Go mbeannai Dia duit.

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Quaker by conviction, mother by default, Celticst through love, Christ follower because I once was lost but now am found...

Monday, November 15, 2010

Clothes are inevitable.  They are nothing less than the furniture of the mind made visible.  ~James Laver

Ember has been doing Plain Dress November ~ something I am far too brain fatigued by this time of the year to engage in in a scintillating & brilliant manner but I do have one or two thoughts on the matter. Firstly I am going to define my parameters because *plain* seems to have come to mean something in particular: Amish or Mennonite or Quaker derived; long dresses for the women & a prayer covering. I have absolutely no argument with this whatsoever. I think the women look beautiful & godly & I understand plain dress as a testimony & a witness. It is not however how I define *plain*.

By plain I mean what is simple, unassuming, unpretentious & practical. So firstly I don't wear dresses because I do not find them practical. Little ones clambering all over you have a habit of scrunching a skirt up higher than modesty allows for. Running in a skirt [& I do run] is liable to land me face first in the dirt with the sort of scrapes to put me out of action for a while ~ & I cannot afford to be out of action, however temporarily. Where we live, which is steep & waterbound, is not conducive to swanning around in a skirt ~ as anyone who has tried to negotiate a bouncing dinghy on a blustery day in a skirt can testify.

So, no skirts; no dresses. I wear pants, always long, even in summer, which has my daughters rolling their eyes & telling me I'm a nutter because the thermometer has peaked at 45C & it is too stinking hot for long pants. Whatever. I like my pants long. I don't think I even thought about this much because I very rarely buy anything new at all. What I looked for first was practical in the context of who I am & the sort of things I generally do in the course of a day. As a homeschooling mamma I sit a lot. My core body temperature tends to be cool so even in summer I chill quickly & easily. I garden ~ an Australian garden full of prickly shrubby things. I do at least a minimum amount of housework ~ & I am owned by two cats & five children who need me for all sorts of odd things.

What I have ended up with for everyday wear is neither glamorous nor fashionable. Generally I can be found paddling round in trackpants & a long T. This is exceedingly plain. My trackies are usually dark & my Ts an unadorned, solid colour. If I get cool, which happens a lot, I throw on a jacket. That's it. I have other things I occasionally wear like salwar kameeze [& I would wear these more if I could make my own] but I tend to keep them aside for going out.

Now I am not about my dress being a witness. I am about living on the planet lightly. That is part of being plain. My trackies cost under $10~, Ts under $5~. They last me for years & years & I am known for wearing my clothing past the point of wearability. I hate shopping so I like to reduce the amount of time I spend in shopping malls ~ with all the other temptations of bookstalls & slick new canvases. I like to reduce the amount of money spent on clothing so durability is important & the money saved can go for more important things than vanity. Things that neither catch nor tear easily are plain ~ they will last longer. Things that wash & wear without too much fuss & bother are plain ~ better for the ecosystem. Things that don't draw attention to oneself are plain ~ where this clashes with other convictions such as the prayer veiling the stronger conviction wins! Modesty is plain ~ all the bits that need covering are covered. Nor does this clothing draw unwanted attention so is unassuming in itself. I am comfortable, warm & able to go about my day with a minimum of fuss & bother. That is plain.

Many of my ideas on plainness were formed more than 20 years ago when I first came across Richard Foster's book on Simplicity. Of learning to need less. Of learning to let go of want. Of learning to let go: of what is useless, of what is clutter, of what is unnecessary. This does not mean there is no room for beauty. It means choosing more carefully so that utilitarian items are also beautiful in themselves. The Celts understood this too & made their household items for beauty as well as practical use. Simplicity applies to clothing. Simple, unpretentious clothing that allows the wearer to go about their everyday tasks with ease of movement & maximum effectiveness. That is to be plain, whether one wears a dress or not.


Linda said...

I liked what you said about your core body temperature. This is me. We had a top of 21 today, which under my comfort zone. Though I am getting better.

My clothes need replacing. I had to get some jeans, they are the newer style, so fall down slightly, not practical like ones I have had before at all. Always worried about getting them dirty, jeans? Maybe people have forgotten what jeans are for lol. I have five kids and I wear things that are easy to wash mostly, and where you can clean in them and everything really. I do have capris in summer, not sure I like them this year. Maybe they are going out of fashion? On 46° days I found without airconditioning a shirt better, but would prefer t-shirts as you know if you bend well I am still covered. I have finally thought I look better in a scoop neck t-shirt, vanity yes. But I am very bothered by the fact that you never know if you are covered all the time so probably will go back to the higher neck. I think money will win out over vanity for me, I will have to stick to my not perfect coloured (one colour) t-shirts this year that were from ebay.

alecat said...

I'm all for practicality and simplicity. I think it was my Mum who taught me that.

All you need are a couple of nice A-line skirts if you're going out, pants in a neutral colour, and a nice variety of clean, unfancied tops.
Layer up if it's cold rather than buying a completely different summer & winter wardrobe.

I pretty much have stuck to that my whole life, with some exceptions to a few nice dresses bought over the years. :)

Jo said...

I enjoy buying clothes and as I work need a working collection for each season. But I do use Ebay to find long skirts, often at bargain price and like to buy clothes that on sale. It isn't hard to find bargains these days when every shop having a sale a lot of the time.

Gerry Snape said...

I'm with you there. Love the work of Richard Foster. Read and reread many years ago. Thanks .

Julie said...

I have also read and reread Foster....your post reminded me that maybe it's time to pull out "Prayer: Finding the Heart's True Home" again. God bless your day, Ganeida - I always love what you share.

Ember said...

:0) Sounds good to me!

I am with Alecat on the layering. In the UK, every season is different and even within the season temperatures can vary a lot, so I have loads of layers in the winter and shed them as required, going down to just a long-sleeved crew-neck T under a jumper (pinafore dress UK) in the summer.

Your post made me realise, I don't run much any more. Old and fat and tired I guess. But I am finding long loose dresses as practical for active stuff as trousers - in fact more so than jeans, cos they don't threaten to cut me in half when I bend over!!

Something I have found mega-useful is having 2 big patch pockets on the front of all my dresses - does for clothes pegs, handbag (purse US), stashing curtain hooks while balancing on back of sofa trying to fix curtains, and many other etceteras.

I fully agree Plain has to be practical :0)

Ganeida said...

Linda: practicality first in clothing. I've given up on jeans. As Ember says they cut me in half when I bend ~ but my physique is not what it once was either. ☺ My youngest has trouble with the QLD heat & staying modest. We are still working on a solution for that.

alecat: layering is good ~ only i end up with so many layers I can barely walk & I'm still cold.

Jo: Again practicalities. You work & require a working wardrobe. I don't any more ~ well not outside the home.

Gerry: I love Foster. I can read him & understand what he's saying! So refreshing.

Julie: Thank you. It's nice to be appreciated. ☺

Ember: I don't think I've finished. I have been thinking about what you're writing about & am about to go off on a slight tangent ~ but not today. To~day I'm on the mainland. You made me realise one reason I like pants is they almost always have decent sized pockets & I always like to keep my hands free. Dresses tangle round my legs & trip me up. Mind you, I'm pretty clumsy on occasion. Oh ~ & there's just plain paranoia. What if the boat goes down? Ever tried swiming in a skirt?

The HoJo's said...

which takes me off on a tangent too.... I have never had the opportunity to have a summer and a winter wardrobe, these lovely people who pack away summer clothes for winter, what do they wear under a jumper when they are chilly? surely a lightweight , um, summery top? have you never needed a winter jumper or fleece on a summer evening? I suspect I have more clothes than is good for me and have succumbed to a dress or 2 in Oz that I didn't ever buy in the UK but still wear pretty much the same all year with seasonal adjustments.....see, tangent


Anonymous said...

I remember your overalls fondly. Still think they are one of the most practical items of clothing ever designed; is just a shame (for me) that I look distinctly odd in them. As odd = drawing attention, which is something I try to avoid, I make do with other, hopefully less odd looks.

I like your (and Richard Foster's) definition of simplicity, though I don't know how you've managed to keep details of this book out of my orbit for so long. Guess I was into excess dressing for the corporate look in the 80s...


seekingmyLord said...

I am catching up again, spending most of my computer time working on recovering my data and trying to restore my old hard drive. It is going fairly well now, as well as these things can go, that is.

I have a blog post in draft on this very subject that I think I started about two months ago and just never got to look for, well, I am not sure when I will get to it, probably unfashionably late but eventually!