One of our website visitors, Ella, recently submitted the following question:
Wanted to ask a question about the dress code of the Amish communities. I know that some communities only allow black and dark navy for the clothing but there are some that will other colors such as blue and purple and green, etc.
Is this an individual choice that has been approved by a communities bishop? Or is there a reason why some where dark colors over the ones who wear the more bright colors?
This a good question and I’m going to give you the answer as I’ve experienced it and if someone wants to add to this, feel free.
Day to day life in an Amish community is governed and codified in the ordnung. Don’t go poking around, though, looking for a written copy of the ordnung. It doesn’t exist. The ordnung is a list of unwritten rules that church members follow to stay within the church’s good graces. The rules are different from church to church. Often these rules are governed just as much by tradition as they are by theology. Clothing colors go into the category of tradition. The Amish are a conformist culture, no one person wants to stand out from the crowd. This is why you generally don’t see Plain people on TV. They don’t want to stand out. The taboo against photography has just as much to do with conformity compliance as it does with the “graven image.” An Amish person will just know what colors are permissible in their church. They’ll grow up seeing the clothing worn by those around them and that’s that. Perhaps one could push the envelope around the edges a bit, but if an Amish woman showed up at a quilting bee in a leopard print dress would be formally censured by the church? I doubt it. But the social ostracism would be so significant, one wouldn’t even try. It wouldn’t be worth it. And more important, if you’re agreeing to be a part of the church you are entering into an implicit social contract that you follow the norms and traditions of your church in addition to the theological teachings. Look at these pretty matching mint green clothes that Elizabeth Eicher and her friend Timothy wore to a wedding a couple of years ago. For a wedding – just like in a non-Amish wedding – colors may actually be specified. I think they were in this one. Below is a a photo of laundry on the line in the Amish settlement of Partridge, Kansas, a more progressive community. Solid colors are the norm in any Amish settlement, even the more “liberal” ones.
This is clothing hanging on the front porch of an Amish home in St. Ignatius, Montana. Again, solids are king. The most conservative Amish settlements will dress in blacks, browns, and grays, the darker colors on the spectrum. The more progressive communities will often mix in rusts, mustards, and violet colors in dresses and shirts. I saw a young Amish man outside of Sugarcreek, Ohio wearing black pants and a crimson red button down shirt. I had never seen that level of brightness before, but he obviously felt that he was within the “social contract” in his particular church or he was pushing the envelope. These are some Amish people touring outside of Pinecraft, Florida. There is a brighter “salmon” type dress in the group. But, again, there colors are going to be within a certain spectrum and always solid. Hope this answers your question, Ella!