Testimonies for the Church, vol. 1


Chapter 88—The Reform Dress

In answer to letters of inquiry from many sisters relative to the proper length of the reform dress, I would say that in our part of the State of Michigan we have adopted the uniform length of about nine inches from the floor. I take this opportunity to answer these inquiries in order to save the time required to answer so many letters. I should have spoken before, but have waited to see something definite on this point in the Health Reformer. I would earnestly recommend uniformity in length, and would say that nine inches as nearly accords with my views of the matter as I am able to express it in inches. 1T 521.1

As I travel from place to place I find that the reform dress is not rightly represented, and am made to feel that something more definite should be said that there may be uniform action in this matter. This style of dress is unpopular, and for this reason neatness and taste should be exercised by those who adopt it. I have spoken once upon this point, yet some fail to follow the advice given. There should be uniformity as to the length of the reform dress among Sabbathkeepers. Those who make themselves peculiar by adopting this dress should not think for a moment that it is unnecessary to show order, taste, and neatness. Before putting on the reform dress, our sisters should obtain patterns of the pants and sack worn with it. It is a great injury to the dress reform to have persons introduce into a community a style which in every particular needs reforming before it can rightly represent the reform dress. Wait, sisters, till you can put the dress on right. 1T 521.2

In some places there is great opposition to the short dress. But when I see some dresses worn by the sisters, I do not wonder that people are disgusted and condemn the dress. Where the dress is represented as it should be, all candid persons are constrained to admit that it is modest and convenient. In some of our churches I have seen all kinds of reform dresses, and yet not one answering the description presented before me. Some appear with white muslin pants, white sleeves, dark delaine dress, and a sleeveless sack of the same description as the dress. Some have a calico dress with pants cut after their own fashioning, not after “the pattern,” without starch or stiffening to give them form, and clinging close to the limbs. There is certainly nothing in these dresses manifesting taste or order. Such a dress would not recommend itself to the good judgment of sensible-minded persons. In every sense of the word it is a deformed dress. 1T 521.3

Sisters who have opposing husbands have asked my advice in regard to their adopting the short dress contrary to the wishes of the husband. I advise them to wait. I do not consider the dress question of so vital importance as the Sabbath. Concerning the latter there can be no hesitation. But the opposition which many might receive should they adopt the dress reform would be more injurious to health than the dress would be beneficial. Several of these sisters have said to me: “My husband likes your dress; he says he has not one word of fault to find with it.” This has led me to see the necessity of our sisters’ representing the dress reform aright, by manifesting neatness, order, and uniformity in dress. I shall have patterns prepared to take with me as we travel, ready to hand to our sisters whom we shall meet, or to send by mail to all who may order them. Our address will be given in the Review. 1T 522.1

Those who adopt the short dress should manifest taste in the selection of colors. Those who are unable to buy new cloth must do the best they can to exercise taste and ingenuity in fixing over old garments, making them new again. Be particular to have the pants and dress of the same color and material, or you will appear fantastic. Old garments may be cut after a correct pattern and arranged tastefully, and appear like new. I beg of you, sisters, not to form your patterns after your own particular ideas. While there are correct patterns and good tastes, there are also incorrect patterns and bad tastes. 1T 522.2

This dress does not require hoops, and I hope that it will never be disgraced by them. Our sisters need not wear many skirts to distend the dress. It appears much more becoming falling about the form naturally over one or two light skirts. Moreen is excellent material for outside skirts; it retains its stiffness and is durable. If anything is worn in skirts, let it be very small. Quilts are unnecessary. Yet I frequently see them worn, and sometimes hanging a trifle below the dress. This gives it an immodest, untidy appearance. White skirts, worn with dark dresses, do not become the short dress. Be particular to have your skirts clean, neat, and nice; make them of good material and in all cases at least three inches shorter than the dress. If anything is worn to distend the skirt, let it be small and at least one quarter or one half a yard from the bottom of the dress or outside skirt. If a cord, or anything answering the place of cords, is placed directly around the bottom of the skirt, it distends the dress merely at the bottom, making it appear very unbecoming when the wearer is sitting or stooping. 1T 523.1

None need fear that I shall make dress reform one of my principal subjects as we travel from place to place. Those who have heard me upon this matter will have to act upon the light that has already been given. I have done my duty; I have borne my testimony, and those who have heard me and read that which I have written must now bear the responsibility of receiving or rejecting the light given. If they choose to venture to be forgetful hearers, and not doers of the work, they run their own risk and will be accountable to God for the course they pursue. I am clear. I shall urge none and condemn none. This is not the work assigned me. God knows His humble, willing, obedient children and will reward them according to their faithful performance of His will. To many the dress reform is too simple and humbling to be adopted. They cannot lift the cross. God works by simple means to separate and distinguish His children from the world; but some have so departed from the simplicity of the work and ways of God that they are above the work, not in it. 1T 523.2

I was referred to Numbers 15:38-41: “Speak unto the children of Israel, and bid them that they make them fringes in the borders of their garments throughout their generations, and that they put upon the fringe of the borders a ribband of blue: and it shall be unto you for a fringe, that ye may look upon it, and remember all the commandments of the Lord, and do them; and that ye seek not after your own heart and your own eyes, after which ye use to go a whoring: that ye may remember, and do all My commandments, and be holy unto your God. I am the Lord your God, which brought you out of the land of Egypt, to be your God: I am the Lord your God.” Here God expressly commanded a very simple arrangement of dress for the children of Israel for the purpose of distinguishing them from the idolatrous nations around them. As they looked upon their peculiarity of dress, they were to remember that they were God's commandment-keeping people, and that He had wrought in a miraculous manner to bring them from Egyptian bondage to serve Him, to be a holy people unto Him. They were not to serve their own desires, or to imitate the idolatrous nations around them, but to remain a distinct, separate people, that all who looked upon them might say: These are they whom God brought out of the land of Egypt, who keep the law of Ten Commandments. An Israelite was known to be such as soon as seen, for God through simple means distinguished him as His. 1T 524.1

The order given by God to the children of Israel to place a ribbon of blue in their garments was to have no direct influence on their health, only as God would bless them by obedience, and the ribbon would keep in their memory the high claims of Jehovah and prevent them from mingling with other nations, uniting in their drunken feasts, and eating swine's flesh and luxurious food detrimental to health. God would now have His people adopt the reform dress, not only to distinguish them from the world as His “peculiar people,” but because a reform in dress is essential to physical and mental health. God's people have, to a great extent, lost their peculiarity, and have been gradually patterning after the world, and mingling with them, until they have in many respects become like them. This is displeasing to God. He directs them, as He directed the children of Israel anciently, to come out from the world and forsake their idolatrous practices, not following their own hearts (for their hearts are unsanctified) or their own eyes, which have led them to depart from God and to unite with the world. 1T 524.2

Something must arise to lessen the hold of God's people upon the world. The reform dress is simple and healthful, yet there is a cross in it. I thank God for the cross and cheerfully bow to lift it. We have been so united with the world that we have lost sight of the cross and do not suffer for Christ's sake. 1T 525.1

We should not wish to invent something to make a cross; but if God presents to us a cross, we should cheerfully bear it. In the acceptance of the cross we are distinguished from the world, who love us not and ridicule our peculiarity. Christ was hated by the world because He was not of the world. Can His followers expect to fare better than their Master? If we pass along without receiving censure or frowns from the world we may be alarmed, for it is our conformity to the world which makes us so much like them that there is nothing to arouse their envy or malice; there is no collision of spirits. The world despises the cross. “For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.” 1 Corinthians 1:18. “But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.” Galatians 6:14. [See Appendix.] 1T 525.2