Mom’s Accessories: Bonnets, Hankies, Pins and More

My Mother Ruth Landis Metzler was a simple girl who grew up on a farm near Lititz, Pennsylvania and attended Erb’s Mennonite Church. As a young woman, she wore plain clothing and never cut her hair. Her adornment was of the biblical kind as the Apostle Paul admonishes:

I also want the women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, adorning themselves, not with elaborate hairstyles or gold or pearls or expensive clothes . . .

I Timothy 2:9 NIV

As we sorted through her personal effects recently, we found two prayer coverings and three bonnets, all miniature versions of those large sizes (jumbo, actually) she wore during her girlhood and all through the years we children lived at home.

BonnetCoveringOn the clipboard in her kitchen, we found the business card to the Sue’s Covering Shop in Lititz where she bought her most recent headgear, the black bonnet now rivaling the size of a Jewish yarmulke and fastened with a shiny black-tipped hat pin.


Size mattered among the various congregations in the Lancaster Mennonite Conference in all the years my mother wore prayer coverings. Handwritten on Sue’s Covering Shop business card was Mother’s latest size: D – 19 1/2. When I called Sue’s, the clerk said that D indicates the pattern number, the higher the number (okay, it’s a letter) the larger the size. And 19 1/2 describes the inches around the circumference of her covering.

Hankies, now replaced by Kleenex, were once a part of every woman’s wardrobe. As a young child, my offering (a penny as a toddler, and later a nickel as I grew older) was tied into one corner of my white handkerchief, so I could untie the knot and put the coin into the tin box my teacher passed around during the Sunday School class. Surprisingly, Mother’s hankies were fancy, some even gaudily so, and one even boasts green tatting.


Mom’s purses have usually been black and serviceable though we found set aside a hand-tooled leather purse and remember a lacquered basket-weave popular in the 1950s and 60s. In the October 2014 issue of Guideposts, Malinda Bertels takes stock of her Grandma’s purse and finds in it tissues for applying rouge, a vial of holy water and a faded inscription on a small wooden cross which provides insight and courage to move forward. Mom’s purse contained none of those things, only the bare essentials.


The very last purse she ever carried had a zippered compartment on the outside and all the pockets she liked on the inside for her cards and such. Most important was the pouch on one side, probably designed for a cellphone, but which held her house and car keys. The house key remains, but the car keys have been passed on to a friend from church.

Mother never wore any jewelry except a wrist-watch, but friends bought cute little pins for her anyway. They were never all in one spot, but when we gathered them together, they numbered nine. The only one I ever remember her wearing was the round silver-faceted one, probably to her grandson Austin’s wedding.


Plain and fancy, her wardrobe included the gamut. A plain woman with fancy edges, that was Mom!

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A souvenir of their honeymoon, this pillow was found among Mother’s treasures, obviously a gift from Dad, revealing his softer side.

Was/Is your mom plain or fancy?  Are you similar or different in fashion sense? 


Moments of Extreme Emotion: Flunking

Yes, I have flunked my driver’s test—again.

Is it the bullet-nosed, grey Studebaker I am learning to drive on, or is it just me? Anyway, the patrolman’s decision is final. I cannot drive alone. At least not yet. I have practiced driving with eight people stuffed into this Studebaker to Bossler’s Mennonite Church and back without crashing. Oh, there are some yells and screams along the way, but I haven’t careened off the road yet. (We’re frugal Mennonites and don’t waste gas on driving two cars if we are all going to the same place. Think: lap-holding, no seat-belts.)

Driving test Studebaker, 1950s
Driving test Studebaker, 1951

The first time I don’t pass my driver’s test is because I can’t parallel park right. (Yes, the ability to parallel park was part of the test back then.) And the second time, the cop says, “You were riding the clutch the whole time. If you keep on doing that you’ll wear out the transmission!” So I have flunked the driving test twice.

Boo Hoo!
Boo Hoo!

Me: I never flunk anything. In fact, I get all A’s in school. Now why can’t I pass this dumb test. I KNOW how to drive!

Mom: “Some people just don’t like girls with coverings on their heads.

Me: Well, that’s ridiculous!

Mom:  When you take the test again, just wear a bandanna on your head. That will cover up your covering and you’ll probably pass.

Me: Why would that make a difference?

I do pass the third time. Hallelujah!

Now please tell me why. This is a multiple choice quiz:

a. I finally got over my nervousness.

b. Three’s a charm.

c. The policeman noticed I wasn’t a plain girl.

d. The policeman suspected I was a plain girl and thought I probably could even drive a tractor. So, “What the heck—She passes!”