Amish Youth in Traditional Clothing on Scooters

Amish Clothing: A Window into Tradition and Values

In the heart of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, the Amish community that has captivated the imagination of many with its simplicity and dedication to tradition. The distinctive Amish clothing and attire intrigues outsiders. Amish attire reflects not just a fashion choice, but a deep-seated commitment to cultural heritage and religious beliefs. 

Understanding Amish Attire 

To understand the significance of Amish clothing, one must first learn the principles that guide the Amish way of life. The Amish are a deeply religious community, adhering to a strict interpretation of Christianity, emphasizing humility, modesty, and separation from the secular world. These core values are visibly reflected in their attire, which remains largely unchanged over centuries. Their clothing serves as an expression of their faith and identity. The Lancaster County Amish focus on a life of service – first to God, then their family and then the Amish community. They work to minimize distraction from their life of service. By focus on utility of the clothing instead using clothing to emphasize attractive qualities of the person, they emphasize community over self.

Head Coverings

One of the most recognizable elements of Amish attire is the head covering worn by women starting at age 13. Known as a “kapp,” this simple, white cap symbolizes humility and submission to God’s will. Black caps are traditionally worn by single women in their teens and twenties for church services, while white is worn at any age. This stems from biblical teachings, specifically Corinthians 11:6, which states, “For if a woman does not cover her head, she might as well have her hair cut off; but if it is a disgrace for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, then she should cover her head.”

The kapp is a visible sign of a women’s commitment to living according to scriptural principles. Interestingly, the shape of the kapp is often determined by the Amish community the one is from. In Lancaster, the kapp is heart shaped. 

Plain Dress

In keeping with their commitment to modesty and simplicity, both men and women wear plain, unadorned clothing. For men, this typically consists of dark-colored trousers, suspenders, a plain shirt, and a broad-brimmed hat. Suspenders are used instead of belts as they are considered ostentatious. Women wear long, solid-colored dresses with long skirts and usually long sleeves, often in muted tones such as navy blue, black, or dark green. Usually, you will see a black or white apron over the dress depending on the age of the girl or the occasion. The emphasis on simplicity extends to the construction of the garments, eschewing buttons or zippers in favor of practicality and ease of movement. Clothing is entirely utilitarian. Often you will see the Amish barefoot even while riding their scooters along the road. 

Buttons and Zippers

One distinctive aspect of Amish attire is the absence of buttons on certain garments, particularly women’s dresses. Instead, dresses are fastened with straight pins or hooks and eyes. This seemingly minor detail carries significant symbolism within the Amish community. Buttons, seen as a form of decoration, are considered worldly and frivolous, contradicting the values of humility and modesty espoused by the Amish. By forgoing buttons, the Amish emphasize their commitment to simplicity and rejection of vanity. However, you will see simple buttons on men’s shirts. 

You will find that zippers are also not often found on Amish clothing instead snaps, hooks and pins are used. The aversion to zippers among the Amish can be traced back to their belief in Gelassenheit. Gelassenheit is a German term that emphasizes humility, submission, and yielding to God’s will. From the perspective of Gelassenheit, zippers are associated with convenience and speed as well as considered flashy and mechanical. These qualities are often at odds with the deliberate pace and simplicity of Amish life.     

Colors and Symbolism

The color palette of Amish clothing is deliberately subdued, with an emphasis on practicality rather than aesthetics. Dark, solid colors such as black, navy blue, and brown predominate, reflecting the Amish aversion to ostentation and extravagance. Amish eschew patterns, as the patterns drawing undue attention to oneself — a concept antithetical to Amish values of humility and modesty. Additionally, uniformity in dress reinforces a sense of community and solidarity among the Amish. This underscores their collective identity and shared values.

Amish Hair Styles for Men and Women

As mentioned above, women are prohibited from cutting their hair. Hair is styled in plainly in a braid or bun that doesn’t attract attention. As hair is consider a thing of beauty, it is covered. For men, you will see hair cut short as it is easier to work. Once married, the men will grow beards but never mustaches. The Amish take Psalm 133: 1-2 “Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity! It is like precious oil poured on the head, running down on the beard!” to mean that beards are a symbol of brotherly love and unity. 

Simplicity and Tradition

In a rapidly changing world, the Amish commitment to tradition and simplicity stands as a testament to the enduring power of faith and community. Through their distinctive attire, the Amish offer a window into a way of life guided by principles of humility, modesty, and separation from the secular world. Each garment worn by the Amish serves both as a practical necessity and a visible expression of their faith and identity. 

Can I Learn More About the Amish?

You can find also information online at  Amish Resources at the Library of Congress and Amish Studies at The Young Center. Experience Amish life and culture in person with tours and activities at Plain & Fancy Farm. Looking for other places to explore the Amish culture here in Lancaster County? Our front desk will be glad to give you a few additional places to consider.

Want to have your own relaxing getaway to Amish Country, PA? Contact our staff at 1-866-735-1600 for general questions or, for convenience, book online!