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.