From time to time, someone searches for this blog and my site stats function records which term brought them here. Some are dull (the name of this blog, as intended, reaches this blog via google), and some very specific (“Britain Yearly Meeting 2013” found this blog among other things), but some are real questions, and when I haven’t yet answered them it’s interested to address them. Hence this mini-series of posts about topics related to, but not yet covered, by my previous posts.
The first one, which has reached this blog several times, is “Quaker dress”. At one time, Quakers were known for their plain dress, and this may be what the original searcher(s) had in mind. If you are interested in that, I recommend Quaker Jane as an excellent resource. However, sometimes it comes up in conversation that British Quakers today, having mostly left behind plain dress and certainly the strict dress codes which sometimes went with it, nevertheless still have some distinctive ways of dressing. We joke about the socks-with-sandals and the anything-accessorised-by-Guardian, and everyone tends to blend in better with the general population that we did in the days of plain dress, but there are patterns.
Some things are not. Some people who meet me, and then find out that I’m a Quaker, assume that all Quakers wear hats – there are religious groups who do cover their heads, so this isn’t a totally silly guess, but Quakers today do not wear hats. Identifying me by my head-wear works as well at Yearly Meeting as anywhere else. Nor do Quakers wear all grey or all black any more. Indeed, one Friend who, in most of his life, wears nothing but black once opined to me that he felt he should wear a little grey at Quaker gatherings in case they couldn’t cope with the Goth effect! There are, in fact, a number of Quaker Goths, and some of them can be spotted at large Friendly gatherings if you know the signs. (Hint: wearing all or mostly black is a big clue.)
Quakers today do tend, I think, to dress more modestly, covering up more of themselves, than the mainstream culture demands – especially for young women. This isn’t unknown in other counter-cultural spaces, but is enough to stand out on the train. There’s a general refraining from fashion – not from style, plenty of Quakers have strong personal styles – but from following fads and trends, especially where they cost unnecessary money. A general lack of brand names follows from this (although there may be a general tendency towards Marks and Spencer’s).
Just now and again, someone comes to Meeting for Worship dressed in a way which stands out – their heels are higher, their suit smarter – and even more rarely, someone comments on this. I’m pretty sure that, contrary to the claims made by some Wiccans, clothes do not impede the flow of Divine energies, and so there’s no need to police such things. In the cases where there is a real feeling of leading in the community, I think most people who are drawn to Quakers will find that in due course they have worn whatever-it-is for as long as they could.