Comparing Amish Women’s Head Coverings (19 Photos)
Ever noticed how Amish women in different places wear different head coverings? A good example is the heart-shaped Lancaster women’s covering, versus the straight-sided, pleated coverings worn by Amish women in the Midwest.
Like other items of Amish clothing, there are quite a few different styles of women’s coverings, and some with rather subtle differences.
I stopped in at the Amish & Mennonite Heritage Center in Holmes County last month, which houses various exhibits including a display of Plain women’s (mostly Amish) head coverings. I took some photos of the various coverings which you can see in full here:
I wanted to show you differences between these coverings by taking a closer look at some of these examples, drawn from different communities and affiliations.
Notes on Amish Women’s Coverings
A few quick things worth noting about the head covering (aka prayer covering or kapp).
First, Amish wear Plain clothing for several reasons, including modesty, practicality, and identity (see this article for more). Amish can also look to Scripture for a basis to this particular practice (see for example 1 Corinthians 11:2-16, including “But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head: for that is even all one as if she were shaven”).
Second, the prayer covering is different from the bonnet, which is the larger covering which goes over the kapp and is often worn when traveling or going to formal occasions. Prayer coverings are often mistakenly called bonnets.
Finally, women and girls may wear different coverings, and this can also vary on the situation (ie coverings worn at church or while working). You’ll see a few examples of those below as well.
Amish Women’s Head Coverings – 14 Examples
First of all, here’s the kapp of the largest Amish affiliation in Holmes County, known simply as Old Order. Holmes County has around a dozen separate Amish affiliations, from the very plain Swartzentruber to New Order groups who use tractors in the field and permit public electricity.
But the “mainstream” Old Order group in Holmes County outnumbers all other groups put together by close to a 2-to-1 margin. So this is the covering you’re most apt to see in the community.
In comparison here’s the covering worn by their neighbors the New Order Amish. You can see that this one is more elongated and is less angular. In this case the material is also different, but I don’t know if that is a general trait or if this one is simply made from a different type of cloth.
Here is the “Dan Amish” church covering (aka Andy Weaver Amish), a plainer group. This one is more compact, fitting more closely to the head:
And from the plainest group of all those in Holmes County, the Swartzentruber covering. The finer pleats on the back come around onto the sides and create a downward swooping effect:
There’s also this covering, described as being “worn by some in the new Amish settlements.” The description says that “the back of the covering does not have the fine pleats or creases found in many Amish communities” which you should be able to tell by this photo, even though the angle is more side-view:
Heading north, here is the covering from the Geauga County settlement. Proportionally, the flat sides are much larger compared to the pleated portion of this kapp:
Leaving Ohio, here we have the Lancaster covering, with its distinct heart shape:
And another group associated with Pennsylvania, the Nebraska Amish, found mainly in Big Valley in the center of the state. Compared to the others, this one seems to have the least defined form of all, and the sides are not stiff like many of the Ohio coverings:
While we’re with the Nebraska Amish, it’s worth mentioning the special hats that this group wears. Several years back we had a post on these unusual scoop hats which are unique to this group:
Here’s the description of this odd hat:
Here’s the covering we saw in the 5 Mystery Photos post – from Milverton, Ontario. This is worn by Amish girls in the community:
And here’s a bonnet from the same community. As you can see, this is a much heavier material and protects better against the elements when outside or traveling in a carriage:
So here are some coverings for special circumstances. First, a veil which is worn by Mennonite women and also some Amish “when doing tasks that might damage the shaped white covering”:
A covering worn by unmarried girls to church:
And its description:
And finally a covering worn by some girls while working:
Its simple design is practical:
I hope you enjoyed this look at various head coverings from across multiple Amish communities.
And if you’re visiting Holmes County, a stop by the Amish & Mennonite Heritage Center is a great way to spend several hours. These coverings and the rest of their exhibits are well worth examining up close.
Here’s the address, and the center website:
Amish & Mennonite Heritage Center
5798 Co Rd 77
Berlin, OH 44610
Amish Head Coverings
My friend Rhoda used to wear a scarf in her store. One time I went in and had to smile: she had chosen the prettiest bluescarf to match her apron: it was almost turquoise, and her dress was much darker. If you’ve seen pictures of the Maria von Trapp, she often wore a scarf like that, to match the apron. Yes, she had and wore the white Kapp too at times, only when working she looked like an Austrian Lady. I miss her and Henry. Their store in Somerset County was wonderful. She even managed to track down the German language edition of “Der Märtyrer Spiegel” for me. When Henry passed, Rhoda closed the store and moved to where her daughters lived. We sadly lost touch. My memories, however, no one can steal!
Sounds like great friends and a great store, Jim. Thanks for sharing with us.
For all of these terrific photographs of the varying head coverings among the Amish and Mennonite communities. I noticed that a couple of them were similar to the upstate New York settlements. I sometimes see young women who are *not* Amish or Mennonite wearing the veil, although they wear it directly over their hair and not over a kapp.
Thanks for the descriptions of the distinctions.
That’s interesting Heidi, I know some Catholic women cover their heads with a veil at least while in church. Glad you liked the post. Which communities in New York did you have in mind?
Maybe Apostalic. My Grandma had a few ladies that were Apostolic in her family as well as Amish and Mennonite. My Aunt Clara always wore a little lace cover over the top of her bun and on Sunday a bit more formal longer one similar to Catholic ones
Variety of Amish Head Coverings
Thanks for sharing. Every winter, while in Florida, we eat breakfast at the Der Dutchman in Sarasota, FL. and see a variety of head coverings. I have always wondered where they reside and if they are Amish or Mennonites. The coverings are often quite different from the ones we see in Lancaster County, PA where we reside.
It is neat when you see Amish from geographically diverse communities in one place. I bet you see a good mix in Sarasota.
Headcoverings in Holmes County, OH
This was fascinating, thanks for the article. I have visited Holmes County at least once a year for the past 15 or so years and I have never noticed the pleats on any of the women’s kapps there – guess I haven’t looked very closely. Also interesting about the ‘swoosh’ pleats on the Schwartzentruber kapps. I will definitely try to be more discerning the next time I am there. I so admire the dedication to prayer the Amish women show by wearing these coverings.
They probably look more swooshy because of the angle, but that one has the most fine creases of any of these. The Swartzentruber and Nebraska kapps seem to have a less defined shape than the others.
Holmes County Coverings
Recently went on my annual Holmes County trip. I went to several fabric stores in the area and noticed that most of the stores which sold dress fabric for the Amish also had cases with all types of coverings for sale, both Amish and Mennonite. They didn’t have strings sewn to any of them so I guess they have to do that at home. I did pay more attention this time and noticed the small pleats on some. Very interesting! I sew and quilt but I don’t think I’d be able to make the kapps, they look pretty complicated. They must go through a lot of spray starch to get them stiff enough to keep their shape. I wonder if they ever wash them or if they just buy new ones if they get dirty? They are beautifully made, and also beautiful because of what they signify.
Your mention that these kapps aren’t bonnets reminds me of what I learned years ago about “bonnet novels.” These are rather formulaic romance novels involving Amish girls/women and, of course, the boys/men who take a liking to them. Very popular among Amish and, in the trade, called bonnet novels.
You’re right Boyce. This has been a booming segment of the book industry. I know it was on the upswing when Valerie Weaver-Zercher wrote her book about the phenomenon several years back. She had some stats in the book about the rising number of bonnet novels published each year. I don’t know if that rise has continued or if it has flattened out or declined, but anecdotally they still seem to keep coming out at a good pace.
Amish Head Coverings in LANCASTER County
Very interesting, and such a variety. All the Amish I know in Lancaster, PA wear the heart-shaped covering, & all the Mennonites wear the round style. I have always believed that, but anyone know for sure?
Thanks for this interesting comparison
Bob the heart-shape covering are what the Lancaster Amish and their daughter settlements wear. There are a variety of Mennonites and I am not so up to speed on their different coverings but they don’t wear the heart-shaped covering, that is specific to the Amish of that area. Glad you enjoyed it, this was a fun post to put together.
Thanks for sharing your pictures!
I never really thought too much about the different head coverings before. Actually, I really didn’t know about the Amish much at all until I found your website.
I’ve seen a group of women at an airport that I believe may have been Mennonites, but I am not sure. I didn’t want to look like I was staring, however I did see them several times when looking for my sister and I noticed that their coverings were quite small, thin, and only covered the very backs of their heads. They also had dresses and aprons that were the same style and shape as we typically see the Amish wearing, but the patterns weren’t as plain.
That sounds like they were probably Mennonites, both by the description of the coverings and the dresses. Amish typically wear dresses which are solid without patterns, or with very subtle patterns in the fabric. And the head coverings Amish women wear will usually cover a good portion of the head, as you can see in these examples, in some cases covering the ears at least partially. Glad you enjoyed the photos and glad you found the site!
Amish Dress Fabric
I did notice on my Holmes County trip that most Amish dress fabrics I saw in the stores had woven texture in the solid colors. It is subtle, but it’s there.
Head Covering Care
Interesting article and photographs, thank you for posting.
Just a few questions:
How are these head coverings cared for?
How many days are they worn before being laundered? I imagine that would be dependent on activity, but I wonder what the norm is?
Are they ironed and/or starched? It would seem that maintaining the pleats would be tedious.
Lots of ironing
I belonged to an Old Order church for many years. Our coverings had gathers instead of pleats in the sides. They took a lot of care, but looked nice. The best ones were made of Indianhead linen. Lots of ironing and starching and pinching the pleats/gathers while the covering is still wet from the starch. Then we’d pull the starch-soaked covering down over the bottom of a 2-quart canning jar, re- crimp the gathers, and let it dry overnight. Ours tied under the chin. The strings and the part that was against the back of the neck would look dirty after awhile, then I’d wash it. No specific time frame. Depends what environment you’re wearing it in.
Very good post Erik!
Thanks Yoder! I’ve got one or two more planned on the Center:)
on the top far right row, what community does that belong to? It reminds me of old roman catholic head coverings that some women wear to church.
The top right looks like it’s from the Apostolic Christian Church.
Head dress picture frame
It doesn’t matter to me the styles of head cover. To me it’s the exceptional beauty within the frame!;)
Amish Women’s Head Coverings
This was wonderful. As a married Jewish woman, I also cover my head. I use scarves, or “Tichels” to cover, and depending on the sect, some women cover with “ shaytels” ( wigs,) or a cap, or like me, the Tichel. I’m always very interested in what other religious or cultural groups use to cover, and the reasons. Thank you for this educational piece!
Jewish Amish relations
Your response prompts me to ask what is known about interactions between Amish and Jewish people. I often think there may be similarities between the Amish and ultra-orthodox, in dress and attitudes toward the outside world. Both tend to be insular. Both are quite conservative in sexual mores. Family size. Maybe more.
Are there any sects that do not wear caps? I saw two beautiful women the other day, their hair was ornately coiffed, and they wore the traditional clothing, but they did not have a head covering.
Other groups that have a very modest dress code but don’t wear head coverings could be Church of God Restoration or even Warren Jeff’s FLDS.
Then there is also the Branhamites, two by two’s, plain Quakers, exclusive Plymouth Brethren – although they will wear something on their heads even if it’s just a headband.
And the possibility that it was Mennonite girls having a rebellious moment without headcoverings, or unmarried Orthodox Jewish women.
Where do they get their Kapps? Is there someone that has a home business making them? Or the women make their own or are they commercially made?
reply to jeri
i think they make their own kapps at least the family in wisconsin that i stay with does
The Nebraska women’s straw hats reminds me of the Old Colony Mennonites from South America straw hats.