Hutterite Clothing

Some people say that they find Plain dress too austere – too plain. No colour, no pattern, loose and unbecoming. But there is a traditional Anabaptist group who enjoy colour and pattern.

Hutterite children, from Univ. of Regina

Hutterite women and children wear bright colours, calicos, plaids and prints. Sometimes they wear them all together. When we were out West in Saskatchewan and Manitoba, the Hutterite women would shop at Walmart or the market, in their distinctive polka-dotted black kerchiefs, wearing long pleated skirts and a matching, short-waisted, long sleeved jacket. (I can’t seem to find any photos of this ensemble.) They liked bright patterned fabrics, and looked very Eastern European. The men and boys wore white shirts, dark jeans, and white or straw cowboy hats. the babies looked like little Russian dolls, all bundled up in bright fabrics and bonnets.

Hutterite family 1588

The women still dress much like this, although the men no longer wear the long jacket, and the sugarloaf hat has disappeared!

Hutterite girls, in skirt, blouse and vest (via freeyello)

These may be one-piece dresses made to look like the traditional vest and skirt, always worn over the white blouse.  Each colony – the Hutterites live communally, in groups of about 100-150 – buys a quantity of fabric each year, under the direction of an older woman in charge of the sewing. The families can then choose from the storeroom for new clothes to be sewn. While the men are in charge of the fields, machinery, animals and general business, women take turns at running the kitchen, the sewing room, the school and the gardens. These are all large scale endeavours, as all meals are communal in a common dining room.

Old Magazine Photo of Hutterites, Univ. of Minnesota

Hutterites speak a form of German called Hutterisch. Sometimes families will leave the colony, which while it is considered a disgrace, doesn’t seem to cut them off from contact with their family back home. Many will join Mennonite churches if they choose to live away from the colony. It seems to be a hardship to leave, and learn to live without the support of the community, making decisions about money, furnishings, and even clothing.

Among other Anabaptists, Hutterites are known for their blunt speech and even bawdy, earthy sense of humour. They have some celebrated youth choirs, sharing the Mennonite history of choral harmony.


12 thoughts on “Hutterite Clothing

  1. Magdalena,

    Of all the annabaptist communities, I find the Hutterites the most intriguing; their outliving of Acts 2: 42-47 is, in my view, a most powerful and compelling witness – They strike me as the closest in nature to the Christian Monastic Tradition of all the ‘Plain’ groups. Furthermore, their love of colour and brightness (not to mention the predelection for blouse, skirt and waistcoat) mirrors my own take on ‘Plain’. I would not feel out of place in my three-piece ensemble and ‘Rasta Rainbow’ bandanna. As for their ‘Earthy approach to life and humour, as you put it, and their directness, I would not be out of place in these respects either. Without being vulgar, I am not backward in being forward, as we say here in aus, and the Aus Larrikyn way mixed with dry, earthy Brit humour would fit right in.

    It has occured to me, resonating with articles I’ve read in the past, that the Hutterite model provides a potential blueprint for new ways of Anglican, Catholic and Orthodox Religious (as in monastic,/religious order) life. The family model would so wonderfully enrich traditional Christian vocational models. Can you imagine a Benedictine, Dominican, Franciscan, Carmelite etc community vibrant with life – infants, little ones, young people, families, couples, single religious all journeying along the Pilgrim path together of one accord, learning from and sharing with one another the walk of faith, and what a sign to the community and society as a whole. What are your thoughts on this?

    A wonderful post.



    • A friend in Australia tells me that she belonged to a Hutterite colony in Tasmania which is now Bruderhof. Are you familar with Shane Claiborne and his mew monastic movement? It is a neo-Benedictine model, incluing families. (I think Shane is just married or about to be married.) Have you read “I am Hutterite” by Mary Ann Kirkby? Her family left a Hutterite colony when she was ten years old, but she has kept close ties with them. It provides a good view of the pros and cons of communal living.

  2. Somewhere in Western PA around Pittsburgh, they have a community called Bruderhof. They are similar to the Hutterites: live communally and dress similarly. They also have a “Love Feast”. Didn’t the Moravians do that also? My hometown in PA was settled by them in 1721.

    One time years ago I got off of a plane in Minneapolis in the winter and this young lady had this lovely close fitting kapp, possibly Hutterite style, and matching cape and dress, all out of the same color of brown wool. Beautiful!

    Glad to see the Hutterites have a sense of humor! Something we all need.

    • The Bruderhof have colonies in several countries and in the US. They are a late group, early 20th century I think. They were associated with the Hutterites back in the 70s or 80s, but they had a falling out over some of the Bruderhof teachings that were not orthodox. We looked at the Bruderhof ourselves, but decided against it as we are every bit as orthodox as the Anabaptists!

  3. I have not yet managed to make my own dresses but polka dot is a strong contender in fabric choice once I manage to do it. It is one of my favorite patterns on everything.

  4. I would say those are definitely jumpers over blouses.

    The last time I was in Elmira at the fabric store (Floradale) I saw a young girl (late teen) wearing a beautiful cape dress made from a largish plaid/check with a floral over top the plaid. It looked beautiful. If I looked better in stripes, I’d try it myself. The Conservative Mennonites up here wear the same small floral prints that I tend to wear, but they seem to prefer polyester fabric over cotton.

    • I have noticed in Ontario that some of the the Mennonites are more liberal with their fabric choices. I still gravitate to the deeper plain colours, but I now have more dresses in colour and print to please my husband’s taste. He likes me to be a bit brighter!

  5. Magdalena,

    I know of the colonies in Tasmania; We had one in Northern New South Wales until 2003; they’d settled there from Canada in the 90’s and had already become a much loved group within the New England (the name of this region in Northern NSW along the great Dividing Range) , doing much for local commerce and society with their business enterprises (carpentry/cabinet making etc). In 2003, the Govt on claims I and not a few others here in aus thought of as highly spurious, deported over 50% of the population back to Canada and Europe on flimsy migration grounds. At the time, the Govt. was under significant pressure by the secularists and atheists to mount an enquiry into the Closed Brethren with a view to outlawing them as a cult; the Bruderhoffe (which this group was)became embroiled as their way of life, dress, gender roles, internal schooling etc were seen as cultish and not in keeping with australia’s understanding of ‘human rights and womens’ rights’. The wider community in Northern NSW tried to fight this but with no success; off they were shipped.

    in Tasmania , the community down there is sadly seen as yet another cult (as are all intentional communities outside of Anglican, Catholic, Orthodox or Bhudist communities). There are a few Anabaptist plants also in TAS (Delaraine) and some in Queensland but they are not drawing the people; Australians on the whole are very hard hearted toward faith of any type. My family look at such groups in the same light, sadly.

    Re living community as do the Hutterites, I can imagine the minefield of delicate issues that would crop up needing wisdom and expert interpersonal skills to manage constructively – gossip, intrigue, everyone knowing everyone else’s business (potentially) no way of avoiding Mrs. such and such whom you would dearly love to flaten at the next possible opportunity – not the best line of thinking for a peace church…:-0 🙂 plus issues of rogue individuals hurting vulnerable children etc (remember the stats for such incidents overwhelmingly include family and friends known to the immediate family) there would have to be deep trust both in one another and in the authorities to act swiftly and protect against such potentially catastrophic consequences. If new monasticism wre championed within a trusted denomination (for want of a better term) e.g. anglican, Catholic (eastern or western rites), Orthodoxy etc, interested parties would be less fearful of becoming embroilled in a cult. Just my two cents’ worth, especially in the Australian context.

    • While there are always a few incidents of abuse, violence and malfeasance in any group, my educated guesstimate is that the likelihood is lower in groups where everyone knows everyone else’s business. When a crime or abuse issue arises in a closed group like the traditional Anabaptists, it gets a lot of publicity. I find that here in North America, the Amish are much more likely to turn over cases of abuse and malfeasance to the police than they did in the past. They support this Biblically, of course, with Paul telling the early church to have respect for and work with govenrment officials. Certainly the mainstream denominations have learned their lessons about that – embezzlement at high levels in the Episcopal Church in the US; child sexual abuse among Roman Catholic clergy are two high-profile examples.

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