When it’s all about the dress.

I spent the day at the Great Frederick Fair last Saturday. I actually had gone specifically to see the 4-H alpaca show, which I sadly learned had been rescheduled to the day prior due to the animals being shin deep in water in their stalls because of the preternatural monsoon season we’re having here this fall. Walking around the fairgrounds, I experienced a curious thing.

I’m not entirely used to “the look” I get as a Plain person. Sometimes I get treated extra nice because people figure I”m a poor Amish woman with 17 children, no lights, and a dominating husband. Sometimes I’m mistaken as a re-enactor with the corner on Quaint. Mostly, it’s just a stare and, if accompanied, the whispered comment to their companion as they hurry on their way. This look was different, though. It was a new one.

I live about 100 miles from Lancaster, Pennsylvania–Amish country. Whereas my state is known for its Catholicism, in the western end we have Mennonites, which are another flavor of Plain people, but I don’t see much of them. I’m the only Plain person I know.
The fair, of course, brings with it an astonishing diversity of folks. Carnies, farmers, ranchers, kids…and Amish. I had walked through a building with it’s displays of prize-winning squash to its far door which opened back out to an area of eateries. Right opposite was a large tent filled with Amish ladies serving and waiting on over-the-counter customers. As I descended the steps in my plain dark green dress with it’s long skirt and sleeves, black shoes, and my hair tucked up inside my black kapp, one after the next looked up and offered me not the usual stare, but a kindred recognition of sisterhood.

They know I’m not one of them. My kapp is black; they wore the traditional white heart-shaped version. I’m Quaker, not Amish, but I saw in their faces a certain camaraderie. They understood me as a woman of faith and they know the discipline. They, too, have had hard edges rubbed smooth by it. I can only imagine, too, that sometimes, like me, they hate the dress.

I didn’t choose this “fashion” and if it’s left to me I wouldn’t wear it. I wear it because God wants me to. I’ve wrestled with this literally for years, finally reaching the point where I understand that I’m more peaceful in these clothes. It’s simple to just get up and get a dress and put it on. No matter what “hair day” I’m having, it all goes up into the kapp or scarf neat as a pin.

And, yes, there are moments when I can’t deal with it another day. It’s to be always reminded of God and, just like with even a good husband, sometimes I need a break from him. It’s a full time job and sometimes I just want some annual leave to literally let my hair down.

I have had life-long serious issues with acceptance and approval. I understand that while I’m on speaking terms with this particular curiosity of my personality, it doesn’t serve me. And this style of dress is NOT one I’d recommend for someone that faint of heart, but again, it was not my choice. I guess God knew that I needed to get over that human stuff and see myself as a divine image of him no matter what I’m wearing. For this I thank him. Most of the time.

And so I bless those dear Amish ladies in that food tent, who each have 17 children, no lights and a husband who lords it over her (not true, by the way), for their kind gazes and sweet smiles. Yes, dear sisters, I know. I do know.