The US fashion industry is valued at approximately $369.39 billion, and it pervades almost every aspect of Americans’ lives. Fashion advertisements are everywhere, and almost every celebrity is promoting one or more brands of clothing. But the Amish aren’t concerned with any of that. So, what do the Amish wear?
The Amish make their own clothes, as they’ve done from the time they settled in America. Their traditional garments, reminiscent of centuries-old European attire, are what makes them so easy to recognize. We examined what these garments consist of, and what they represent in Amish culture. Let’s take a closer look at the Amish dress code.
What this article covers:
Amish Clothing Beliefs
The Amish dress code is simultaneously easily recognized, yet often misunderstood. You may be familiar with it if you live in the countryside near an Amish settlement. But do you understand why they dress the way they do?
The Amish all dress very similarly, as they’re not allowed to ‘stand out’ in any way. Both men and women dress modestly. That means their clothing can’t be revealing or controversial in any way. They cover their heads at all times, and often don’t wear shoes.
Unnecessary accessories, including all jewelry, are forbidden - even wedding bands!
Old Order Amish clothing, like the community members who wear it, is the most traditional and conservative, but even the more progressive New Order Amish communities wear very modest and humble clothing.
As with most aspects of Amish culture, their simple attire is mostly related to their origins as a people, and their faith.
What Is the History of Amish Clothing?
The Amish people are the descendants of Swiss (mostly) Anabaptist Protestant Christians. Persecuted in their own land, they sought freedom and fled from religious intolerance by settling in what was then known as the ‘New World’.
Upon arriving in America in the late 1700s, the first Amish settlers set about doing what they knew best. They acquired farmland and began to work the land, growing fresh produce. They engaged in animal husbandry and woodwork. Amish women sewed quilts and wove their traditional wicker baskets.
Their attire wasn’t uncommon for the time. Almost every European settler dressed in similar clothing, which they made by hand at home.
Why the Amish Didn’t Adapt to New Fashions
However, those Amish settlers decided to stay isolated from secular society and its worldly activities. That included avoiding new clothing fashions. In time, the way the Amish dressed grew increasingly different from American society, as they clung to the ways of their forefathers.
It took on a deeper meaning, too. While the world around them became more distant from spiritual values, the Amish humble garments represented their commitment to their faith. Pointing to the scriptures as their inspiration, Amish believe that their clothing aligns with God’s Will for their appearance and conduct.
What Clothes do the Amish Wear?
There are a number of different types of garments in traditional Amish clothing. They’re hand-sewn by the women in Amish communities.
While certain items may be bought in local stores, and the fabrics are bought, all the stitching is usually done by hand. Non-electric sewing machines are also used. Electric sewing machines are frowned upon, as the Amish don’t use electrical devices.
Most garments are plain colored, without buttons or zippers. They usually feature hook-and-eye fastenings, instead. Modern alternatives like velcro are also not used in Amish clothing.
Their clothing is never embellished in any way and is made from comfortable fabrics that offer practicality more than fashion. Let’s look at the most common examples of Amish clothing, and the purposes they serve in everyday community life,
All Amish girls and women wear long dresses that cover their shoulders, upper arms, midriffs, and legs. They aren’t allowed to be sheer or tight. The colors can vary from one community to the next, but they’re usually blue, purple, or another neutral color.
Black is only worn to signify mourning after the loss of a loved one and can be worn for up to a year. An Amish woman’s bridal dress is white but plain. It serves as her ‘church dress’ for the rest of her life and is what she will be buried in when she dies.
Everything from Amish sleepwear to a birthing gown is made by hand. Amish underwear, on the other hand, is often store-bought. This includes panties, boxer shorts, and socks. There may be some variation of this depending on the particular community, and their distance from clothing stores.
Amish women keep their dresses clean while cooking and baking by wearing traditional white aprons. This is a good idea, because they spend a lot of time in the kitchen, creating traditional favorites for their families.
Of course, they enjoy other pursuits, too. Amish quilt-making is very popular and has earned them much fame in the outside world. Much like the traditional wicker baskets that they make to use inside the community, as well as sell to support their families.
Everything from the vegetable harvest basket to the countertop bread box is made by hand. And you can also give your kitchen a touch of country cottage charm when you purchase them. They make wonderful gifts for your friends and family, too.
Of course, winters can get a bit chilly. So Amish women sometimes wear a cape over their shoulders to keep warm. This is also often worn to church or special events. They never wear jackets or other items that may be construed as ‘masculine’ clothing.
Despite the gender neutrality of many of today’s fashions, the Amish community has a clear division between men’s and women’s clothing. This is why you’ll never see Amish women wearing pants, jeans, or button-down shirts. Such items would be viewed as men’s clothing.
Many of you may be wondering why Amish women wear bonnets all the time. In the Bible, women are instructed to cover their hair, especially when in prayer. Therefore, Amish women wear bonnets called ‘kapps’ at all times outside their homes.
You can even tell if an Amish woman is married or not from the color of her Kapp. That’s helpful because Amish people don’t wear jewelry, not even wedding rings. Amish women also never wear earrings, and make-up goes against their beliefs. They grow their hair long, but it’s always worn braided or pinned up.
Unmarried women and girls wear black bonnets, while married women wear white. Even the heads of handmade Amish dolls are covered in this way.
Shirt & Broadfall Trousers
Like the women, Amish men are required to dress modestly. They wear plain shirts and broad fall trousers. While some Amish use buttons for these, most don’t, preferring to use hook-and-eye fastenings.
Amish people have to purchase their buttons, and the ones available in stores are often embellished. That wouldn’t fit in with the plain and simple Amish dress code, so they tend to avoid them, but men’s trousers often have plain buttons instead of zippers on the fly.
All Amish people are expected to dress modestly. So like women’s dresses, men's trousers may not be tight or revealing in any way. Amish men tend to wear neutral colors like blue, brown, or gray. Their clothing is functional, and it’s not meant to be fashionable or eye-catching.
A married man’s garments will usually be sewn by his wife, but an unmarried man or boy would receive these from his mother.
The men’s coat is one article of clothing where buttons are never found, but there’s a different reason for it, than the usual one cited for why Amish clothing has no buttons.
Amish people are pacifists, and thus don’t join the military or observe customs associated with the military. Because buttoned coats were once a popular garment for military officers, Amish men don’t use buttons on their coats.
This aversion to all things that represent the military can be seen in other Amish behavior, too. Amish men are known for their full beards. In fact, once married, they grow them out and are forbidden to cut them. But they don’t grow mustaches!
This is because mustaches were once seen as a military symbol. For many years, they were favored by the officers in various countries’ regiments. That’s why married Amish men may not shave either beard, but they all have no mustache, and it’s why their winter coats don’t have any outer buttons.
Wide-Brimmed Straw Hat
This is probably one of the most famous Amish iconic symbols. Amish men and their hats are virtually inseparable. They serve a very practical purpose, too. As most men in this community work outdoors in the blazing sun, these hats protect their heads from the harsh UV rays of the sun.
But there is one time when all Amish men remove their hats, and that is in church or at any other time in prayer. That’s because, while the scriptures say that women should cover their heads in prayer, it expects the opposite of men.
Like those little girl Amish dolls with their bonnets, the male versions of Amish dolls wear straw hats to symbolize Amish boys and men. In this way, Amish children identify with their dolls, as they represent their culture in a way no store-bought toy ever could.
If you’ve ever spotted Amish women and children walking barefoot along a country road, you may have wondered why Amish don’t wear shoes. No rule says they have to walk barefoot, and not all of them do. But the Amish believe that it keeps them humble and in touch with nature.
Of course, there’s a much more practical reason why children don’t wear shoes. As they’re still growing, it is more cost-effective to let them walk barefoot in the summer than continuously changing their shoes. And it’s well-known that children of all cultures love to run around barefoot in the summer.
There’s no specific law against shoes, though. It’s not uncommon to see some of the men in sensible sneakers or other comfortable shoes, although these are more common in New Order communities. Amish women generally wear plain black pumps and stockings under their dresses.
Fashion accessories are pretty much unknown in the Amish community. Items that you may take for granted such as sunglasses, handbags or belts don’t feature in their dress code.
The main reason for this is that they call attention to the wearer. The Amish aim at all times for uniformity and humility in their style of dress. And accessories, which serve no practical purpose other than ornamentation, are thus unsuitable for their lifestyle.
They don’t wear jewelry, not even wristwatches. It’s okay though because there’s a simple way to tell if they’re married or not.
Remember how the women’s bonnet colors signify their marital status? Married men can be identified by their beards. Unmarried men are clean-shaven. While Amish men are bearded.
Amish culture has several elements that the outside world easily recognizes. One of these is their distinctive traditional attire.
But to the Amish, clothing isn’t an opportunity to draw attention. Fashion trends come and go. Their clothing represents practicality, modesty, and humility, and although their garments may be inexpensive and plain, the values that they represent, are priceless.
Did You Find Our Blog Helpful? Then Consider Checking:
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- Amish Dating Rules
- What Age Do Amish Get Married
- Can Amish Date Outsiders
- Traditional Amish Wedding Dress
- Are Amish Marriages Arranged
- Do Amish Wear Wedding Rings
- Amish Beard Rules
- Amish Beards Style
- Amish Hair Rules
- How Do You Know If an Amish Woman Is Married
- Why Don't Amish Women Cut Their Hair