The Health Reformer


August 1, 1868

The Dress Reform


An Appeal to the People in its Behalf

We do not wear the style of dress here represented, to be odd,—that we may attract notice. We do not differ from the common style of woman's dress for any such object. We choose to agree with others in theory and in practice, if we can do so, and at the same time be in harmony with the law of God, and with the laws of our being. We believe it wrong to differ from others, unless it be necessary to differ in order to be right. In bearing the cross of adopting the reform dress we are led by a sense of duty. And although it may appear objectionable to those who are governed by fashion, we claim that it is the most convenient, the most truly modest, and the most healthful style of dress worn by woman. HR August 1, 1868, par. 1

We have counted the cost of appearing singular in the eyes of those who feel compelled to bow to fashion. And we decide that in the end it will pay to try to do right, though for the present we may appear odd in the eyes of those who will sacrifice convenience, comfort, and health, at the altar of fashion. HR August 1, 1868, par. 2

We have also looked at the fact that our course in this matter of dress will cost our friends disagreeable feelings, and have taken into the account those things which excited their feelings of prejudice against the reform dress. When among strangers we are supposed to be Spiritualists, from the fact that some of that class adopt what is commonly called “the short dress.” And the question is frequently asked, “Are you Spiritualists?” To answer this question, and to give the reader some of the reasons why we adopt so unfashionable a style of dress, is this article presented. We are well aware that some of those who espoused the cause of Spiritualism, over the moral worth of whom a shade of uncertainty has been cast, by the extravagances and immoralities among them, have adopted the short dress, and that their zeal in so doing, under the peculiar circumstances, could but disgust the people against anything of the kind. HR August 1, 1868, par. 3

How could it be otherwise? The people are shut up to fashion. They do not understand the benefits of our style of dress. And it is all the more objectionable to them as it resembles in some respects that worn by some doubtful Spiritualists. We most certainly bid ladies who have embraced Spiritualism a hearty welcome to all the blessings and benefits of a convenient, healthful, and (being of a proper length, and neatly and properly fitted and made) truly modest dress, and wish they were as consistent and right in other respects. HR August 1, 1868, par. 4

In the existing state of things the people may regard the adoption of our style of dress as a bold step on our part, showing more independence than good taste. They may censure us. They may deal in wit and sarcasm in reference to our dress. They may even utter bitter speeches on account of our course in this thing. But our work shall be, by the grace of God, to patiently labor to correct their errors, remove their prejudices, and set before them the reasons why we object to the popular style of woman's dress, also some of the reasons why we adopt ours. We object to the popular style of woman's dress, HR August 1, 1868, par. 5

1. Because it is not convenient. In doing housework, in passing up and down stairs with both hands full, a third hand is needed to hold up the long skirts. See that lady passing up to her chamber with a child in her arms, and both hands full, stepping upon her long skirts, and stumbling as she goes. She finds the popular style of dress very inconvenient. But it is fashionable, and must be endured. HR August 1, 1868, par. 6

If she goes into her garden to walk or to work among her flowers, to share the early, refreshing, morning air, unless she holds them up with both hands, her skirts are dragging and drabbling in dirt and dew, until they are wet and muddy. Fashion attaches to her, cloth that is, in this case, used as a sort of mop. This is exceedingly inconvenient. But for the sake of fashion it must be endured. HR August 1, 1868, par. 7

In walking upon the streets, in the country, in the village, or in the crowded city, her long skirts sweep the dirt and mud, and lick up tobacco spittle, and all manner of filth. Careless gentlemen sometimes step on these long dresses, and, as the ladies pass on, tear them. This is trying, and sometimes provoking; and it is not always convenient to mend and cleanse these soiled and torn garments. But they are in harmony with fashion, and all this must be endured. HR August 1, 1868, par. 8

In traveling on the cars, in the coach and omnibus, fashionable dresses, especially when distended by hoops, are sometimes not only in the way of the wearers, but of others; and we charitably think that were it not for the overruling power of fashion, measures would be taken to do away with their inconvenience. HR August 1, 1868, par. 9

We object to the popular style of woman's dress, HR August 1, 1868, par. 10

2. Because it is not healthful. To say nothing of the suicidal practice of compressing the waist, so as to suppress natural respiration, inducing the habit of breathing only from the top of the lungs; and not to dwell particularly upon the custom of suspending unnecessary weight upon the hips, in consequence of too many and too long skirts, there is much that may be said relative to the unhealthfulness of the fashionable style of woman's dress; but we suggest at this time only the following: HR August 1, 1868, par. 11

(a) It burdens and obstructs the free use of the lower limbs. This is contrary to the design of God in securing to woman the blessings of activity and health. HR August 1, 1868, par. 12

(b) It frequently shuts her indoors when her health demands that she should enjoy exercise in the pure, invigorating air of heaven. If she goes in the light snow, or after a shower, or in the dews of the morning or the evening, she bedrabbles her long skirts, chills the sensitive, unprotected ankles, and takes cold, to prevent this she may remain shut up in the house, and become so delicate and feeble that when she is compelled to go out she is sure to take cold, which may result in cough, consumption, and death. HR August 1, 1868, par. 13

It may be said that she can reserve her walks till the sun has gathered up all this dampness. True, she may, and feel the languor produced by the scorching heat of a midday's summer sun. The birds go forth with their songs of praise to their Creator, and the beasts of the field enjoy with them the early freshness of the morning; and when the heat of the sun comes pouring down, these creatures of nature and of health retire to the shade. But this is the very time for woman to move out with her fashionable dress! When they go forth to enjoy the invigorating air of the morning, she is deprived of this rich bounty of Heaven. When they seek the cooling shade and rest, she goes forth to suffer from heat, fatigue, and languor. HR August 1, 1868, par. 14

(c) It robs her of that protection from cold and dampness, which the lower extremities must have to secure a healthful condition of the system. In order to enjoy a good state of health, there must be a proper circulation of the blood. And to secure a good circulation of the current of human life, all parts of the body must be suitably clad. Fashion clothes woman's chest bountifully, and in winter loads her with sacks, cloaks, shawls, and furs, until she cannot feel a chill, excepting her limbs and feet, which, from their want of suitable clothing, are chilled, and literally sting with cold. The heart labors to throw the blood to the extremities; but it is chilled back from them in consequence of their being exposed to cold for want of being suitably clothed. And the abundance of clothing about the chest, where is the great wheel of life, determines the blood to the lungs and brain, and produces congestion. HR August 1, 1868, par. 15

The limbs and feet have large veins, to receive a large amount of blood, that warmth, nutrition, elasticity, and strength, may be imparted to them. But when the blood is chilled from these extremities, their blood-vessels contract, which makes the circulation of the necessary amount of blood in them still more difficult. A good circulation preserves the blood pure, and secures health. A bad circulation leaves the blood to become impure, and induces congestion of the brain and lungs, and causes diseases of the head, the heart, the liver, and the lungs. The fashionable style of woman's dress is one of the greatest causes of all these terrible diseases. HR August 1, 1868, par. 16

But the evil does not stop here. These fashionable mothers transmit their diseases to their feeble offspring. And they clothe their feeble little girls as unhealthfully as they clothe themselves, and soon bring them to the condition of invalids, or which is preferable in many cases, to the grave. Thus fashion fills our cemeteries with many short graves, and the houses of the slaves of fashion with invalids. O God, must this state of things continue? HR August 1, 1868, par. 17

We object to the fashionable style of woman's dress, HR August 1, 1868, par. 18

3. Because, under certain circumstances, it is, to say the least, not the most modest, on account of exposures of the female form. This evil is greatly aggravated by the wearing of hoops. Ladies with long dresses, especially if distended with hoops, as they go up and down stairs, as they pass up the narrow door-way of the coach and the omnibus, or as they raise their skirts, to clear the mud of the streets, sometimes expose the form to that degree as to put modesty to the blush. HR August 1, 1868, par. 19

(To be continued.)