Friday, October 12, 2007

lusting after my own cuteness

This semester was the first semester that I have taught in consciously modern plain clothing. Although I set aside two skirts that hit above the knee, my closet is purged of all but long, plain-colored skirts, practical pants and plain-colored tops in practical colors. I have purchased sensible shoes to replace my cute high heels and wear black stockings rather than the cute pattern print or fish nets that used to spice up my outfits.

This hasn't been enough. I'm looking to get rid of collars and buttons next. They are impractical and require fussing which I don't want anymore. I know that when people see me, they don't think of me as a spiritual person. They don't want to share their own spiritual stories with me. They probably look at me and think, "What a frumpy woman." I'm not obvious enough. When out in the world, I often wish I could dress more plainly and admire the local Mennonite women. I even bought a Mennonite dress on ebay but found that it was made of an artificial material that would surely make me feel all smelly and icky if I were to wear it and do anything other than sit perfectly still all day. Also, after putting it on, I just didn't look like myself. I looked like a Mennonite. I'm not a Mennonite. I'm not even a Christian. I want to be a plain woman whose garments speak a silent testimony about the rejection of capitalism and about deep respect for the environment. I don't want people to think that I'm submissive to my husband. Oh well.

What would a plain Pagan Quaker look like? I continue to go over this as I try to answer this call. I'm thinking that she would wear long skirts not necessarily for modesty but because they allow a person to move freely and comfortably. It would help me give up shaving my legs (at least most of the time) and would satisfy my love of historical costume. A plain Pagan would wear sensible trousers but would not likely wear clothing marketing her sexuality. Sexuality is too sacred for pagans to peddle. A person who sees herself as a manifestation of the Great Mother Goddess doesn't wear a push-up bra or pants that say, "Cutie" across the ass. A Pagan Quaker would probably only wear humanely, sustainably produced garments made with organic fabrics dyed with low-impact dyes. Or she would choose undyed organic fabrics. Alternatively, she may buy her clothes in a second-hand store to avoid consumerism in general.

She would cover her hair with a hat or a kerchief not to show submission to men or even to God but to the power of the Sun which will give you cancer if you don't watch out. The kerchief, made of organic fabric, would link her to her peasant pagan ancestors and remind her that there is good honest work on the land. They would also keep the hair out of her face while engaged in green homemaking, gardening, or scholarly work.

And that's all cool but I find that when I'm teaching, I feel frumpy. I'm not much older than my students so (Hail, Vanity) I like to look like I'm not much older than my students. I like the idea that my male students might be tempted to give me a chilly pepper rating on the Rate my Professor website. I like having the edge that a cute pair of boots gives me. I'm surprised by my shallow feelings. I'm not a teenager anymore. I've had three kids and "the boobies" are not as pert. That's life. Why should I care? The thing is that I do care. I want strange men to inwardly say, "Damn!" when they see me. How ridiculous and un-feminist of me. But there it is. When I wear sensible plain clothes, my vanity makes me feel sick, depressed, and worthless. When I wear adorable, fashionable clothes, my spirituality makes me feel sick, depressed, and worthless. It is amazing to me that rationalism does not help me here. They're just clothes for goodness sake! It disgusts me that I am so easily manipulated by the threat that in my 30's, I will no longer be interesting to men that don't interest me. Absurd.

So that's where I am today. Life is a process. Thought is a prayer. I'm still learning who I am. We'll see.

11 comments:

Cat Chapin-Bishop said...

Hi, Hystery,
I'm so happy I've stumbled across your blog--as another Pagan Quaker, I'm looking forward to reading more.

I, too, have spent time thinking about the concept of "plain" dress. I am aware of the way that simply visible being a member of one of the peace churches-- Mennonite or Quaker or Amish, etc.--is itself a powerful peace testimony--and that matters to me.

At the same time, it seems almost dishonest for me to assume plain dress. The clear message would be that I'm Christian, and that's not so. Quaker, yes--Christian, no.

So, though I value the notion, and sometimes feel drawn to it, traditional Quaker plain dress is out for me. I guess I have my own version of plain dress--I, too teach, and in simple trousers, shirts, and vests or blazers. But I also do have a small but precious collection of Pagan garb that I like to wear the one or two times each year where I'm somewhere where it isn't an outrageous statement of drama. At times I wish I had the chutzpah to wear my flowing green wool cloak to meeting for worship. It is drop-dead gorgeous, intensely flattering... and also has doubled as a rain-coat, a ground-cloth, an extra blanket, a ritual prop, and a child-warming station. It was a gift from a dear friend many years ago, and, at the ripe old age of 15, looks as new and lovely as it did the first time I put it on. Despite the fact that I look like something from an Enya album cover when I wear it, it's one of the simplest garments I own...

And I leave it in my closet, week after week, simply because it doesn't _look_ plain.

*sigh*

Such is life...

Again, I look forward to reading more of your ideas. Blessed be, Friend. :)

HysteryWitch said...

Cat,

I'm glad you stumbled across my blog too. I've been reading your thoughts on Quaker Paganism for some time. Your blog has been important for me. So I thank you.

Ravin said...

I was still in college (at 28-29) when I first started simplifying my wardrobe and going for more modest/practical dress. Guiding factors for me were my love of historical costume (a la SCA), the fact that I live in the desert (so needs to be cool and covering so I don't have to slather myself with chemicals), bicycle friendly (so a skirt that's sturdy enough to pin up while riding or not too full to ride with unpinned), and not frumpy. Looking around at the co-eds, the most stylish ones who didn't see fit to bare nearly all were invariably muslimas. That's led me to drooling over websites such as www.shukr.com and looking for things like longer-length tailored blouses to go with my long skirts, a real challenge when shopping at Goodwill. I'm also starting to sew more of my own clothes, though that presents its own challenges as the only thing I've really got the hang of making are Norse dresses...and I'm shooting for plain, not outlandish, though part of me wishes I could be as comfy in my clothes all the time as I am at an SCA event donned in kyrtle, apron dress, and Jorvik cap!

HysteryWitch said...

I love the Shukr website. If I had a bit more money, I'd be spending it there. Such beautiful and sensible clothes! I love the men's clothes as well. I haunt thrift stores but, of course, find nothing comparable. :(

ModestPaganMom said...

I am a modest dressing/headcovering Pagan. I am definately not plain, as I love colors waaaaaaaaaay too much. I am more of a Roman Recon., so I prefer a nice Salwar Kameez: http://www.alhannah.com/salwar.html
I stick with the cotton ones. I am not a Muslima, but I know what I am.

I also love my long skirts and tunics. It's never really cold enough here, but I do like the occasional sweater. I also wear the more conservative dress of an orthodox Jewish woman: http://www.tznius.com/cgi-bin/group.pl?id=26.

Are you more intersted in being plain, or more modest? Since I am now a Mom, I tend to want to dress a little more conservatively, but I have no desire to look "dowdy" either. Plain people dress as such to not stand out from the others in their church. The other day I ran into the first Mennonite woman in this area. I struck up a conversation with her, but would have never turned my head if she were a Muslima.

I dress the way I think I should for my deities, but I know that plain Quakers do dress closely to the Amish/Mennonite women of the day. So, mine was just an example of my testament :-)....

Anonymous said...

Aaahhh...

That is a sigh of relief.

I thought I was the only pagan thinking "Maybe it would be better to dress modestly!" I've always felt better in long skirts and with my hair pinned up, preferably under a kerchief, and people just look at me oddly...

Hystery said...

It has been a relief to me as well that I am not the only Pagan attracted to plain/modest dress. That's not to say that I am not also attracted to wild and crazy dress in others but it has never been my style.

Anonymous said...

I am so happy I stumbled upon your blog. I am like you a Pagan Quaker who has trouble finding the right dress that goes with my live style. I love wearing a long dress with a cute pair of high heels. Is this fit into the "quaker" look? Please let me know!

Drew said...

thank you thank you thank you!! im a gay (male) pagan and been living an isolated and near self sufficient live for the past few years on my homestead... Ive felt soo lost with my thoughts and desires for plain living as all i could find were Christian quaker / mennonite ideals - which i cant associate with !! so thank you for letting my know there other plain pagans out there and that im not alone !!!!

Hystery said...

Drew,

There are several of us out there. One discussion group I have found helpful is Pagan and Plain.

http://plainpagan.ning.com/

LizzieBear said...

I started crying after reading this post. (from relief, mind you)I never thought that simplifying my wardrobe was what I was doing! I probably will not do away with as much as you have done because I am still a vain vain vain creature and love pretty clothes, but... I long for clothing that brings me closer to the Gods and the Earth that made us. (wonderful us ^_^)

I am a teacher too, unfortunately I look about 12. I have found that nothing beats a hand crocheted wool, linen, or cotton beret for headcovering. It fits everyone, looks best when you aren't trying, and matches everything.

Thank you for being you I shall check back often. Merry meet, merry part, and merry meet again.

(still crying)