Most of contemporary society has very little interaction with individuals who lead an Amish lifestyle. For this reason, their way of life can seem very mysterious and very antiquated, especially since they shirk almost all forms of modern technology. But beneath all the mystery, there are often very logical reasons for most of their lifestyle choices, including their clothing. At the heart of their core beliefs is the idea that order within the communities is crucial, although there may be slight differences among the different communities. But generally speaking, their clothing is notable for its plainness, as it should not call attention to the individual who is wearing it. Some groups restrict their clothing colors to black or white, while other allow for muted colors.iWomen wear calf-length, solid colored, plain-cut dresses. When in the home, they will wear an apron which is typically white for single girls and purple or black if the woman is married. The apron is also always worn when attending church. Another staple of the Amish woman’s attire is a bonnet. Another term for the Amish bonnet is ‘prayer cap’. And technically, this term is more accurate, as a true bonnet would be worn over a prayer cap. All women wear bonnets/prayer caps, except for the Nebraska Amish, who never wear bonnets. Young girls, prior to age 9, may wear colored bonnets, but older girls and women wear black bonnets and married women can wear white ones. There are several reasons why the bonnet is a part of their everyday clothing.ii
A reflection of faith
In most cases, many individuals use their outward appearance to indicate who they are. It becomes a reflection of ourselves and our beliefs. This is true within Amish culture as well. Their style of clothing, including bonnets for the women, is a way to visually communication -important/”>communication -important/”>communication their beliefs. Their faith in God is very strong and they believe that he has called on them to live completely separate from the rest of the world, and especially from negative influences. The differences in clothing immediately set them apart from the rest of society. It is a commitment to the principles upheld by the Amish church.iii
Another core principle with the Amish faith is modesty or humility. This is universally true across the different Amish, Mennonite, and Hutterite communities. They feel that dressing as you please creates pride in your appearance, which is strongly discouraged. The thought is that if one individual stands out among a group, this person can become boastful about their individuality. This would detract from their commitment to focus on the state of their heart, soul and faith, rather than outward appearances.iv There are many restrictions within the Amish faith regarding their appearance-especially for women. Their hair must be bound in either a braid or bun with the prayer cap or bonnet over it. Their dresses are very modest, plain, and are typically uniform across a community. They will wear heavy black stockings underneath their dress and finally, there must never be any ornamentation on their clothing. This includes any buckles or buttons. They must use snaps instead. Additionally, their hair must be hidden at all times. Among all of the other requirements, the bonnet is an important part of any Amish woman’s daily wardrobe.v
Similar to the goal of outwardly reflecting their faith, the standard Amish ‘uniform,’ including a woman’s bonnet, is also a way to symbolize community cohesiveness. Since an individual’s identity is tied to their appearance, the decision to dress in the Amish style is a decision to integrate oneself into the larger group. The style is distinct and speaks volumes as the role that each individual plays in the larger community group.vi
Ease and simplicity
Another great advantage to all members dressing alike is simplicity. By having a standard way of dressing with very little deviation, it makes creating and maintaining clothing very easy. Most outfits are interchangeable and across the community, there may only be size differences. For women, this can take a low of the stress out of selecting the appropriate attire for any event. The guidelines for dressing are very clear within the Amish community, regardless of the event. In other segments of society, it is common for many women to spend a large amount of time determining what the proper style is for any event and most women have a plethora of different types of clothing in their closet, that would include pants, jeans, business suits and office attire, casual and formal clothing and a very wide variety of shoes, purses and other accessories to coordinate a certain ‘look.’ This is something that the Amish need not worry about. Accessories and jewelry are forbidden and the choices in their wardrobe are very limited making any decision about what to wear much easier. There is also a consistency found in the Amish clothing that is not found elsewhere. Trends and current styles in the fashion industry are constantly changing and many women struggle to keep up with the latest fashions. Since the Amish style of dress hasn’t changed in centuries, it is immune to the frequent changes that affect all other parts of society. This predictability is logical in that it allows for a steady and appropriate wardrobe to be maintained for all women in the Amish community with very little cost or time spend on making new clothes.