In my Beachy-Amish younger days I was taught that following the fads and fashions of the world was a very bad thing, and so we had a very specific, prescribed style of dress that we wore which was simple, modest and economical and most definitely did not follow the fads and fashions of the world.
Except it sort of did, what with polyester doubleknit when that was about the only fabric you could buy, and all the little details we tried to get away with when those were "in" in worldly garments.
Which meant that the church fathers' purposes were kind of defeated, because if you got a grocery sack full of hand-me-down dresses, it was OBVIOUS which ones were from ten years ago, even if they were all solid colored, with capes, and you didn't wear them unless you were desperate.
So I wore the dresses the church prescribed with whatever embellishments I had the patience to sew, that I thought I could get by with.
Today I am in an admittedly-boring groove with clothes. I wear Mennonite clothes--long skirts and high necklines but not solid-color capes. Mostly I wear what I do because it's affordable, durable, warm, reasonably pretty, appropriate for the occasion, and of classic style to wear until it wears out. And did I mention warm? Warm is important.
I wear a lot of long denim skirts, long khaki skirts, long-sleeved t-shirts from Lands End, and corduroy jackets from Christopher and Banks. Or sweaters.
These days, the Beachy-Amish are more fashionable than me. I am just trying to stay warm.
I am not following the fads and fashions of this world, I don't believe.
We plan to go to Thailand again this summer. The dress code at the Bible school there is one-piece dresses or jumpers. And the climate is HOT. Which means I need cool, loose, cotton dresses. Which I don't have. Which means I have to think and plan about clothes. Which I don't enjoy.
There's a lady in my life that I feel somewhat responsible for, and she also needs dresses. In the Sunday paper there was an ad for inexpensive dresses. So I ordered three.
And I realized two things. One is that I have a prejudice against large sizes. I ordered the dresses in size 5X and felt compelled to explain to the guy on the phone that these were not for me. Wow. Like it mattered.
The other is that I am more fashion-conscious than I knew.
I took a good look at the ad. What was keeping me from ordering these dresses for me to wear in Thailand?
They were loose and cottony and long enough. The sleeves were long enough. I could easily bring the neck up to code.
I liked the purple print.
They were economical and it would be good stewardship to buy a few and forget about sewing.
They would be nice and breezy in that awful heat.
BUT NO WAY WAS I GOING TO BUY THOSE DRESSES FOR MYSELF.
I asked myself why. Why in the world did it matter, what with starving children in the world and all that?
But NO WAY.
Not unless I lived entirely among blind people.
I asked my girls what they thought.
Emily: "Oh my. Those are dresses? Not housecoats or hospital gowns? I mean, if you wore a wide cinchy belt and a cute cardigan MAYBE you could make a dress like this presentable IF you could find an ok print."
"What sort of person does it make you think of?" I said.
Emily: [something negative-stereotyped about the sort of horizontally challenged people who do not take care of themselves hygienically and whose feet go slap slap slap when they walk]"And bad breath."
There have been many garments--such as denim jeans--that made the transition from practical and ugly to the height of fashion.
How would we all react if the skinny young moms of this land would all start wearing these dresses? And posting Instagram shots of themselves wearing them with cute sandals and sunglasses?
Like Shelley the niece over at Frame of Mind.
We would all think, "Oh, ok. I guess I was all mixed up. They ARE pretty, really, kind of."
So, are we all slaves to fashion?
Or are clothes actually more like costumes, telling people who we are and what we do and how we feel about ourselves and our place in society?
In which case it behooves us to be careful what we wear.
I'd love to hear from you: why do you wear what you wear, REALLY?
And in closing, we have this shot:
I bought a pretty, cottony skirt at Goodwill that was very large so it had enough fabric to turn it into a Thailand-dress for Jenny or me. Some brilliant Smucker mind had an idea and this is what resulted. It's too bad Amy wasn't here. There was room for her, too.