"Friends, keep out of the vain fashions of the world; let not your eyes, minds, and spirits run after every fashion (in attire) of the nations; for that will lead you from the solid life into unity with that spirit that leads to follow the fashions of the nations, after every fashion of apparel that gets up: but mind that which is sober and modest, and keep to your plain fashions, that you may judge the World, . . ."
- George Fox
While the issue of plain dress today continues to be a matter of personal leading among Friends, it is an issue that must be worked out individually . Paul wrote in 1 Thessalonians 5:21, "Prove all things; hold fast that which is good." Understanding that each of us is led individually to serve God as He wills, it becomes an issue of faith to follow as Christ leads and be obedient to the promptings of the Holy Spirit to therefore hold fast that which is good, even if one stands alone.
This discernment process transcends issues of worldly fashions, group dynamics or individual opinions because it is a calling of a very personal and spiritual nature. When led by Christ we must obediently follow and not allow ourselves to be influenced by the world or our peers. Though most Friends in this day and age do not feel called to plain dress, there are those who do - and that calling is very difficult to deny and is even more difficult for some to make a "logical" argument or defense for.
It may help to know the minds of other Quakers who faced this concern in their lives. I found reassurance in the writings of Friends of both old and new. It was comforting to know that others were similarly challenged and edifying to learn their view points. Elizabeth Gurney Fry, a Quaker humanitarian (1780-1845) wrote, "I used to think and do now how little dress matters. But I find it almost impossible to keep to the principles of Friends without altering my dress and speech. . . They appear to me a sort of protector to the principles of Christianity in the present state of the world."
Kenneth Morse (1898 - 1982), wrote about Quakers that: "They endeavored to keep a single eye unto the Lord, desiring his approval rather than the praise of men. They were therefore not conformed to the world, and did not follow the changing fashion of the world."
Then, there are the testimonies of plain Friends today that are a witness to the leading of the Holy Spirit in their lives in matters of plain dress and conservative Christianity. This web site has a wealth of such information.
If this is an issue thee faces in thy life - take heart, God will guide thee! It is important to bring this concern to God through Christ in prayer and seek to know His will for you. Await guidance and the Holy Spirit will lead thee one way or the other. Remember, there is no single "right" answer for all Friends - God's will for thee may be very different than for someone else. We are individually called to serve Him and are individually accountable for our service to Him. Once discernment is clear and if thee is led to plain dress, there are a variety of options for the person seeking plain clothing.
Ever seek to know His will and plain dress or no, let the words of Christ illuminate thy life in all matters - "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven." - Matthew 5:16
- Kimberly Anne Makela