I always like to start with something personal, so please bear it with me!
Basically, when I was 12 years old, my parents and I participated in a living Christian heritage experience where guests could learn more about the Amish community. We moved into the heart of an Amish community in the West Kootenai Montana and there were also a few Mennonites living around there. In the start, it was really great to live in a very peaceful atmosphere with little noise pollution. I made a lot of friends and we had loads of fun. My mom was especially happy to get fresh, locally-raised fruits and vegetables from neighbors. We went to their services, talked with them and even played in their Sunday volleyball games. They gave us a sense of community and belonging that we didn’t feel anywhere else. However, at one point, it became pretty toxic.
Their lifestyle was too extreme for us. There was no electricity, no telephone and no computers in the house. Traveling was only done by foot, horse, bicycle, or buggy/wagon.
However, I started freaking out a little when I learned that my friends had no chance for higher education and that depression was an extremely large problem among teenagers in Amish communities. To make it worse, the Amish don’t even believe in mental health treatment.
Beyond that, one last thing that I didn’t particularly enjoy was that we were not allowed to wear jeans and our usual clothes (they even took away my belt) and we had to wear plain homemade clothes.
Why Do the Amish Wear Plain Clothing?
There’s a reason why the Amish are referred as the “Plain People.” I’ve lived – even if it’s for a very short period of time – in an Amish village and I can tell you that I’ve never seen any patterns or designs on any of their clothing. All of the women’ dressed and men’s clothes were plain colored and most of the time, the color palette included black, blue, purple, green, brown or burgundy.
Here are the reasons why stripes, Ginghams, Paisleys and Herringbones are not allowed in an Amish community:
Biblical Basis and Purpose
A conservative Amish woman, for example, would generally wear a modest, solid-colored cape dress, with long sleeves and a full, long skirt rather than a classy sheath dress or some blue jeans and a casual shirt. This is because the Amish believe that the concept of plain clothing comes from the Bible, and thus from God himself.
In support of their concept, they cite the following Biblical scriptures:
“Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. 4 Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.”
– From 1 Peter 3:3-4
“…for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.”
– From 1 Timothy 2:2
Modesty Is of High Importance
Amish people believe that a married woman should always wear a black cape and apron to church, with a long plain-colored dress underneath, as this type of clothing represents modesty.
Amish people are completely against revealing clothes, semi-naked dresses, off-shoulders, jeans, sweatpants, bike shorts, and leggings; in other words, they reject the modern style of clothing.
They believe that Christian women’s clothing should not be form-fitting but rather loose and plain because such appearance befits Christian women.
Identity and Philosophy
Yes, Amish people follow these strict rules, but I think being Amish is not about rules or following God’s given word (because nowhere in the Bible does God explicitly restrict modern clothing); instead it’s just a mindset, an ingrained philosophy Amish people share.
Plain and modest dressing is one of the distinct features that mark the Amish different from the rest of the world; it’s now their identity.