How Do Mennonite Women Dress?

Many people struggle to distinguish between the Amish and the Mennonites. However, while the beliefs of the Amish and Mennonites are similar, their dress code and way of interacting with the world are different.

Mennonite women usually dress in homemade dresses of plain and neutral colors, but some clothe themselves in ordinary “English” garb, such as pants and t-shirts. Mennonite women are not bound by the same strict rules as the Amish, though both are considered Anabaptists. 

Religious groups like the Mennonites prioritize modesty and spiritual principles above all else, which is apparent in how they dress. Mennonite women are particularly distinguishable by their dresses, hair, and other clothing.

Also see The Biblical Reason Amish Women Don’t Shave to learn more.

Mennonite woman dress
Do Mennonite women ever wear pants? See below

Do Mennonite women ever wear pants?

Mennonite women occasionally wear pants. Most Mennonite women are allowed to wear pants so long as they are not short or tight, but most women wear dresses or skirts. 

Mennonite women can wear whatever they want if it is not suggestive or immodest. However, the interpretation of the ‘modesty’ rule is often up to individual families and churches.

Under Mennonite beliefs, modesty includes covering one’s body and treating it as sacred. For that reason, Mennonite women may wear pants, slacks, or shorts, but they will generally be long and loose.

The standards of conservative Mennonites may differ. The dress usually associated with the Mennonite denomination (though not required in all branches) is the plain or cape dress. [1] This dress is the most common apparel for women in conservative Mennonite groups. 

Unlike an Amish dress, which must be a solid, neutral color, the Mennonite dress can be made of patterned material and contain zippers. [2] 

The cape dress is an ankle-length, simply-styled garment meant to be worn to church or during everyday farm work. Cape dresses sometimes include a collar, but it is up to personal taste.

For Mennonites in less restrictive churches, women can wear almost anything as long as it is not distracting or vain. Mennonite women are unlikely to wear much jewelry because they believe they ought to be set apart from the world (i.e., non-Mennonites) in appearance and action. [3]

Also see Are There Black Amish? to learn more.

Mennonite community
Do Mennonite women wear hair coverings? See below

Do Mennonite women wear hair coverings?

Devout Mennonite women sometimes wear hair coverings. They may place these small, white bonnets over their hair out of reverence for their spiritual beliefs. Also called a prayer cap or a headship veiling, the bonnet covers or hides the hair to remind the women of their allegiance to God. 

The Mennonite Church USA/Canada does not require its members to wear the bonnet, but other sects do. 

The headship veiling also represents the woman’s submission to her husband and the male leaders of the church. This belief is called the Headship Order and comes from 1 Corinthians 11:3, which says, “But I would have you know that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is the man, and the head of Christ is God.” [4] 

Head in this context means authority; conservative Mennonite women show their respect for this verse by wearing the head covering.

Do Mennonite Women Wear Makeup?

Mennonite women are allowed to wear light makeup so long as it does not lead to a spirit of vanity. However, strict churches are unlikely to condone makeup as it may distract or deter from the point of a worship service and a heart of humility. 

Vanity is not tolerated in Mennonite circles. [5] For this reason, dresses are plain and non-form-fitting, as women learn that their physical appearance is secondary to their actions and spiritual life. 

Though whether or not to wear makeup is up to individuals, the general principle of simplicity and value beyond looks makes it unlikely that Mennonite women would wear makeup. 

Do Mennonite Women Need To Have Long Hair?

Mennonite women do not need to have long hair, but most choose to grow their hair very long. The Mennonite church mandates no particular hairstyle, but practicality dictates that women who work in the home or on a farm have hair that can be pulled back out of the face.

Short hair on Mennonite women is tolerated in more liberal churches. The most liberal Mennonites are hardly distinguishable from the English (non-Mennonites) and are free to cut, dye, or style their hair. 

Stricter churches will disapprove of these practices and see attempts to modify one’s hair as vain and unbecoming for a woman of God. 

Also see Amish vs Mennonite: Comparison to learn more.

Amish Mennonite
Do Mennonites wear bathing suits? See below

Do Mennonites wear bathing suits?

Mennonites wear bathing suits but do not often swim in public and actively discourage church members from swimming in groups with both men and women. The Mennonite policies surrounding swimwear have less to do with the modesty of the suit and more to do with who is around to see the suit.

Mennonites do not have set rules regarding bathing suits in private groups of all-women or all-men. [6] 

Children not old enough to be members of the Mennonite church have the fewest restrictions and often wear modern suits. Mennonite children can be taken to public pools and beaches and are subject only to their parents’ discretion. 

Mennonites are unlikely to swim at a public beach and may wear dresses, suits, or their other everyday clothing items at the beach. If a Mennonite woman wants to swim in public, she will not wear a standard “English” bathing suit. She may wear swim shirts and shorts or skirts to promote modesty. 

Is the Mennonite Dress Code Different From the Amish?

The Mennonite dress code is different from the Amish. Compared to the Amish, the Mennonites have a very liberal dress code. Amish women must wear one specific ankle-length dress style and head coverings everywhere. 

The Amish do not participate in the English world, believing it is completely corrupt and given over to the devil. They keep entirely to their communities and live without most of the modern comforts (such as televisions and running water) that the rest of America enjoys. 

Mennonites hold some of these values but are not opposed to mixing with non-Mennonite people or using technology in their homes. 

Also see Do Amish Pay Taxes? to learn more.

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Daniel Isaiah Joseph

Daniel's seminary degree is in Exegetical Theology. He was a pastor for 10 years. As a professor, he has taught Bible and theology courses at two Christian universities. Please see his About page for details.

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