Christian Temperance and Bible Hygiene


Chapter 10—Dress

Fashion rules the world; and she is a tyrannical mistress, often compelling her devotees to submit to the greatest inconvenience and discomfort. Fashion taxes without reason, and collects without mercy. She has a fascinating power, and stands ready to criticise and ridicule all who do not follow in her wake. CTBH 85.1

Satan, the instigator and prime mover in the ever-changing, never-satisfying decrees of fashion, is always busy devising something new that shall prove an injury to physical and moral health; and he triumphs that his devices succeed so well. Death laughs that the health-destroying folly and blind zeal of the worshipers at fashion's shrine bring them so easily under his dominion. Happiness and the favor of God are laid upon her altar. CTBH 85.2

We see the world absorbed in vain amusements. The first and best thoughts of the larger portion are given to dress, and the culture of mind and heart is neglected. Even among those who profess to love and keep the commandments of God, there are some who ape this class as nearly as they possibly can and retain the name of Christian. Some of the young are so eager for display that they are willing to give up even the Christian name if they can only indulge their vanity in dress. CTBH 85.3

On Sunday many of the popular churches appear more like a theater than like a place for the worship of God. Every style of fashionable dress is displayed there. Many of the poor have not courage to enter such houses of worship. Their plain dress, though it may be neat, is in marked contrast with that of their more wealthy sisters, and this difference causes them to feel embarrassed. Some try to appear like the wealthy by trimming goods of an inferior quality in imitation of more costly apparel. Poor girls, receiving but small wages, often spend their last cent in order to dress like those who are not obliged to earn their own living. In consequence, they have nothing laid by for sickness, nothing to put into the treasury of God, no time to improve the mind or to study God's word, no time for secret prayer or the prayer-meeting. CTBH 85.4

It is a lamentable fact that many professed Christian women take the lead in patronizing the fashions; and those who make no pretensions to religion, follow in their steps. Some who are in humble circumstances, in their efforts to keep pace with the ever-changing styles of dress, endure privation, and work far beyond their strength, in order to retain their place in fashionable society. This temptation is so strong that some, in trying to gain their object, are guilty of dishonesty and theft. Many are led to ruin by the desire for self-adornment. Professed Christians who have, by their example, opened a door of temptation to their weak sisters, will have a fearful account to meet in the day of final reckoning. Inexperienced ones, charmed with the respect paid to those who dress stylishly, become so infatuated that nothing is too precious to exchange for artificial decorations. CTBH 86.1

While superfluous trimming and ornaments are to be avoided, as opposed to our profession as followers of the meek and lowly Jesus, we would not discourage the exercise of correct taste, neatness, and order in dress. There are those who are careless of their apparel, and are always harping on pride in dress. They think it a virtue to be untidy, and to dress without order or taste. They class decency and neatness with pride, and excuse themselves for their neglect of apparel, even upon the Sabbath, under pretense of carrying out that separation from the world which the word of God requires of his people. If these persons had an engagement to meet a friend honored by the world, and they wished to be especially favored by him, they would exert themselves to appear in his presence with the best and neatest apparel they could obtain. Yet when they meet upon the Sabbath to worship the great God, they think it is of no consequence in what dress they appear, or what is the condition of their person. In His house, which is as the audience-chamber of the Most High, where heavenly angels are in attendance, they assemble with but little respect or reverence. All who meet upon the Sabbath to worship God, should, if possible, have neat, well-fitting, comely garments to wear in the house of worship. It is a dishonor to the Sabbath, to God, and to his house, for those who profess to believe that the Sabbath is the holy of the Lord, and honorable, to wear upon that day the soiled clothing which they have worn through the labors of the week, if they can obtain anything more suitable. CTBH 86.2

The followers of Christ are represented by him as the salt of the earth and the light of the world. Without the saving influence of Christians, the world would perish in its own corruption. Look upon the class of professed Christians described, who are careless of their dress and person, and loose in business transactions. Think you if our Saviour were upon earth he would point to them as the salt of the earth and the light of the world?—No, never. True Christians are elevated in their conversation; and while they believe it to be a sin to condescend to foolish flattery, they are courteous, kind, and benevolent. Their words are those of sincerity and truth. They are faithful in their dealings with their brethren and with the world. In their dress they avoid superfluity and display; but their clothing is modest, and arranged upon the person with order and taste. They are more anxious for their bodies to be in a condition to glorify God, than they are to be clothed according to the latest dictates of fashion. CTBH 87.1

The suffering caused among women by unhealthful dress cannot be estimated. Many have become life-long invalids through their compliance with the demands of fashion. Health and life have been sacrificed to the insatiable goddess. Many seem to think that have a right to treat their bodies as they please; but they forget that their bodies are not their own. The Creator who formed them has claims upon them that they cannot lightly throw off. Every needless transgression of the laws of our being is virtually a transgression of the law of God, and is sin in the sight of Heaven. The Creator knew how to form the human body. He did not need to consult the mantua-makers in regard to their ideas of beauty. God, who created everything that is lovely and glorious in nature, understood how to make the human form beautiful and healthy. The modern improvements upon his plan are insulting to the Creator. They deform that which he made perfect. CTBH 87.2

It is Satan's design so to pervert every function of our being that life may be made miserable, and God may be dishonored in the creatures he has made. If women make the customs of the world their criterion, they will become unfitted, both physically and mentally, for the duties of life. Many have done themselves untold injury by compressing the waist. Their power to do good in the family and in society is greatly lessened; and if they are mothers, their children are robbed of vitality. When the waist is compressed, the circulation of the blood is impeded, and the internal organs, cramped and crowded out of place, cannot perform their work properly. It is impossible, under such circumstances, to take a full inspiration. Thus the pernicious habit of breathing only with the upper part of the lungs is formed, and feebleness and disease are often the result. CTBH 88.1

The dangers resulting from compression of the waist are not realized by the majority of women, though many able pens have treated upon the subject. Many claim that tight-lacing is now nearly or quite abandoned, and such may think these remarks are uncalled-for; but it is true today that the clothing of most women is worn too tight for the proper action of the vital organs. Every article of dress upon the person should be worn so loose that in raising the arms the clothing will be correspondingly lifted. CTBH 88.2

Another error in the dress of women of the present day is that of wearing their skirts so that the weight is sustained by the hips alone. This heavy weight, pressing upon the bowels, drags them downward, and causes weakness of the stomach and a feeling of lassitude, which leads the sufferer to incline forward. This tends further to cramp the lungs, and prevent their proper action. The blood becomes impure, the pores of the skin fail in their office, sallowness and disease result, and beauty and health are gone. Ladies may resort to cosmetics to restore the tint of the complexion, but they cannot thus bring back the glow of health. That which renders the skin dark and dingy, also clouds the spirits, and destroys cheerfulness and peace of mind. Every woman who values health should avoid hanging any weight upon the hips. The shoulders should sustain the weight of every article of clothing worn upon the person. This will go far to prevent the weaknesses which prevail among women to such an alarming extent. CTBH 88.3

The limbs, which should have even more covering than any other portion of the body, because farthest from the center of circulation, are often not suitably protected; while over the vital organs, where there is naturally more warmth than in other portions of the body, there is an undue proportion of covering. The heavy draperies often worn upon the back, induce heat and congestion in the sensitive organs which lie beneath. This fashionable attire is one of the greatest causes of disease among women. Perfect health depends upon perfect circulation. If the limbs are properly clothed, fewer skirts are needed. These should not be so heavy as to impede the motion of the limbs, nor so long as to gather the dampness and filth of the ground, and their weight should be suspended from the shoulders. The dress should fit easily, obstructing neither the circulation of the blood, nor a free, full, natural respiration. The feet should be suitably protected from cold and damp. Clad in this way, we can take exercise in the open air, even in the dew of morning or evening, or after a fall of snow or rain, without fear of taking cold. Exercise in the invigorating air of heaven is necessary to a healthy circulation of the blood. It is the best safeguard against colds, coughs, and the internal congestions which lay the foundation of so many diseases. True dress reform regulates every article of clothing. If those ladies who are failing in health would lay off their fashionable robes, clothe themselves suitably for out-door enjoyment, and exercise in the open air, carefully at first, increasing the amount as they can endure it, many of them might recover health, and live to bless the world with their example and the work of their hands. CTBH 89.1

It is not the will of God that men and women should die prematurely, leaving their work unfinished. He would have us live out the full measure of our days, with every organ free to do its allotted work. Many complain of the providences of God when disease and death remove members of the household; but it is unjust to charge God with what is but the sure result of their own transgression of natural laws. CTBH 90.1

Fashionable mothers clothe their little girls as unhealthfully as they do themselves. Their waists are compressed at an early age, and the limbs are left with but slight protection, when the forces of nature need every advantage to enable them to perfect the physical frame. The limbs were not formed to endure exposure, as was the face. Children who are clothed according to fashion cannot be out-doors much, unless the weather is mild. Therefore they are kept in ill-ventilated rooms, for fear of the cold; and well they may be, with their fashionable style of clothing. But if they were comfortably clothed, it would not harm them to exercise freely in the open air summer or winter. Unhealthful dress brings many a child to a state of invalidism, or, which in many cases may be preferable, to an early death. Thus fashion fills the homes of its slaves with invalids, and our cemeteries with little graves. CTBH 90.2

Mother, do you want your child to live and wear the bloom of health? Then teach her to dress healthfully. If you love her and desire her good, why do you teach her by your example that it is no sin to mar the human form divine? What reason can you render to the Creator for deforming his handiwork? Turn away from the fashion plates, and study the human organism. We are fearfully and wonderfully made, and we are to present our bodies a living sacrifice to God. How can Christian mothers be worshipers at the shrine of fashion, and yet preserve their loyalty to the God of heaven? It is impossible; “ye cannot serve God and mammon.” [Luke 16:13.] You cannot devote your time and talents to the world, and yet keep your mind and body in a condition to do the work committed to you, of training your children for God, and aiding them in a physical development that shall be a blessing to them to the end of life. CTBH 91.1

Little boys also are dressed so as to leave the lower limbs with far less protection than the upper part of the body. The limbs, being remote from the center of circulation, demand greater protection, instead of less. The veins which convey the blood to the extremities are large, providing for the flow of a sufficient quantity of blood to afford warmth and nutrition. But when the blood is chilled from these parts, the veins contract, and the circulation is retarded. Not only do the extremities suffer from cold, but through lack of nutrition the limbs do not attain their natural development. A good circulation purifies the blood, and secures health; while a poor circulation renders the blood impure, and induces congestion of the vital organs. CTBH 91.2

Mothers, why not clothe your boys and girls comfortably and properly? Let their dress be simple, loose, and comfortable; clothe their limbs, and especially the ankles, warmly and evenly; then let them go out and exercise in the open air, and live to enjoy health and happiness. It will take moral courage to break away from the chains of fashion, and dress and educate your children with reference to health; but the result will abundantly repay all the self-denial and inconvenience occasioned. CTBH 91.3

Mothers sacrifice to fashion the God-given time which should be devoted to forming the character of their children. Health is impaired by bending over sewing, within doors, shut away from the sunshine and pure air. Opportunities are lost that should be improved in educating the mind, and storing it with useful knowledge. Thus they are not qualified to instruct and train their children for usefulness in this world, or to fit them for the better world. Women are bending their shoulders to a heavy cross. Should Christ demand of them, as his disciples, so great a sacrifice, they would feel that it was indeed too great, and the cross too heavy. Christ requires none of his followers to lift so heavy a burden as that to which they subject themselves as slaves of fashion. CTBH 92.1

If Christian women would lead out in the good work, and set the example of dressing with neatness and simplicity, and with regard to health, there would be a universal reform. If they would work from an elevated standpoint, they could bring their habits of life into conformity with the laws of their being, and live in obedience to both the physical and the moral requirements of God. Then there would be less money, less nerve force, less physical strength, squandered for artificial decorations, to the sacrifice of natural beauty. We should have more practical wives and mothers, and in many families that are now wretched because of their incorrect ideas of life, there would be a happy change. CTBH 92.2

The human heart has never been in harmony with the requirements of God. Human reasoning has ever sought to evade or set aside the simple, direct instructions of his word. Those precepts which enjoin self-denial and humility, which require modesty and simplicity in conversation, deportment, and apparel, have, in every age, been disregarded, even by the majority of those who professed to be followers of Christ. The result has ever been the same,—the adoption of the fashions, customs, and principles of the world. CTBH 92.3

There are few who understand their own hearts. The vain, trifling lovers of fashion may claim to be followers of Christ, but their dress and conversation show what occupies the mind and engages the affections. The outside appearance is an index to the heart. True refinement does not find satisfaction in the adorning of the body for display. A modest, godly woman will dress modestly. Simplicity of apparel always makes a sensible woman appear to the best advantage. A refined, cultured mind will be revealed in the choice of simple and appropriate attire. In the sanctified heart there is no place for thoughts of needless adornment. CTBH 93.1

Study the fashions less, and the character of Jesus more. The greatest and holiest of men was also the meekest. In his character, majesty and humility were blended. He could summon the hosts of heaven at will; the command of worlds was in his power; yet for our sake he became poor, that we, through his poverty, might be made rich. The attractions of this world, its glory and its pride, had no fascination for him. In the cluster of Christian graces, he made meekness and humility prominent. Christ noticed the devotion to dress, and he cautioned, yea, he commanded, his followers not to bestow too much thought upon it. “Why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin; yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. [Matthew 6:28, 29.] CTBH 93.2

The apostles thus describe the adornment that should be sought by Christians: “Whose adorning, let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; but let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.” [1 Peter 3:3.] “In like manner, also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broidered hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; but (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works.” [1 Timothy 2:9.] Pride and extravagance in dress are sins to which woman is especially prone; hence these injunctions relate directly to her. CTBH 93.3

Of how little value are gold or pearls or costly array, when compared with the meekness and loveliness of Christ! Physical loveliness consists in symmetry—the harmonious proportion of parts; but spiritual loveliness consists in harmony with Christ—the likeness of our souls to him. The grace of Christ is indeed a priceless adornment. It elevates and ennobles the possessor; and it also has an influence upon others, attracting them to the Source of light and blessing. CTBH 94.1

Christian sisters, labor far less to grow into the ever-changing fashions of this age. Study rather the great pattern, Jesus Christ, that you may not grow apart from him. Manifest a determined purpose to abide in the Vine. If you abide in Christ, you will bear much fruit. But as the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine, “No more can ye,” says Christ, “except ye abide in me.” [John 15:14.] CTBH 94.2

The growth of the soul in grace, in purity, in comeliness, is little by little—a progressive work; but it must go forward unceasingly. The fruit is ever approaching perfection; the Christian is constantly assimilating the ways and will of Christ. But with many who claim to be Christians there is a painful certainty that they are not progressing heavenward, but are swayed by the customs and practices of the world. Fashions the most unlovely and unhealthful, the most contradictory to the laws of nature, are readily accepted by them. By eagerly beholding these fashions, they become changed to the likeness of what they so much admire. Thus they hasten to adopt the world's standard, where pride and fashion complete in them the transformation which Satan delights to see accomplished, and they become unstable as water. The steadfast, silent working of true piety loses its vitality and consistency; “faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.” [James 2:17.] CTBH 94.3

There is a dress which every child and youth may innocently seek to obtain. It is the righteousness of the saints. If they will only be as willing and persevering in obtaining this as they are in fashioning their garments after the standard of worldly society, they will very soon be clothed with the righteousness of Christ, and their names will not be blotted out of the book of life. Mothers, as well as youth and children, need to pray, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” [Psalm 51:10.] This purity of heart and loveliness of spirit are more precious than gold, both for time and for eternity. Only the pure in heart shall see God. CTBH 95.1

Then, mothers, teach your children, line upon line and precept upon precept, that the righteousness of Christ is the only dress in which they can be admitted into heaven, and that robed in this apparel they will be constantly doing duties in this life which will glorify God. CTBH 95.2