Selected Messages Book 3


On Making the Dress Question a Test

Your letter has been received and read.... The subject that you place before me for counsel [the proposal to return to the reform dress advocated and worn in the late 1860's] is one that needs to be carefully considered. Our sisters whose minds are agitated upon the subject of again resuming the reform dress, should be prayerfully cautious in every move they make. We have now the most solemn, important tests given to us from the Word of God for this special period of time. This test is for the whole world. The Lord does not require that any tests of human inventions shall be brought in to divert the minds of the people or create controversy in any line. 3SM 252.1

It may be that some are thirsting for distinction in some way. If they are thirsting for a battle with satanic agencies, let them be sure that they first have on every piece of the armor of God. If they have not, they will surely be worsted, and make for themselves grievous trials and disappointments which they are not prepared to meet. Let all seek the Lord most earnestly for that deep and rich experience that is to be found in the subject of heart preparedness to follow Christ where He shall lead the way. 3SM 252.2

“If any man will come after me,” He says, “let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” These words are to be weighed well. The man who wishes to follow Christ, who chooses to walk in His footsteps, will find self-denial and the cross in that path. All who follow Christ will understand what this involves. 3SM 252.3

Dress Not to Be the Test Question—God's tests are now to stand out plain and unmistakable. There are storms before us, conflicts of which few dream. There is no need now for any special alteration in our dress. The plain simple style of dress now worn, made in the most healthful way, demands no hoops, and no long trails and is presentable anywhere, and these things should not come in to divert our minds from the grand test which is to decide the eternal destiny of a world—the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus. 3SM 252.4

We are nearing the close of this world's history. A plain, direct testimony is now needed, as given in the Word of God, in regard to the plainness of dress. This should be our burden. But it is too late now to become enthusiastic in making a test of this matter. The desire to follow Christ in all humility of mind, preparing the heart, purifying the character, is by no means an easy work. Our sisters may be assured that the Lord has not inspired them to make a test of that which was once given as a blessing, but which by many was hated and despised as a curse. 3SM 253.1

The Reform Dress—The reform dress, which was once advocated, [The “reform dress” advocated and adopted in the 1860's was designed by a group of SDA women in an attempt to provide a healthful, modest, comfortable, and neat attire in harmony with the light given Ellen White, which was much needed at the time. See pp. 252-255. It called for loose-fitting garments hung from the shoulders with a hemline about nine inches from the floor. The lower limbs were clothed with a trouserlike garment providing comfort and warmth. See The Story of Our Health Message, 112-130.—Compilers.] proved a battle at every step. Members of the church, refusing to adopt this healthful style of dress, caused dissension and discord. With some there was no uniformity and taste in the preparation of the dress as it had been plainly set before them. This was food for talk. The result was that the objectionable features, the pants, were left off. The burden of advocating the reform dress was removed because that which was given as a blessing was turned into a curse. 3SM 253.2

There were some things that made the reform dress a decided blessing. With it the ridiculous hoops which were then the fashion, could not possibly be worn. The long dress skirts trailing on the ground and sweeping up the filth of the streets could not be patronized. But a more sensible style of dress has now been adopted which does not embrace these objectionable features. The fashionable style of dress may be discarded and should be by all who will read the Word of God. The time spent in advocating the dress reform should be devoted to the study of the Word of God. 3SM 253.3

The dress of our people should be made most simple. The skirt and sacque I have mentioned may be used—not that just that pattern and nothing else should be established, but a simple style as was represented in that dress. Some have supposed that the very pattern given was the pattern that all were to adopt. This is not so. But something as simple as this would be the best we could adopt under the circumstances. No one precise style has been given me as the exact rule to guide all in their dress.... 3SM 254.1

Simple dresses should be worn. Try your talent, my sisters, in this essential reform. 3SM 254.2

The people of God will have all the test that they can bear. 3SM 254.3

The Sabbath question is a test that will come to the whole world. We need nothing to come in now to make a test for God's people that shall make more severe for them the test they already have. The enemy would be pleased to get up issues now to divert the minds of the people and get them into controversy over the subject of dress. Let our sisters dress plainly, as many do, having the dress of good material, durable, modest, appropriate for this age, and let not the dress question fill the mind.... 3SM 254.4

The Example Some Set—There are those who with all the light of the Word of God will not obey His directions. They will follow their own tastes and do as they please. These give a wrong example to the youth, and to those who have newly come to the truth who have made it a practise to copy every new style of dress in trimmings that take time and money, and there is little difference between their apparel and that of the worldling. 3SM 254.5

Let our sisters conscientiously heed the word of God for themselves. Do not begin the work of reform for others until you do; for you will have no success; you cannot possibly change the heart. The working of the Spirit of God inwardly will show a change outwardly. Those who venture to disobey the plainest statements of inspiration will not hear and receive and act upon all the human efforts made to bring these idolaters to a plain, unadorned, simple, neat, proper dress that does not in any way make them odd or singular. They continue to expose themselves by hanging out the colors of the world.... 3SM 254.6

Our whole term of probation is very brief, and a short work will be done on the earth. God's own tests will come; His proving will be sharp and decisive. Let every soul humble himself before God, and prepare for what is before us.—Letter 19, 1897. 3SM 255.1