is likely that while I was anxious about it I was probably crabby and defensive, going round with a haunted look on my face. This is dramatic but not attractive.

I think now that I can wear what I like and it won’t make much difference to my marriage. What makes me attractive is if I am joyous and cheerful, kind and loving, patient and fun – and if I am interested in him and laugh at his jokes and admire his achievements.

It isn’t the clothes. They say men respond to visual stimuli, and so they do – but it isn’t the clothes. It’s the look in the eye and the way a woman carries herself and the aura about her. Sofia Loren could swap with Norah Batty and it still wouldn’t make any difference.

A couple of years ago, after my first failed go at Plain dress, we were going away on a Christian conference and I was feeling nervous. I am very shy, very solitary and I don’t like leaving my home. So (some of you will empathise with this logic, others just feel bewildered) to make myself feel better I cut my hair. It had been growing quite nicely, and was shoulder length or so, and I cut it off into a chin-length bob. I thought it looked nice, and I was impressed I had cut it so well. Four days later it was time to go to the conference. Our travelling companions arrived, another couple. The man said ‘hello’ in a genial kind of way, the woman said: ‘Oh, I like your new haircut!’

New haircut? My husband looked at me bemused. ‘Your hair is different?’

Yes, men do kind of respond to visual stimuli; but maybe not the stimuli we’d had in mind.

Feeling frumpy – it comes and it goes. You can look beautiful in Plain dress and beautiful without it. Either way the beauty is not the gift of the clothes.


Having said all that, there are some things worth saying.

1) If you are very overweight, it is helpful to lose a few pounds. It’s good for health, good for morale, and it will make you feel less frumpy.

2) It is important to wear the colours that are right for you. Image consultants may not be very Plain, but they can advise you if you need it. Some colours will suit you, others will not. If you wear the colours that suit you, the effect is transformative.

3) Shapes need balancing. A big flappy skirt needs a neat top and a neat head. A big flappy skirt with a big floppy cardigan and a long flappy veil looks like an ambulant rummage sale.

4) A kind face, a ready smile and a joyous heart are always beautiful.

5) Even women who dress Plain have their unique style. Some tie their kapp strings tight, some leave them dangling; some go barefoot while others are in ankle boots. Some have faces beautiful because of the sweet seriousness of their composure; others are attractive because of the twinkle of laughter that’s always in their eyes. Even among old people – some have plump, soft, peaceful faces full of kindness; some have carved austere countenances full of quiet dignity. Make-up would not improve any of them. Find your style. Find your beauty. Accept yourself as you are.

Those of us who choose to dress Plain as a witness, as a spiritual discipline – observant dress – but are not members of Plain communities or fellowships, must expect to experience discouragement and distraction (well – like everyone else, I guess). I posted this back at the end of August, and the article I was quoting has helped me again and again when I have felt embarrassed or discouraged in dressing Plain.

In case the way it is expressed seems a bit weird and esoteric to you, what it is saying can be re-phrased as follows:

If you want to make a permanent change in your life, there is a series of steps to follow.

1) You come to a clear and certain mind about the new attitude or habit you would like to develop.

2) You read about it, find others who already practice it, look at pictures that make it vivid for you – fill and flood your imagination with the new state of mind and being.

3) You lock that into place in your imagination, holding it firmly before you, identifying yourself with it.

4) You make physical actual changes to bring it into physical reality (in the case of Plain dress, maybe chucking out your make-up and jewellery, beginning to dress Plain, sending your former garments away to someone who will appreciate them), burning your bridges.

5) You persevere. This last one is crucial. In this fifth and last step, you have to hold firm the new vision installed in your imagination, every day making choices consistent with it and keeping going in spite of remarks from other people, inner wobbles of your own, boredom or weariness. You keep going. In time it will become your habit – it is the point at which choice has grown into habit that you truly have made the change.

Choosing the Plain way attracts discouragements. Discouragements are cling-ons that pull you down. Combat them by reading, pictures, fellowship that will re-encourage you; and keep going. Make it hard for yourself to do otherwise, by getting rid of your former garb and life patterns. Keep going. Persevere.

Eventually you come through the tunnel. Eventually you can say, ‘I look frumpy dressed Plain? Yes. I probably do. So what?’ And maybe one day you will be able to get rid of the mirror.


Tony Collins said...

Speaking as the Badger in question, I will admit the lack of observation involved in the haircut story. Mea culpa, but I would say that most blokes receive a general impression of a woman's appearance rather than anything specific - though the girl with the backless dress did catch the attention more robustly than she had probably intended.

What blokes do notice is how a woman is in herself - not just how she reacts to them, but whether she is happy/snappy/serene/morose etc. These reactions are obviously affected by how a woman feels about herself. For you, dressing plain does seem to give you a sense of freedom: you certainly look great!

I am still reeling from a programme I have just heard about an outlet mall where a couple of ladies were rejoicing that they had snapped up handbags reduced from £4000 to £2000. Apart from the inherent absurdity of such an unnecessary purchase, who had fed these women the idea that this kind of investment would improve their appearance? Sing hey! for Plain dress, say I.

Ember said...

Hi, that Badger! Waving! x

Alice Y. said...

Thanks so much Ember! Bless you.

Joan said...

Dear, dear Ember. You are a lovely soul!! My youngest son read your blog with me today and laughed and so enjoyed your post. He said to tell you he definitely thinks the Amish girl was beautiful and would not be in a crop top etc... . You are so kind to take up such time to write an encouraging blog to help me and others lurking perhaps like me. and please tell Badger I appreciate his views - I can tell you have got a good man there, just as I have. We are blessed.
This is weird, but I wrote to a lovely plain Quaker friend last night about something she had written and I was telling her how when I struggle I want to be elegant. She had written something very wise about seeking approval or admiration and I lay in bed thinking on it all night long. WHY do I want to be elegant? I think mostly it goes back to how I was raised. I think I mentioned once that I was raised in front of a camera, told my looks were my ticket since my brain was not too good, and I was being pushed into television comercials as a teen by a cousin who was herself an actress and model. I developed an illness that prevented me from being able to do it and even though I did not know God yet, I KNEW He was saying NO to commercials. I wouldn't do it. But my looks remained a strange paradox for those early years in adulthood and now, of course, it is not the problem it once was. But I had this idea at one time that I wanted to age like some old lady I thought was so elegant. And I ended up plain. I have been doing this for a long time and yet I allow myself, I guess, to think back. Your advise towards the end helped me to see the biggest problem I have is I have left the door open for argument within myself. I have not accepted this as something that needs to be this way - all the way.
Anyway, my husband thinks I am beautiful in plain clothes. I honestly thought he was joking, because it was an acquired taste. He had to get used to the lack of black lashes and once he did he doesn't like it at all now. I have put it on for him and threw my hair around in a nice way for him and asked if I looked younger, more vibrant. Not really, he said. I did't want to believe him. I asked my son, same thing. They tried to convince me I just look like me with black stuff on. Bruce said it looked kind of well, not very nice on me. He said it spoiled my face. Wow. And he said the same stuff your dear husband said. How we act is what makes us look how we look. If I am sour, then I will be seen that way.

I have lots of contemplating to do. Thank you sincerely,

Ganeida said...

I agree. I have been blessed all my life with being highly allergic to all forms of make~up [interesting when I had to use stage make~up!]~ yes, even the suppossedly non~allergenic ones. I had some issues for a while as I have a long Edwardian [read masculine] face that is quite grim in repose but I have learnt if I smile people find my smile attractive & don't seem to notice the rest ~ though I still wonder about my girls' eyesight when they tell me I'm beautiful. Hopefully that means I have developed some Christ~like attitudes that make for an improved character & the inward beauty that so pleases God.

I think the cultural emphasis on outward beauty has made for generations of deeply insecure women & am so thankful my security in Christ is not reliant on such temporal things. ☺

Julie B. said...

Marvelous post....thank you. It was great to read Tony's thoughts too.

I do not dress Plain, but do dress plainly. I know I look a bit frumpy but for the last several years what I have cared about more is comfort. Comfort, not standing out, and not being focused on what I look like, as I was when I was much younger. I look in the mirror and see someone who is aging and tired looking. But my husband likes how I look and I am always surprised and grateful for that. :)

I am concerned nowadays on what I'm like on the inside. Still a long way to go, but if I feel that the Lord has helped me to love today, I'm content.

I think you look beautiful, Ember.

Ember said...

Hi Alice, hi Ganeida!
They're right Ganeida (your girls), you are.

Ember said...

Hi Joanie - I think you can be elegant and Plain. I think that elegance comes from feeling worth something inside, like in 'A Little Princess' where Sarah Crewe teaches all the girls to believe that they are princesses and so should behave like princesses.

As to the makeup, the oddest thing happened to me the other day. On Facebook you can havs a 'profile song' - just a song you like uploaded to your profile. I went looking for a version of 'Revive Us Again', and found a really good one. People in a church singing it like they really meant it, it's lovely. But the people are standard well-groomed Americans, hair beautifully coiffeured, the kind of lipstick that doesn't come off, blouses all tailored and trimmed. And that was just the men... (sorry, only kidding) But as I watched them, I realise that I have adjusted my sense of normality - because they just looked like waxworks to me, and once I would have thought nothing of their appearance, seen it as ordinary.

Ember said...

Hi Julie - I think people's attitudes and habits leave the story of who they have been written on their faces - the Mother Teresa kind of beautiful
Or Gandhi. That's the kind to aim for. :0)

fiona said...

Hi mum. Your youngest daughter here.
I think somewhere in some truth there's something about "not having favourites"
...but your face is one of my favourites in the whole world
...I think it's beautiful :)

Linda said...

You are very wise. I have found what you are saying to be true. What we are seeing in the mirror is our worried look. What others are seeing is something else.

Less is more I found about running around trying to fix things.

I have found 1. and 2. right. Losing weight is good, and so is choosing the right colours.

So much good advice here, off to ponder the points at the bottom.

Lynda said...

Once again I thank your for your post Ember. Such an encouragement to me on my journey.

And like others have said, it's being 'right with God' that makes me feel beautiful (the beauty of a meek and quiet spirit), and not what I am wearing. It doesn't matter how 'nice' I think I look on the oustide, if my spirit is ugly, then that will show.

I am drawn to the plain way of dress, but afraid to take that final step (having had a go at it before and failed) it just me wanting to be 'different' or is it God wanting me to be different?

Joan said...

My husband says I ask too many questions about everything and analyze everything to death. But that is me. He actually likes it, but loves to tease me. Anyhow, I ought to explain that though I say I struggle with the plain look I have not been outside with my hair unconvered in many years. non plain means to me my jewish coverings or some kerchief, a long dress to my ankles and a blouse or a jumper ( pinafore). When I am plain I am in an amish 3 piece dress so common here in the Ohio and Indiana. I also have a few other amish dresses with tie on aprons, which are from Pennsylvania, as well as old order mennonnite aprons. I got most of my amish dresses used for $4 to $6 a piece! You don't have to know our money well to know that is dirt cheap. They were their sunday dresses, which is one of the only times they wear the cape and matching apron. At home they wear the dress, a white half apron, and a hankerchief over the bun.

I won't go into my whole conviction/story, but we had intended to move among the Amish some years ago and live our Quaker ways along side them. We felt that there could be enough of a community sense for us to be content - we are used to being German Baptist "stepchildren" as we refer to ourselves, so we don't have to belong "all the way". But we were not sure about our handicapped son in that culture and we had other concerns we were still praying about when the market went upside down and our house value dropped over 60 % and we were not free to move. This had not been an overnight plan either, it had been years in the making. The german baptists are wonderful and plain, but while there are similarities to the amish there are great distinctions and those have discouraged me badly. They would not really understand our convictions whereas the Amish do, not entirely anyhow. We came to discard the amish idea and with it I found myself in a strange identity crisis, even though I was not amish. I tried to give up my plain convictions, but they won't entirely go. I am not good at having one foot in a semi plain world and the other in a very plain life. It is either one or the other. When I wear the beautiful Jewish things and skirts I bought from them I feel so feminine, but it is not being true to my plain conviction - it has a message here in America for sure. Something you said hit me hard tonight. You said you lovd plain dress and thought it was beautiful. I never did!! I was never one of those who liked any pioneerish or plainish garb. I liked classic stuff, not trendy. So, when my convictions began to lead me to the plain witness the clothing, I knew, was going to be a major problem for me. But in the beginning I happily gave up makeup, wore one of those white dishcloths on my head as a covering as my husband, the one who sews pretty well, made me my first coverings. I was inncocent of all the baggage we accumilate as we get deeper into things, the baggage that wore me down.
Oh, one other thing. The amish or cape dresses are very figure accentuating and we have seen a lot of eating disorders in these groups. I can decide on a bloaty day to wear a loose pinafore type apron over my dress, but they can't. I am not fond of clothes that bind. I am not fond of pinning up my hair, but there is that idea in my head, that conviction. I just wish I could learn to like it. I do think that I will if i will stick with it again for a long stretch. I will share that I have many times been at that point where I had persevered and it was becoming habit and I fearfully stopped on a dime to hold onto that little piece of me for reasons I have not explained very well. I was afraid I would disappear and never come back and I was not sure I wanted that to happen.

Michelle-ozark crafter said...

In general I am happy and content with how I look. My one thorn in the flesh is my roseacea when it rears it's ugly head. For those who do not know, it causes burning pain, red areas, and sometimes blisters. I do have medicine that helps conceal and keep it calm mostly. But when it is acting up I feel very ugly and scary looking.

MarilynAnn said...

"looks like an ambulant rummage sale"

ROFLMAO!! Over the last few years I have been carefully studying women aged over 60 to see what sort of role model I might follow regarding dress/style.

I am petite so I cannot carry off the more dramatic, flowing looks without looking like a child in mother's dress.

My conclusions have been, no make-up, classic lines and styles, not too tight fitting and definitely not 'mutton dressed as lamb'

But I have a hairstyle with attitude ( channelling Jamie Lee Curtis) and I like my clothes to make a bit of a statement if they can.

Don't ask me what statement!

I am not Plain but I am modest. I don't think anyone would deduce anything about my spiritual state from my clothing.

Mags said...

Ember, you are gorgeous, full stop!

As you know, I love my handbags and jazzy shoes. But, at the same time, I am comfortable in the 'skin I'm in' and don't overdo the make up etc.

Now that I am 49 I've lost the blonde too and returned to my natural hair colour.

I genuinely feel that whatever feels good and right for you is fine.

I LOVE your Plain blogs.

My spirituality is expressed through my painting - the place I feel closest to God is with a paintbrush in my hand (and lots of paint on arms, face clothes etc etc)

Don't let the nay-sayers put you off you path, Pen/Ember.

Be yourself.

God bless you [']


Kate said...

I've been reading your blog for a couple of weeks with great intrest, and as a muslim observer of Islamic plain dress (hijab), I can empathise with many of your feelings. The challenge of wearing plainer clothes that don't emphasise your physical appearance and yet at the same time highlight just how different you are (externally) from others is sometimes a really tough one. I love the look of plain dress, from the hijab of my muslim sisters to the plain dress of christian sisters, plain dress truly makes my heart sing...

MarilynAnn said...

PS, the advice about getting your colours is spot on. It transformed me many years ago, and has saved me tons of money.

My husband got his done and is a big fan as well.

On a retreat with several Roman Catholic nuns recently I discovered they had all had their colours done. They said it was perfectly in accordance with the spiritual life to avoid colours which drained the appearance, and to use those which gave the wearer and the observer a lift to the spirits.

Especially in pastoral work with very sad people.

Nothing to do with vanity at all.


Ember said...

Thank you all for your interesting and wonderful comments!

Hi Fi! Lovely to hear from you :0)
Yes, favourite faces - old adage, but 'Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.'

Hi Linda! :0) Colours make a world of difference!

Hi Lynda - Plain dress needs to be a real call, I think, because it it has a surprisingly strong energy. It doesn't stop at the clothes, spiritual changes start happening with a very powerful current to them. It's important to be clear about one's calling.

Hi Joanie - actually, I would love to hear your conviction story some day :0)

Hi Michelle - what a difficult condition for you to bear. I bet stress makes it worse too? You must have had to be very brave about it at times. God bless you.

Hi MarilynAnn - 'Hairstyle with attitude' ! Now I want a picture!

Hi Mags :0) Yes, I remember those gorgeous shoes!

Hi Kate :0) Yes, that's just how I feel about Plain dress - makes my heart sing too x

Yvonna said...

Ember, I just wanted to let you know how much your posts encourage me. God's Blessing's to you Always~~~

Ember said...

Thank you, Yvonna :0) Waving from England!

Leah Morgan said...

I see comparing plain dress to a backless dress and to tight jeans with a cropped top two opposite extremes of the pendulum, both out of step with culture. One races ahead of it with a fierce rebellion, the other digs in its heals with equal stubbornness attracting the same attention for lagging behind. Extremes are rarely as wise as moderation.
I was raised in one extreme because of the damnation sure to come upon me should I fall to the other. I was frumpy to keep from being a harlot; I was taught that scripture compelled me thus lest I incite a male to lust.
What I learned by actually embracing and meditating upon scripture was that God is the Creator of beauty and spares no flourish from His hand in color, texture, and feature. The earth and so many of His breathing creatures testify to this. I read of God comparing His love for Israel to a lover wooing his beloved, gifting her with jewelry, which adornment was strictly forbidden to me.(Ezekial 16) In another reading I see Him associating women to adornment as we would link salt to pepper and peanut butter to jelly when He says, "Can a maid forget her ornaments?" A rhetorical no is implied. The beautifying efforts of females appears to be an understood and accepted behavior. (Jeremiah 2:32)
Years of pondering led me to understand that my male pastors feared beauty and could never disassociate it from sexuality. Any effort to beautify ourselves was always equated to seduction.
I look to God's creation and see the male species often being the object of beauty. The gobbler fans his tail, struts, and becomes colorful of face when he's trying to attract a mate. The male cardinal sports a flashy red while his female counterpart flies about in a paper bag tan. And the notorious peacock plumage? It belongs to the male.
But visit any museum and rarely will you find a nude of a man. In humanity it is clear which gender reflects this aspect of God's character called beauty. Women by their very form possess a beauty that man can not. With that realization comes power and with that power comes the ability to abuse it, stifle and deny it, or enhance it.
I was almost to my fourth decade of living before I recognized these truths and determined to stifle and deny my femininity no longer. Because I care about purity of heart I have no desire to exploit my female assets for the purpose of luring admirers but I do care about maintenance and I find the care of my mind and soul difficult to disassociate from the care of my body. The outward manifestations of my inner workings are an expression of gratitude and an outlet for my own desire to create. Clothes offer a canvas to craft beauty in texture, color, and shape that feels every bit like worship to the God of beauty as does my appreciation for the offerings He produces for my viewing pleasure in His far superior demonstrations.
God could have given us grey apples that retain the same nutrients for living as is necessary and set them to grow in a field of black against a white sky but He gave us color to delight us. He gives beyond what we need and supplies joy for the simple delight of our eyes. Just yesterday while walking I found myself saying over and over, "Thank you God for my sight."
I loved what He'd done there with the landscape; its shape, its color, they were perfect.
I must respond in kind. My very soul cries out for me to make an effort at presenting myself in a manner that portrays what I feel: I am joyful, I am grateful, I am a willing steward of God's bounty.

Ember said...

Hi Leah. Yes, I think it must be very disappointing for God if we refuse to celebrate the femininity that is His gift to us. I find that colour and pretty things are important to me, and looking around at the flowers coming now in the spring, it seems like they're important to God too.

Asta Lander said...
I have quoted a couple of bits from your blog here. I was really encouraged by what you shared. Thank you Penelope. It helped support me in what I was thinking.

Ember said...

:0) Hi Asta - lovely to hear from you - I liked the blog post you wrote and entirely agree with what you said there about faces without make-up often looking fresher.

Asta Lander said...

Thank you for taking the time to look at my blog. Yes once I noticed that those without makeup looked fresher - I was more confident to take off mine.

Ember said...

:0) I've noticed this too - in older ladies especially.

Anonymous said...

even those of us in plain communities struggle with feeling "frumpy" and different esp. if you have alot of non plain friends. very interesting blog, i enjoyed reading it.

Ember said...

:0) Thank you, friend. God bless you x

Ember said...

Post from Anekha that I think I inadvertently deleted - sorry Anekha! - it went like this:

"Thank you again for insightful blog. More food for thought for this Bahai who feels compelled to dress with more awareness, modesty, and be freed from the need to adorn this soul with things that detract from its true essence. Having just turned 30 I have reached an age where I no longer look good in a hessian sack, and some clothes actually don't look good anymore. I thought a lot of my insecurities were some sort of I just turned 30 vanity funk, but now i realise it comes from deper spiritual yearning to adorn myself with my deeds and not with my clothes, and to dress in a manner that more clearly lets my virtues flourish and my spirit shine through. And yes, I would look rather frumpy in a lot of the clothes I am drawn too, but I thin that it probably okay. There is a fashion called mori girl from japan that drew my attention about clothes and fashion being a more internal than external experience. We can dress for ourselves rather than how we look more how we feel. So I am finding if the fabrics are soft and the textures beautiful, the fall of the dress feminine and the fit comfortable, I feel very beautiful and comfortable and relaxed and so I think i look nice! And yes, my husband never pays attention to what I wear just as Tony said, more to how I feel and how I am. I think that media ideal that men only see how we look is a total myth. Men are rather sensitive beautiful creatures, just in different ways to us. Warm Regards : ) "

Ember said...

That's really interesting, Anekha, about Mori Girl fashion in Japan! I'd never heard of it before.

I now get most of my clothes from the Lands'End mail-order company. In cool/cold weather my everyday garment (top half) is a polo-necked fleece in a solid plain, quiet colour (dark blue, green or one of various shades of brown). On my bottom half I wear in winter fleece trousers or in less cold weather dark brown trousers, or in summer beige or grey cropped trousers. But I am not entirely happy in trousers - I would prefer to wear skirts. I just can't find any that are exactly what I want for the everyday. I have some of the jersey fabric maxi skirts (I no longer get anything I need to iron)and they are sort of OK but not quite. Work in progress. x

Anekha said...

Hi Ember,
Thanks for putting my comment back up : )
My thoughts on plain dress have evolved somewhat. what i have taken away is the advice on dress from my Faith, to not be a 'plaything of the ignorant'. so now I am less worried about plain colour or fabric or so on, but considering, where does this garment come from? who made it? was it made with justice and integrity? How much is it worth at manufacture and how much am I being asked to pay for it? How long will it last? and does it actually practically serve the purposes of my lifestyle? Does it fit well? you may have gathered that most clothes in stores do have favourable answers to these questions so I am resolved to learn to sew and knit our clothes so they will be hardy, honest garments we can wear. I am sure they will also be simple, but pleasant to look at, and modest. They will be designed to fit and suit the people who wear them and the climate and life we lead. Somehow modesty seems less important in this context. In some ways it would seem more virtuous to me to go naked than to wear some of these clothes. But of course, I am not so brave enough to do that but rather stick to my second hand and simple clothes for the meantime. : )

Anekha said...

oh and by the way I have found some lovely what i think are plain clothes on etsy. I favour linen dresses and I think I want to learn to sew some. There are so many sellers on etsy that make lovely but plain linen shirt dresses that are practical and would not stand out too much in Australia and i imagine the UK also. I also would love some long woollen skirts. I am favouring maxi skirts also and wearing them with large mens jumpers to keep warm and loose shirts and cotton scarfs. I really feel very comfortable and I think I look nice too.
I am not sure how to post links but this is a link to my pinterest board where I have documented my exploration and ideas on how I can adopt plain dress in a modern sense. In case you are interested.
PS: I have started to write my first novel... you inspire me in that too. The discipline of it is hard, I am going so slowly : )

Ember said...

Oh my goodness! Anekha! I should NEVER have looked at your Pinterest board! Such lovely, lovely clothes! Nothing could be more beautiful and feminine.
I think there is more than one understanding of "modest" too. If dresses are quiet and unassuming and not of diaphanous fabric, then I don't see it matters if they have a cape front or a neck right up to the throat.
Petticoats are an issue for me - I find it annoying to have to sort and iron and store several garments, and when I walk fast the petticoat and skirt often adhere to each other and get in a muddle.
So the skirts I have made for myself, if they are thin material (from an old sheet, for example)I make them a double thickness, back to back, so they are warmer, reversible, and not see-through.

Well done for starting your novel! let me know how you get on :0) God bless the work! x

Asta Lander said...

Oh my goodness Anekha I love your pinterest board. I have repinned half of it. I could have repinned all of it! I love every single outfit. You have marvellous taste. I am doing a fashion fast - no new clothing (including secondhand) for 365 days. That includes underwear and shoes etc. I can swap and borrow, that's it. I have only done this for just over a month. Something interesting is happening: I am learning what I really, really love and when I do finally buy I will buy what I have longed for during my fast - and yes I too long to have my values matched to my purchases, most especially 'justice and integrity'. Thanks for helping me on my journey. I am utterly inspired. Asta x

Ember said...

Absolutely, Asta! Drool . . .

Anekha said...

Hi Asta and Ember,
Thanks for the compliments. It is of course a fantasy wardrobe for a massive dreamer.
I really do enjoy my fantasy pinterest wardrobe. Feel free to enjoy it too. while my real wardrobe has some nice clothes too, the fantasy one is epic! it has definite positive points.
1. it is massive and infinitely expandable to suit my whims.
2. it is free. I get the full satisfaction of all the pretty things without paying for it.
3. as it does not exist I don't get so impotently self-righteous about the ethics of its manufacture
4. I don't have to wash any of it so I don't care how many of the clothes would be labelled handwash separately dry flat in the shade
5. i don't need a gigantic wardrobe to store it.
6. all the clothes will last forever without any of the buttons falling off, zippers breaking, hems fraying,
7. everything is incredibly flattering to my fantasy figure haha.
8. anyone can borrow what they like whenever they like. Take anything you want Asta.
I am a bit torn by my appreciation for the unadorned beautiful pure spirit and my magpie like tendency to love pretty things, interesting patterns, bright colours and lovely textures. I also wonder if it cannot be a way to honour the beauty of the world and God's creation to adorn oneself in his creations, I don't know. Clearly I am a flibbertygibberty unsure person when it comes to all this. work in progress : )
Who knew clothing could provide such fuel for philosophical discovery... who needs rugged mountaintops and isolated temples?

Ember said...

:0) Thanks for those good thoughts, Anekha!

lettersfromthestreet said...

I found this blog post via a link on the "Plainness and Simplicity" group on Thank you for sharing these thoughts. I find it helpful to know what other modern plain people are dealing with. I recently posted a series of essays on plainness on my blog and, if so inclined, you might like to read them. If you do, I hope you will leave a comment, I would like very much to encounter your response.

I've subscribed to your RSS feed and now I'm going to go read some of your other posts. Thanks again.

Ember said...

Hello friend - thanks so much for stopping by to comment. I'm a little pressed for time at this exact minute, but wanted to get your comment published so you knew it had not been ignored! So I have not read in your blog carefully and thoughtfully enough to comment, but I have looked at (and liked) the latest two or three posts - especially I stopped at "Character is what you do when no one is watching" in the post on Plain Life, loving that definition.

God bless you - so good to meet you.

Anonymous said...

"ambulant rummage sale" - too. funny.
Lovely post.

Ember said...


Jane said...

What a lovely post!
I've seen alot of "frumpy" people in the world today. People who walk through WalMart with the sweat pants and their bellies haning out, now that's frumpy!

Pen Wilcock said...



Anne said...

I am not too good at sticking with a particular clothing style. I have some I love and will not part with, but don't want to wear them every single day. So I am still working on it. But at least the charity shop is doing well because of my failed attempts. Wearing only one style just feels too much like a uniform to me. I think that is what bothers me. Also when the husband would rather wait in the car than be seen with me, that's not the vision of plain I had in mind. I guess some notice more than others.

Pen Wilcock said...

I think over time it will unfold - what is right for thee. x