Updated on 12 February 2021
Plain Dress is a practice among some religious groups, including Quakers, in which people dress in modest design.
The plain dress, pictured above, was weaved in 1799 and consists of beige silk satin and plain weave ribbon. It was made in Philadelphia and is currently one of the exhibits at the city’s Museum of Art.
In Plain Dress, the clothes are often of sturdy fabric and have a conservative cut. It is intended to show humility and preserve communal separateness from the rest of the world.
As a part of their testimony to Simplicity, Quakers traditionally wore Plain Dress shunning lace and other forms of ornamentation, as well as unnecessary cuffs, collars, lapels and buttons.
Founding Friend, George Fox (1624 – 1691) implored fellow Quakers to wear Plain Dress saying:
“Friends, keep out of the vain fashions of the world; let not your eyes, minds, and spirits run after every fashion (in attire) of the nations; for that will lead you from the solid life into unity with that spirit that leads to follow the fashions of the nations, after every fashion of apparel that gets up: but mind that which is sober and modest, and keep to your plain fashions, that you may judge the world’s vanity and spirit, in its vain fashions, and show a constant spirit in the truth and plainness.”George Fox
Quakers largely abandoned Plain Dress over 100 years ago and today many Friends like to dress in Plain Modern. This is dressing in clothing that avoids designer labels and is ethically made.
Image from philamuseum.org