The Health Reformer


March 1, 1874

Fashionable Dress


It is evident that fashionable ladies are losing the consciousness that true beauty of dress consists in its simplicity, rather than in ruffles, flounces, puffs, tucks, and elaborate embroidery. The arranging of jewelry, sashes, laces, and unnecessary ornaments upon their persons, alone must occupy a large share of their time. It is apparent that women professing godliness have their minds and thoughts absorbed with, “What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?” It really seems to be the mission and object of a large class of women to exhibit their wardrobe. Their burdens, trials, and perplexities, are mostly in regard to dress. HR March 1, 1874, par. 1

The churches in our country when the congregations are assembled appear more like rooms for the exhibition of the fashions of the day than for the worship of God. How does the Savior of the world look upon this exhibition? The minds of a large number of those assembled are preoccupied, and there is no room for Bible truth. The six days have been devoted mostly to the preparation of dress, to make a sensation at church. And all this display in the house dedicated to the Lord! HR March 1, 1874, par. 2

Mothers sacrifice to fashion their God-given time, which should be devoted to the formation of the characters of their children. Health is sacrificed in bending over sewing, within doors shut away from the sunshine and open air. Opportunities are sacrificed that should be improved in educating the mind, and storing it with knowledge, that they may be qualified to instruct and train their children for usefulness in this world, and be fitted for the better world. HR March 1, 1874, par. 3

Women are bending their shoulders to accept a cross heavy to bear. Should Christ demand of them to bear so heavy a cross, and make so great a sacrifice to be his disciples, they would feel that indeed the cross was heavy, and the burden unbearable. Christ requires none of his followers to bear so heavy a cross as they subject themselves to in being the slaves of fashion. HR March 1, 1874, par. 4

If Christian women would lead out in the good work of reform, and set the example of dressing with neatness and simplicity, there would be a universal reform in dress. If they would work from a high and elevated standpoint, they would bring their eating and dressing into conformity with the laws of their being, and in obedience to their moral obligation to God. And there would be less money, less brain-nerve power, and less physical strength, squandered for artificial decorations to the sacrifice of natural beauty. We should then have more practical wives and mothers, and there would be a very happy change in many families that are now wretched because of their incorrect ideas of life. HR March 1, 1874, par. 5

The apostle raises his voice against overdressing. He exhorts “that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with braided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; but (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works.” There is enough for all of us to do in this working world, in benefiting others by acts of benevolence, visiting the widow and the fatherless in their affliction, and showing that we do love our neighbor as ourselves. Good works should not be wanting in the Christian. The great amount of time and labor expended in preparing needless things for ornamentation is just so much time we have stolen from God and our neighbor, to glorify ourselves. HR March 1, 1874, par. 6

Christian parents should, by their example in dress, show to all that they feel under solemn obligation to God to train their children for usefulness and duty, rather than for display. They should educate them to love natural simplicity, rather than to cultivate in them pride and vanity. The hours that are spent in preparing ruffles, tucks, scallops, edging, and embroidery, are worse than lost. All this needless labor requires nervous energy, confinement in-doors, and wearisome care. And what do these devotees of fashion gain? Only the satisfaction of being admired, like a butterfly. HR March 1, 1874, par. 7

Instead of laying up in store for themselves a stock of good works, in merciful attention to the poor and needy, seeking to bless those who are discouraged, and by their consistent life winning souls to Jesus, they have devoted time to pleasing themselves, and have brought condemnation upon their own souls. Our good works cannot atone for one sin. But Jesus knew this, and he came from Heaven to the earth to bring to us this divine help, that through his excellence of character, and through our faith in him, our human efforts would be acceptable with God, and we should finally be rewarded as our works have been. HR March 1, 1874, par. 8

Fashion binds upon the heads of women needless appendages. It requires them to sacrifice the natural form and beauty of the head for artificial deformity. These have a direct tendency to induce blood to the brain, because overheated by artificial braids of hair, cotton, or jute. In order to conform to fashion's standard, the limbs are left nearly naked, with merely one thickness of woolen or cotton. When the air circulates about these unprotected limbs, the blood is driven from the extremities to the internal and more vital organs of the body. The result is congestion, to a greater or less extent, of these organs. It is painful to reflecting minds to thus see innocent children, as well as those of mature age, dressed like victims for sacrifice, in order to make a display. HR March 1, 1874, par. 9

Women do not properly clothe their limbs, because it is not fashionable. For want of coverings, the blood is chilled back from the extremities, and the extra covering over the base of the brain attracts the blood to the head, and congestion of the brain is the result. The panniers, and extra coverings in overskirts worn over the sensitive organs of the back, induce heat, and cause inflammation. The walk of females thus dressed is awkward and painful. The limbs, which should have even more coverings than any other portions of the body, because farthest from the center of circulation, are chilled, because not suitably protected. These organs are robbed of their due proportion of blood, therefore cannot be properly nourished, and the result is, the almost universally slender, undeveloped limbs. HR March 1, 1874, par. 10

Ladies expect, in walking in snow and mud, and in going up and down stairs, in getting in and out of carriages, to expose their limbs by raising their dresses. Some being ashamed of their slender limbs supply the deficiency by artificial calves. The votaries of fashion sell their birthright at the mart of fashion for a very poor equivalent. HR March 1, 1874, par. 11

Certainly, these should be the last to profess to have their modesty shocked by seeing ladies with the reform dress, short enough to clear the snow and wet, mud and filth, ascend stairs, and get in and out of carriages, without requiring the use of the hands to elevate the dress. Their lower limbs are clothed as well as the arms. HR March 1, 1874, par. 12

The slaves to fashion may say the feet and limbs are exposed. I beg pardon: the limbs are not exposed. It is true the reform dress reveals the fact that women have feet and limbs, and when they are modestly and sensibly clothed, making exposure impossible, she is not ashamed of the fact. But the fact that women have feet and limbs is not, as we have said, concealed by the length of the dress. We have decided that health and modesty require that women clothe their limbs as thoroughly as they do other parts of the body. HR March 1, 1874, par. 13

Christian women have a higher and holier mission to perform. They should have their moral sensibilities fully aroused to see and feel the crime of following absurd fashions to the sacrifice of natural simplicity and beauty, and consequently to the sacrifice of health. The only excuse that Christian women can urge for wearing the uncomfortable and monstrous deformity upon their backs is, that it is fashion. HR March 1, 1874, par. 14

It is impossible for those who wear them to walk naturally, or even sit in a natural position. The back cannot be supported against the back of the chair; for the large protuberance inclines them forward, which unnatural position cramps the lungs and chest. This heavy, deforming cross women submit to carry because fashion has prescribed it. If the votaries of fashion will sacrifice health and natural beauty to lift this cross that fashion has prepared for them, should not Christian health reformers have the moral courage to adopt the reform dress, which has so many advantages over the fashionable dress? This dress is both healthful and convenient, and lays the least tax on the physical strength. The only cross they lift in this case is, they wear a dress which fashion has not instituted. HR March 1, 1874, par. 15

The Creator knew how to form the human body. He did not need to consult mantuamakers in regard to their ideas of beauty. God, who created everything that is rich, lovely, and glorious, in nature, understood how to make the human form beautiful and healthful. The modern improvements upon God's plan are insulting to the Creator. They deform that which God made perfect. Woman, as God made her, was a perfect and lovely image of the divine ideal of womanhood. Compare the modern taste with infinite wisdom, and what a contrast! How few preserve the original ideal! HR March 1, 1874, par. 16

If woman would answer the object of God in her creation she would claim the aid of divine grace, and by faithful improvement of every heavenly gift aim to high and harmonious development of physical, mental, and moral strength. HR March 1, 1874, par. 17

It is a sacred duty which woman owes to her Creator to become intelligent in regard to her own physical being, that she may understandingly guard the health God has given her. A diseased body affects the mind. How can the majority of professed Christians, who are following the modern fashions, obey the injunction of the inspired apostle, “I beseech you by the mercies of God that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world; but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God”? HR March 1, 1874, par. 18

We recommend to our Christian sisters a style of dress every way modest, convenient, and healthful, which, if conscientiously adopted, will prove a safeguard against health-and-life-destroying fashion. The fashionable dress, with its inconveniences, is in conflict with physical, intellectual, and moral health. We recommend, in contrast with the fashionable dress, the modest, convenient, healthful reform dress. Will my Christian sisters stand for the right, with moral courage, in the ranks of health reform? And will they see the work which is to be done, and, fully comprehending the difficulties in the way of its accomplishment, give their influence on the right side? HR March 1, 1874, par. 19