47 responses to Why do the Amish wear Plain clothing?
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    Thelma Pace
    Why do the Amish wear Plain clothing? (November 1st, 2010 at 12:16)

    Why do the women all use straight pens instead of buttons.

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      Theresa Ledbetter
      why the women use pins in place of buttons (February 19th, 2012 at 20:32)

      why the women use pins in place of buttons

      The amish women use straight pins to hold their clothes because buttons are considered decorative. They want nothing on them to draw attention to their way of dress.

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    Dena Casey
    Why do the Amish wear Plain clothing? (November 17th, 2010 at 15:36)

    What is meant by “cape dress” for the women?

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      Lisa Schultz
      cape dress (June 24th, 2013 at 13:56)

      cape dress

      the cape portion of many plain/conservative Mennonite groups dresses, goes back again to being modest. There is a second layer from shoulder to waist, & attatched at the waist. This is to hide undergarment lines, & disguise the bustline.
      All part of “not causing our brother’s in Christ to stumble” as stated in the New Testament. Hope that helps

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    Marilyn Riley
    Why do the Amish wear Plain clothing? (December 30th, 2010 at 19:11)

    Why do Amish women only wear blue, black and green dresses?
    I see the younger women and children wear rose and print.
    Is that correct and why?
    Why can’t they use snaps or buttons?
    Why do they wear long aprons over there dress?
    Why do they cover there heads?

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    Alice Aber
    Why do the Amish wear Plain clothing? (December 30th, 2010 at 19:39)

    I might be able to answer a couple of these questions although I am not Amish.

    First in regards to pins rather than buttons or snaps. There is a huge variety of buttons and snaps,,, some we would consider rather plain while others can be quite fancy. To allow their use would then open the door for a competitive nature to arise in “seeing how dressy or fancy” they can get the buttons or snaps. That in turn would or could cause emotions like envy and jealousy which the Amish avoid. They avoid it because that is what can break down a community and also cause sin. As in, “thou shalt not covet”.

    A cape dress is a dress that has a cape sewn or sometimes tied around the neck line at the shoulders and hangs down over the top of the dress. I see cape dresses more on non-Amish such as Baptist Brethren, who also dress “plain” or “modestly”.

    The color of the clothes they wear is usually determined by their particular community. Some communities may only allow 2 colors or 3. Again, this eliminates any competition and promotes unity.

    Typically, printed materials are only used by non-Amish, such as Baptist Brethren, some Mennonites and the like.

    I am not 100% sure about the aprons but I believe the apron is a symbol of servitude or “having a servants heart”. It is also practical as it keeps the dress cleaner.

    Head-coverings is biblical. In 1 Corrinthians 11: 1-16 women are admonished to cover their heads. (wear head coverings). By wearing the covering a woman is honoring her husband. While some will argue that it says that is while they are praying or prophesing there is other scripture that says we are to “pray ceaselessly” meaning to be in constant prayer. So, a head covering should be worn all the time.

    God’s order of command so to speak, the husband is the head of the wife,,, Christ is the head of the husband,,, and God is the head of Christ. So you might think, “well if she is single why does she have to wear a covering.” In the case of the single woman, her father if she is still living at home, is her head. If she is living alone,,, her head would then be Christ and she must cover to honor him as well.

    There is more to it but that is the basics. Hope it makes sense and I did not get too wordy.

    Blessings, Alice

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    Marilyn Riley
    Why do the Amish wear Plain clothing? (January 4th, 2011 at 19:38)

    Alice,
    I read your comment to my questions and that explains a lot.
    Thanks so much.
    Blessings,
    Marilyn

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    Alice Aber
    Why do the Amish wear Plain clothing? (January 4th, 2011 at 23:11)

    Marilyn, so glad I could help!! You are most welcome.

    Blessings, Alice

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    Jeanne Grimm
    Why do the Amish wear Plain clothing? (January 5th, 2011 at 12:20)

    As a non-Amish married woman, I personally appreciate and uphold their desire for modesty amongst their women and men. Unfortunately, in the outside world, it seems like the state of undress both in women and in men, is to reveal as much as can possibly be allowed. There is no question the evidence of the sinful thoughts that come to both sexes and how they live that out in our society. Blessings on those that live their faith on that issue. Jeanne

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    Alyssa
    Why do the Amish wear Plain clothing? (March 16th, 2011 at 16:02)

    Hi, I am wondering if anyone on this site could write an article or email directions on how to make an Amish dress??
    I did some ‘googling’ and I found an article on how to make a plain dress with many pictures but it isn’t amish-style and it isn’t very through.
    If you know how and will email me, my email is:
    bally49@ymail.com.
    Thank you very much,
    Alyssa

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      Lisa Schultz
      "Amish Dress" (February 4th, 2014 at 11:51)

      "Amish Dress"

      All you need to do is look up/google modest christian clothing or cape dress, & you will find options. The King’s Daughter’s, & Lilies of the Field have options.

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      Melvin Schrock
      Getting amish dress patterns (March 3rd, 2014 at 15:25)

      Getting amish dress patterns

      My wife may be able to help you in a pattern to sew an Amish dress because we used to be Amish. Any more questions email me at mel@mapministry

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    Amish dress (April 7th, 2011 at 17:07)

    Amish dress

    Hi Alyssa, that’s an idea! I don’t know that I am qualified though. Perhaps one of our Amish/ex-Amish readers will see this and maybe we could have a guest post on the topic :)

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      Debbie
      Amish dresses (February 2nd, 2012 at 20:42)

      Amish dresses

      I live part of the year in Lancaster and part in Texas. I have a very dear Amish friend who taught me how to make Amish dresses. There is a big market in modest dresses and so I am busy making and selling them. If anyone is interested they can let you know, Erik, and then you can email me.
      Love your website.

      Blessings,

      Debbie

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    Kate
    Why do the Amish wear Plain clothing? (April 7th, 2011 at 21:00)

    I just recently sewed 2 Amish dresses for myself. I can’t imagine trying to describe that over the internet let alone doing it without a pattern :) It would be *very* hard! There are websites to buy patterns or clothes though. King’s Daughters are good patterns to buy for plain clothing.

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      Aisha
      dress making tutorial (February 4th, 2014 at 10:12)

      dress making tutorial

      Kate,
      I think you could use snapguide.com to create a visual guide to making an Amish dress.

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      Linda
      Gehman's Country Fabrics (March 3rd, 2014 at 22:47)

      Gehman's Country Fabrics

      Another option for plain clothes is through Gehman’s Country Fabrics of Lebanon, PA. They have patterns from King’s Daughters and Home-Sew Design. Their women’s cape dresses and girl’s clothing may be more in the Mennonite style, with zippers.

      www.gehmanscountryfabrics.com

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    Ann
    A few Quakers, too (May 2nd, 2011 at 08:32)

    A few Quakers, too

    Although most Friends are hard to distinguish by looks, a few are Plain. It’s mostly the Conservative branch that has members that dress Plain but I believe there are a few even in the very liberal (so liberal that there are Atheist Quakers amongst them) FGC. Quaker Jane has a good site about Plain Friends.

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    Ann
    Plain Speak (May 2nd, 2011 at 08:36)

    Plain Speak

    By the way, do the Amish speak Plain? Even amongst those who dress less conservatively, they use Plain speech. Thee, and no week names or month names, no titles, things like that.

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      Linda
      Why do the Amish wear Plain clothing? (September 4th, 2012 at 08:32)

      No, Ann, Amish do not “speak Plain.” They use the calendar names of the days and months. Although I’m not too familiar with it, the Quaker Friends’ plain speech or simplicity in speech, may refer to their Testimony of Simplicity. Many Amish school teachers do not use a title; they just use their first name. But it could vary. One belief shared by the Friends and the Amish is to affirm to tell the truth in court, rather than swearing an oath. “Swear not,….but let your yea be yea; and your nay, nay;…” James 5:12.

      “The Quaker treaty with the Indians of Pennsylvania was the only treaty that was ever concluded without an oath, and the only one that was never broken.”
      —Voltaire

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    Barb
    Where to find cape dresses (December 27th, 2011 at 07:36)

    Where to find cape dresses

    They are often for sale on eBay (varying degrees of authenticity). Some are outright Amish, some less plain (more Mennonite).

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    Nicole
    Sewing Plain Clothes (May 14th, 2012 at 14:43)

    Sewing Plain Clothes

    Candle on the Hill has lots of good sewing patterns, and they also explain the different styles appropriate for Amish, Mennonite, Quaker and other plain clothes wearers. You can buy sewing patterns or just brouse at candleonthehill.com. You can also buy a treadle sewing machine from lehmans.com if you live off-grid.

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    Dee Byers
    Clothing (November 19th, 2012 at 09:06)

    Clothing

    Why do men’s pants not have back pockets?

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      Linda
      Why do the Amish wear Plain clothing? (December 21st, 2012 at 07:12)

      Dee, I’m not sure why, but the shirts do not have pockets, either. Maybe to make it unhandy to carry cigarettes?

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    Adrienne
    Regarding aprons... (December 20th, 2012 at 22:07)

    Regarding aprons...

    I suspect that the reason for wearing long aprons is that Amish women WORK. An apron is a hand towel, an oven mitt, and a basket to carry as well as protection for the front of one’s dress in case of minor spills. Aprons are easier to make and repair than dresses, and easy to change when soiled. If those plain gowns are wool (I have no idea, but it would be MY chosen fiber for daily wear) it would certainly make sense to wear a cotton apron, which can be bleached, to avoid having to wash the dress.

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    Sara
    Why do the Amish wear Plain clothing? (January 9th, 2013 at 12:19)

    My family was Old Order Amish until i was three years old. My aunt recently showed me some photo’s of my mom and another aunt from the late 1970`s. The dresses are much different than the dresses my Amish relations wear today. They are more form fitted, look like “a line” style dresses to me, and end just above the knee. I haven’t been able to find any photo’s online of similar styles. This was in indiana if that helps. Does anyone know if those dresses were common?

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    Sara
    Why do the Amish wear Plain clothing? (January 9th, 2013 at 12:25)

    I forgot to mention that there were photo’s of them in church dresses that were the traditional mid calf length. Although the photo was blurry and they were wearing aprons so i couldn’t tell if they were the same a line form fitting style of the other dresses. My grandpa was a minister so I assume the dresses were church sanctioned.

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    Salma
    Aprons (March 4th, 2013 at 19:06)

    Aprons

    I’ve seen a documentary about Amish and an Amish woman said that they put aprons as an extra protection from revealing the shape of the body.

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    Plainly Simple or Simply Plain (March 19th, 2013 at 05:26)

    Plainly Simple or Simply Plain

    I came across a website that had various styles of dresses such as German Brethren,Mennonite,Amish,etc.called either Plainly Simple or Simply plain I can’t remember which.I think it also had kapps and underclothes,too.They were all in various sizes for babies,women,and girls.It even had things for men to wear.If any of this helps you that’ll be great and I really hope it does!Good Luck!

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    Aaron
    Barefoot a requirement? (April 6th, 2013 at 00:05)

    Barefoot a requirement?

    I’ve noticed that in summer at least the majority of Amish children, boys and girls, go barefoot and that adult women are also often barefoot though maybe not as much as the kids. Yet adult men always seem to be in shoes at least in public. The kids even go to school barefoot, so it’s obviously very common. I was wondering if there is a biblical reason for this, or is it a specific rule like wearing hats or aprons. Is there a reason adult men don’t do this? Does it show that the children and wife are below the men? Obviously it isn’t a poverty thing and the kids and women have good shoes, but they choose not to wear them and in such high numbers that I assume it has to be at least strongly encouraged if not a specific rule. Anyone know if that’s the case?

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      Forest
      Why do the Amish wear Plain clothing? (April 6th, 2013 at 06:50)

      Hello Aaron,

      I have never heard of a rule regarding this; I would imagine it has to do more with the idea that men are usually engaged in some type of work (or could be at any moment) where shoes would be desirable and/or be necessary for the sake of your feet. That is, you are more often in an enviroment where your feet would require protection if you are a man in a farm/workshop setting. Having a Belgian plow horse put his foot on yours while you are harnessing it will make you extremely glad you are wearing work boots (preferably with steel toes…)

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    Sara
    Shoes (April 6th, 2013 at 09:55)

    Shoes

    I’ve never seen my Amish cousins and uncles going barefoot. On vacation this year my uncles wore white socks and “crocs”. I don’t think i’ve seen an adult Amish man barefoot outside or in flip flops like my female relatives used to wear. In warmer weather, the majority of them wear crocs (with no socks or with black socks) or go barefoot.

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    Sara
    Why do the Amish wear Plain clothing? (April 6th, 2013 at 09:57)

    Oops! I meant male cousins in that first line.

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    Don Curtis
    going barefoot (April 6th, 2013 at 13:39)

    going barefoot

    I asked Mark about this. He said that when warmer weather comes just about all the women and children in his community go barefoot. Not so much the men and boys while they are working in shops or out on the farm. But, in the evenings, the men kick off their shoes, too. It is acceptable for little children to come to church barefoot. The Amish are practical and it saves on shoe leather plus it’s cooler. Mark wears crocks during the summer and especially working in the garden. I have Amish boys and girls who mow my grass and it just about terrifies me to see them out mowing the grass with no shoes on.

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      Sadie
      Lawn Mowers, Shoes, and Summer (April 6th, 2013 at 23:04)

      Lawn Mowers, Shoes, and Summer

      Don, you reminded me about something I haven’t thought of for years.

      My grandpa used to cut the grass — first with a reel mower then with a gas mower — without shoes on. That really didn’t make my grandma very happy! My dad occasionally did the same — which didn’t make my mom so happy, either!

      I wish I knew what happened to my grandparents’ reel mower. At some point, I want to buy one — but I will definitely be wearing shoes. The fumes from gasoline-powered lawnmowers make me sick, so it’d be nice to have a mower I could actually use without passing out! I wonder if this rumor I’ve heard is true: in most Amish families, the women and girls cut the grass, while in English families, it tends to be the men and boys who do so. I wonder if it’s true, and if so, why that would be.

      That’s a good point, about being cooler. When Amish people wear long dresses and slacks, especially with an apron and cape for the women, any bit of relief from the heat seems like it’d be nice! In one of Linda Byler’s books, I forget which but was in her “Lizzie Looks for Love” series ( Linda being Old Order Amish even now ), she mentioned that the women of her district at that time wore, even during the hottest months, six layers of cloth ( on Sundays, anyway! ). These were: the dress itself, made of 2 layers ( the visible layer and the facing — the layer lining the inside of the dress ), a cape ( visible layer and facing ), and an apron ( visible layer and facing ). The way she presents this in the book, being spoken by the character I think may be be semi-autobiographical, is quite funny. But thinking about that, I’d bet being able to not wear stockings and shoes would be a welcome relief!

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        bob
        reel mower (February 14th, 2014 at 19:59)

        reel mower

        Sears has the reel mowers

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    My mom did yard work for relatives. (April 15th, 2013 at 03:18)

    My mom did yard work for relatives.

    When I was growing up my mom would be pushing a mower(gas)for hours doing work for relatives.She once worked for at least five hours on a relative’s yard with only a weed eater,no mower,including a steep bank to do.Now that I’m grown up I go around barefooted all the time at the house.I find it much more comfortable even more so in the warmer weather of spring and summer,with the odd weather we’ve been having the past couple of years,sometimes even the winter,too.Although having a husband,for the past almost 5 years,to do the yard work for me has made it to were I wouldn’t get near a mower or anything like it if you paid me to!I never had to get around anything that dangerous when I was growing up.I would have to sweep snow off of the neighbor’s porch,pick up sticks/branches in the yard,and rake leaves but nothing were I could hurt myself.I hated doing it back then ,due to a car accident I was in at age 15 or 16 where I injured my lower back permanently,but now realize that it was all a part of helping out the family/neighbors who couldn’t do it.It was good for me to do and I still do as much as I can when that injury doesn’t want to act up.

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    Stephanie Rollins
    suspenders (August 31st, 2013 at 13:18)

    suspenders

    I just left an Amish auction. It is common to see different styles in suspenders, and it is somewhat common to see a few without suspenders. However, I saw a couple today who wore a one-shoulder style of suspenders. Can anyone tell me more about the reasoning behind this?

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      Slightly-Handled-Order-Man
      AA blog entry potential (September 1st, 2013 at 06:48)

      AA blog entry potential

      That would actually make an interesting subject for Erik to blog about. It is a curious thing, isn’t it? Of course I suspect it has something to do with the order, strictness and which community the person belongs to that determines the style worn, or not worn.

      Once again, I think Erik should do an article on this “fashion statement” of the Amish.

      • One suspender, two suspender, no suspender

        Great idea Shom…Stephanie I have never investigated the reasoning behind this, but if I did I don’t know how much I’d find by way of explanation. The one suspender is seen among the Byler Amish in the Big Valley area of PA.

        Like some other customs of Amish life sometimes the reasoning may have more to do with historical accident or one group distinguishing itself from another than with any thought-out rationale.

        Maybe some one else has a better explanation…of course it’s often the case that stories arise to explain things when no official explanation is forthcoming :)

        For instance I could see someone explaining this as one group attempting to demonstrate greater simplicity and/or frugality in contrast to another church. Not saying that has anything to do with the way things actually came to be, but sounds believable doesn’t it? :)

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    Lisa
    27 pins (October 23rd, 2013 at 15:02)

    27 pins

    Recently while reading a Beverly Lewis novel, she mentioned that the women used 27 pins to close their dresses…not one more or one less. What is the reason for a specific number?

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    Why do the Amish wear Plain clothing? (February 7th, 2014 at 14:13)

    It appears that the Amish dress ‘plain’ because it gives a sense of community and identity. Where I live, there are no Amish or Mennonites (I’m in the UK). There is nothing I would like more than to be Amish (yes, I can do without electricity and modern conveniences). However, if I dress ‘plain’, I would not be identifying with anyone and would stand out so much as being the only one who dresses that way in my community and church. Can I still dress ‘plain’ anyway? What effect will it have on my church (Brethren) and my community?

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    Trish in Indiana
    Why do the Amish wear Plain clothing? (March 3rd, 2014 at 23:14)

    I have always thought it a remarkable irony that the Amish, who build their lives around a philosophy of humility and not drawing attention to the individual, have become so plain that they are now a tourist attraction.

    Perhaps that contradiction is why I have always been very uncomfortable with the commercialization of “Amish country.” When I was a child, Nappanee was the main “tourist” area. Now, it’s Shipshewana. A friend visited me once and said she wanted to “see the Amish.” Maybe it was just because I’ve lived in the middle of Amish country all my life (Elkhart county), and I was a little like the native New Yorker who doesn’t think to bring a visitor to the Statue of Liberty, but I was at a complete loss as to what to show her! They’re just people, after all. I’ve since told her if she comes again, I’ll take her to dinner at Das Essenhaus in Middlebury, and we’ll go to the Shipshewana flea market. But honestly, I’ve told her, if I want to see Amish people, I’ll drive five minutes to Wal-Mart. :)

    They may dress so plain that they’ve become a tourist attraction, but they’re just people.

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      What is plain? (March 4th, 2014 at 12:09)

      What is plain?

      Trish a while back a reader shared a similar thought related to how Amish clothing makes them stand out, finishing with this: “…if Amish folk really want to make a similar statement or want to make *no* statement at all, they should do better at updating how they define Plain.”

      Led to a pretty good discussion: http://amishamerica.com/is-amish-clothing-really-plain/

      By this line of thinking some of the clothing of certain Mennonites seems more plain (read: less attention-getting) to me–plaids and denims for men, giving the appearance of a 1980s farmer style, and out of fashion dress patterns.

      Of course Amish clothing serves multiple functions and is tied up in culture and tradition and represents how the Amish define plain. But since by its plain-ness it ironically gets so much attention maybe we should think of it as “exotic plain”? :)

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    Trish in Indiana
    Why do the Amish wear Plain clothing? (March 4th, 2014 at 13:10)

    Thanks, Erik, for pointing out that other thread. I happened to find it after I had posted on this one, and it was an interesting discussion.

    I don’t particularly have an opinion on whether the Amish should change their own definition of “plain.” It is more that I find myself uncomfortable with the tourism that has grown up around their plainness, and I wonder if they feel that it impinges on their own intent in living their particular way of life. I often feel that the Amish image is financially exploited by people who live around them. To be blunt, most of the tourist money in Indiana’s Amish country seems to be made not by Amish, but by Mennonites.

    I also wonder if the Amish lifestyle is treated as a curiosity rather than as a respected way of life by those who travel here to see it, almost as if it were a play being put on for their amusement. I realize it’s easy for me to say, “They’re just people; quit staring at them,” when I’m used to seeing them all the time, but sometimes, I find myself wanting to tell the tourists to just go home and look at each other, if they want to stare at people. As a Catholic, I have sometimes felt that way about non-Catholic tourists who come to gape at a cathedral, as if it were an art museum rather than a house of worship. I realize curiosity is often the entryway into deeper understanding of another culture, but that realization is at an intellectual level; my heart still feels very uncomfortable with it.

    I imagine that in some ways, the commercialization is even worse in Pennsylvania.

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    Why do the Amish wear Plain clothing? (May 16th, 2014 at 18:16)

    I am from Amish Country, PA and a good place for you all to visit is The Amish Theatre, located in Lancaster PA!

    http://amishexperience.com/

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