Everything you Want to Know About: Amish Clothing

Jayca Pike 29/06/2015

Say hello to Erik Wesner, author of Success Made Simple: An Inside Look at Why Amish Businesses Thrive, as he joins us again to explain a facet of Amish life that most of us English folk find curious: Amish Clothing.

Welcome back & take it away, Erik –

Plain Amish Clothing

Everything you Want to Know About: Amish Clothing

The plain clothing of the Amish serves Biblical and community purposes, among other objectives

Why do the Amish wear plain clothing?

Amish dress plainly for a number of reasons. Here are three:

1) Modesty – Amish feel plain dress demonstrates modesty. Plain clothes are not revealing. Women’s dresses are loose and not form-fitting. Men wear long trousers in public in summer as well as winter, rather than shorts. Amish believe that a plain appearance befits a Christian people who emphasize internal virtues over appearance and other superficial external qualities.

2) Biblical basis – The concept of Plain clothing has a Biblical basis, though the specific type of clothing Amish wear is not Biblically-mandated. Amish cite verses including I Peter 3:3, 4 and I Timothy 2:2 in support of wearing Plain clothing.

3) Identity – Think about a time you’ve seen Amish people. You likely knew they were Amish by their appearance. If not for the beards, hair coverings, and plain dresses, they could be a part of any (or no) religious group.

Clothing is an important part of Amish identity. Plain dress marks the Amish as different from the rest of society, “a people apart”.

And though it might not be immediately noticeable to outsiders, variations in the clothing of different Amish groups indicate differences between communities. In fact, in some cases it can be possible to get an idea of the individual community an Amish person belongs to by his or her style of dress.

Where do Amish get their clothing?

Amish get their clothing from a variety of sources. Some apparel will be store bought (for example, from a large chain store such as Wal-Mart) – underwear, socks, and shirts in some cases. Amish-run variety and dry goods stores often carry plain clothing items, such as socks and hats.

Amish females also make clothing in other cases – for example dresses or broadfall trousers. Some Amish businesses specialize in making clothing like the formal suits Amish wear to church (mutza suits).

Male Clothing

Everything you Want to Know About: Amish Clothing

One identifying Amish male article is the ubiquitous straw hat

What are some characteristic items of Amish male clothing? Men wear broadfall trousers, named for the fact that they contain a broad flap which unfastens, in lieu of a zipper fly. Amish men and boys wear plain non-patterned shirts, both long and short-sleeve, in a variety of colors including white, blue and green, as well as brighter hues such as yellow, red, and purple (some Amish youth may also wear shirts with subtle patterns). Men’s trousers are held up in most cases by two suspenders, though men in some areas (such as Holmes County, Ohio) in a certain age range often do not wear them as a part of their daily apparel. Men wear plain work jackets, and may wear a formal, collarless, pocketless mutza suit to church.

Amish men wear hats typically made of straw or felt. Men in more traditional communities tend to wear hats with broader brims, as do older males and members of the ministry. The beard, while not technically clothing, is another well-known physical marker of Amish males. Amish have a Biblical basis for wearing the beard, such as that found in Leviticus 19:27, “neither shalt thou mar the corners of the beard.”.

Hair styles can vary among the Amish, though more conservative communities typically have longer hair while the more progressive, such as New Order Amish, often trim it fairly short. Footwear varies among Amish men as well, ranging from work boots to formal shoes to more comfortable walking shoes.

Female Clothing

Everything you Want to Know About: Amish Clothing

Female Amish will almost always wear some sort of head covering

Amish women typically make their own dresses, buying material from fabric stores in their communities, often Amish-run. Colors range from dark blue and brown to lighter shades such as turquoise and pink (following a relative’s death, an Amish woman will wear a black dress for a certain customary period of time). Some use buttons while others use straight pins to fasten their dresses (this can depend on custom in the community). Amish women’s dresses are generally made from generous amounts of fabric so that they don’t emphasize the woman’s figure, and fully or nearly-fully cover legs.

The white or black head covering Amish females wear is known as a kapp or prayer covering. This is different from the larger black bonnet women may wear over the kapp. As far as hair, Amish women generally do not cut their hair, pinning it up in a bun under the prayer covering (citing, for example, passages from 1 Corinthians). Women in some communities wear an apron to church. A large black cape may also be worn when out.

Clothing Differences

Everything you Want to Know About: Amish Clothing

Some Amish communicates use ways of dressing to distinguish themselves from other Amish communities

Different communities have their own specific customs regarding clothing. For example, in northern Indiana, it is common for men to wear knit caps, a practice less frequently seen in a place like Lancaster County.

Another good example is found in the three main Amish groups found in Kishacoquillas Valley in Pennsylvania, who have three different ways of using suspenders—one group wears two, one a single suspender, and another, none at all. The woman’s kapp will vary across settlements as well—from the Lancaster heart-shaped covering to the straight sided, multiple pleat covering found in many Midwestern settlements.

Plain clothing is important for different reasons

Plain clothing marks the Amish as a people apart. It emphasizes modesty, and Amish believe there is Biblical basis for wearing it. Plain clothing has strong symbolic and religious value for the Amish, and is one of the key visual markers of the culture. Clothing is a marker that not only identifies the Amish as different from the rest of the world—but also marks Amish communities as different from one another.

By Erik Wesner, author of Success Made Simple: An Inside Look at Why Amish Businesses Thrive, and editor of the Amish America website.

 

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26 comments

  • David Tishendorf
    August 24, 2018 at 9:41 am

    Do Amish men wear their hats in church?


  • Milca Rivera
    Milca Rivera
    August 27, 2018 at 10:48 am

    Hi Dave,

    Thank you for your question. According to a 2014 article in Ohio’s “The Daily Record,” “Amish men wear hats most of the time; a hat would never be worn in church, and most of the time they would remove it when going indoors as well. Inside doorways at public places like hospitals, one will often see a rack hung with varying sizes of yellow straw hats (whose owners are most likely visiting an Amish patient).” It’s an interesting article about the various headwear worn by Amish men and women that you can read here: https://www.the-daily-record.com/news/20141002/of-brims-and-bonnets.

    Thanks again for your question and for reading Timber to Table.


  • Teresa
    December 8, 2018 at 10:46 pm

    I love reading fiction books about the Amish. I’ve read several lately. My question is, do Amish women wear bras?


  • Beth Rice
    Beth Rice
    December 10, 2018 at 2:21 pm

    Hi Teresa,
    Thank you for your question. The answer is, it depends on how conservative the community. The most conservative do not, while Amish women in less conservative communities may wear a plain hand sewn garment. I refer you to this post from Erik Wesner’s AmishAmerica.com https://amishamerica.com/amish-questions-answered-part-2/


  • Ken Little
    March 10, 2019 at 8:13 pm

    Is it true that Amish men start growing their beards when they marry. ie instead of a wedding ring for example, they wear their beard?


  • Beth Rice
    Beth Rice
    March 11, 2019 at 8:37 am

    Hi Ken,

    Thank you for your question. Yes that is true. Amish men will start growing a beard when they marry. They do not wear wedding rings.


  • Don Gosney
    June 22, 2019 at 10:14 pm

    I’m curious about this concept that neither the men nor the women cut their hair. I would think that after a few decades, their hair might be quite long but I’m not seeing any photos where this appears to be the case.

    Can you please explain and clarify this for me?


  • Beth Rice
    Beth Rice
    June 24, 2019 at 11:37 am

    Hi Don,
    Thank you for your question. It is my understanding that Amish men do cut their hair and wear it in simple styles. The more conservative groups of Amish men often wear their hair longer. The women do not cut their hair, you are correct. It is pinned up and kept covered. Here are some helpful links to more information on this topic. I hope these are helpful in answering your question.
    https://amishamerica.com/how-do-amish-women-put-up-hair/
    https://www.the-daily-record.com/article/20141002/news/310029416


  • Ki
    August 5, 2019 at 10:35 pm

    Do Amish girls ever date or interact with English boys?


  • Beth Rice
    Beth Rice
    August 8, 2019 at 10:34 am

    Hi Ki,
    Thanks for your question. From what I’ve found, it’s not unheard of, but it would be a rare occurrence. In order for a marriage to occur within Amish guidelines, both parties must be baptized within the Amish church.


  • barbara griffith
    November 19, 2019 at 1:46 pm

    what fabric is a amish dress made of?


  • Beth Rice
    Beth Rice
    November 21, 2019 at 3:51 pm

    Hello Barbara,

    Thank you for your question.
    From the information I’ve found, it looks like young Amish girls wear dresses made of cotton. For Amish women, the type of fabric used can depend on what group they belong to. Some groups allow only cotton, while others allow polyester that’s easier to clean and requires less ironing.
    Thanks for visiting Timber to Table.


  • Mac
    December 30, 2019 at 6:53 pm

    Do Amish women and girls wear colored socks or socks that are colored with a pattern?


  • Beth Rice
    Beth Rice
    January 3, 2020 at 10:22 am

    Hello Mac and thank you for your question.

    I didn’t find much information that specifically addressed socks for Amish women and girls. My best guess is that there would not be a pattern on their socks. They most often select plain, durable fabric in nice colors. They generally avoid anything too decorative for their clothing which is why I would assume their socks would not have patterns on them.
    I am not sure what color socks they wear. The men most often wear dark colored socks, but I’m not sure about the women. Here is a helpful link that talks more about Amish clothing. https://classroom.synonym.com/what-is-the-amish-dress-code-12084845.html
    Thank you for visiting Timber to Table.


  • carson fadley
    March 24, 2020 at 1:04 pm

    can i become amish


  • Beth Rice
    Beth Rice
    March 25, 2020 at 5:06 pm

    Hello, and thank you for your question.

    It is possible for non-Amish people to join the Amish, but to join an Amish community requires converting to the Amish way of life which can be difficult. This link is a good resource for more information. https://amishamerica.com/becoming-amish/

    Thank you for joining us on Timber to Table.


  • Sherie
    April 19, 2020 at 8:47 pm

    What to Amish women sleep in?


  • Beth Rice
    Beth Rice
    April 20, 2020 at 11:45 am

    Hi Sherie,
    Many Amish women wear handmade nightgowns.

    Thank you for your question and for visiting us on Timber to Table.


  • Jade
    April 28, 2020 at 9:51 am

    do Amish women wear corsets


  • Beth Rice
    Beth Rice
    April 28, 2020 at 11:29 am

    Hi Jade,
    Thanks for your question. No, Amish women do not wear corsets.

    Thanks for visiting us on Timber to Table.


  • KIM M NICINSKI
    May 2, 2020 at 4:35 pm

    I visited 4 Amish families in April with a friend. My friend and I are going back Mid-May to pick up items she needed work done on and I would love to take a few things back to them as gifts. The 4 families had 5 – 6 – 8 – 2 children and I want to give them a little something when I see them all again. Such beautiful families. Love being with them. Any suggestions. Children age from newborn to 13 yrs. old. Alot of girls. I have a few things but your suggestions would be greatly appreciated.


  • Beth Rice
    Beth Rice
    May 4, 2020 at 11:02 am

    Hello Kim,
    Thank you for your question. This link to amishamerica.com offers good gift ideas for Amish men, women and children. https://amishamerica.com/whats-a-good-gift-for-an-amish-person/ I hope you find it helpful.

    Thank you for visiting Timber to Table.


  • Wendy B
    May 5, 2020 at 3:02 pm

    Hi! What would an Amish boy or man wear to sleep in?


  • Beth Rice
    Beth Rice
    May 6, 2020 at 10:23 am

    Hi Wendy,

    Thank you for your question. There is little information available regarding what Amish boys and men wear to sleep.


  • Kit Caroline
    May 12, 2020 at 10:36 am

    Hi.
    I’m writing a school assignment, analysing Amish clothing.

    I’m having a hard time to find out what materials Amish people use to make their clothes.
    Everywhere it says plain materials, but what is plain. Is plain only natural fabrics as cotton and linen.
    And do they use the same fabric for all their clothes both womens dresses, mens shirts and especially their broadfall trousers.
    And do you know anything about the “birth” of broadfall trousers? in books it seems that broadfall, from hip to hip appeared from mid 1700. before that it was only trousers with narrow fall. But Amish culture began in 1693. Since the founder Jakob Amman was a tailor, is it possible that he “invented” the broadfall trousers for the amish people?
    Hope to hear from you soon, since my assignment has to be finnished may 14th at 9 am. (CEST – danish time)
    Best regards
    Kit


  • Beth Rice
    Beth Rice
    May 13, 2020 at 10:44 am

    Hi Kit,
    Thank you for your questions. Our post on Amish clothing was written by a guest blogger, Erik Wesner, and he’s the founder of amishamerica.com Here’s a link to information on his site about Amish clothing. https://amishamerica.com/clothing/#plain-dress
    He would be a good resource to reach out to for more details.
    Here’s a link to an article that goes in to more detail about the types of fabrics used to make Amish clothing, including double-knit polyester, gabardines, Triblend denim, cotton, cotton/poly blends, polyester and polyester/rayon blends. https://ohiosamishcountry.com/articles/amish-dress

    I hope this helps. Good luck with your assignment and thank you for visiting Timber to Table.


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