The Health Reformer


January 1, 1873

Dress Reform


I appeal to Christian mothers to exercise their reason and judgment in dressing their children in a manner to secure health rather than for display. The health of children and youth demand a complete revolution in female dress. The present style is contrary to the laws of health, therefore is not in accordance with the law of God. In consequence of following absurd fashions, health and life are sacrificed. If we pursue a course to lessen our vitality, and sickness and death are the result, it is a violation of the law of God. To shorten life by self-murder is a breach of the sixth precept of God's law. He has not granted us permission to commit suicide gradually any more than he has given us a permit to commit suicide suddenly. While one puts out existence at once, the other does the work according to approved fashion. The fashionable suicides, by wrong and sinful habits, commit suicide gradually, prolonging their own suffering, and casting a heavy burden upon sympathizing friends. Which is the greater sinner? HR January 1, 1873, par. 1

God has established the laws of health; the Paris milliner, the laws of fashion. Women generally choose and glorify the Paris milliner, rather than obey and glorify God by presenting to him their bodies a living sacrifice (not bodies filled with disease), holy and acceptable unto God, which is their reasonable service. The inspired apostle points out the duty of Christians in reference to their clothing. If Christian mothers would follow the direction of the apostle in regard to adorning themselves and their children, what an amount of God-given, probationary time, and what an amount of means that are now squandered upon extravagant dress for display, might be saved to bless the needy! Many lives that are now sacrificed needlessly might be saved. “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. For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves.” HR January 1, 1873, par. 2

Mantuamakers and milliners tax their inventive powers to destroy modesty and simplicity in dress. They work with a diligence worthy of a better cause; not to improve and beautify the human form by preserving natural beauty, but to deform and detract from the loveliness of the symmetrical model God gave to Eve when he presented her to Adam in their Eden home. HR January 1, 1873, par. 3

Mothers should improve the golden opportunities given them, in guiding their children in the way of knowledge, how they may preserve and improve their organism, that each particular faculty may be exercised and strengthened, and not abused and debilitated. Parents have no right to be ignorant of the great laws of life and health. They should teach their children from their cradle, by precept and example, the best means of preserving physical, mental, and moral health; for their happiness and usefulness in this life is dependent upon health. HR January 1, 1873, par. 4

God himself has formed us with distinctive organs and faculties. These he designs should act together in harmony. If we injure one, all are affected. Parents come far short of their duty, if they do not arouse when light is shining all around them and become intelligent upon this important subject of how to treat themselves and their children in a manner to preserve life and health. HR January 1, 1873, par. 5

The anxiety and burden of parents should not be to acquire riches for their children, so much as to teach them the right way to live and the best method of securing a capital of health and strength. This will be to them a most valuable treasure. It is the only foundation for virtuous and beautiful characters. Outward adorning can bear no comparison with this. HR January 1, 1873, par. 6

The extravagant manner in which Christian mothers dress their children, without reference to the laws of health, is painful. Do these parents consider that they are accountable to God for encouraging pride and vanity in the hearts of their children? This they are doing in defiance of the laws of health. And they are leading them by their own instruction and example to disregard the law of God. If the precious time which is devoted to needless ornamentation in ruffles, tucks, puffs, and bows, was devoted to teaching their children, and training them to have moral courage to dress with becoming modesty and simplicity in accordance with the laws of health, they would be doing a work which the angels of God would approbate, and blessings would be reflected back upon them again; for their children would have a chance to live, and they would rise up and call them blessed. HR January 1, 1873, par. 7

Christian parents, it is our duty to work from a high religious standpoint, rather than that of fashion. Health, happiness, and the lives of our children, are the objects worthy of our most earnest and candid consideration. To make our children invalids for life, in order that we may follow fashion in opposition to the law of their being, we disregard the law of God, and will have an account to settle with the Law-giver, whose law we have violated. HR January 1, 1873, par. 8

Christian mother, why not clothe your daughter as comfortably and as properly as you do your son? In the cold and storms of winter, his limbs and feet are clad with lined pants, drawers, woolen socks, and thick boots. This is as it should be; but your daughter is dressed in reference to fashion, not health or comfort. Her shoes are light, and her stockings thin. True, her skirts are short, but her limbs are nearly naked, covered by only a thin, flannel stocking, reaching to her muslin drawers. Her limbs and feet are chilled, while her brother's are warm. His limbs are protected by from three to five thicknesses; hers, by only one. Is she the feebler? Then she needs the greater care. Is she in-doors more, and, therefore, less protected against cold and storm? Then she needs double care. HR January 1, 1873, par. 9

Her dress may be nearly long enough; but let it fit loosely and comfortably, as do your boy's garments. Then clothe her limbs and feet as comfortably, as wisely, and as well, as you do those of your boy; and let her go out and enjoy exercise in the open air, and live to enjoy health and happiness. HR January 1, 1873, par. 10

Children who are accustomed to remain in close, heated rooms cannot have health. They are like hot-house plants. Parents should give especial attention to their children's dress. They should clothe their limbs comfortably, and then should have them spend some time in active, cheerful exercise in the open air each day, in winter as well as in summer. Little girls should not be deprived of the means of health because they are girls. There is just as much necessity for your girls to have constant and abundant supplies of fresh air, in order to have good blood and a sound constitution, as your boys. HR January 1, 1873, par. 11

Provide your little girls with sleds and with varied amusements which will encourage them to go out of doors. If parents or children sit long in rooms heated by air-tight stoves, they will be dull, stupid, and irritable. Children cannot explain why they feel peevish and unhappy; but let them go out into the fresh air, and, what a change! The querulous voice is exchanged for the merry laugh and joyous shout. All languor is gone, for the invigorating air with brisk exercise has quickened the sluggish blood, and sent it bounding through the veins, vitalizing the entire system. Money that parents now expend to clothe their children fashionably, which only results in sickness, and doctor's bills, and premature death, might be used in purchasing books for physical, mental, and moral improvement. Parents and children should become intelligent upon the subject of health, which bears so close a relation to their happiness in this life and their future immortal life. Your means could not be used to better advantage than in providing a workshop furnished with tools for your boys, and equal facilities for your girls. They can be learned to love labor. HR January 1, 1873, par. 12

Mothers cannot employ their time better than in occasionally roaming over hill and dale with their children, to view the natural opening buds and blooming flowers, the lofty trees, and the variety of rich and beautiful productions of nature. This will give mother and children opportunities for exercise, and to become acquainted with God as seen in nature. God demands of parents that they do the important work he has intrusted to them in the education and formation of the characters of their dear children. HR January 1, 1873, par. 13

Mothers who dress their children in accordance with fashion, endanger their health and life. Fashion leaves the limbs of children unclad, save with one covering, or, at most, two. If they are exposed to the chill autumn, spring and winter weather, their limbs are bathed in a current of cold air. Over the heart, where is the greatest amount of vitality, there are from four to eight coverings. These unclad limbs and feet become habitually cold. While traveling, it is customary to see little girls dressed fashionably, but not healthfully. The upper portions of the body are abundantly clothed with warm cloaks, and over these are furs, while the limbs are scarcely covered. HR January 1, 1873, par. 14

In cold winter days even, the thin, muslin drawers do not always meet the stockings. There is a space of from one to three inches of naked flesh. My heart has been pained as I have seen the pale-faced, shivering little ones and heard their croupy cough. This manner of partly clothing children is tolerated simply because it is fashion. When their children become really sick, parents weep over their suffering, dying ones, and are ready to incur any expense to alleviate their pain. They would give all they possess if they could ransom them from the grave. HR January 1, 1873, par. 15

If parents had taken one-fifth part of the trouble to teach these children the relation food and dressing have to health and life, they would have seen force in our Saviour's lesson, “Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?” The principal anxiety generally with mothers is for food and raiment. The fine externals are their burden, not health and life, until their poor children are unfitted for the development of healthful minds and bodies, and become sick unto death. They are killed in consequence of the ignorance of their parents. And yet mothers are slow to learn that the sufferings and death of their children is the result of their own course. They do not become intelligent upon the subject of how to live to prevent disease and premature death. HR January 1, 1873, par. 16

What a thought! mothers are the murderers of their own children, and are mourning over their death, and are trying hard to be reconciled to Providence, which they think has bereaved them. They should not charge the result of their own sinful course upon our gracious and merciful Heavenly Father. He doth not willingly afflict or grieve the children of men. HR January 1, 1873, par. 17

Societies are formed in our cities for the prevention of cruelty to dumb animals. It would be well to go still farther, and, inasmuch as accountable intelligences, capable of obtaining life eternal, are of more value than the dumb beasts, there is greater need of societies to prevent the cruelty of mothers in dressing their darling little girls in a manner to sacrifice them at the shrine of cruel fashion. HR January 1, 1873, par. 18

The Schoolcraft Dispatch contains the following properly headed article, “How to Kill Little Girls:” HR January 1, 1873, par. 19

“Warmly and fashionably dressed mothers may be seen on the street at almost any hour, leading their shivering little daughters around, with hardly enough clothing on their lower extremities to protect them from sight, to say nothing of the piercing blasts. An exchange says: ‘yesterday, we saw a little girl led by its mother through the street. Her little collar, and muff, and hat, were of the warmest fur; and well she needed them, for it was bitter cold, but her legs, bare and blue between her stockings and skirts, told a shivering tale.’ Who does not daily see the same thing—little frail girls, with head and shoulders bundled in unneeded furs, while from the feet to a point above the knee the little darlings are almost naked? Of course, mothers who thus dress their children are very far from intending to kill them or render them permanent invalids, but such is the probable result of their fashionable exposure. It is true that most children have their limbs well protected, because most mothers have an intelligent regard for the health of their offspring; but there are many who are clad as we have mentioned, and to the mothers of these we address our appeal. HR January 1, 1873, par. 20

“As little girls are now dressed, their skirts are no protection against the wind or cold below the knee, and what do they have as a substitute? Linen drawers, reaching just below the knee, and there meeting the top of stockings which usually have about half the warmth possessed by men's socks. Let us compare this armor with the clothing of boys and men, who have at least five times the power of endurance possessed by the little girl. The father of this same six-year-old girl would consider himself coldly clad and a certain candidate for rheumatism if his lower extremities were not protected against the winter blasts by, first, thick wool socks, reaching more than half way to the knee; second, wool drawers, reaching from the waist to the feet; third, bootlegs of double leather, reaching nearly to the knee; and, fourth, thick wool pantaloons, covering all else and reaching to the foot. And yet this same father permits his delicate blue-veined child to go out in winter with legs incased in a single thickness of linen! How would he like to walk the winter streets clad in linen pantaloons, and nothing else?” HR January 1, 1873, par. 21

E. G. W.