As today’s fast-paced society continues to make technological advances at a rapid rate, the Amish people manage to hold true to their plain, uncomplicated way of life.
A truly unique culture, the Amish are known for their unwavering religious devotion. Their firm dedication to their distinct lifestyle extends to other areas, as well, however.
Over the nearly 16 years I’ve spent working with them, I’ve had the good fortune of witnessing, first-hand, their expertise in the areas of woodworking, farming and cooking. The Amish are quite proficient in all these areas, despite working with mostly basic tools and equipment.
Not to be lost among the distinct aspects of Amish life is their clothing. Whether it’s men’s, women’s or children’s clothing, the common theme among Amish garments is their plain, unadorned style. This goes hand-in-hand with the no-frills lifestyle practiced by the Amish. They frown upon vanity in all its forms, and there’s no place in their communities for the wearing of lavish, attention-grabbing attire.
Different orders have differing dress codes, but in most orders, the women make all the clothing, after first purchasing the fabric from local stores in their community. The clothing is usually made on solid wood sewing tables and cabinets, which were constructed by highly skilled Amish craftsmen.
Being that typical Amish families are quite large, a lot of the children’s clothing is passed down when outgrown. As you might expect, there is also quite a bit of mending that goes on in a large household.
The primary fabric (typically polyester, cotton, or a blend of the two) for most men’s garments is usually of a dark shade, such as black, charcoal gray, or navy.
Men wear straight-cut black suits with coats, with whites shirts buttoned up to the neck underneath. In the warmer months, black vests are sometimes worn as a substitute for the coats. Suspenders are used on the trousers, and the shirts and trousers are usually fastened together with either plain buttons or hooks, since the Amish don’t use zippers.
The men dress this way for a wide variety of occasions, including weddings, funerals, family gatherings, church and business meetings. Dark leather shoes and dark socks are the typical footwear.
Men’s work pants are made from a form of tough, durable denim. The pants usually have a pocket, or two, just below the hip and above the knee on either side, for carrying a tool, pencil or wallet.
An Amish man’s everyday work outfit isn’t complete, however, without a hat to top it off. Wide-brimmed felt hats are popular during the winter months, while straw hats are worn in warm weather months.
As a general rule, young, unmarried Amish men are usually clean-shaven, whereas the married men sport full, untrimmed beards. There are certain orders, though, which allow for men to trim their beards, if only for shaping. Other orders, meanwhile, permit the younger, unmarried men to grow beards, provided the beards are trimmed very neatly.
As for the women, long-sleeved dresses of a solid color are common, and there are no patterns of any kind on the clothing. Jewelry is also not allowed.
The colors of the dresses are sometimes brighter and more diverse than that of men’s wear, although what’s permitted in some communities may not be permitted in others. Black, white, yellow, green, purple and beige are all popular colors for women, although you won’t find any loud, attention-grabbing hues, such as bright red, orange or hot pink.
For special events, such as weddings and funerals, women’s dresses are always black and white together.
No matter the color, Amish dresses are almost always covered with a black or white apron. The dresses are usually made of polyester, and they’re not permitted to come higher than a certain length on the woman’s leg, usually the calf or ankle area.
Women usually wear black leather shoes with laces, similar to the general style worn by men. In some of the more primitive Amish orders, however, it isn’t uncommon to see women and children going barefoot in the late spring and summer months.
In other orders, women wear tennis shoes in public. Of course, this isn’t considered traditional Amish attire, but these orders permit the practice, nevertheless, largely due to the added comfort afforded by the shoes.
Since they don’t show their hair in public, most Amish women wear prayer caps, either white or black, which are usually made of a soft, light fabric. In most orders, they are not permitted to cut their hair.
Meanwhile, children and youth wear similar garments as their parents, although they’re seemingly allowed to dress in brighter colors much more often than the adults. In fact, certain orders permit their young men, both married and unmarried, to wear blue, orange, yellow and green, especially in the summer.
It’s sometimes said that people’s clothes say a lot about them. If that’s indeed true, then one could identify the Amish as a straightforward, dignified group of people who remain faithful to their beliefs and their simple approach to life. And after spending many years getting to know them, I can say with certainty that they wouldn’t want it any other way.