Hawley studies sacred clothing of Amish, Mormons
Jana Hawley, assistant professor of merchandising and hospitality management, has found a most unlikely link between the Amish and the Mormons their clothes.
Both groups use sacred clothing as a daily reminder of their faith and as a means of maintaining their religious ways of life, Hawley explains.
Hawley, a recognized expert on the Amish, combined her research findings with those of Jean Hamilton of the University of Missouri to compare the two faiths and their uses of religious clothing. Hawley lived in a Missouri Amish community for a year, and Hamilton was raised in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, members of which are generally referred to as Mormons.
The Amish commitment to faith is manifested in simple, unadorned outer garments, which also create a visible cultural boundary. But, Hawley says, what most people don't know is that underneath those garments, the Amish are free to wear whatever they choose, no matter how vibrant and unique.
In contrast, Mormons' religious clothes are one-piece, jumper-style undergarments called "temple garments," which are worn by both men and women. They must be hidden, and because of their style they must be worn under modest clothing. In this way, they serve as the same type of religious affirmation as the simple, unadorned clothing of the Amish.
To further explain the religious contrast between the two groups, Hawley points out that the Amish do not proselytize but instead increase their number of followers by having large families. Typically, those who follow the Amish faith are born into the community. In contrast, Mormons increase their membership through proselytizing and recruitment, as well as having large families. Unlike the Amish, the Mormons want to blend into society and recruit followers. Also in contrast to the Amish, Mormons seek out higher education, get involved in the political process and use technology to the fullest.
The Amish sect has grown from just 6,000 people at the beginning of the 20th century to 180,000 people today. The Mormons number 10 million, half of whom are in the United States.
"When people see a group of Amish men and women, they usually stare but often don't approach them," Hawley says. "So obviously, their tenet of remaining separate from the world is made easier because of their dress."
According to Hawley, this outward separation is also a daily reminder of their beliefs. The Amish believe they must have a simple lifestyle to maintain a close bond with God. This includes limited contact with the non-Amish and a great emphasis on simplicity. For example, women's dresses are very plain with no buttons, and education is limited to an eighth-grade level. The Amish avoid using modern technologies, use gas lanterns for light and use horse-drawn farm equipment.
People in the Amish community who break the rules by making their clothing more elaborate are reprimanded by the church leaders.
The Amish separated from the Mennonites, another religious group that favors plain dress, in the 17th century and arrived in the United States in the early 18th century, Hawley explains. The Amish were persecuted relentlessly and viewed seclusion as their key means of survival.
The Mormon church is based on revelations that Joseph Smith said were brought to him by heavenly messengers in the 1820s.
Other featured articles in this issue