Why do the Amish of Lancaster County Dress the Way They Do? What is the significance of Amish clothing?
In today's world, Amish clothing is considered to be an expression of humility, simplicity, and non-conformity. An important aspect of the
is that one's lifestyle reflects the deepest convictions of one's faith. How one dresses is no different.
Ironically, Amish dress and appearance did not originally have this religious meaning. When the Anabaptist movement first began in 1525 in Zurich, Switzerland, followed by the growth of the Mennonites later that century as well as the birth of the Amish movement in around 1693, the style of clothing worn by the peasants in Europe was plain and unadorned. Since the Anabaptists, Mennonites, and Amish were made up primarily of peasants,it follows that the member would dress in that plain, unadorned style.
However, as time went on, interaction with the culture and lifestyle of the outside world threatened the identity of the Anabaptists, Mennonites, and Amish. As a result, many believed that the only way to protect their cultural and religious identity was to stress a lifestyle of nonconformity.
One way this was encouraged was through dress and appearance. Not all the groups felt this way, however. It was mainly the Swiss German groups that stressed nonconformity through dress and appearance.
Overall, traditional Amish clothing for men and women tends to serve utilitarian purposes and is not designed to accentuate physical attributes. Unlike outside communities, the Amish do not believe that clothing is meant to distinguish the individual from the group by making that person more "attractive" over others.
The Amish feel that wearing clothes that emphasize one's attractive qualities will not only create competition and sinful thoughts, but will also create division within the community by emphasizing the self over the church and community.
Overall, Amish clothing and appearances is meant to strengthen the group by fostering simplicity of mind, humility of spirit, purity of thought, and nonconformity towards the outside society.
Old Order Amish Clothing and Appearance
- Men and Boys -
Standard Amish Clothing Includes the Traditional Straw Hats Worn by Amish Men
Old Order Amish men and Old Order Amish boys generally wear dark suits without lapels which fasten with hooks rather than buttons. Pants are based upon a traditional pattern and held up by suspenders. Shirts tend to be of a colored fabric. Amish men and boys wear brown shoes for work and black shoes for formal occasions. Broad-brimmed hats are worn outdoors. These hats tend to be made of straw or black felt.
The hair of the Amish men and boys is cut without style and is combed in front with bangs. Beards are worn when the Amish male attains adulthood. However, mustaches are not worn. Some people believe that this is because mustaches tend to be associated with the military and aggression.
- Women and Girls -
Old Order Amish Women and Old Order Amish girls generally wear dresses with full skirts. These dresses tend to be of solid colors such as blue, green, brown, or gray. On more formal occasions, the women would wear black.
Amish dress with simple design and Amish cap
An apron is worn over the dress and a cape is used to cover the bodice of the dress. The women and girls wear black shoes as well as stockings when in public.
and girls wear their hair uncut, and parted in the middle and combed away from the face. It is then twisted into a bun at the back of the heard or the nape of the neck.
A white or black cap is worn on the head as described in the Bible. In public, Amish women and Amish girls wear a black bonnet and shawl. They never wear jewelry or make-up.
Old Order Mennonite Clothing and Appearance
Although Old Order Mennonite men and boys in Lancaster County wear similar clothes - such as suits without lapels, suspenders, and plain hats - as their Old Order Amish counterparts, there are some differences. For instance, Old Order Mennonite males are permitted to wear buttons on their suits. Also, Old Order Mennonite men do not tend to wear beards.
Likewise, Old Order Mennonite women wear plain, fine-printed dresses with aprons and capes. A white covering is worn on the head with tie strings. The uncut hair is arranged in a bun behind their head.
Modern Mennonite Clothing and Appearance
Today, conservative "modern" Mennonites may still wear variations of the regulation dress characterized by the Mennonite Church in the early 1900's. However, after 1950, plain dress was largely abandoned by the main body of the "modern" Mennonite church.
These members no longer tend to wear distinctive clothing. Styles range from plain and simple to fashionable. In any case, the choice is largely up to the individual and not governed by the church or community.
If you enjoyed reading about the Mennonite and Amish clothing and appearance and would like to learn more about the Mennonites and Amish in Lancaster County, please take a look at the following pages:
Back to an Introduction to the Amish People of Lancaster County
Return to the Welcome to the Lancaster County Home Page from Learning about Amish Clothing