One of the most indicative pieces of Amish clothing is the head coverings that the women wear. Amish women wear two important head coverings: the prayer cap and the bonnet.
The head coverings are a sign of humility, modesty, and readiness for prayer. The Amish believe that one should be ready for prayer at all times; therefore a woman’s head should always be covered.
The Amish leaders, such as the bishop and preachers, give the Bible as their basis for this rule.
They refer to 1Corinthians 11:5-6, “But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, since that is one and same as having her head shaved. So if a woman’s head is not covered, her hair should be cut off. But it is disgraceful for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, she should be covered.” (HSCB)
Just like everything in the Amish world the style of the bonnet and prayer cap differ between orders and districts. An Amish woman can look at another Amish woman wearing a slightly different bonnet than hers—maybe it has additional pleat or a longer brim—and know the type of Amish the other woman is. For Englischers the differences are so minor, it’s hard for us to recognize them.
Typically, an Amish woman will wear a black bonnet when in public, while traveling, or while outside in bad weather. The bonnet is a larger hair covering worn over the prayer cap. The women wear white prayer caps when at home, at church, or indoors. In some districts, unmarried women wear black prayer caps on Sundays.
The Old Order Amish women in the Appleseed Creek Mystery Series and A Plain Death wear Midwest Style bonnets similar to the one pictured below.
Their prayer caps are like those pictured below.
Have a question you’d like me answer about the Amish in my next AmishSpotlight? Leave it here in a comment, and you might see my response in a future post.
McLary, Kathleen. Amish Style: Clothing, Home Furnishing, Toys, Dolls, and Quilts. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1993. Print.