Is Amish clothing really “Plain”?

Stephen B writes:

While I certainly understand the idea behind Plain-ness, of not calling undue attention to one’s self out of modesty and of not wanting to be too much of this world, it seems to me that as times and fashions change, the Amish haven’t really updated their fashions enough to actually *stay* plain.

amish unplain clothingThat is, it was one thing, back when, to wear plain-looking pants, no zippers, shoes, and what have you, to stay plain, but it seems to me, the real way to stay plain in this day and age would be to wear some no-name jeans, a plain tee-shirt, solid-color, with no other printing or logo, and some plain boots or brand X sneakers.

THAT would truly make the Amish not stand out…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.

Stephen’s comment gives food for thought.  Is “Plain” a misnomer?  Aren’t Amish clothes in fact rather exotic?

Should “Plain” mean “blending in”?  Amish dress is highly noticeable in our society.  Or could that be part of the point?

Photo credit: DaDaAce/flickr

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    81 Comments

    1. Ed

      He has a point, and one can certainly “dress plain” without looking at all like the Amish.

      I suspect, though, that for the Amish plain dress goes beyond a desire for modesty and not calling attention to oneself. Plain clothes help identify oneself and ones sect. They can be handmade, and hand washed and repaired. They are pracitcal for work both inside and outside the house. They tailored specifically for one gender, and show masculinity or femininity without broaching modesty.

      In short … I’m all for the “urban Plain” look of blue jeans and sold color T shirts… that’s often what I wear … but I think the Amish will go on with their unique clothes.

      1. Nic

        I must agree with Ed…around here (Dayton, TN area) many ‘conservatives’ ie…Independant Baptists mostly, wear ‘urban plain’ ; boys in plain jeans & solid t-shirts or polo type collar shirt with no logo, girls & ladies in long, modest color/print dresses & skirts. The Amish have NOT changed bc of their belief to not conform/change as the worldly do.

      2. Tex Expatriate

        You are quite correct. However, the point, missed by the original question, is not plain-ness where the Amish are concerned, but tradition. When these styles were first adopted they were plain. Now they are odd, and identifiably Amish by tradition. If they were earnestly interested in plain-ness, it would be better to wear cheap jeans or khakis and shirts (i.e., Wal-Mart Rustler brand or Dickies and polo shirts or work shirts) to be plain.

        Most Mennonites made those changes a long time ago.

        1. Daryl

          Hi Tex
          It’s not just plainess or tradition that is the driving force behind the Amish dress code, but also separation from the world as per 2Cor.6:17, and modesty as per 1Tim.2:9.

          Something assimilated Mennonites forgot along the way, as they try to blend into the dominant secular culture with their worldly acceptable non-traditional and non-separating ‘plainess’.
          Martyr’s blood shed in vain.

        2. Ann kornoelje

          Plain clothes

          Why is it any concern of others what the Amish wear.

    2. Nadege

      Set Apart

      I am guessing that the Amish DO want to stand out and not just blend in with the crowds. Maybe because christians are called to be set apart and removed from the “world”?

      1. Bill Rushby

        Bingo!

        You hit the nail on the head! As far as I know, “not standing out” from conventional society has never been an important motivation for dressing plainly. Most plain dressers would probably not wish to “stand out” from others of their own fellowship, however! Modesty and nonconformity ARE important motives for dressing plainly, and they do make the person “stand out” from the cultural mainstream.

    3. Nadege

      Restricted Activities

      Also because their appearance is so different they are limited to the types of activities they can participate in when alone. Imagine a plain garbed Amish going into a movie theatre or a bar. Not saying this has not occured, but just that their clothing makes it a bit difficult to partake in forbidden activities.

      1. Good points Nadege. Clothing also has a lot to do with identity and expectations.

        1. JoAnne Chisholm

          Appearances -

          God looks upon the heart, not the outside appearance! We can dress plain, or dress up and our heart can be so far away from God!
          As God’s beloved children, we were made to stand out because of Jesus Christ! Nothing we wear or traditions of men is God looking at – He’s looking for us all to be united in Christ! Amish unity in Community is what the Lord is highlighting in our times!
          It is not us vs them!

    4. Galen

      Dressing Plain

      Great point. Maybe their dressing Plain includes blending in with their own. I would imagine that an Amish farmer wearing jeans and Timberland workboots would somehow standout from the rest. Once in Lancaster I noticed a not very Amish, more Italian looking genleman who was obviously a hired hand for the farm he was working at. As I was enjoying a conversation over breakfast he esplained that “out of respect, he did his best to dress Plain,” yet it was evident that was not his roots. He did wear jeans, yet wore suspenders, blue shirt (gold chain around neck) and of course the hat.
      On a side note: I’m embarassed to say, as a kid I never really understood why they named a restaurant “Plain & Fancy” in Bird-in-Hand, PA (Lanc). I thought it meant some of the food was plain and some of it was more fancy…..funny how a kid thinks…..or my ignorance. :o)

    5. Jessica

      I think the Amish are less about not wanting to call attention to themselves as a group, but rather not wanting to call attention to themselves as individuals. It’s like when schools require students to wear uniforms. You take away the choice of clothing by requiring all students to dress alike, then students can concentrate more on studies and less on whether they have the current fashion trends or not. It levels the playing field. By requiring them to dress is specific styles you can also control the level of modesty in a group. It’s common to see current fashions showing up in most evangelical churches today and those aren’t usually very modest. Also like the previous poster said, Amish clothes can be sewn at home, repaired at home, and sized for the individual.

      Amish don’t practice street evangelism. You won’t see them standing on the street corners preaching or handing out tracts. They believe that their set apart lifestyle IS their witness. They take the verse “Let your light shine before men that they may see your good deeds and glorify your father in heaven” very literally. The Amish practices of plain dress and humility are visual signs of their faith.

      1. Galen

        Nicely put Jessica!

      2. Kim in NY

        Comment on "Is Amish Clothing Really "Plain"?

        Response to Jessica:
        Thanks for sharing your perspective, Jessica, I too think you have said it well!

      3. el

        Coming from an amish background. The thing I have is the pride coming outin their so called clothes. Behind the sence they r no differnt then an of the rest of the ppl.in this world. If u don’t have Jesus u don’t have nothing. Cloth or want ever else goes with it.

        1. Amen. I thank you for this comment and I agree with all of my heart. I belong to an Amish Mennonite Church and we dress “Plain” ie Suspenders, no jewlry, black pants, blue and occasionally white shirts, but PRIDE is a huge issue and the ONLY cause of the many divisions that concern attire in the Amish and Mennonite Churches. The saddest post I have ever seen is on this thread and it just sickened my heart….”Martyr’s blood shed in vain.” There is not one Martyr who died for suspenders, but tradition and identity has been supported by a few scriptures while ignoring the very point of the Gospel which is Jesus and His saving work. While proclaiming separation from the world, many have in fact rejected Jesus and embraced the heart of the world and its pride, selfishness and vanity. I know it breaks the heart of God and i pray for a move of God among the Plain people that renews our people to a true relationship with the Living God and Saviour Jesus Christ. That’s worth dying for.

    6. Lattice

      I have had this very same thought! Amongst themselves, the Amish are completely in fashion and not “plain” at all, and amongst “the world,” they stand out like a sore thumb. They desire not want to draw attention to themselves, but do (Plain T-shirt and jeans would be much plainer).

      But they are showing their separateness, and they are maintaining similar dress so as not to elevate one Amish above another. And they would never change their dress.

    7. Jessica

      “Plain” doesn’t mean “blending in,” that’s the thing. In fact Mennonites have an alternate word for plain dress – separated.

      The idea is that Christians are not to act like the world, so why should we look like the world? The Bible says “In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array…” (1 Timothy 2:9) Plain people have never followed the world’s fashions, choosing instead the simple dress of common people. But as the world’s fashions, especially for women, become more and more immodest and flashy, it’s next to impossible for us to go out shopping and find clothing that is both modern and fits our beliefs. I have tried it, with no success.

      So instead, we make our own clothing, deciding as a church on a standard we can hold to. This standard necessarily separates us as Christians and makes us stand out – not for fashion of dress or immodesty, but just the opposite – and I do believe that is a good thing.

      1. Patricia Tiffany

        Is Amish clothing really plain?

        Jessica, I am assuming you are Mennonite. I am looking for an Amish or Mennonite lady to make some dresses for me. They are not going to be fancy, just everyday dresses, but I am not thin, and its hard to find what i want. I would pay them, and provide all materials needed, and i will respect their Ordnung. Please help me find someone. I am disabled, and on a limited income, and most English ive asked want me to pay too much. my email is dearheartpat2008@aol.com. I hope you will help me. Thank you…Patricia Tiffany

    8. SharonR

      Amish and Plain clothing

      I’m with Jessica on this one….. Back in the turn of the century they would not have been noticed as much, as that is how one dressed, back then, plus the clothing were practical in the sense that they could do a variety of chores in them, and be washed, ironed, mended for a good while, before they needed replacing. It’s just the rest of us have different ideas on how to dress, etc., in our modern world, and other religions don’t really dictate on how to dress, what to wear, where to go, etc. and sometimes more concerned on “what to wear” or “what’s in fashion” type of attitudes.

      I think their ways are perfectly fine for them and have worked for many years. As far as “blending” in with the rest of us, I don’t think they are concerned with that; BUT, I have read during their Rumspringa days, the young people often have an “English” outfit, hidden somewhere, that they can change into before they visit the “other” establishments, so as to blend in and to see how they like it…..In fact, English kids do this as well……when they leave for school, their parents see them dressed “conservatively”, and half way to school, the “other” clothing in their backpacks comes out, and they change into those clothes, arriving at school with a totally different outfit!

      To sum it up —– The Amish know what works best for them. I admire them for their faith and humility.
      SharonR

    9. Richard from Amish Stories

      I think in the end the only opinion that the plain people care about would be god himself because we are only people ourselves who have our faults and make mistakes and therefore are the last ones to judge what is plain enough or not. The Amish to me go about their business without really thinking “is my cloths too flashy” to be honest just like some of us dont care (i dont). Its their lifestyle that for me makes them plain and not the cloth’s they wear, and as technology blends into our own life’s the Amish become more plain over time compared to our own. That’s my 2 cents anyway. Richard

      1. Interesting points Richard. Your comment got me thinking about this from the other angle–that in some ways Amish are not nearly as “plain” today as they once were–including how they spend leisure time, invest their money, interact with and leverage technology, etc. With the usual disclaimers of course.

    10. Katie Troyer

      The Amish never named themselves as Plain People. The world tagged them with that name. They dress the way they do because they are Amish.

    11. Katie's comment

      A very good point, Katie!

    12. Plain

      I am non-Amish and Plain. When the Amish/Mennonites arrived in the New World, they went to Pennsylvania, where the Quakers helped them to get established. The Quakers were the original Plain people, and coined the phrase. It was to be set apart, but also to live practically. The Amish adopted Quaker-Plain dress, as it was simpler than the almost medieval native Swiss-German clothes they wore at the time. So “Plain” is really Quaker, although few modern Quakers are Plain-dressed.

      1. Paula McConnell

        Well said, Magdelena.

        I am a Plain Quaker who struggles with this very question. I do so clearly stand out, and this sometimes disturbs me, but my dress also serves as my constant witness. One point that I don’t think has been mentioned is how Plain dress effects the wearer which is really the point, how it effects others is secondary. It is impossible – or certainly an obstacle – be involved in the “world” or tempted by all things secular when garbed in the attire of religious conviction. It is a constant reminder of who you are and that you have volunteered to hold yourself to a higher standard.

        Along with Magdelena’s excellent comment, I will point out that tradition is a very important part of the dress, which the Amish (and other Anabaptists) recognize is more a part of their culture, rather than an observance of faith. If you know what to look for, you will see vestiges of historical detail from clothing worn in the 17th century when the Anabaptist movement began. This is why the most conservative of the Anabaptist groups continue to dress in a manner that looks to us as an anachronism. You cannot dissect a custom of a culture without considering the culture as a whole.

      2. Terry Berger

        In answer to Magdalena

        I must disagree with your statement. Many of us were wearing very traditional clothing before coming to the new world. There are many references in Europe to “converts wearing Anabaptist trousers” or what has become known as broadfalls. Most of our garb, my own Brethren group included were ‘simplified’ versions of the regions in Germany that our people migrated from. You are correct that the Quakers, Shakers, and even some Plymouth Brethren dressed simply and modestly, however, we did not adopt it. There have been some adoptions along the way from the larger society, bonnets for one. Prior to them being accepted by the ‘plain’ churches, most women wore a shallow crowned broad brimmed straw hat in the summer that was tied under the chin and a woolen scarf in colder weather over their prayer coverings. Suspenders are another adoption. Prior to them coming into wide usage, plain mens’ broadfalls laced up the back to keep them in place.

        1. You are correct Terry. Although some of the specifics were adopted once the Anabaptists came to America, their teaching on simplicity of dress goes clear back to the beginning days. For example, Pilgram Marpeck complained that the Swiss Brethren were too finicky about simple dress. Menno Simons wrote about not wearing adornments. Peter Riedemann also wrote similarly … all in the 1500s.

      3. Thank you Magdelena, many Amish and Mennonites do not really understand this at all. In fact some books go before that time period making claims that are unsubstantiated in church standards or the writings of the forefathers. It is important to know where we came from, why we do what we do, and how it reflects on our relationship with Jesus in the here and now. This is what makes these forums valuable.

    13. Galen

      In looking up the various definitions of the word “Plain.” One def. is “free from obstructions”…… as in plain view. One could read into that further regarding the Amish. They are free from worldly obstructions and I could maybe go so far to say that they see God in plain view.

      Another def. that fits here is “not pretentious or unaffected.”

      And lastly, “not dyed or tainted.”

      I’m still with Jessica on this but this is a great topic to stop and think about.

      Thanks Erik.

      G.

    14. Lee Ann

      Magdalena:
      I like your input. Interesting to find out something about the Quakers. I knew they dressed plain, but interesting to learn the Amish got their dress code from the Quakers.

      There are other groups out there, that dress more plain or as us englishers would say (old fashioned) its their beliefs and we should all respect that.

      I do find it would be hard to wear the long dresses and get some chores done. I was happy to be out of dresses and to wear pants as a child.

    15. "staying plain"

      The key words in Stephen’s post are “as times and fashions change.”
      The Amish dress has basically not changed for the last 200 years. When the jeans and t-shirt fad came in a generation or two ago, the Amish simply kept on wearing the same old tried-and-true utilitarian clothing. When the jeans and t-shirt style goes its way (as all fads do), they will still be wearing the same old utilitarian clothing.
      Next, Stephen wrote “haven’t really updated their fashions.” If a style of dress is meeting the needs, both in utility and in biblical application, why “update”? Especially, why change to conform to a more modern “look” when the Bible says “Be not conformed to this world?”
      The whole point is that Christians are to dress in a way that doesnt appeal to the flesh. You wont see Hollywood or Paris coming out with an Amish cape dress for next Spring’s fashion statement.
      In short, the old saying, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” applies to the Plain dress of the Amish and Mennonites (and Quakers of days gone by). Why go for jeans and t-shirts when broadfalls and cape dresses are still doing their job?
      Mike

      1. Amish high fashion

        Mike not to nitpick, but it looks like high fashion actually HAS gotten on the Amish bandwagon:

        http://smoda.elpais.com/articulos/la-ultima-tendencia-el-estilo-amish/781

        This article is from El Pais, a large Spanish newspaper. I came across it because they linked to this site in the article (I guess I should feel honored?). I suppose I could use Google translate but here is the text:

        No tienen seguro médico, sacan a sus hijos del colegio antes de que lleguen al instituto porque lo que aprenden hasta entonces “es suficiente para vivir su tipo de vida” y siguen moviéndose con carruajes de caballos porque el coche es un invento inútil y maligno para la sociedad. Según explican desde Amish America, tampoco usan electricidad para evitar “la tentación de ver la televisión, escuchar la radio o utilizar internet en casa”.

        Of course as with a lot of things nowadays I wouldn’t be surprised to find a good bit of smirking and irony behind the scenes of “Amish high fashion”.

        1. translation

          As I can read Spanish, here is a translation of what you pulled from the article.
          “They dont have Social Security, theY take their children out of school before high school, since that which they learned up to that point “is sufficient to be able to live their lifestyle.” The continue to use horse and buggy because the automobile is an unnecessary (or, more literally, “useless”) and bad for society. According as Amish America explains, neither do they use electricity to evade “the temptation of watching television, listen to the radio, or use the Internet in the house.””

          1. Continued

            Oops, hit submit too early …
            The rest of the article is generally positive, although they do mention puppy mills and the genetic disorders among them. It is filled with little facts, most of them accurate, some as usual are a bit skewed.

            Well, Amish fashion. I still didnt see any suspenders or cape dresses. 🙂 I dont bet, but if I did, I would bet everything I have against a free copy of your book, 🙂 that five years from now thousands and millions of people will not be wearing long, dark cape dress and broadfalls.
            🙂
            Peter Doherty (in the last picture) has a hat, and black and white. But he misses Amish by having buttons, his lapel turned back, pocket on the coat, and zip pants. I doubt those snazzy shoes would pass, certainly not with a Swartezntruber. 🙂 I think I see a nice ring on his finger as well. Let’s see, did you say something about nit-picking? 🙂
            Mike

            1. Amish haute couture

              Thanks Mike, I appreciate the translation. And yes, I would agree with your main point. I think this is more about attention-getting than anything else, which seems to be important in the fashion universe 🙂 And true you can see by the styles in the photos it is a pretty “loose translation” of Amish dress. Though I suppose with the way things are going Amish + haute couture is only the next logical step 😉

          2. doretta lehman

            about the amish

            hi im doretta lehman and im amish n yes we do 2 have social security n yes we can hav radios im our rumshpriging yrs n we dress the way we do cuz its our relgion

            1. Dorreta, does your Church allow the collecting of Social Security? I was unaware that any Amish allowed this.

    16. Anne

      traditional dress

      I admire that our Amish friend’s dress is controlled by one thing: how it has been done in the past. They reference tradition and get on with life. There is no need to check out current fashion trends and then choose something that is in contrast to that. If this was their approach, it would give modern culture too much control over them.

      If anything disturbs me about their dress, it’s simply that the fabrics are so often cotton/polyester blends. Why did they not stick with simple cottons/natural fabrics? Polyester comes with its own bag of problems. If someone knows about this, I’d love some insight!

      But as far as the styles of dress, etc. I’m glad they have a tried and true dress code. In fact, when my son decided to become Amish, he said one reason was that he thought the people looked so wholesome in their dress. He even thought the women much more beautiful than those in modern culture.

      When we visit him, I tend to agree. I LOVE these beautiful people. When I return to “normal life”, I’m struck with how odd and even ugly the people look, with all their “latest” dress fads, and weird hairdos!

      1. Jessica

        Interesting, your comment about polyester. I prefer poly/cotton blends for my dresses for comfort, and also because it’s less “crinkly” and doesn’t need ironing. I have never heard about any problems associated with polyester, so I’d be interested in knowing more.

        1. Jessica M

          Hi Jessica. Nice name 😉 I was wondering what group you are with and what state if you don’t mind sharing?

          1. Jessica G.

            Hi Jessica! LOL

            I live in Alberta, Canada. You could call me a convert: I was raised evangelical with a Mennonite Brethren background. Right now I actually don’t attend a church (transportation issues) but in beliefs I am closest to the Beachy Amish Mennonites, and dress according to their standards. That means plain-coloured cape dresses and white veil headcoverings. The closest Mennonite church to me is from the Nationwide Fellowship; I hope to start attending there once I do have transportation.

        2. Mackenzie

          Polyester

          The problems I can think of with polyester:
          1. It’s a petroleum product, so not very eco-friendly, and certainly not something they could produce on their own (the way someone can spin & weave cotton from their own farm)
          2. It’s plastic, so it doesn’t breathe anywhere near as well as a natural fiber (I prefer linen in the summer, but cotton/linen blends, or just plain cotton if I have to is ok)

      2. Paige

        The reason most cape dresses are polyester is because it does not wrinkle. when you have a large family to clothe not having to iron multiple dresses everyday is a real blessing.

    17. SharonR

      Amish clothing

      Didn’t know the Amish got their dress code, from the Quakers. Very interesting fact. That’s what I like about this website/blog, Erik, we learn all kinds of information!
      Keep up the good work! and Thanks to all who contribute, too…we are a vast country of knowledge!
      SharonR

      1. Thanks Sharon, you hit it on the head 🙂

    18. Mary

      Anne, you question why the Amish are useing fabric that have a mixture of polyester blended in with the “natural cotton”. I do most of my own sewing and I go for this very blend myself. I’ll tell you the reason. Cotton for coolness and polyester for wrinkle-free. 100% cotton wrinkles and also colors wash out readily. Polyester wears much longer and stays nicer and is much more colorfast. Its a better buy economically. Since the Amish are taught thriftiness it only makes sense to invest in fabric that wears longer and stays nicer for a longer period of time.(Bottom line is: 100% cotton gets too wrinkly-100% polyester is too hot!)

    19. Anne

      Mary, thanks for the explanation. I appreciate your insight, and had wondered if these were the reasons. Wrinkles are a big problem with cotton, but polyester is so dangerous in a fire, that’s one big worry. And all my polyester stuff, still feels cold in winter/hot in summer. It transfers the surrounding temperature quite readily. But then, I’m more sensitive to temp changes than most!

      I’ve noticed that this same blend fabric is often used for quilts, which also surprises me. At least, for the quilts my daugther-in-law has made. Is pure cotton used for quilts they make to market?

    20. Richard from Amish Stories

      Very interesting comments today!

      Good comment’s and points of view on this post, and I’m sure some of the Amish would be very amused at our discussion about what constitutes “ones plainness”. So for myself anyway when i think of being plain i think of “living simple” compared to what everyone else is doing. And we all will continue to read and write our own comments about them, while the Amish live their lives on their own terms. How they must wonder at times “why would anyone be interested in me” which i find interesting in itself! Richard

    21. Julie Turner

      Plain Amish

      As I understand it in Deuteronomy 22:5 A woman must not wear a man’s clothing nor a man wear a woman’s clothing for the Lord your God detests anyone who does this.
      In our modern world jeans are considered to be both male and female clothing.
      The Lord makes it pretty clear in Deut 22:5 that men are to look like men, and women are to look like women.
      We are not supposed to look the same as each other.
      Women are to be feminine and dress feminine.
      I love how the Amish folk dress. The Amish people know their place in Gods creation and are happy to follow how God planned it to be.

    22. Barb

      About 20 years ago I spoke with an Amish quiltmaker in Lancaster County and asked about why she used blends — she gave these reasons which were true at the time — 1. Colors last better, 2. Looks “crisper” and thus more eye appealing to buyers, 3. Larger range of colors available (possibly no longer true), 4. Colors are brighter.

      1. Kim in NY

        Comment on Is Amish clothing really "Plain"?

        Reply to Barb about quilt colors:
        I have a book on the history of some Amish quilts. The colors chosen were a result of a decision by the group of men leading the particular Amish group they were in. In some groups, the women were not allowed to use red in their quilts, for instance, and other groups had different rules. It depended on the interpretation of the elders. Knowledge of this helped the historians both date the quilts and know which group of Amish women made them.

    23. Debbie Welsh

      As a matter of fact ( and as you can see in the photo above ), it was quite surprising to find that the Amish males out in Ohio actually do wear ” blue jeans ” now – albeit in a different kind of material that makes it look like a fake sort of denim. It seemed that every one of them, young up to old, wore them, and not only the pants but matching, collar-less jackets as well! Don”t know if they wear this anywhere else but I know they don’t in Lancaster, PA.

      1. That’s a good point Debbie. It is a darker, tough-looking material. Not sure if it is denim or sth similar. I guess I have trouble keeping my own wardrobe straight 🙂

    24. Michelle P

      To me, I think of plain simply as not being carried by the whims of fashion.

    25. Carolyn B

      Reminiscent of Catholic habits

      I find this clothing topic similar to the wonderful Catholic (I am 1) debate re: whether religious orders should maintain habits or dress modestly & simply within the dictates of current fashion. Paula McConnell’s remark re: “attire of religious conviction” took me back to my 1st years as a Catholic convert & how I’d carry my rosary in my breast pocket on workday Mondays to remind me to be a little sweeter. Enjoy getting to read everyone’s posts. God bless.

    26. kerry

      Re: Debbie’s comment – what types of fabric are used for men’s pants in other communities outside of Ohio? Just curious, I’m so used to the “fake” denim blend (I think they usually call it tri-blend in the local fabric stores) used here in Ohio that I never really thought of others wearing something else. The “fake” denim is really tough and durable – in fact, when I was young I remember my brother having those toughskin pants/jeans – from Sears? – and those were made of the same fabric.

      The plain commentary is very interesting. We have such a wide range of “plain” where I live, from the most conservative Amish to not-as-conservative Mennonites and Baptists who dress very much like the Duggar family on TV does (or at least used to). But they are all considered “plain”, in general, even if they don’t wear converings. It’s almost just a style thing around here, in a way.

    27. doretta lehman

      to everyone who has commented on here i like all your views of the amish and if any of you want to no more about us you should feel free to come visit with us amish

      1. Ed

        Thank you Doretta, it is nice to hear from someone who is actually Amish on this blog. I hope to be able to visit with an Amish person sometime.

      2. SharonR

        Amish clothing plain

        Thank you Doretta for your thoughts. I was fortunate to have visited Amish country (Lancaster, PA, and throughout Indiana and Ohio), in Oct.2010. My wish is to return to those areas, again, and spend more time learning about the Amish. It was an inspiring visit, and met some very nice people while there! Living in Florida, all of my life, was like going to a whole different world, and our time in the upper states was most enjoyable!
        SharonR

    28. Annie

      Is Amish clothing really plain?

      I find this most interesting. I was raised Amish and still have many relatives who are Amish. I have noticed that the plain people have surely followed the styles…when long narrow skirts (pencil-style) became tbe rage, they followed up with their own version. Sometimes those have been extremely tight, and when they wear the lighter color clothes, their undergarments are seen. All that makes up for ‘plainness’!! And when short skirts were in style, their hemlines slowly inched upwards!! I love the traditions of the Amish, and their continued desire to remain as a simple, devoted people,….but when it comes down to brass tacks, just don’t forget, they are still human……………………

    29. Kevin Lindsey

      This was a great thread which I read with great interest. Thanks to all who posted!

    30. Stephen B.

      Regarding jeans…

      I think jeans have been around a lot longer than a generation or two. The guy that invented Levis did so during the California Gold Rush days as a way of making a simple work pant that lasted. I think he succeeded.

      We have a large construction-expansion project going on at work and I’d say that of the dozens of construction workers currently on our campus, they’re all wearing jeans of some make. I suspect jeans in one form or another will be around another century or more after we here are all gone because denim jeans have proven their utilitarian value for so long already. There’s much more to the popularity of denim jeans than mere fashion value for kids and/or young people.

      As for what Primitive Christianity said about unnecessarily updating fashions, don’t get me wrong, I understand that Amish don’t wish to follow the whims of others. I was just wondering how Amish balance two different ideas – one, of not being too much of this world, but two, not calling undo attention to oneself either.

      Thanks to all the posters, I have a better understanding of the answer – it’s a kind of tradeoff.

      1. Jeans

        Stephen,
        Denim material is definitely a strong material, and jeans or pants of some sort made from it will be around for a while, unless some better synthetic material is found. I can imagine Carharts being around a good while also.
        But you saw the men at the construction site with jeans. What you dont see is the younger generation wearing basically only jeans, like they did when I was a teenager (and yes, I wore them too–because I wanted to be like everybody else … which is what makes a fad). It was a fad, a passing style. Now the fad is changing, and although jeans are still worn by a lot of my generation, and on construction sites, jeans seem to be passing out of style among the teenagers of today.
        That is what I was referring to. Mike

    31. Debbie Welsh

      Kerry:

      Besides Ohio, I have only visited the Amish in Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Delaware, where all of the Amish males wear black pants made of a material called broadfall, which is soft like a thick polyester, yet very durable. Naively, I thought all Amish everywhere dressed exactly the same, until I found this website, and then went out to Ohio for the first time. And boy was I surprised to see and learn all of the many differences!

      I still don’t know how they dress in the other states, but it sure would be interesting to find out.

      1. L. Yoder

        Debbie, to me broadfall means the way it’s made, with a drop front or flap, rather than the type of material. They are also known as “barn-door” pants.

    32. Daryl

      Plain dress

      Very interesting and informative comments. Thank you Erik for the site.
      Stephen B. The question I would ask when it comes to clothing, is not why have the Amish not changed, but why have those who call themselves Christians changed how they dress and now follow heathen inspired dress fashions?
      The same Bible verses that the Amish use to underpin their dress code, surely applies to all Christians?
      1Tim.2:9….wear modest apparel(katastola) and 1Pet.3:3….not putting on of apparel(himation). The most understandable translation in modern speech for katastola would be ‘cape dress’ and for himation ‘fashionable clothes’.
      Thus, a Christian woman is to wear a modest cape dress and not put on modern fashion style clothing.
      Seems simple enough to understand and follow, yet few Christians outside of plain circles do. I do not understand why they ignore the Bible, yet call themselves Christians. Is such a thing possible?

    33. David

      Have you seen Amish clothing up close? Their Sunday best is high quality clothing. Nothing “plain” about it. Men wear Stetson hats. I wish I had a wardrobe like that!

    34. Debbie Welsh

      L. Yoder:

      Oh wow, thank you for correcting me about the meaning of the term ” broadfall ” ! Here all along I thought it meant the type of black material they use for several types of their clothing, including the men’s pants! By the way, would you happen to know what the correct name of that particular type of material is called?

      Thank you!

      1. L. Yoder

        Debbie, I am told the best material for Sunday pants is Swedish Knit. Gabardine might be used during the week. Perhaps you were thinking of the term broadcloth. That material is used more for shirts. We need someone to explain this better.
        This link explains some about the materials and clothing:
        http://www.oacountry.com/amishdress1

    35. Paul A.B.

      Long before I became interested in Anabaptists, I had a somewhat negative view towards jewelry, cosmetics and ever changing fads. As a believer in function over fashion, fads annoy me. Innovation I like, when it represents functional improvement. Fads tend to just be change for the sake of change, without reference to practical improvement.

      I like to think of Amish clothing as a “permastyle” – meaning that the look is essentially defined and settled. I could live with it, no problem. I really like the various pastel colors that the Amish seem to favor for their shirts.

      Also, every time I see pictures of Amish folks, I find it’s the person who stands out, and not the attire (assuming one is paying attention to the Amish person and not to the fact that they are Amish, and therefore that they happen to stand out from everyone else).

      There is already way too much emphasis in wider society on constantly cultivating a superficial image of oneself. The Amish way is rooted in deeper values, and that is what appeals to me.

    36. Tex Expatriate

      The point, missed in the original question, is not plain-ness where the Amish are concerned, but tradition. When these styles were first adopted they were plain. Now they are odd, and identifiably Amish by tradition. If the Amish were earnestly interested in plain-ness, it would be better to wear cheap jeans or khakis and shirts (i.e., Wal-Mart Rustler brand or Dickies and polo shirts or work shirts) for men, and cheap “plain” cotton housedresses for women. That would be plain. But plain-ness is not the main point. Tradition is the main point.

      Most Mennonites made those changes a long time ago, and in most places Mennonites blend in with everyone else.

      You see the same kind of politically correct tradition in convents and monasteries of various religions, and of course the military of every nation. To take it even farther, observe the dark blue suits of attorneys and bankers everywhere, and also politicians in Washington, D.C., where only the crudest and sartorially- politically-incorrect wear brown.

      1. Thanks Tex, I think omitted rather than missed, as the original Q was rather about how we define and use the term “plain” 🙂 On that point I think Amish clothing can legitimately be called plain at least in the sense that it is simply constructed, lacks elaborate patterns, etc.

        That element of it is important to Amish, but yes as hinted above maintaining specific traditional clothing marks my identity as an Amish person as different from yours as non-Amish, or different kind of Amish, Mennonite, etc.

        I agree that is probably a more important function fulfilled by the particular style of an Amish person’s clothing (than adhering to a strict definition of “plain” in all senses of the word, since plain can be defined in a # of ways).

        1. Gabriela

          That element of it is important to Amish, but yes as hinted above maintaining specific traditional clothing marks my identity as an Amish person as different from yours as non-Amish, or different kind of Amish, Mennonite, etc.

          Interesting contradiction as, I guess, a major point of Amish society is not to have an (individual) identity? But, I understand where they are coming from. I guess it’s the collective identity vs the rest of the world

    37. Gabriela

      Hi
      I’m not a fashion designer but in their defense I have to say it’s Amish “inspired” clothing, not really Amish, I mean, these people have to look everywhere for inspiration and then they tweak it a bit.
      Interesting thread, I enjoyed reading it!

    38. Yoder

      Amish clothing could be called plain in the sense that the fabric is a solid color, and not a print or plaid.

      Back in 1951, John C. Wenger, a Mennonite, wrote a book, SEPARATED UNTO GOD. The book was reprinted in 2001. The title is based on Romans 1:1, ..”separated unto the gospel of God.” The Amish believe in Non-conformity (Romans 12:2) and separation from the world, but also in being separated unto God.

      In the Jan. 23, 2012, MENNONITE WORLD REVIEW, Luke Bennetch wrote an article, “Gospel Should Change Lives.” Here are a few sentences Luke wrote:

      “This gospel makes us “peculiar,” set apart as noticeably different from the mainstream of society — and, sadly, from mainstream Mennonites.

      We do not dress differently just to preserve a culture or to attract attention. We are different because we believe the gospel teaches a change from society, separation from the world, modesty, simplicity, sobriety, purity, holiness, … ”

      Here is the link to the full article: http://www.mennoworld.org/2012/1/23/gospel-should-change-lives/?page=1

      Erik, what you wrote on the “Amish clothes” link in your article above is very good, too.

    39. Verity Pink

      Denim can be non-iron too

      In response to the post about polyester being practical because it doesn’t need ironing, I have several long denim dresses, which I can wear without ironing provided that I hang them up to dry as soon as I’ve finished washing them, and that I use fabric conditioner. This isn’t aimed as anyone who is Amish, but rather at anyone who is thinking of dressing plainly, and perhaps wondering if natural fibres are workable.

    40. PILGRIM

      Mark Oliver and Katie Troyer

      I am sitting and typing this from very close to both of your Old stamping grounds Mark and Katie.
      I was traveling from Ohio to where I am right now in my motel room and on 401 I came past the Exit which said Alymer, Katie,,, and also the was close to where I believe that you used to live Mark from Holmes, (Norwich) and happened to think of you two.
      And Mark the destination where I was heading had a large van there from Belleville , Pennsylvania, another of your old stamping grounds.

      an older lady died here in the Mt Elgin community and I am sleeping in Woodstock tonight,

      I was here in this area 25 years ago or more , simply visiting , and talk about very plainly dressed Amish.

    41. Pablo Jimenez

      Solo llevan vestidos, pero las reglas para estos son estrictas. Se mide la longitud de la falda y de la manga dependiendo de cada comunidad. La mayoría de las mujeres Amish deben llevar las mangas completas y usar tejidos lisos y de un solo color sólido.

    42. Kathryn

      Plain

      adjective
      adjective: plain; comparative adjective: plainer; superlative adjective: plainest

      1.
      not decorated or elaborate; simple or ordinary in character.
      “good plain food”

      ordinary
      unadorned
      undecorated
      unembellished
      unornamented
      unpretentious
      unostentatious
      unfussy
      homely
      homespun
      basic
      modest
      unsophisticated
      penny plain
      without frills
      stark
      severe
      spartan
      austere
      chaste
      bare
      uncluttered
      restrained
      muted
      everyday
      workaday

      2.
      (of a person) having no pretensions; not remarkable or special.
      “a plain, honest man with no nonsense about him”

      Similar:
      straightforward
      unpretentious
      simple
      ordinary
      average

      Plain is simple, I like simple it’s easy

    43. Dierks

      My little opinion on this subject

      They call themselves the plain people, but are they plain, sure they do not wear multiple colors, and they all have the same appearance, but is that plain in this day and age keeping in mind what the definition of plain is “lacking special distinction, common, ordinary” or do they stand out? If they do stand out, do they have pride in standing out and do they use it as a boast of righteousness, thus are they still plain or are they righteous as the scribes and pharisees were in in matt 23:25-28? Some told me they are supposed to be a “peculiar” people in Titus 2:14, well not at all the right meaning was given in the translation from german to English. Titus 2:14 “Who gave himself up for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, (meaning unrighteousness) and purify unto himself a “peculiar” people, Zealous of good works. German translation “Der sich selbst fur uns gegeben hat, auf dasz er uns erlosete von aller ungerechtigkeit und reinigte sich selbst ein volk zum “eigentum,” das fleiszig ware zu guten werkrn” now lets look at these definitions, “peculiar” means: odd, unusual, but the german word “eigentum” means: property, ownership, movable possessions and real property. Now we as Christians should be modest, and dress modestly (wouldn’t this mean one shouldn’t stand out in their dress as this would not be modest, but to have ones body covered in modesty)? it’s about what is in someone’s heart, mind and spirit? Proverbs 30:12 there is a generation that are pure in their own eyes and yet is not washed in their filthiness. 1 peter 3:21 the like figure whereunto even baptism doth now save us (not the putting away the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ