Much of the wardrobe from my family’s days in ultra-conservatism makes me shudder to think back on them. Not the funky patterns and bright colors. Those I loved. Those are the clothes that enabled me to keep my personality and inside light alive.
I’m talking about the oversized jumpers, the big collared button-down blouses, the vests that we wore over dresses and jumpers to further hide any curves, the suspenders and long sleeved, button-down men’s shirts, the plaid, the calico, the florals, the patterns that looked like draperies….I’m sure you know what I’m talking about.
I know that my mother and sister sewed those clothes with nothing but good intentions and love, but when I look at pictures from long ago, I realize how much we stood out from everyone around us, even from the plain community that my family was around in the Lancaster County area of PA during the the years of the fall of 1993-early 1996. We were thought odd even to the ultra-conservative Amish and Mennonites.
While we stood out to everyone around us, one of the reasons that was preached to us for dressing this way (besides the modesty factor) was so that we wouldn’t bring attention to ourselves. We were supposed to be humble and modest, not dressing so that people would look at us. We were supposed to be dressing in a way that wouldn’t make us stand out or have any attention shown our way.
I don’t know about the rest of you, but today, when I see a large family with all the men wearing button-down shirts, suspenders andand girls all dressed like their mother with matching floral fabric and lacey collars and everyone is lined up according to age, it makes me turn my head. Not in admiration, but in pity for those children that have seemingly lost their identity and have been stripped of their personality. Oversized jumpers and floor lenght skirts stand out to me, just like women with headcoverings and plain dresses.
They stand out to me, just like my family stood out to others years ago. In trying to be modest, humble and not seeking attention, we were the ones being looked at, talked about in whispers behind hands at the mouth….we were bringing attention to ourselves. Those clothes weren’t hiding us, they were pointing us out to everyone that walked past us.
While many may not admit it, I know that there’s little humility for so many of the families dressing like this. Not all of them…..but living in those circles for so long, dressing like that was about pride, feeling better than those that didn’t dress as modestly as they did and seeking some sort of eternal favor for it.
I think sackcloth and ashes would have been less conspicuous than what so many in the patriarchy, plain and ultra-conservative mindset wear.
So much for not bringing attention to ourselves.