Monday, 20 February 2012

Pinheaded me

365 366 Day 51

Nobody has that much hair, right?

When I was wearing Plain dress and had long hair, I had a whole big pot of hairpins (still have them, not quite sure what to do with them; these ones were still new enough to go to the charity shop), both to do up my hair and to keep my kapps in place.  

I liked the appearance of Plain dress, its beautiful modesty and gracefulness, but I found it not simple.  The dresses, aprons, kapps and petticoats all needed ironing and took up a lot of space to store (and bag space when travelling).  The outer garments (cloaks, appropriate woollies etc) were relatively bulky.    

Washing and drying my hair (which is very thick) had to be planned and considered, especially if it all had to be pinned up again by the time I went out.  In short, I found Plain occupied more space in my life than I felt it should.  And it attracted attention constantly – everywhere I went people stared at me in the street.  

The way I dress now follows the same principles of modesty, humility, quietness, plainness, utility and simplicity; but more effectively (for me; others may find differently).  My short hair is quick and easy to wash and dry.  My clothes are fewer and occupy a small space.  I no longer own an ironing board and rarely use an iron.  Travelling is easy and light.  I’ve got rid of the big mirror for checking all was well.  I can walk through the world with the invisibility that comes naturally to me; no-one sees me any more. 

And, which is important to me, how I dress now doesn’t take up any head-space.  I was startled, dressing Plain, to discover how much time I and other ladies devoted to thinking about headgear and underwear, skirt length and fabric composition, sourcing bobby pins and sewing modesty panels on petticoats, Quaker styles and Amish styles and Mennonite styles &c.  I felt it was not really what I came here to do.  I also didn’t enjoy the put-downs and value judgements among modest-dressing women regarding other ladies dressing differently (in short skirts, short hair, leggings, skimpy tops and high heels).  Personally I don’t mind if people walk the world naked – I really do believe it is the heart that is the issue and the seat of holiness, and that dress codes do not reveal it. 

Having said that, if I had not dressed Plain awhile I would not be where I am now because this is where the path led me, and I would not have met some dear and interesting and in some cases admirable people.  I’m not anti-Plain now; I still find it attractive and still find it speaks to me.  I miss the way it admonished me every day, reminding me of gentleness, the teachable and submissive spirit, especially in relation to my husband.  I love the other aspects of Plain life - the candour, the frugality, the prayer, the implicit unity, the closeness to the land, the gelassenheit, kindness and humility, faith as the determining principle in all decisions, the rootedness in the holy Bible.  I think too, if someone is raised Plain it’s obvious and natural they dress to fit in.  And if someone feels called Plain, it’s right they submit to the heart’s call.   

Be all that as it may, obviously I no longer need the hairpins.


maria said...

Thank you for this my friend! Thank you for your candor and your openness to speak about an issue that has so many ladies confused and in some cases, angry.

Like you, clothing is very personal. It is how you are led to dress and that is that.

In my case, I choose to dress differently but not Plain. I can't. It is not me at all. I LOVE color! I enjoy having different textures on my body and to feel them about me during my day.

I am looked at differently not because of my dress, but because of who I am. In a small town, I don't blend in. I have dark skin, long curly hair and I speak to everyone! So yes, I am looked at as a bit of an oddity :=D This is fine for me, since I was created to be this way and I accept myself completely.

My faith is stronger knowing myself better and accepting myself also. Oh, my styles are simple and easy to take care off...but Plain was not for me either.

Thank you sweet Ember for sharing... and no, you do not need hairpins with the wash and go hair you are now sporting :)


Bean said...

I agree with your comments about plain dressing. I dress modestly, only skirts and dresses, wear my hair long, but nothing that stands out. I have received questions about why I only wear skirts, but I don't really feel it is anyone's business, I don't ask them why they only wear jeans!
I have noticed that bloggers who choose to dress plain, but are not part of a community of plain dressers, do seem to obsess about it. When you are part of a community, all of whom dress alike, you don't stand out by dressing plain, in fact you would stand out by not dressing plain. But if you have never dressed plain, have not joined a plain community, and simply feel called to dress in a copycat amish/mennonite/hutterite/hasidic/ tradition, even though you are not a part of any of those traditions, you are not really being plain, you are simply choosing to dress differently.
I think it can really put a huge strain on a family if one individual, often times the wife, suddenly decides to dress say as an amish woman, yet the rest of her family are not on board with the decision. The humbleness of submitting to a community and dressing alike to conform is completely lost when an individual decides to follow this path alone and their plain attire makes them stand out from their family and community rather than conform.
You are correct, it is what is in the heart that counts.

Pen Wilcock said...

Interesting thoughts, friends!
Maria - your hair is GLORIOUS!

Bean - I love skirts and dresses, and when younger used to wear them almost exclusively. Now my legs are fatter in middle age, trousers have become more practical. But I love the beautiful femininity of skirts.

Michelle-ozark crafter said...

You have to find the place that is right for you sweetie. My hair is much thinner than it once was and I wash it in the evening since I go nowhere at night and it is dry by bed since I am a night owl. I keep what I wear pretty simple, a dress and maybe or maybe not an apron, black stockings and shoes and a simple white kapp. I have a simple way to put up my hair so it takes no time to do. I have also gone from a closet full of clothes to 6 dresses which is plenty for me. But I will tell you it did take me awhile to figure out what would work good for me. Huggles.

Pen Wilcock said...

Yes - that's exactly right Michelle! It takes awhile to feel the way through to one's own path, what sits right with one's own calling.

Ganeida said...

Plainess wears many faces. If I wear my hair short, as I did for many years, I need hairdresser appointments, money to pay for the short cut that suits my features, time out of my schedule to organise all these things ~ none of which makes me happy. Long, it is a no fuss arrangement. A covering is useful if I haven't had time to wash my hair. No~one ever knows.

Most of my household is also hypo~allergic to just about everything modern so clothing is chosen first & foremost on whether we break out in hives or not. No hives? Good to go! It limits. I wear kameze because they are modest & all cotton [no reaction], otherwise Ts & trackies because they are cheap, durable, easy to wear & modest. I can't wear stockings [react to nylon ~ so dresses & skirts are mostly out.]

BY default I have formed a plainness position ~ but not the usual one. One thing I have come to think [subject to change or more Light upon the situation] is that Christians are meant to stand out [salt & light] therefore any attention becomes a testimony & a witness for the Hope within us. I also think the outward reflects the inward journey ~ at least when it follows from the Spirit's promptings rather than the urgings of man.

Nothing is set in stone; all is subject to change as the Spirit moves.

Pen Wilcock said...

Oh, thank you Ganeida! Such food for thought there!
The outer journey reflecting the inner journey has always been a motivator in Plain dress, and I think is absolutely true.
The standing out is an interesting one. As I read the (Conservative) Quaker and Amish and Hutterite approach (I think the Mennonites would be the same), and the monastic approach similarly, they feel the community of believers should stand out as a sign of contradiction in the world, but the individual should be effaced. they go to some lengths to see that the individual does not draw attention to him/herself in any way.
Even when one goes to some lengths to be effaced though, one does still stand out as a believer. People are forever coming up to our family and saying "Who are you? No, but where are you from?" in a puzzled kind of way, because they can see we look . . . different; and can't put their finger on why. We think it may be the time to reply simply "Narnia."

Rapunzel said...

Ember, you may occasionally miss the swish of long skirts, but I'm sure you'll Never miss the ironing or the hairpins. (or the hair).
I began a form of plain dress in 2007 as a project for my BFA in textile design. Not having any conviction that God called me to dress this way, and not having any involvment with anyone who dresses like I do I never felt any reason to cover my hair. So I've missed out on the whole cap-wearing experience. I did have my hair quite long for awhile (about down to my waist) not for religious reasons, but because the mister loves long hair. I hated it mostly, it was constantly in the way until it grew long enough to put in a bun. I wore it up all the time and concluded a good snug bun looks a lot like NOT having much hair at all. So I chopped it all off and happiness was restored.
After a brief return to jeans in the early part of 2008 I returned to my homemade dresses. Still not because I fancy God wants me to or even cares what I wear, but because these are the clothes that feel "like me".
In high school in the '70's the style here was mini-skirts and "hot pants" and I thought both looked idiotic. They were all the shops had, so I learned to sew and made myself dresses right down to my shoe tops. I was the only girl in the school wearing long dresses, and I honestly didn't give a flying fig what anyone thought about it.

I smile at Bean saying bloggers who dress plain but are not part of a plain community "seem to obsess about".
The smile is because
1-it seems true to me.
2-women obsess about clothes in general. If we're not obsessing about plain dress then we're obsessing about the perfectly fitting jeans, or whether wearing black will make us look slim, or which heel height is right for dressy trousers. Obsessing about clothing is one of the ways of participating in the culture of women. (which is what my BFA Plain Dress project was planned to analyze and document)
3-Bloggers Obsess. Obsession and the sharing of obsessions is what the blogosphere is for. Comparing obsessions is probably a vital part of the path to enlightenment.

Pen Wilcock said...


Love it! Such good sense!

Elin said...

I loved this post.

I can relate to both obsessing and becoming judgemental unfortunately. I had problems with both at the beginning of my journey into covering and modest dress. I think part of why it is so easy to judge is that your own frame of reference changes to much and for me so fast. I went from being totally OK in a bikini on a public beach to feeling insecure if I exposed too much in a quite modest bathing suit and shorts that went below the knee and I could no longer understand why a woman would go into town in a tiny skirt and a top that showed her stomage.

It just felt like everyone else was in their underwear and it confused and disgusted me and I became judgemental. I obsessed over my own clothes and not wanting to be like 'them' until I finally relized that this was not good for me and did nothing for my spirituality and I decided to step back and not put up rules for my dress that were not necessary. I finally settled on almost the same dress that I wore during this awful period but with an allowance to make compromises and a freedom to not feel that the compromises were something wrong but just 'where I am at the moment spiritually' and that I should be OK with being there until God says otherwise and not rush. A form of waiting on God one might say.

When it comes to plain it is an ongoing process. I do what I can at the moment but my life is filled with things that distract me from that route.

Pen Wilcock said...

Oh, Elin, such wisdom and sanity! Thank you! x

Donna said...

No way... Are these verification words really random? Or is this a joke? I have no comment to make at the moment, but the verification words are "clothes" and "hatFree"!

Pen Wilcock said...

You're tuning in . . .

Revsandy said...

I took like to dress simply and comfortably but vain enough to want to look elegant in colours that suit me. I make some of my clothes very cheaply and also shop on Oxfams wonderful online shop. My problem is that my husband is Town Mayor until May and I have to wear some serious diamonds in the Mayoress chain - worth over £100,000. I find it very difficult to enjoy wearing them.

Pen Wilcock said...

Goodness me! I think I'd be scared that somehow I'd manage to lose it or break it before I managed to hand it on to the next unlucky soul!