Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Dressy Bessy: "Tis A Gift To Be Simple"

I recently read someone's blog in which she wrote about what the testimony of simplicity means in her life (and I'm really sorry I don't remember who's blog it was as I've read so many of them recently). One of the things she wrote was that she wears solid, unpatterned plain fabric clothing.

I'm a flashy dresser. Well, in the summer I am. In the winter I love wool clothes and favor greys and blacks and browns. In the winter I dress like a spinster librarian from the 1940s in sensible shoes, long kilts and cardigan sweaters. But in the summer I dress like a gypsy as portrayed in a 1940s movie. I love bright colors and patterns and swirly skirts and mini skirts and funky shoes and anti-establishment t-shirts.

A good part of my simplicity testimony (as well as my integrity, peace and equality testimonies) is tied into where and how I shop. I buy almost all the clothing for me, Hammy and our two youngest and many of my housewares at thrift stores (although he dresses like a punk, Declan won't go thrift shopping with me anymore). When I shop second hand I know I am not supporting sweat shop labor. I know that the environment is not being degraded to manufacture the items of clothing I'm purchasing. As a matter of fact, by buying clothing second hand I am keeping things from the landfill. Usually I shop at Goodwill (although I do occasionally go to church sponsored thrift shops and garage sales) and I know that the money I spend is going to help individuals who are outside of mainstream society gain life and job skills. And I spend probably 1/4th what a typical American consumer does on clothing which allows me to work less and offer the children more classes and activities.

Dressing the way I dress, in my own style is also part of my integrity witness. I don't dress like I shop at a mall. I don't dress like anyone else. I dress like the individual that I am. I march, in my beflowered satin sneakers or my red ballet flats or my brown mary janes, to my own drummer. Through my clothing I tell the world that convention doesn't matter; conforming is not the answer to anything.
On the other hand...
I had an epiphany a few months ago. I have always used clothing to define myself, to set myself apart, to raise my voice even with my mouth closed. I could not stand to have people think they knew who I was by what I was wearing so I used clothing to keep people off guard. And I was getting carried away with it. My ego was too involved. I HAD to look different. I had allowed my physical appearance to define my identity. One day, while trying to dress to look more different than any of the young, hip mamas I was going to be around, I was able to step back and gain perspective and understand that it was all EGO. I realized that I am not how I look; I am my heart, my soul and spirit. Being so tied to my physical self was holding me back from knowing myself inwardly.

Since then I have been much less tied emotionally to what I wear. I still dress oddly but I don't feel I have to. Sometimes I even dress like a "square". I came to the realization that if someone deems me to be "normal" because I'm wearing jeans and a crew neck sweater it makes no difference to them or to me. What's in my heart and how I act as a result is all that really matters.

Now, getting dressed in the morning is almost a spiritual practice for me. Each morning my first impulse is to choose ego-driven clothing. Each morning I sort of center and reconnect to 'that which is eternal' within me. I let go of needing to be different and then I choose clothes based on other things (usually, weather, destination and then finding whatever's clean and unrumpled that fits the first two criteria).

Spring is here; yesterday the temp was in the high 70s. I've been digging out my fun clothes and folding away my woolens. I've lost 17 pounds since I packed up my summer clothes last fall and fit in some really great thrift store finds for the first time ever (I haven't been this skinny since being pregnant with my 12 year old). I'm really happy to feel lighter and look better in clothes. I feel healthy, less bulky, less encumbered. When I try on a dress that I've never been able to wear before and it looks good I wanna dance and shout and show off. I think the next month of clothing rediscovery will be a challenge and new opportunity for me to center more deeply on what is important and what I truly value and believe about myself. I think I will be singing "Simple Gifts" each day as I dress to help remind me of who I truly want to be.

'Tis the gift to be simple,
'tis the gift to be free,
'tis the gift to come down where you ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
It will be in the valley of love and delight.

When true simplicity is gained,
To bow and to bend we shan't be ashamed.
To turn, turn will be our delight,
'Til by turning, turning we come round right

1 comment:

naturalmom said...

I enjoyed this post, as I've been wrestling with the clothing issue for several months. I've been sitting with the idea of paring my wardrobe down to a few plain, simple pieces. I also shop almost exclusively at thrift stores for the same reasons you do. But I was accumulating lots of clothing that wasn't quite right for me, and the idea of a few simple pieces -- some from fair-trade sources, some from thrift stores and maybe a couple sewn by my own hands -- kept coming back to me. I hadn't come to clearness on it yet when I discovered I was pregnant, which presents a whole other clothing challenge! I should use this time to prayerfully consider how to deal with my wardrobe once the baby is born. It's a natural time to weed out and be deliberate about things. I enjoyed reading your thoughts on this topic. Congrats on your weight loss. :o)