Amish clothing patterns

Amish clothing patterns DEFAULT

As a Christian, I want my daughters to dress modestly. Unfortunately most dresses available for little girls suffer from one or more deficiency in the modesty area. Either they are too short, or they are emblazoned with logos that scream “look at me.”

The Amish and conservative Mennonites sew their own clothes, for the most part. The plain styles of the Mennonites are not readily available. The few online shops charge very high prices. I am sure the prices are fair, considering the labor and quality workmanship, but my twins grow fast.

I have occasionally found used Mennonite dresses at a thrift shop in Wilmot, Ohio. But finding plain dresses for my daughters is almost impossible.

I have recently found a source for dress patterns. Friends Patterns has a wide selection of dress patterns and many other patterns.

Simple, modest dresses.

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sew modest clothing

Sites Relevant to Modest Clothing

These are other sites that are relevant to modest women's clothing. Please contact us if you have other good resources to share, or if one of these links doesn't work. Thanks, and enjoy!

Patterns online

  • Kosher Patterns -- modest and kosher PDF sewing patterns that meets halacha and My Sloper Pattern Making Software for Modest Dressmaking for women and girls offering patterns for tops, skirts, dresses, coats, jackets, accessories and more.
  • Kathy's Modest Sewing Patterns -- Common Sense Patterns, Bubbling Creek, Friends Patterns, Prairie Clothing. Classic styles and Amish/Mennonite styles
  • BirchStreet and Folkwear Patterns -- Folkwear patterns for ethnic and period apparel. Birchstreet patterns for modern style, many of which are very suitable for modest wear.
  • Candle On the Hill Modest Sewing Patterns -- "Plain simplicity" styles.
  • Baker Lane Patterns -- Women's and children's patterns inspired by the classic fashions of the past.
  • Sense and Sensibility Patterns -- Era patterns, including Regency Era, Romantic Era, Edwardian, Swing, and "Titanic/Teens" styles. A lot of these would make amazing modest formal dresses.
  • The King's Daughters Sewing Patterns -- Old fashioned but timeless patterns. The value packs come recommended.
  • Sewing modest prom dresses -- The LDS gals have done it again with resources including patterns and instructions for some very resourceful sewing of modest prom dresses without the sticker shock.
  • Ruby Lane Vintage Prom Dress patterns -- Looking to sew something from the days when modesty was still considered part of true beauty? Check out the patterns on sale at Ruby Lane. Also vintage prom dresses for sale.
  • Lavolta Press books on historic costuming and vintage clothing -- Book anthologies which include patterns and fashion plates of Gilded Age, Reconstruction Era, turn-of-the-century, and Edwardian Era. For instance, the Edwardian Era book contains 85 patterns and 91 fashion plates.
  • Edelweiss Patterns -- Patterns and accessories themed on the Sound of Music.

Modest Swimming Suit Patterns

Ready Made Modest Clothing

  • Modestly Yours Swimwear Ebay Store -- Modest swimwear online!
  • A Plus Family Ebay Store -- new and used modest clothing.
  • Amish Mennonite Dress Ebay store -- Custom Handmade Amish Dresses and Mennonite Cape Dresses from Lancaster,Pa.
  • Modest HomeComing Dresses -- Plus size with sleeves.
  • Modest Apparel for Women and Girls --
  • The King's Daughters ready made shop -- Prairie style and other modest clothing.
  • Modest World
  • Modest Handmaidens -- Modest sewing patterns,as well as provide homemaking resources & related products.
  • Mika Rose -- LDS
  • Modest Swimwear -- Modest swimwear, fabric, sewing notions, plus size modest swimsuits, custom made swimsuits.
  • Modest Women's Swimsuits -- StitchInTimes lovely modest swimwear. I like the skirted look.
  • Girls modest Swimsuits -- StitchInTimes girls swimwear.
  • Ringger Clothing -- specializes in classic dresses, modest dresses and skirts, jumpers and vests.
  • Below The Knee -- Modest Girls's Clothing
  • Modest Special Occasion Dresses (Prom, wedding, bridesmaid) Sizes 14-44
  • Sierra Brooke -- New and gently used modest clothing.
  • Modest, Practical Kids Swimsuits -- These are really great looking suits that will protect your kids' skin, allow them to swim safely, and help them enjoy modesty even while swimming.
  • Hawaiian shirts and Hawaiian dresses -- Quite a few lovely Hawaiian style dresses, shirts, mummus, and more that will fit nicely in a modest wardrobe.
  • Kosher Casual -- Modest sportswear for the modern lifestyle. Especially find sleeve exensions, and shirt neck dickies.
  • Milk Nursing Wear -- Not all the styles are modest, but there is a nice selection of nursing dresses and tops that you can add to a modest wardrobe.

Review Sites

  • Sewing Pattern Reviews -- Join and read and comment on pattern reviews. A fun and friendly site, though I'm not having a lot of luck finding more modest patterns I'm interested in.

Sites about Sewing in General

Shop for Sewing Notions

  • Online Fabric Store -- Find fabric easily, and order a $1 swatch to make sure it's right for your sewing project.
  • Pattern Tracing Paper -- Keep your patterns in perfect condition by tracing the size you need exactly to tracing paper. It saves you money in the long run by preserving your patterns.
  • Seam Rippers -- I know, you don't want to think about it, but really, they're you're best friend. A good seam ripper can mean the difference between just removing a mistaken seam or tearing apart the fabric as you try.
  • Scissors -- Many folks recommend Fiskars ™ scissors for that professional feel at home.
  • Thread -- Whether you need serger thread, or prefer a special brand, you can find it online.
  • Sewing Ribbons - Grosgrain, satin, wired, feather edge, you name your width and find it all online. Decorative accents on your clothes make them look truly unique and elegant.
  • Pins -- I like the round ball point type. Easier for me to grab out of the pin cushion or remove after pinning a seam.
  • Sewing machine needles and bobbins -- I like to keep some bobbins threaded always with white, black, and dark blue thread. Then I also try to keep two bobbins threaded with whatever color of thread my current project needs. I don't like to stop in the middle of a seam to wind a bobbin. It's also a good idea to keep extra machine needles around in case one breaks.
  • Sewing kits -- Some of these would make really good beginners sewing kits. I like the looks of the Dritz Start-to-Sew kit.
  • Buy Singer Sewing Machines -- I sew on the Singer 3343 machine.
  • Clothing Labels - Nationbright is leading manufacturer of hang tags, clothing labels including Garment, Woven Label, Printed Fabric & Fashion Labels, Die Casted, Paper Pocket Flasher Label & much more.
  • Sterling Silver Thimbles - Providing a nice addition to your sewing kit, has a selection of silver thimbles.
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A few years ago I felt led to take up the ancient Quak­er tes­ti­mo­ny of plain dress­ing. I’ve spo­ken else­where about my moti­va­tions but I want to give a lit­tle prac­ti­cal advice to oth­er men who have heard or even got­ten ahold of the “Gohn Bros.” cat­a­log but don’t know just what to order. I cer­tain­ly am not sanc­tion­ing a uni­form for plain dress, I sim­ply want to give those so inclined an idea of how to start.

Just as back­ground: I’m a thirty-something Philadel­phia native, brought up with­out any for­mal reli­gion in a Philly sub­urb. I first start­ed approach­ing Quak­ers (Friends) back in col­lege. In my ear­ly twen­ties, I start­ed work­ing at a collectively-run paci­fist book pub­lish­ing house and liv­ing in what was then the sort of down­scale hip­ster neigh­bor­hood of West Philadel­phia. In 2002 I attend­ed a week-long work­shop that had some plain dress­ing Friends and felt the nudge to exper­i­ment. I’ve left Philadel­phia to become a res­i­dent of a small farm­ing town in South Jer­sey (what love will do) but I still spend a lot of time in the city and in decid­ed­ly urban set­tings. I don’t aim to be his­tor­i­cal­ly cor­rect with my plain dress and I don’t want to sim­ply “look like an Amish” person.

Gohn Broth­ers is a store in Indi­ana that sells “Amish and Plain Cloth­ing.” It is cur­rent­ly cel­e­brat­ing it’s 100th year in busi­ness. It’s known for it’s sim­ple print cat­a­log, which is updat­ed every few months. It does not have a web­site. You should get a copy of the cat­a­log to get cur­rent cloth­ing and ship­ping prices. It’s address is:

PO Box 1110, 105 S. Main St., Mid­dle­bury IN 46540
Phone: (574) 825‑2400. Toll-free: 800 – 595-0031

When I first start­ed “going plain,” I sim­ply wore reg­u­lar dark pants with sus­penders found at a gener­ic depart­ment store. It was impor­tant to me that I was wear­ing clothes I already had, and I want­ed to be “Sears Plain,” by which I meant I did­n’t want to go to any extremes to find plain cloth­ing. When I first bought a pair of broad­falls (the zip­per­less pants favored by plain men), I did­n’t wear them for months. Slow­ly I start­ed start­ed wear­ing them out and feel­ing more at ease in them. They were made of rugged den­im, wore well and were quite comfortable.
As my pre-plain clothes have worn out, I’ve start­ed replac­ing them with Gohn Brothers-produced broad­falls. They’re just as inex­pen­sive as any cheaply-made jeans from Old Navy but they hold up and are pre­sum­ably made in Indi­ana by seam­stress­es earn­ing a decent wage.


Gohn Broth­ers offers many dif­fer­ent weights and fab­rics for their broad­fall pants, num­ber­ing them for ease of order­ing. I have bought two pair, both of which I like:

  • #66: 10 oz. sol­id grey den­im, 100% cot­ton: $22.98
  • #92: 100% cot­ton blue jean den­im (11 oz.): $24.98


Gohn Broth­ers pro­duces a num­ber of coats, also called “over­shirts.” In these pur­chas­es I have tend­ed to be more dis­tinct­ly Quak­er. I have two Coats:

  • #225: 9oz. Poly, cot­ton. $41.98 at the time of this post. I have opt­ed for a few alter­ations: A “reg­u­lar cut” for $3.00, a “standup col­lar” for $2.00, “but­ton holes with met­al but­tons” for $3.00 and a “quilt­ed lin­ing” for $5.00.
  • #125 9 oz. Black drill den­im. Poly/cotton. Unlined Jack­et, black drill. Alter­ations: “standup col­lar” for $2.00. (for this I had the default “snaps” in place of but­tons and the default “full cut”).

I’ve pref­ered the spe­cial­ized “reg­u­lar cut” coat over the stan­dard “full cut.” The reg­u­lar cut feels more like the stan­dard suit jack­et that most pro­fes­sion­al men wear to work, while the full cut felt more like a wind-breaker. I also pre­fer the but­tons, as the snaps con­tributed to the wind-breaker feel.


Also known as “braces,” all you need are dark broad­falls and sus­penders to real­ly look “plain” to the world. “Tabbed” sus­penders fit over but­tons in your pants, while “clip-on’s” use alli­ga­tor clips to fas­ten onto stan­dard pants. Tabbed look bet­ter but I can’t help think­ing of Michael Dou­glass in “Wall Street”; a lot of ordi­nary anabapist men I see have clip-on’s.

I’ve heard the sto­ry that there’s a good-hearted rib­bing between the Iowa and North Car­oli­na Con­ser­v­a­tive Quak­ers about whether thin or wide sus­penders is more plain. I’ve start­ed to throw my lot in with Iowa and have got­ten the three-quarter inch sus­penders. (Fash­ion­istas will remem­ber that thin sus­penders were pop­u­lar with a cer­tain kind of high school geek in the mid-1980s – think Cameron in Fer­ris Beuler’s Day Off; fair dis­clo­sure requires that I admit that I wore them around Chel­tenham High). Again Gohn Brothers:

  • #550T 3/4″ tab. Black: $7.98
  • #552C 3/4″ clip. Black: $6.98


While Gohn Broth­ers does hats, I haven’t bought any of theirs. Instead I’ve gone for the Tilley T3 hat. I’m not com­plete hap­py with this, as Tilley’s seem to be asso­ci­at­ed with a cer­tain kind of clue­less trav­el­er, but I’ve noticed that there are a lot of men in my year­ly meet­ing who wear them, I think as an uncon­scious nod toward plain­ness. The Tilley is also friend­lier to bike com­muters: its tie-down strings wrap eas­i­ly around bike han­dle­bars, and it’s very crush­able and washable.

Not a Uniform

Again, let me stress: I am not try­ing to spec­i­fy a mod­ern plain dress uni­form. The only time you should adopt plain dress is when you’re feel­ing active­ly led by it. Some­times that lead­ing is an intu­tion, which is fine, but you need to fol­low it on your own terms. My prac­tice has evolved over time and yours should too. I’ve become more plain since I start­ed this wit­ness sim­ply because I had to replace worn clothes and could­n’t see spend­ing more mon­ey for shod­di­er clothes than I could get at Gohn Broth­ers. You don’t need to get broad­falls to be “plain,” as “plain­ness” is as much a state of mind and an atti­tude toward God and your spir­i­tu­al com­mu­ni­ty as it a set of clothes. I think of it now as a spir­i­tu­al dis­ci­pline, one very fit­ting for our con­sumeris­tic times.

I’d love to hear from oth­ers about their plain dressing.


Mennonite Millinery: A Walk-through of how Mennonite Coverings are Made

Why do the Amish wear Plain clothing?

Plain clothing symbolizes Amish values of modesty, practicality, and Christian commitment

amish plain clothingOne of the most easily-recognizable features of the Amish is their Plain clothing.  Amish women are distinguished by long, solid-colored dresses and head-coverings, and men by beards and suspenders.

In “Why Do They Dress That Way?” Stephen Scott writes that “Dress speaks…One group of people’s dress utters volumes about them though they are otherwise quiet and unobtrusive.”  What are the Amish saying by their choice of characteristically simple clothing?

Amish wear plain and simple clothing for a few important reasons:

  • Plain clothing is modest-plain dress is not revealing
  • Plain dress is Biblical-Amish cite numerous passages of Scripture to support plain dress
  • Plain clothing is practical-plain clothes are simple, reducing choice and simplifying life to a degree
  • Plain clothing is not worldly-adhering to plain clothes means rejecting fads and fashion
  • Plain clothing discourages envy and other base emotions-similar or identical dress discourages jealousy, competition and promotes unity
  • Plain clothing marks Amish identity-plain clothes distinguish Amish from non-Amish

Plain Clothing is Modest

In contrast to modern fashions, Amish clothing reveals little.  Non-Amish may see dark, long-sleeved clothing as uncomfortable.  Yet Amish feel that wearing revealing clothing is un-Christian.  Amish feel that exposing the body to view can promote sinful thoughts and behaviors.  They feel that Christians should stay covered up as a way of honoring the bodies which they have been given by God.

Plain Dress is Biblical

Amish cite numerous Biblical verses for their adherence to Plain clothing, including from the Gospels, Thessalonians, Corinthians, Romans, and Timothy.

amish beard

Amish base some plain dress standards on Scripture

Key verses include I Timothy 2:2, 10 (“In like manner also that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with braided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array, but (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works”) as well as I Peter 3:3, 4 (“…let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold or of putting on of apparel, but let it be the hidden man of the heart, and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price”).

Amish interpret some of those Biblical mandates to plain dress differently.  Amish women cover their heads as admonished in Scripture.  Some Amish men do not trim their beards, for example, citing Leviticus 19:27, “neither shalt thou mar the corners of the beard.”  Others, however, do maintain short, cropped beards.  The general idea of Plain clothing is accepted by all Old Order Amish as based in Scripture, though its individual manifestations may differ.

Plain Clothing is practical

Another part of the appeal of Plain clothing is its simplicity and practicality.  Wearing simple clothes reduces the choices that need to be made on a daily basis.  Unadorned clothing  in solid colors is simpler to make and maintain.  While some may see this as removing the spice from life, Amish appreciate the simplicity.  At the same time, small distinctions may be made, as some Amish may choose finer or more attractive fabrics.

Plain dress is not worldly

The Amish feel that as Christians they are bound to be “in the world, but not of the world.”    Worldly clothing is symbolic of worldly ways.  Amish are taught not to love the world, but God’s spiritual kingdom.  The choice of plain clothing marks the Amish choice to reject the world.

Plain clothing promotes Christian unity

amish uniform plain clothing

Plain clothing helps promote unity

By its nature, plain clothing helps promote Christian ideals.  Amish live in countercultural communities as they feel that they are the best means of manifesting Christ’s teachings.  Plain clothing discourages status-seeking through the practice of acquiring and wearing fine clothing.  It diminishes competition and underlines the importance of community over the individual.  It discourages emotions such as envy and jealousy, though Amish recognize that it is impossible to eliminate these from human nature.

Plain clothing marks Amish identity

Plain clothes clearly distinguish the Amish as a people apart.  Amish plain clothing is distinct, not only in comparison with non-Amish clothing, but when compared with other plain groups such as Old Order Mennonites.  Clothing also varies among Amish groups.  An Amish person is often able to discern an individual’s community from their style of dress.  Thus, plain clothing is an important marker of Amish identity.

Amish-style Plain Clothing is not what Jesus wore

Some make the point that nowhere in the Bible are there admonitions to wear suspenders or solid-colored dresses.  Amish plain clothing evolved over time as a result of a number of factors.  Items of plain clothing became accepted, and were often chosen in reaction to what was seen as popular at the time. Thus, the plain clothing of today came about over time, and is a result of Amish response to influences from the dominant culture, as well as by Amish following Christian beliefs of modesty and humility.

Mennonites, Hutterites, and other Christian groups wear Plain clothing

mennonite plain clothing

Mennonites also wear diferent styles of plain clothing

Amish are not the only people who choose to dress Plain.  Conservative and Old Order Mennonites maintain the practice of wearing plain clothing to varying degrees, though styles are distinct from that of the Amish.

Old Order Mennonite dresses may have patterns and checks, and Mennonite men may wear jeans, overalls, and plaid shirts.  The prayer covering is common for women as well.

Hutterites also wear plain dress, with certain groups of Hutterite women wearing a distinctive polka-dot pattern.

For more information, see:

Why Do They Dress That Way?, Stephen Scott

Photo credit: beard-Cindy Seigle

You might also like:

Question on the Amish? Get answers to 300+ questions in 41 categories at the Amish FAQ.


Patterns amish clothing

Amish dress


Amish clothing styles encourage humility and separation from the world and are a practical expression of their faith. The Amish fashion styles are simple and meant to be functional. Clothing is made at home of plain fabrics and is primarily dark in color, including shades of purple, blue, wine, brown, grey and black. Lighter colors are used for younger children and summer shirts and dresses for adults in some groups.

Amish men wear straight-cut suits and coats without collars, lapels or pockets. They resemble the Nehru jackets of the 70's and are called mutza suits. During the summer they'll shed the coat and wear a vest to church. The fabric of choice ranges from a double knit polyester, warp knit, triple knit or Swedish knit to various gabardines based on the group they are with. Most men would wear black. There is black and then there is BLACK. A close look at a black fabric will show there are brown, blue and gray shades of black clothing in the broader market. In the Amish community it needs to be the blackest black there is. In other Amish settlements the groups vary and will use charcoal grays, light grays, navy blues or browns.

Their trousers never have creases or cuffs and are worn with suspenders. The young children have gallas (suspenders) made of the same fabric as the pants. Belts are forbidden, as are sweaters and neckties. Men's shirts fasten with traditional buttons in most orders, while suit coats and vests fasten with hooks and eyes. Their pants are made with a flap in the front held closed by buttons to avoid the use of a zipper.

Young men are clean shaven prior to marriage, while married men are required to let their beards grow. Mustaches are forbidden because they are considered to be adornment. Haircuts are typically block cut in the back and longer than most English styles. The most severe haircuts are found among the Swartzentruber Amish, the most conservative group.

The men typically wear broad brimmed felt hats in the winter and for dress year round. The width of the brim and the shape of the dome vary with the group. During the summer most groups will allow their men to wear stroh hoots or straw hats. The style of straw hat also lends a clue to the group the man is from. In the winter in some northern climates men are allowed to wear tsiple kops or knit caps.

For everyday most men and boys wear pants made of a fabric called Triblend Denim. It was used at one time by Sears to make Toughskin pants. It's high in polyester and nylon making the pants made with that fabric highly durable. The more conservative groups use a dress triblend that is a darker navy than a regular denim pant. Other groups use the medium blue triblend that is more like the typical jeans.

In the English (non Amish) community most jeans are made with 100% cotton. That allows for breathability and comfort. The fading and fraying that is common over time makes the 100% cotton denim unpopular in the Amish community. The women who have to make pants for their men don't want to tackle that task any more than they have to. If they have several boys in the family they can spend all their time sewing. The Triblend holds up better, doesn't fade and won't snag as easily. It's the perfect fabric for a working man's pants being used on the farm or in a shop of some kind.

During the summer some men will have their women make them a poly/cotton blend pant for the hotter weather. This is called a Dacron Denim after the name of the polyester fiber that is used to make it in a blend with cotton. A 65% polyester and 35% cotton blend is best. Navy blue is the most popular color although some use gray.

Most men and boys wear handmade shirts of a poly/cotton blend. They'll settle for a 50/50 blend but would rather have a broadcloth of higher polyester content. That allows for ease of drying on the wash line and no ironing. That's another hot task that most Amish women would like to avoid. The shirts will be made of oxford cloth, end on end chambrays or just plain chambrays. Again, 100% cotton fabrics are avoided because of fading and wrinkling.

Younger boys dress a lot like their fathers with the exception that they usually wear lighter colors. The men will wear navy Triblend Denim pants while the boys may wear a lighter blue version of the same fabric. If the men wear charcoal gray mutza suits, the boys will wear a lighter gray version of the fabric.

Amish women typically wear solid-color dresses with long sleeves and a full skirt, covered with a cape on the bodice. Some less conservative groups allow the women to wear short sleeved dresses but never sleeveless. Clothing is fastened with straight pins or snaps, stockings are black cotton and shoes are also black. Amish women are not permitted to wear patterned clothing or jewelry. The Ordnung or Book of Order of a specific Amish order may dictate matters of dress as explicit as the length of a skirt or the width of a seam.

Most Amish women make their own clothing, purchasing the fabric in local stores usually run by a woman in their church community. The broader fabric market is driven by the fashion industry. Mills typically don't just manufacturer a fabric without an end market in mind. For that reason the orders from the fashion industry for this season's latest styles dictate what is manufactured. After the production run of that season's garments is finished any leftover fabric is dumped into the wholesale market. There are very few manufacturers who cater just to the Amish. The market isn't large enough for them to fund their weaving machines for the necessary selection. Therefore, most of the dress fabric comes from the garment industry castoffs that the Amish stores buy from brokers.

If the colors this year from New York are lime green, hot pink or bright red forget selling it in an Amish community. Lavenders, purples, darker greens, mint greens, mauves, pinks, some yellows, white, black and beige are all colors that could be used in everyday dresses. Depending on the conservative nature of the Amish community, some colors acceptable in one community aren't acceptable in another. Sunday dresses are typically black with a white apron. Most of the dresses are polyester for ease of cleaning and faster drying. This fabric also requires little ironing. Some dresses are made of polyester and rayon blends but they tend to shrink in the laundry of a typical Amish household.

The variety of fabrics used comes in the texture and pattern of the fabric. Crinkles (not too much or it looks like it hasn't been ironed), dimples, slubs (like shantung) and some printed patterns are acceptable in most groups. If an Amish woman can ride in a van all day shopping and get out looking fresh and unwrinkled, they have found a great fabric.

The weight of the fabric is important too. Nothing too heavy, nothing too sheer. It needs to flow and hang nicely. During the summer, many Amish women will make dresses in broadcloths much like the men's shirts. They are lightweight, breathe easier than polyester and still don't wrinkle much.

What drive changes in Amish women's fashions? To some degree it is the availability of dress fabrics through their stores. Teenage girls often drive the changes and introduce new fabrics. One of the local young women will pick out a new fabric at a store and make herself a dress. Her friends will want to have one like it and the new fad is on. A typical local store will go through bolts and bolts of a new fabric line or even a single color of a new fabric, driven mostly by the younger women.
Eventually, the mothers of the young girls will pick up on the fabric and a full blown rush is on. While fashions change sometimes in the English world every season and every year, a popular fabric will last 3-5 years or more in an Amish community. Part of what determines the end of the run is the availability of the fabric in the wholesale marketplace. One of the struggles for the older Amish women is to find fabrics they have grown used to over the years. Many of them are no longer made because of the changing marketplace.

Amish women never cut their hair, typically wearing it in a braid or bun on the back of the head concealed with a small white cap called a covering. Coverings vary widely depending on the group they belong to. The variations come in the size of covering, the strings and how they are worn and the number of folds or creases in the back. An Amish woman would never be seen outside her home without her covering. When going to town or church they typically wear a stiff black bonnet over their covering.

Sewing 101 About your cape dress pattern

…by our very own Viola.

Today I set aside time to make a new suit of clothes. A suit includes a dress, cape and apron. In my community suits are made of all one fabric and color (customs vary from community to community). Suits are worn by the girls and women to weddings and funerals. Married women also wear suits to any formal social gathering such as reunions, visiting and so forth.

For church it is standard, in my community, for the women and girls to wear a white cape and apron with a colored dress rather than a full suit of all one color. A suit may be worn when visiting neighboring churches.

The men’s standard wear for churches, funerals, formal social gatherings and so forth is also a suit. Their suit is made up of pants, vest, suit coat (called a mutza – pronounced “moot-zuh”) and a white shirt. The men’s suits are general black though dark blue, gray or brown is sometimes used.

Sewing a suit is pretty time consuming, but an enjoyable process.

  1. Cut out all pieces according to patterns. Iron out any creases.
  2. Pin and sew dress bodice front to dress bodice back at shoulders. Measure, pin and hem sleeves to desired length. Pin and sew pleats in to skirt front and back pieces and into apron. Pin and sew darts into cape back. Pin and sew cape front to cape back at shoulders.
  3. Press all seams. Press 5/8 inch seam allowance along edges of cape and sides of apron. It sews up nicer if you press the seam allowances first and then sew.
  4. Cape – Pin and sew facing onto cape neck edges. Pin and sew all around pressed edges of cape. Cape is done except for final ironing.
  5. Apron – Pin and sew pressed seam allowance on sides of apron. Sew belt onto apron. Sew belt stiffening into belt. Measure, pin and hem apron by hand. Apron is done except for final ironing.
  6. Dress – Pin and sew facing around dress neck edge. Gather sleeves to fit sleeve opening. Pin and sew in sleeves. Pin and sew front and back of skirt to front and back bodice pieces. Sew elastic into waist. Pin and sew along side seams, beginning at sleeve edge and ending at skirt bottom. Measure, pin and hem dress by hand.
  7. Press all seams and iron out any wrinkles in the cape, apron and dress. Now you are ready to wear your new suit.

Now discussing:

My Life and the History of the World

I haven’t had to sew for Nicholas. He is quite satisfied with jeans, blue and black, and simple shirts. Almost everything he has was bought at thrift stores. That it was really cheap and it fits him is what he likes the best about it. He never wears a sports coat or a suit, and the last tie he had was used to wrap up an old futon going to the tip. The only sewing I do for him is mending – buttons, rips, and remaking a pair of stretched out braces. (I intend to make a good pair as soon as I can find all the necessary hardware.)

But what if you want to make some traditional, or simply styled men’s clothing? Maybe you are a wife or mother sewing for the men, or a man who wants to run up some inexpensive clothes for himself. (I come from a family where the men knew how to use a sewing machine – and a good skill it is!)

The best choice is Friends Patterns ( for a range of Plain garments. They have patterns for broadfall trousers, fly front pants, a vest, a Hutterite cap (usually worn by boys), a placket shirt, a more traditional “coat” shirt (like a dress shirt), a Wamus dress jacket, a Mutze frock coat and work clothes like overalls, coveralls, and a farm jacket. This covers just about every need a Plain man should have. They also have boys’ sizes. My experience is that their patterns are high quality and meant to hold up for years. If your man doesn’t change sizes much, you may be set for life.

Candle on the Hill ( carries boys’ patterns for simple, modest clothing. They have a few Friend’s Patterns in stock.

Folkwear Patterns(  has a a number of men’s styles that might be adaptable to Plain life: The Drover’s Coat 9137; various ethnic shirts (212 frontier shirts, 102 cheesemaker’s smock, 116 Shirts of Russia and Ukraine, 221 English smock, 148 Black Forest Smock, 202 Victorian shirt, 204 boatman’s shirt) and a “vintage vest” pattern, 222. Some big fabric stores carry Folkwear patterns, but I would expect to have to mail order them.

For those who don’t want to mail order patterns, although I believe the Friend’s patterns are worth the effort, there are some commercial patterns that can be adapted. Butterick has two costume patterns that might be adapted for shirts and jackets, 4486, which is a laced placket shirt – the lacing could be removed and buttons used; and 3072, a pattern I have used to make a Swedish men’s costume. It has a placket shirt, a vest and a frock coat of Colonial style, along with knee pants. Please note that most men’s costume patterns have pull-on, elastic waist pants – meant for an evening of dress-up, not all day use. You will either have to add a fly front or have a very disgruntled man on your hands. I’d just give the costume pants a bye, or use them for pajama pants. (Even then, men want a fly front.)

McCall’s has some patterns that might be useful. There’s a simple buttoned vest pattern (8285, for men and women.) Under costumes, there is a pirate’s costume that includes a laced placket shirt and a very simple vest. Again, forget the trousers. But for a more formal but Plain suit that would not require a tie, I like the look of the Civil War uniform, 4745. There is a single-breasted tunic jacket and button fly trousers that are more than basic costume pieces. Made in black or dark grey, with plain buttons, it would be nice for a wedding or Sunday, without looking costumey or like a uniform.

Simplicity  has some useful men’s and boys’ patterns. Pattern 2741 is a simple shirt and vest, also sized for women. For the rugged fella, there’s a husky/big and tall pattern for men and boys for shirts and vests (4975). If you are inclined to make trousers, Simplicity has 4760, shirts and pants for men and boys. One (7030) includes a shirt, vest and suspenders (braces) sized for men and boys. In costumes, Simplicity has a men’s caped coat (2517) which may not look so Plain, but is very practical – the cape sheds water and keeps the coat from getting soaked. Make it in wool. I like the looks of 2895, a Western style pattern, to make a frock coat, shirt and vest in men’s sizes. If a man wanted a more medieval or peasant type shirt for comfort, there’s 3519, which has dropped shoulders and a placket front.

Men’s clothing may take a little longer to make because of all the fitting, but it is worth the effort, considering that men wear their clothes for years. My grandmother made pants, shirts and suits for men all her life; my grandfather and uncle were quite well-dressed! And I wonder if some of their Pendleton wool shirts, made by Nana, are still being worn!

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