During the years following the English Civil War of 1642, various influential clothing-reform movements flourished. One of the nonconformist groups that emerged during this time was the Religious Society of Friends, commonly known as Quakers. The group's founder, George Fox, established a set of social practices that were based on Christian ideologies and utopianism. The main thesis proposed by Fox was simplicity of appearance and lifestyle. His favor of spirituality over what he considered to be the unholy virtues of fashion signaled a radical move within the history of fashion.
The alternative clothing choices embraced by George Fox and his followers were set in direct opposition to the fashionable styles of the time. Quakers believed that the focus on aesthetics within the fashion industry was immoral. Instead Quakers wore modest, unstructured, and natural-colored garments that better reflected their Christian values of humility, piety, and simplicity. The strict adherence to their faith led Quakers to eschew contemporary fashions and any decorative clothing.
Both male and female apparel was constructed of functional, utilitarian fabrics such as calico and flannel. The simple color palette for both sexes consisted of gray, brown, cream, and pale green tones. Women commonly wore loose-fitting, long-sleeved dresses, aprons, and bonnets. Men wore unstructured coats, plain hats, trousers, and buckled shoes. For both sexes, functional garment details were also kept simple. Pockets were often placed internally, the use of buttons was restricted, and small accessories or jewelry was forbidden. The commonality of dress between the sexes not only created group uniformity but also visually reinforced their detachment from the wider society.
Quaker dress maintained popularity within marginal groups until the 1920s. The Quaker adherence to plain dress styles was a nonverbal protest against the aesthetic focus of fashion. "Plain clothing" was adopted by other religious groups as well, such as some sects of German Pictists. Although the movement only achieved minority status, it nevertheless succeeded in challenging the ornamental nature of eighteenth-century dress.
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