plain dress, Amish, Mennonite, Brethren, Quaker

Plain Dress

On this page: Places to Purchase Plain Dress Online

  • Ready-to-wear and Custom-Made Plain Dress
  • Patterns for Plain Dress
  • Catalogs and Stores That Sell Plain Dress and Plain Useful Items
  • About Shoes

Also see

  • Advice on Purchasing Custom-made Plain/Modest Dress Online
  • Advice on Fabrics for Home-sewn Plain and Modest Dresses
Amish plain dress Old German Baptist Brethren plain dress Amish plain dress girl Quaker plain dress plain dress Mennonite cape dress Old Order Mennonite plain dress Lancaster Amish bonnet
*Photos courtesy of Plainly Dressed

Traditional Plain Dress Resources

Traditional plain dress runs quite a gamut, but in general the women wear long dresses, often with a cape or kerchief or other second layer to cover the bosom. Fabrics are usually solids or simple prints. Aprons are also common. Most distinctive is probably the headcovering, which falls into a fairly limited range of styles which are outlined on these pages. Black shoes and stockings are worn by the most conservative. Makeup and jewelry are avoided, per I Tim. 2: 9,10 "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 that which becometh women professing godliness."

Women in the traditional plain churches are adhering to a community standard in dress that includes what headcovering to wear, the style of dress and the fabric colors. Plain dress styles are usually self-consciously anachronistic and have specifically symbolic items that are required. Modern plain dress has evolved from earlier styles, with some items being retained long after being abandoned in the mainstream, in particular bonnets, shawls and aprons. There are plain-dressing groups that I have no examples to share, including the Hutterites, the Shakers and smaller Amish-Mennonite groups like Holdeman Mennonites.

The Amish and Mennonites are the best resource for plain dress available today. Some costume historians believe the Mennonites modified their plain dress somewhat after coming to America in ways that were more Quaker-like, who were the predominant plain-dress observing group at that time. So, perhaps it is only fair that we switch it around the other way. I wear traditional plain dress. My goals have been to emulate historical Quaker plain dress without being slavishly historical, and to find a combination that works for me functionally on a day-to-day basis. I felt the desire to dress distinctively. I want someone who is knowledgeable about the plain peoples to have to at least ask my background, so that I do not look too Amish or too Mennonite, but definitely plain. I met these goals by adopting a plain soft cap, solid-colored plain dress, a light tan shawl, and a neck-kerchief.

Places to Purchase Ready-to-wear
and Custom-made Plain Dress

Also see

  • Advice on Purchasing Custom-made Plain/Modest Dress Online
  • PrayerCoverings.com

    The first place I found the cap and bonnet I was looking for and one of my favorites. For more on traditional headcoverings.

  • Anabaptistbooks.com

    Plain dresses made to order by Dora Roth. I wear her dresses.

  • Mennonite Mom's Etsy Store

    where she sells lovely plain dresses for women and children. She also sells cape dresses on ebay, contact her by email at just4jane4[at]yahoo.com for more info.

  • GehmansCountryFabrics.com

    Gehman's offers both sewn-to-order in some standard sizes as well as made-to-order (thee has to purchase the making of the pattern) Conservative Mennonite cape dresses.

  • Katie's Mercantile

    An excellent array of plain and modest dresses, including foundation garments (unmentionables) and maternity dresses. They carry infant (including preemie), children and women's sizes. They also offer several headcovering styles.

  • Kidron Town & Country

    Has some interesting odds and ends for plain dressing, including men's clothes and hats and snuggies for ladies.

  • Mennonite Maidens

    I haven't ordered from them, but they offer a number of nice designs, cotton fabrics, and useful accessories like shawls.

  • Rachels' Seamstress Services

    ... has a lovely apron-front plain dress. She also makes broadfalls for men.

Places to Purchase
Plain Dress Patterns

Also see

  • Advice on Fabrics for Home-sewn Plain and Modest Dresses
  • Christian Light Publications

    For instructions on constructing one's own cape dress, consider Christian Light Publications' Home Economics II units called Preparing a Cape Dress Pattern and Making a Cape Dress. (They also have Sewing a Headship Veiling.)

  • GehmansCountryFabrics.com

    Gehman's Country Fabrics offers made-to-thy-measurements patterns for Conservative Mennonite cape dresses.

  • Friends Patterns

    I have made several of their items. They are definitely for the confident seamstress who knows her way around a pattern, but they have all worked out for me just fine.

  • Candle on the Hill

    I have only made one of her patterns, a cap, and it was very well done. She offers what I categorize as both plain dress patterns and modest dress patterns.

  • Fabric.com

    Once you have a pattern Fabric.com is a good online resource with a wide selection of affordable fabrics. It's also worth checking out their clearance and closeout fabrics.

Useful Ready-to-wear & Patterns
from Historical Re-enactor Resources

Websites for historical re-enactors can be excellent resources for filling in gaps in a plain dress wardrobe. Shawls, shoes, capes, bonnets, caps, aprons, kerchiefs. Find what problems you need to solve, and then find out how others have (historically) solved those problems.

Catalogs and Stores That Sell
Plain Dress and Plain Useful Items

  • Gohn Brothers

    To request a catalog, write: P.O. Box 1110, Middlebury IN, 46540. Extensive catalog with no photos, text only, including men's plain suits and broadfall trousers, shawls, outer bonnets, foundation garments, shoes, including the classic old-fashioned high-top shoe for women.

  • GVS

    To request a catalog, call 1-800-398-2494. Extensive catalog with color photos, including men's plain suits, maternity, hair pins, baby needs, classic toys, foundation garments, shoes. Someone did a write-up on their blog about the GVS catalog that might be helpful.

  • MCC Connections

    4080 Kidron Rd., Kidron, OH 44636, 330-857-7802 (this is a Mennonite thrift store).

About Shoes

I found shoes to be one of the most difficult issues to resolve in my quest for a traditional plain Quaker habit. The Gohn Brothers catalog has shoes (see Catalog above), but no pictures, and blind purchasing mail order shoes was a bit nerve-wracking. Probably the best selection for mail order with pictures is GVS. No website, but they can be contacted by phone to request a catalog at 1-800-398-2494. I also have very narrow feet, and plain-shoe purveyors' offerings tend toward wider-width sizes. I ended up using plain black Reebok athletic shoes with the brand name blacked out for every day, which is quite popular among the plain women I know. Very comfortable and fairly inexpensive, it is also a style that has been available for many years. I ended up purchasing a pair of Australian "school shoes" from Vegan Wares for meeting, but the exchange rate has become such as to make recommending them impossible due to the expense.

Two readers have contacted me with some interesting options for an old-fashioned high-top plain shoe, though they are a bit pricey, they are actually less expensive than the classic old-fashioned high-top plain shoe offered by Gohn Brothers. Both solutions are actually boots. (1) from Abigail, a boot for Civil War re-enactors offered by BlockadeRunner.com. And (2) from Kathryn, the idea of wearing Paddock boots. A search of Google images for Paddock boots brings up a great many photos of plain-appropriate boots.

plain dress, Amish, Mennonite, Brethren, Quaker
plain dress, Amish, Mennonite, Brethren, Quaker
plain dress, Amish, Mennonite, Brethren, Quaker
plain dress
Quaker spirituality Spiritual mentor Plain dress
daily george fox quote

Epistle 125
1656

The Wonderer

FRIENDS, To you all this is the Word of the Lord: Know the Seed of God in one another, which Seed is Christ. Look not out, then ye will not Wonder, but will be a-top of the Wonderer. The Seed, which is Christ, being known in one another, which the Promise of God is to, every one of you know the Promises fulfilled in you; whereby ye may all know the Flesh of Christ your Food, and know his Reign. And quench not the Spirit, and stop not the Power; but dwell in that, which doth stop and quench the Deceit: And to you ...

... view full quote



Quaker Jane's
Recommended Reading


Why Do They Dress That Way?

The guide to the practice of plain dress in the United States.


The Quaker: A Study in Costume

Amelia Gummere's classic study of the history of Quaker plain dress, first published around 1900.

(More Recommended Reading on Plain Dress . . .)