Amish Customs: Women’s Head Coverings

Kopp or Bonnet, What’s the Difference?


My niece, Leanna Mast Berry, is the model for both the kopp above and the bonnet. These are in the style of the Geauga County, Ohio community where I grew up.

Most Amish women and girls wear a kopp—hair covering—indoors their whole lives long. In most communities, girls will wear black koppa, until they reach adolescence, except for special occasions when they wear white koppa, such as for funerals. However, this is different in Lancaster County where girls will wear no covering until they reach adolescence.

Amish girls wear dresses that button down their backs until they reach adolescence when they begin wearing a “front-closing” dress, fastened with straight pins. At that time, a girl begins wearing a white covering for everyday and a black one for church on Sundays. The day a woman marries, she changes her black kopp for a white one right after the wedding ceremony.

When women and girls go out into public, it is expected in most communities that they wear a bonnet in addition to their kopp. In some communities it is becoming more common for young women, during their dating years, to sometimes go places without a bonnet. However, they must always wear a bonnet to church, weddings, and funerals. In the stricter communities, women and girls are expected to wear bonnets whenever they are in public.

Here is an excerpt from Liberating Lomie that describes the rocky transition I had when I was going from wearing girl’s dresses to those young women were wearing, along with changing the way I was putting up my hair under my kopp. This is from Chapter 18 titled “Battle of Wills.”

One day that summer, Mem decided it was time for me to put my hair up in a bun instead of braiding it. She had me take down my hair and wash it. When it was dry, she showed me how she put up her hair with a string and hairpins. Except she was missing a very key thing—my hair was much thicker and heavier than hers, so the bun she made on the back of my head with the hairpins was not going to hold up—I could feel it. I told her that the only thing holding up my hair bun was my kopp and if I were to shake my head, my hair would fall down. Mem didn’t believe me. So I shook my head, and my kopp fell off, hairpins went flying, and my hair tumbled down my back.

Instead of getting the point, Mem put my hair back up, told me to put my kopp back on, smacked my back, and told me to behave myself.

Upstairs, I asked Sylvia to braid my hair for me, and she did. Later, I asked around and found out how other girls were putting up their hair so it would stay. I bought myself big barrettes and used them to clip my hair up. I thought hairpins were for old ladies, and I wasn’t there yet.

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