The highly distinctive Amish way of dressing is intended to set the Amish people apart from the rest of the world. The simple, humble clothing displays obedience to the church and conformity to this separatist religious community. Unlike many other cultures of the world, there are no showing displays of beauty or adornment in dress. The body is expected to be covered even on the hottest days. Amish people who breach the code may be chastised by community leaders.
Amish Dress Code
To the Amish, a dress code is employed to prevent vanity and boastfulness, encouraging the Amish people to conform to their community and to focus on qualities other than outward appearance. Although individual Amish communities may differ slightly in accepted style of dress, Amish clothing is uniform, never gaudy or flashy, and never draws attention to any one individual. The Amish believe that this modest apparel is an expression of humility and faith that distinguishes the Amish community from the modern outside world. Many aspects of Amish dress are based in scripture, such as rules that govern head coverings for men and women.
Fabric and Fasteners
Amish clothing is constructed of plain, durable fabric in solid colors: no plaid, stripes, florals or other prints. However, the fabric of men's shirts and women's dresses is often in pleasing shades of purple, blue, green, brown or black, which may vary depending on the culture of each Amish community. Most Amish people believe that buttons are too decorative and gaudy, instead constructing clothing with plain, functional clothing fasteners such as snaps and hooks. However, buttons are acceptable in some communities as well as when plainer fasteners are not available.
Men and Boys
Amish men wear dark shoes, dark socks and dark pants with suspenders but no belts with buckles. In most communities, pants are fastened with buttons instead of zippers because the buttons are not visible on the outside of the garment. A solid-color shirt is topped with a straight-cut vest or jacket, depending on the season. Men wear practical, broad-brimmed straw hats that protect their faces from the sun in warm weather, switching to warm, dark-colored felt hats during the winter. However, the dress code allows for slight variations in hat style among different communities, most notably the width of the hat's brim.
Women and Girls
Women and girls wear long dresses that are never shorter than calf length. The dresses may be in a variety of solid colors depending on the individual community but are always covered with black or white aprons. According to Amish dress code, the hair of Amish women and girls must always be covered in public. Most women and girls wear white prayer caps, usually made of organza and stiffened with starch. In more traditional communities, the caps are constructed of softer, slightly starched fabric and are held on by strings tied under the chin. By contrast, more progressive sects allow women to wear crisply starched caps with no straps, or straps that may be left untied. Young girls may toss the straps around when flirting with boys. Married women wear dark bonnets over the prayer caps, but in some communities, the outer bonnet is worn only in cold weather. Some groups allow younger girls to wear colored prayer caps.
Amish girls and women never cut their hair. Instead, they pull it into a braid or bun worn on the back of the head where it is covered by the prayer cap. Adherence to the Amish dress code aims to keep the hair and dress of girls and women modest and the heart and body remain pure. Men cut their hair and don't wear mustaches. However, married men wear an untrimmed beard while single men keep their faces clean-shaven.