Quakers have as one of our core values the testimony of "Simplicity." This applies to everything from the way we spend our money to the kind of cars we drive. In particular though, this simplicity has been most manifested by the traditional form of dress associated with Quakers, i.e. "The Quaker Oats Man."
Historically, Quakers have tried to set themselves apart from others by wearing more modest, simple clothing, what we called "Plain Dress." Now that Quakers are getting more active in virtual spaces like Second Life, how does our testimony of Simplicity and Plain Dress translate in this electronic realm?
"Plain Dress" is often associated, even among Quakers, with wearing gray. This actually was not always the norm, sometimes brown, tan, black or even red being the preferred Plain Dress colors. The Quaker Oat man appears in black, which was not often an "approved" Plain Dress color since black fabric was so expensive and faded quickly.
For women, Plain Dress usually meant a simple dress with no outward adornment like fancy buttons, piping or trim, a plain shawl, and a bonnet. For men, it was a simple suit and a broad-brimmed hat.
Today only a small percentage of Quakers practice this form of "radical" Plain Dress. Many other Quakers realized that strict Plain Dress in itself could be seen as a form of pride and ostentation, since it makes you stand out from the crowd in any modern environment. But still many Quakers practice some form of Plain Dress, whether it is simply abstaining from the latest, expensive fashion fads or wearing the most utilitarian clothing for whatever they are doing.
In the virtual world, there are no clear guides or precedents. My Second Life avatar, for the cost of a few pennies, can wear what appears to be an Armani suit, with blinged-out rings, necklace and watch. Does that make me ostentatious or just one of the crowd of similarly kipped out newbies?
I could wear traditional Plain Dress, as some SL Quakers have opted to try and do. You can even head over to the Quaker church in SL (Quaker (155, 22, 31) and purchase your very own Quaker-ish hat or bonnet for a few linden bucks. But is that really the point of the testimony of Simplicity? Or would you just look like just another SL role-player?
I don’t know any easy answers to these questions. For me, the testimony of Simplicity is not so much about my outward appearance. It’s about not letting my thoughts and desires around these material and virtual possessions supercede my quest to be a more loving, centered, spirit-led person, in whatever world I happen to be inhabiting.