“Be careful,” I warned my husband as we pulled our rental into our Amish friends’ driveway in Lancaster County, PA. The couple had asked my husband, a chiropractor, to give the wife and their granddaughter an adjustment.
“Mary could be wearing long straight pins around her waist,” I said, and my husband shot me a dubious look. I explained that instead of buttons and zippers, Old Order Amish women use straight pins to fasten their aprons, and hooks and eyes elsewhere. But when he and I entered their tidy home we found Mary, the wife, had removed her customary black apron—including the pins.
Why do Amish women fasten their aprons with straight pins instead of buttons or Velcro? Why wear an apron at all unless cooking? Why do both Amish men and women in a sense wear a uniform every day?
As devout Christians, Amish believe they should be separate from the surrounding world. “And be not conformed to this world.” (Romans 12:2) Trendy clothes are seen as immoral and are considered a waste of money. Amish also believe jewelry and wristwatches conflict with biblical teaching. They avoid appearing flashy, provocative, or in competition with others. A show of humility and modesty are required by their Ordnung, the rules Old Order Amish must obey.
If you’ve seen my Amish novels, you’ve noticed the women cover their heads with demure prayer caps called Kapps. Women are directed in the Bible, 1 Corinthians 11:5, to cover their heads and to pray without ceasing. They do not cut their hair; they part it down the center, then tuck strands under a prayer cap, or a scarf if out in the field or garden. The styles of prayer caps differ between congregations and regions.
The cover of my newest release, Forever Amish, depicts a young woman clad in Lancaster County Old Order Amish attire, including the typical heart-shaped cap. Amish women wear solid colors of subdued hues.
Most women sew the majority of their family’s clothing. The photo of me directly below was taken in Zook’s Fabric Store in Intercourse, PA. The section of solid-colored fabrics in Zook’s is set apart from the decorative English patterns. The material is practical, easy to wash, and much of it wrinkle-free.
Amish men wear button-down, collared shirts of a solid color, suspenders, buttoned trousers, and dark coats without lapels.For warm weather, straw hats are preferred for daily wear. Handsome black felt hats are worn in cooler weather. Once married, some Amish men do not shave their beards and some trim them. All shave their upper lips. Unmarried men shave until their wedding day.
Within the many Amish communities, there are subtle differences in dress, such as the width and brim and height of men’s hats, and in suspenders. Although Amish attire varies, they recognize each other and feel a kinship.
What do you think about the way Amish dress? Anything you find appealing? Leave me a comment, or ask a question below.
Kate Lloyd, a native of Baltimore, loves to spend time with family and friends in Lancaster County, PA, the inspiration for her bestselling novels Leaving Lancaster and Pennsylvania Patchwork. Her latest book, Forever Amish is the third novel in the Legacy of Lancaster Trilogy.
She and her husband live in the Pacific Northwest, the setting for Kate’s first novel, A Portrait of Marguerite. Kate studied art and art history in college. She’s worked a variety of jobs, including car salesman and restaurateur.
Purchase Kate’s books here.