Friday, March 9, 2012

Modest Dress

What do the Amish think of the way "English" people dress? I would think it would seem very immodest and troubling to them.

This and forms of this question is one I have heard a lot since we left the Amish. My answer usually surprises people but I'm only speaking from my own experience.

There are a lot of different Amish communities and each one has its own set of guidelines about the way clothes are made and worn. From as far back as I can remember you didn't stop to think twice about how someone was dressed because everyone had different rules to follow and what was required in our community could very easily have been forbidden in another one.

We had a woodworking business and dealt with the public every day and saw people dressed in all kinds of different ways and never thought anything about it. The only time I heard anything about the way "English" people dress was once in church when a minister went on a surprising rant about how it isn't fit to go to a beach because of all the people walking around with hardly enough clothes to cover a half grown blue jay.   That comment was the closet I ever came to having to laugh in an Amish church.

The first someone really addressed modesty or the lack of it was after we left the Amish and a lady from the church we were attending came to apologize for the way certain people were dressing since she was so sure it really bothered us, and the funny part was we had never even noticed until she mentioned it. And it still didn't bother us. While I would have been very uncomfortable wearing something like that it didn't even occur to me to feel uncomfortable to see someone else wear it.

I like wearing modest clothes and am trying to teach our daughters the same. Not by pointing out immodesty and making a big deal about it but by quiet positive remarks about attractive modest clothing. Much the same way my mother did when she told me how nice a dress fits if enough pleats were in the skirt so I always wanted to have enough. She could have pointed out a few women who didn't have enough and every time they bent over you could see their thighs or if they ran their skirt would ride up their legs. Gentle positive reinforcement of her views was all that was necessary which left me free from trying to find fault with everyone that wasn't dressed to her modesty standards which would only have robbed me of some of my childhood joy and innocence.


  1. Thank you so much for this post. You have taught me a lot today. I am guilty of pointing out how my daughter & I should NOT dress vs. and attitude of complimenting what I deem appropriate and modest attire.
    After reading this post, I am convicted to strive toward focusing on a more positive approach in teaching my own daughter about modesty.

  2. Great post..what a wise mother you are...just as your mama was to you. Blessings

  3. You have a lovely way of looking at things!!

    We encountered a man who has made a ministry of harrassing a certain plain group we have been involved with who accused me and others of thinking christian women who did not wear headcoverings were in sin. He would not accept anything any woman had to say as truth. He is an extreme example, as he has a website where he bashes this group and hosts debates, I have definitely sensed that some christian women feel "judged" by me. I try to be warm and loving with all christian women I meet from every walk of life, but I guess these notions are going to happen. Even my own daughter struggled with feeling judged by me for a while. I grew up Catholic and this all mystified me because I never met anyone who felt the nuns thought that we were less important to God because we did not have such a strong outward witness. Interesting!
    Joanie W

  4. Do you have any opinion about women from other sects wearing Amish coverings? I've come across a handful of Plain Friends who are very careful to wear a different covering from what their local Amish and Mennonite groups wear, so as not to be confused with them, but of course most English have no idea which coverings are which anyway. I've been mistaken for Amish with this covering:

    Do you think it's ok for Plain women who don't have a rule to follow regarding coverings to purchase coverings that usually belong to another group?

  5. MacKenzie, Wear what ever you like as long as you don't mind being labeled as belonging to a certain group.

  6. Great way to think and teach about modesty!

  7. I am guilty of pointing out immodesty more than pointing out modesty sometimes. Thanks for posting this, sister.

  8. Lovely blog! Just wanted to let you know I'm a new follower!
    Anne ♥♥

  9. Mackenzie, you made me chuckle! I teach Colonial American history, and go in costume - Watteau dress, panniers, etc. and I've had grownups - not school kids! - ask me if I'm Amish. Dear Heaven!

    We have two Amish markets near us, and I do try to dress modestly when I visit them. No head covering, and I'm well past the age where I'm willing to go out in public is shorts, but a long sleeved dress or blouse, and nothing too "slop around the house", either.

  10. Your Mother was certainly wise on how she taught you the truths regarding modesty. Thank you for sharing.

  11. Anne:
    I do Renaissance stuff sometimes. I find it surprising how much I get asked about religious dress on the way home, rather than "oh, are you in a play?" Standard SCA answer: oh, I'm performing in Death of a Salesman *walk away*

  12. "While I would have been very uncomfortable wearing something like that it didn't even occur to me to feel uncomfortable to see someone else wear it."

    This reminds me of a Muslim woman whose son plays soccer in the same league as my son (at one time they were on the same team.) She is always modestly dressed, usually in (not at all tight) slacks, a long-sleeved tunic-like blouse, and a lovely patterned silk scarf covering her hair. She's a really friendly person who socializes with the rest of us, and I've never sensed even a hint of disapproval over our clothes. *She* might very well feel uncomfortable wearing shorts and a T-shirt, but I don't get the feeling that she cares at all about how *we* dress. Just like we don't care how she dresses. We're there to watch our kids play soccer.


Thank you so much for taking time to comment. I love hearing your thoughts.