CAPTION: Amish Cook columnist Gloria Yoder carries her 2 ½ year -old daughter, Julia, into Amish-owned Villa Country Store in Flat Rock, Illinois.
I have seen signs in Amish businesses over the years expressing appreciation for "modest dress"among their non-Amish customers. I've seen such signs in a wide range of places, from among the Old Order Amish in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania to the New Order Amish in Ohio. But what constitutes "modest dress?" That's a tough question and very subjective. I think you just have to use your good judgment. I know if I am visiting an Amish family that I don't know well, even on a simmering summer day, I will wear khaki pants or jeans and closed toe shoes. I'm just not sure wearing shorts and sandals radiates the professionalism that I am trying to convey as a journalist. But I will wear a short-sleeve polo shirt. Still, these are sort of dress standards that I'd use on any journalistic assignment, but I think it is a good guide when making a social call also. I guess I'm a little old-fashioned. I still can't bring myself to go to church wearing shorts, even though "come as you are" clothing has been widely embraced by many faiths over the years. I'd just feel funny going to church in shorts and flip-flops, but that is just me, I'm not criticizing those who do. I see some people in shorts, flip-flops, and muscle shirts for guys in church and, well, at least they are attending....
Since I'm not a woman I have a more difficult time discerning what a woman should wear when visiting an Amish home or business. Just don't wear something too low-cut or too short and you'll be fine. For men and women, don't wear t-shirts with raunchy or racy slogans. Don't go to an Amish home or business wearing a t-shirt with a goofy slogan or picture. Just be respectful, think conservative and the gesture will be appreciated greatly by your Amish hosts.
I have, by the way, been to plenty of Amish businesses where no such sentiments about modesty are on display and visited Amish people who probably could have cared less what I was wearing. I actually think that sentiment may be espoused by the majority of Amish. But, still, I think it's good to err on the side of respect and being conservative. Among family, modesty may be less of an issue. An Amish man might walk around the house shirtless on occasion or women will let their hair down, literally.