Thursday, 7 March 2013

Martha's Secret


Contrary to what many people assume, Amish women don't dress all in black. It is their bonnets, cloaks, aprons, shoes and stockings that are black, while their dresses are made of vivid solid shades of green, purple, teal, blue, and dark red. Until the early twentieth century, Amish women also wore coloured hand-knit stockings, and for special occasions such as their own weddings, Amish women often knit stockings with fancy striped tops and perhaps also stripes around the feet. It wasn't common knowledge because these stockings were demurely hidden beneath the Amish women's dresses and high-laced black shoes.

The most common pattern featured in these socks are the scallop lace tops as shown in the picture above, with a stripe or wreath or simple geometric pattern below it. Sometimes a date was knitted into the top of the stocking, presumably to commemorate the year of a wedding. My favourite thing about these Amish wedding stockings is that they demonstrate that, as every woman knows, much of the appeal of exquisite lingerie comes from the fact that it is hidden, that the woman who wears it is the only one who knows about it — or, if she is not the only one, she is at least one of a chosen and privileged few. Mainstream North American women have Victoria's Secret, and Amish women had Martha's, Mary's, Sadie's or Hannah's Secret.




Circa 1920, Amish began to buy commercially produced hosiery and ceased to wear coloured stockings altogether. Today, Amish women wear nylons or tights (and never wear socks) and they no longer knit their own stockings. Authentic hand-knit Amish stockings are now antiques, and are consequently rare and likely to cost a collector several hundred dollars per pair. The pair pictured above is for sale for $225(USD).




If you'd like to make yourself a pair of stockings, or what we "English" would call kneesocks, in the Amish style, Nancy Bush offers us a pattern for them on Ravelry. But if you are aiming for truly authentic old Amish stockings, I will tell you that according to close friend of mine who is a Mennonite and whom I had vet this post for accuracy, Amish women would never wear anything in this vivid shade of red. Dark red or hot pink would be acceptable, but never this bright "whore red".

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