British Quaker Women's Fashionable Adaptation of their Plain Dress, 1860-1914

Hannah Rumball

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Throughout the period 1860–1914, British Quaker women sought to negotiate the incorporation of fashionable attire into their wardrobes to varying degrees, after the religion’s hierarchy made prescriptive religious ‘Plain’ dress optional in 1860. After centuries of restrictive Advices, which used scripture alongside peer pressure to encourage female Friends to dress ascetically, Quaker women began to interpret their new sartorial freedoms in diverse ways. Through the presentation of three female case studies from across the period, this article will suggest three newly identified distinct stances that Quaker women enacted in responding to the new Advice and adapting to fashionable ensembles, up until the devastating events of the First World War. These three stances were non-adaptive, semi-adaptive and fully adaptive. Based on empirical research conducted in dress collections across Britain, this article will describe and present the garments worn by these women, to illustrate and introduce these distinct sartorial stances.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)240-260
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2018

Bibliographical note

This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Edinburgh University Press in Costume. The Version of Record is available online at:


  • Quaker
  • sartorial negotiation
  • adaptation
  • Plain dress
  • late nineteenth-century female fashion
  • religious dress practices


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