Do Mennonite Women Ever Wear Pants?

When people see photographs of Mennonite women, they often observe that they are wearing long skirts, similar to Amish women. This fact, combined with a lack of knowledge of the Mennonite community, can lead people to wonder how restrictive Mennonite rules of dressing are. For example, can Mennonite women wear pants?

Mennonite women do wear pants. Mennonite beliefs require women to dress modestly and cover their bodies. So, as long as they wear long pants that are not too tight, there is generally no conflict with Mennonite rules of dressing. For the same reason, Mennonite women can also wear slacks. 

This article will explain the type of clothing that Mennonite women wear and cover commonly asked questions about how Mennonite women dress, including why they wear jean skirts, what dresses they wear, and what kinds of pants they wear.

Also see Why Do Mennonites Wear Bonnets? to learn more.

How do Mennonite clothes encourage uniformity? See below

Why Do Mennonites Wear Jean Skirts?

Mennonite women often wear jean skirts because it is a style of clothing that is modest, comfortable, and not too flashy. Long jean skirts are easy-fitting, and their fabric is both durable and long-lasting. Their length also allows them to adhere to Mennonite dress codes

As mentioned above, Mennonite women believe God commands them to dress modestly. So, the clothes they wear tend to be long and cover much of their body. Additionally, they wear clothes that encourage conformity among the community so that no one stands out as being wealthy or poor. [1] 

Jean skirts fulfill both these criteria. They are also easy-fitting and affordable garments that are practically well-suited to the Mennonite lifestyle of hard work.

Many Mennonite communities forbid women from dressing like men, which includes a prohibition from wearing pants. This rule is prevalent in conservative communities, such as among Old Order Mennonites. [2]

So, while it is permissible for Mennonite women to wear pants, most still opt for jean skirts, dresses, and other skirts over jeans.

Also see How To Tell If A Mennonite Woman Is Married to learn more.

What is a cape dress? See below

What Kind of Dresses Do Mennonites Wear?

Mennonite women most commonly wear cape dresses. These dresses are a combination of a dress and a cape. They have a cape-like garment that is part of the dress or is attached to it. This outfit includes a full skirt and a double layer around the bodice for modesty.

Mennonite women have worn cape dresses for centuries. Each church often has its basic pattern, and the women of the church use it to make their dresses. This use of a common pattern encourages conformity among church members. It also means that members of the same church can identify each other on sight.

In cases where women do not wear cape dresses, they generally wear another covering to create a double layer for added modesty. For example, some women wear an apron, while others layer a second dress over the first.

Like long skirts, women wear cape dresses because they are modest, practical, and suitable for the Mennonite lifestyle.

Cape dresses are trendy among more conservative Mennonite communities. In many liberal communities, women wear patterned dresses with zippers that are relatively similar to dresses you would find in non-Mennonite communities. [3]

However, while more liberal communities are more permissive regarding how women can dress, they are still a lot more conservative than outside communities, and women must still follow theological rules of dress. For this reason, even “liberal” dresses are still ankle-length and have long sleeves to promote modesty.

Additionally, how formal these dresses are will vary from community to community. Some congregations dress as formally as possible (that is, without it hampering their ability to work), while others prefer casual options. Ultimately, it is a question of community preference.

Also see Do Mennonites Vote? to learn more.

Mennonite clothes
Do Mennonite women wear head coverings? See below

What Kind of Pants Do Mennonites Wear?

Some Mennonite women wear long, loose pants. They do not wear shorts or tight pants, as these are not considered appropriate according to Mennonite rules of modesty. Like their dresses and skirts, pants are required not to be too flashy or make the wearer stand out from the rest of their community.

While conservative Mennonite communities interpret the rule of “not dressing like men” to mean that women should not wear pants or jeans, not all members follow the rule. In more liberal communities, women are allowed to wear pants, jeans, and slacks. 

However, even if they choose to wear pants, the dresses Mennonite women wear must meet the community’s guidelines for dressing, which generally means dressing as modestly as possible and ensuring that clothes cover their lower body to their ankles.

That said, as with the “prohibition” against wearing pants, not all communities follow the rule.

In some progressive communities, the rules permit women to wear shorts. [4] However, these shorts much reach mid-thigh or be longer (again, depending on the rules in each community), so they can still be considered modest clothing.

When Mennonite women wear pants or long shorts, they usually pair them with long-sleeved blouses or shirts. Occasionally, they may also wear t-shirts – but as with pants and shorts, this only occurs in more progressive Mennonite communities.

As with dresses, the pants and blouses Mennonite women wear are practical and suitable for hard work. In addition, many Mennonites are farmers, and pants can be more convenient for women to work. So, while pants must be long, they shouldn’t be so long that they interfere with a woman’s ability to work in the fields.

Additionally, Mennonite women also wear head coverings. Like their garments, these head covering vary depending on the community. In conservative communities, this can mean head coverings that resemble bonnets. 

However, in more liberal groups, these coverings are smaller and often lacier. Some may only cover the back of a woman’s head, covering her bun when she wears her hair up. Like cape dresses, the pattern is usually similar across the women of a community, though each may make her own minor variations to distinguish it from the coverings of others.

Final Thoughts

Mennonite women in more liberal Mennonite communities are permitted to wear pants, although these must be modest. Wearing pants is prohibited in more traditional communities.

Also see Why Do Mennonites Say Once? to learn more.

[1] Source
[2] Source
[3] Source
[4] Source

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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