Monday, November 15, 2010
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.