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Plain Dress of the Amish

Amish Quilter - Plain Dress

The Amish and Plain People believe that their faith should be an intregral part of their actions, and encompass every area of life, including dress. Not wishing to compartmentalize their faith, the Amish do not separate their doctrine from daily living, and are convinced that a true follower of Jesus Christ will be recognized not only by their upright conduct and true speech but also by their appearance. Those of the Old Order faiths (like the Amish) choose to dress distinctively as a type of visual testament of their belief that God’s people should be peculiarily separate from the surrounding world. They hold values and beliefs that are so different from the general public, and have found that their plain dress is a way to show the distinction between themselves and the world. The Amish by wearing simple and timeless styles of clothes, they announce their rejection of the pride and extravagance that the world seeks. Where the world strives to fit in and conform to the fads and fashions that society deems popular, the Plain People strive to remain separate from this conformity to the world's system, and thus show by their dress that they do not care for or adhere to the world's standards.

Guided by generations of tradition and their own district church, Plain People have pondered and come to decisions on what they believe a modest Christian should wear. To be a member of their church, you must agree to conform to their standard. From a practical point of view, it just makes sense to the Plain person, to adhere to the plain dress code, and being a frugal and independent group has also helped the Plain People dress in their own conforming way. By not having to change their fashion or color coordination for years, hand-me-downs are valued and accepted. Conspicuous consumption is frowned on, and the constantly changing fads of frivolity that the fashion industry pushes are contrary to the values of meekness and modesty that the Old Order groups desire. Their whole belief system says they should be separate from the surrounding culture, and so they choose to conform to their church family, and become one in adherence to their distinctively plain dress.

Within the huge umbrella of Plain Dress, there are different flavors, different allowances made by the many individual church districts. These differences are as minor as the use of buttons instead of hook and eyes or straight pins. Color choices and the type of print on a fabric is also a differing issue between the many church districts of the Old Order faiths, and these color choices can be seen in the different colors on your Amish Quilt. The Ohio Amish Quilters make use of the more brightly colored fabrics of pink and red, while the counterpart Amish Quilts found in Lancaster County PA favor burgundy. The Amish quilter of Mifflin County PA will incorporate bright yellows and golds in her quilts. Even the styles of their head coverings are geographic, such as the heart shaped net covering allowed by the Amish in the Lancaster PA area, while the northern Indiana Amish have a close fitting bonnet made of white organdy that covers the ears. The men's dress can change from the plain black polyester broadfall pants (no zipper), to wearing blue jeans. It is by these variants that the different districts can identify themselves and visually recognize others with the same beliefs and strict codes of behavior. An Old Order Mennonite from Shippensburg PA will appear visually similar to their sisters from Iowa, but the style of the neckline on her dress will separate her from the girls from Iowa, and will announce that she is a visitor in the area. The Old Order River Brethren wear their cape and apron tucked in at the waist, while the Old Order German Baptist have a free flowing cape that is elbow length. The Peachey Amish men in Mifflin County PA wear one (home-made) suspender to hold up their pants, while the Amish from Indiana have no suspenders.

Similar, and yet different, these Plain Dress styles are a non-verbal means of communicating between the various Old Order groups stating that they hold the same beliefs, that modesty is important, and being part of the church is a vital and daily part of life. Standing out in the world by means of identifiable style of dress, makes the Plain Person a daily testimony to those around them... in word, deed and dress.