"Plain" Catholics (Amish-ish dress)?


I just wanted to say that I think your quest for modesty is so very admirable. I’ve often wanted to dress even more modestly, perhaps with a long dress and a veil or scarf. :o Maybe that sounds silly of me. I love Our Lady so much that she is not only my spiritual mother, but she’s also an inspiration and role-model to me as a female. Shopping is not easy in these unchaste times. But when I see artwork featuring Mary my heart is joyful because she is so humble and beautiful in spirit and in dress. I would be so happy if our Pope blessed a special prescription of modest clothing for lay women to wear, if they felt led. Not an actual habit, but something a little lesser. Like Saints Francis and Claire of Assisi, I want to reject worldly materialism, and live in holy simplicity. Well, I feel like I have blushed enough today; God bless you in your holy quest for modesty.


If I see a teen girl in a long jean skirt, long sleeved top, and long hair, I assume that she is of a Pentecostal sect.

If I see an older woman in orthopedic shoes with a blue or black plain skirt that hits about mid-calf and a matching shirt (usually short-sleeved, perhaps with a cardigan) that she is a nun.

Not all plain “uniforms” are immediately assumed to be Amish.

Can you come up with your own style? Perhaps a long black skirt with some modest tops would make it obvious that you are dressing simply but not that you were affiliating with a particular group. Maybe a jumper style dress? Or perhaps a signature item (style of skirt or dress) in varying colors and lengths and fabrics? Try looking online for Orthodox Jewish and Muslim stores as well as conservative Christian ones as they carry many modern and yet modest clothing choices. Here’s an example.
From the Catechism:
Purity requires modesty, an integral part of temperance. Modesty protects the intimate center of the person. It means refusing to unveil what should remain hidden. It is ordered to chastity to whose sensitivity it bears witness. It guides how one looks at others and behaves toward them in conformity with the dignity of persons and their solidarity.

Modesty protects the mystery of persons and their love. It encourages patience and moderation in loving relationships; it requires that the conditions for the definitive giving and commitment of man and woman to one another be fulfilled. Modesty is decency. It inspires one’s choice of clothing. It keeps silence or reserve where there is evident risk of unhealthy curiosity. It is discreet. (CCC 2521-2522)


[quote=Forest-Pine] Try looking online for Orthodox Jewish and Muslim stores as well as conservative Christian ones as they carry many modern and yet modest clothing choices. Here’s an example .

That’s a great idea. There are some beautiful modest clothing out there.



In his work Introduction to the Devout Life, St. Francis de Sales offers some sound advice regarding clothing:

Chapter 25
Modesty in Dress

Saint Paul expresses his desire that all Christian women should wear “modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety;”–and for that matter he certainly meant that men should do so likewise. Now, modesty in dress and its appurtenances depends upon the quality, the fashion and the cleanliness thereof. As to cleanliness, that should be uniform, and we should never, if possible, let any part of our dress be soiled or stained. External seemliness is a sort of indication of inward good order, and God requires those who minister at His Altar, or minister in holy things, to be attentive in respect of personal cleanliness. As to the quality and fashion of clothes, modesty in these points must depend upon various circumstances, age, season, condition, the society we move in, and the special occasion. Most people dress better on a high festival than at other times; in Lent, or other penitential seasons, they lay aside all gay apparel; at a wedding they wear wedding garments, at a funeral, mourning garb; and at a king’s court the dress which would be unsuitable at home is suitable. A wife may and should adorn herself according to her husband’s wishes when he is present;–if she does as much in his absence one is disposed to ask in whose eyes she seeks to shine? We may grant somewhat greater latitude to maidens, who may lawfully desire to attract many, although only with the view of ultimately winning one in holy matrimony. Neither do I blame such widows as purpose to marry again for adorning themselves, provided they keep within such limits as are seemly for those who are at the head of a family, and who have gone through the sobering sorrows of widowhood. But for those who are widows indeed, in heart as well as outwardly, humility, modesty and devotion are the only suitable ornaments. If they seek to attract men’s admiration they are not widows indeed, and if they have no such intention, why should they wear its tokens? Those who do not mean to entertain guests should take down their signboard. So, again, every one laughs at old women who affect youthful graces,-- such things are only tolerable in the young.

Always be neat, do not ever permit any disorder or untidiness about you. There is a certain disrespect to those with whom you mix in slovenly dress; but at the same time avoid all vanity, peculiarity, and fancifulness. As far as may be, keep to what is simple and unpretending–such dress is the best adornment of beauty and the best excuse for ugliness. Saint Peter bids women not to be over particular in dressing their hair. Every one despises a man as effeminate who lowers himself by such things, and we count a vain woman as wanting in modesty, or at all events what she has becomes smothered among her trinkets and furbelows. They say that they mean no harm, but I should reply that the devil will contrive to get some harm out of it all. For my own part I should like my devout man or woman to be the best dressed person in the company, but the least fine or splendid, and adorned, as Saint Peter says, with “the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit.” Saint Louis said that the right thing is for every one to dress according to his position, so that good and sensible people should not be able to say they are over-dressed, or younger gayer ones that they are under-dressed. But if these last are not satisfied with what is modest and seemly, they must be content with the approbation of the elders.


Have you looked for modest catholic women on the web? You will find many women feel the same way you do. There are many modest dress sites as well.


I am all for modesty and simplicity.

That being said I feel that as women we have an opportunity to show people that we can be “fashionable” and “modest” while being open and loving Christians.

Too often I see some people who dress in the type of clothing you are contemplating and I am really turned off by it.

I think the greater challenge is to show how we can live in the world without being worldly. I hope that makes sense, I don’t know if I can really explain it that well.

Just my 2 cents.


I really do not advocate “Amish” dressing. I am an advocate for modesty with which I feel you agree. While I believe the Church must be open to all, I wish some folks would consider dressing a little more. At least for Church. At Ash Wednesday service I saw micro mini skirts and midriff baring “shirts”. There were shorts so tight and short…you get the picture I’m sure.
I have worn long skirts and sleeved shirts for many years. I wear them to work, shopping, gardening, and Church of course. They are not “plain” as the concept goes. I love color and pattern. Most of what I buy is off the rack at nice department stores. I go to New Mexico once a year for vacation and usually pick up some skirts there in local stores. I am most comfortable in them summer and winter. No one seems to notice particularly what I wear. But then I am a 53 year old woman.
That being said I do not expect anyone else to feel they must wear such clothing. As for head coverings, I like the idea for Church. But have not done it frankly because I do not wish to distract.


What I would like to accomplish by changing my mode of dress is to simplify my life a bit. I end up searching frantically in the mornings for a cleanish skirt, a clean shirt, and sometimes safety pins to back up the buttons of a few shirts whose stretchy material makes them likely to unfasten at awkward moments. I have trouble finding shirts that have elbow-length sleeves (dislike short sleeves; tend to get long sleeves messy), are of decent material, and do not gape when I button them.

I would sew my own shirts and dresses (well, I sewed a few dresses), but that the patterns currently marketed are really not to my taste, and shirts would be problematic: I can’t sew a good buttonhole to save my life.

I am considering ordering a dress like the one second from right in the photos at the top: plainlydressed.com/

There is an option to send one’s own fabric (would cost less too), and so I am considering a dark floral print, ordering elbow-length sleeves, and adding a white collar to relieve the severity of the neckline.

The over-cape is detachable, and wouldn’t have to be worn every day. With those alterations, the dres wouldn’t be


Rose Marie: Did you look a little further down and see the denunciation of the “ROMISH” church and the diatribe about the PAGAN festival of Easter? While I like the outfits pictured, I surely would not spend my money contributing to an organization so blatantly anti-Catholic. Just my opinion.


I’m afraid I didn’t. I only looked through the clothing pages. Thank you for noticing that. I will consider other companies.



Have you gone to this site???


No, I hadn’t. Thanks, Slyboots. :slight_smile:


Another thing I think people are missing a bet on is the tunic shirt. I find loads of these at Walmart/ K mart/ Steinmart/ Kohl’s/ Penney’s etc. Most I get are cotton knit. They come in several sleeve lengths. And most I see have modest necklines but do not choke me. They wash and iron well.
Pull over sweater for winter are great. Like the tunics I wear them untucked with my long skirts.
When I am gardening or working around the house I have several denim skirts which I wear with loose good cotton T shirts.
My sister in law was concerned about “skirt alert days” also known as windy days. Since I do not wear bloomers under my dresses but regular under garments I am especially careful and mindful of my skirts on those days. If I am wearing a summery loose type skirt I make sure to wear a long slip as well so the sun does not show through the fabric. Walmart has slips in black for dark skirts and white for lighter ones in stock all the time.
Of course if you don’t like trading with Walmart and the like you can make your own. Folkways patterns are often prettier than anything I can buy pre-made.
Or you can shop from some of the sources online. But even the Mennonites in our community shop at Walmart etc. just like the rest of us.


I hate to say it but lay Catholics do not have a dress-style to uniquely identify themselves to the world. Orders have identifiable dress. Laywomen are not supposed to dress as nuns, just as nuns are not supposed to dress as lay women. Catholics live in the world but not of it. To dress in a fashion such as the link you just posted, Rosemarie, sets you so apart from society that your goal of modesty suddenly becomes false modesty. Additionally, it would be grossly misleading as to what Faith you belong since that style is absolutely not identified with Catholicism, not to mention that most identify it with an anti-Catholic attitude. Modesty means to blend in, not stick out. You would not put black paint on a white wall when touching it up. You seem to have a good idea of what types of clothes are modest: cover your legs, your arms, etc. but it is entirely possible to achieve that in clothing that does not look Amish, Mennonite, Apostolic Christian, Pentecostal, etc. or resorts only to dresses. You can layer clothes to give a covered yet stylish look. You can wear tunic length shirts over pants to cover those parts of pants that some find objectionable. You can wear bold designs if the colors are pastel or muted shades of the brighter color range. You do not have to limit yourself to blues, grey, browns, and blacks in only solid or prairie print. If you have a problem with your shirts unbottoning - do not rely on that shirt in a single layer. Wear it as an outer layer to another shirt (even a sleeveless, higher necked one beneath). If it is apparant that you have on two shirts, people would never be tempted to look in the wrong place even if your bottons do pop open.

Ultimately, each piece of clothing does not have to fit the entirety of the modesty “rules” you set on yourself - only your final appearance does. This widely opens the door when shopping for clothing and allows you to create your own styles rather than limiting and frustrating yourself trying to find off-the-rack modest clothes.


While I appreciate the link to the “Catholic Modesty” site, I cannot help but note that so many of the passages quoting saints and popes, where there are specific regulations about length and what should and should not be worn, are from the 1930s-1950s or earlier. I would further add that I find Padre Pio’s alleged approach offensive, yet this site espouses it as if it were Gospel. I think if a woman were to dress like this site or the Plain Clothing site proposes, wearing clothing that is so out of step with fashion (decades or even centuries out of step) it will not do good unless the woman is known by her good works. In other words, unless people know first hand that Christ dwells with in you and people see it in selfless actions and words, you will alienate your fellow Catholics instead of witness to them. It will set you apart in immodest ways, by that I mean that people will stare at you, to dress like this, unless you live with the Amish, where you will look like one of them. Rosemarie, you seem awfully concerned about your appearance. Are you worried that people will judge you to be less holy or virtuous if you wear clothing like the rest of us? Do you think God will use you in an evangelistic way if you dress like this? That you honor God better dressed in fashions that are somewhat out-of-date in most parishes, since you can dress modestly by being selective about what you pick off of the rack at many stores? Plus, you say that you can sew, therefore you can modify any garment you make to suit higher standards. I simply don’t understand what is at the heart of this issue because it seems vain to me.


I hate to say this also but some of the information on that site is historically innacurate. There are many out there who have change Father Kunkel’s modesty literature to suit their agendas. Father Kunkel gave concessions for pants along with sleeve lengths but that fact is curiously absent from this site.

Sedevacantists have for years misprinted that it is the Cardinal Vicar of Pius XII who coined the following Standards of Modesty:

A dress cannot be called decent which is cut deeper than two fingers breadth under the pit of the throat; which does not cover the arms at least to the elbows; and scarcely reaches a bit beyond the knees. Furthermore, dresses of transparent materials are improper.

But it was the Cardinal Vicar of Pius XI who apparently said this though to date it has never been produced as an orignal document. I noticed that this site has Piux XII listed. I am not saying they are sedevacantist but I would have great reason to question their sources.

Also the Imprimatur tagged to the standards belongs not to the standards but to a pamphlet of Father Kunkel’s (a pamplet which allows for pants and which attributes the standards to an entirely different person).

So, be careful of what you read out there! Catholic women should rely only on original source material!


Incidentally, when you were talking about “pentecostal” I assume you mean the “holiness” branch of pentecostals? Because the folks on TBN and DayStar networks are pentecostal evangelicals, as in Assembly of God or non-denoms. But they wear more make-up, hair stuff, and fancy dress than anyone on EWTN ever thought of wearing.
The “holiness” folks around here are plain dressers. They don’t cover their heads though. Skirts and shirts are the norm for the ladies. And they don’t cut their hair.
The Nazarene community used to have a real “holiness” bent to it around here. But they seem to have given that up and now wear slacks and shorts.
The point I think we all are getting at is that dressing modestly is the key. If you like the dresses with capelets, ok. If you like simple dresses with no frills, ok. If longer non-clinging denim skirts and long sleeved button downs are your thing, ok. Or if you’re like me and feel best in an ankle length skirt and tunic top, ok too. Etc…etc…and so on. I probably won’t notice or let it interrupt my prayers. But if you come to mass in a midriff baring shirt and micro skirt, and I happen to see, I would wonder what you think modesty means. But that is my problem not yours anyway.


This is written in Padre Pio: the True Story. (BTW, this book was the book recommend to me by the monks at the monastery as an authoriative source on Padre Pio)

"Father Dominic was also skeptical about the ‘testimony’ of Padre Pio’s ‘friends’: ‘We have plenty experience with such testimony. Not all who speak about Padre Pio and their experience are trustworthy. Some, wishing to post as special friends of the Padre, have told the most incredible stories about him. Others, giving free vent to their imaginations, have exaggerated, added, misunderstood, and misconstrued events. They probably did not want to lie. But they were such who could not think straight, and mixed too much of their own [imagination] into the story.’

While many newspaper accounts and much oral history must be taken ‘with a grain of salt,’ there are sold and substantial sources. Chief of these are Padre Pio’s own letters, written to his spiritual advisers and to some of his spiritual children, mostly between 1910 and 1923. To corroborate these we have the diaries and memoranda of some of Padre Pio’s confreres, notably Padre Agostino, who kept a journal for nearly fifty years. Of especial value are the letters of Father Dominic, who was generally considered a rather skeptical man, wrote to his family between 1948 and 1958, notably to his cousin Albert Meyer, who eventually became cardinal-archbishop of Chicago. We also have oral and written testimony by priests, physicians, and other educated persons, which corroborate accounts by persons who humble background and lack of education would naturally render them suspect by the sophisticate. Father Dominic, after dismissing as rubbish much of the material wirtten about Padre Pio in his day, nevertheless concluded that when one looked at the actual events in his life, ‘truth is stranger than fiction.’"

Again, be careful what you read - check the sources used.


Heck, I just gave the site because it had some nice modest clothes sites listed. :o


I know, I did not mean to pick on you - just the site. There are those that will read the rest of the material and could potentially be misled. Who wants to spend all their time doing what I did - checking sources. Hopefully, I saved them some trouble. I have no idea if there is a modest clothing list out there not linked to a sect or fringe group in our own Church.

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