Spalding and Magan Collection


Dress Reform

“Sunnyside,” Cooranbong, N. S. W.,

July 4, 1897.

My Brother,

Your letter has been received and read, and this is the first mail that could bear an answer to you. SpM 90.2

The subject that has been placed before me for counsel is one to be carefully considered. Our sisters whose minds are agitated upon the subject of again resuming the reform dress should go prayerfully cautious in every move they make. We have now the most solemn, important test given to us from the Word of God for this special period of time. His test is for the whole world. The Lord does not require that any tests of human invention shall be brought in to divert the minds of the people or create controversy in some line. It may be that some are thirsting for distinction in some way. If they are thirsting for a battle with satanic agencies, let them be sure that they first have on every piece of the armor of God. If they have not, they will surely be worsted, and make for themselves grievous trials and disappointments which they are not prepared to meet. Let all seek the Lord most earnestly for the deep and rich experience that is to be found in the subject of heart preparedness to follow Christ where he will lead the way. “If any man will come after me,” he says, “let him deny himself and take up his cross, and follow me.” These words are to be weighed well. The man who wishes to follow Christ, who chooses to walk in his footsteps, shall find self-denial and the cross in that path. All who follow Christ will understand what this involves. SpM 90.3

God's tests are now to stand out plain and unmistakable. There are storms before us, conflicts of which few dream. There is no need now for any special alteration in our dress. The plain, simple style of dress now worn, made in the most healthful way, demands no hoops and no long trails, and is presentable anywhere; and these things should not come in to divert our minds from the grand test which is to decide the eternal destiny of the world,—the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus. SpM 90.4

We are nearing the close of this world's history. A plain, direct testimony is now needed, as given in the Word of God, in regard to the plainness of dress. This should be our burden. But it is too late to become enthusiastic in making a test of this matter. The desire to follow Christ in all humility of mind, preparing the heart, purifying the character, is by no means an easy work. Our ministers may be assured that the Lord has not inspired them to make a test of that which was once given as a blessing, but which by many was hated and despised as a curse. SpM 90.5

The reform dress which was once advocated, proved a battle at every step. Members of the church, refusing to adopt this healthful style of dress, caused dissension and discord. With some there was no uniformity and taste in the preparation of the dress as it had been plainly set before them. This was food for talk. The result was that the objectionable feature, the pants, was left off. The burden of advocating the reform dress was removed because that which was given as a blessing was turned into a curse. There were some things which made the reform dress a decided blessing. With it the ridiculous hoops which were then the fashion could not possibly be worn. The long dress skirts trailing on the ground and sweeping up the filth of the streets, could not be patronized. But the more sensible style of dress now being adopted does not embrace the objectionable features. The fashionable part may be discarded, and should be by all who will read the Word of God. The time spent in advocating the dress reform should be devoted to the study of the Word of God. SpM 91.1

The dress of our people should be made most simple. The skirt and sack I have mentioned may be used.—not that just that pattern and nothing else should be established, but a simple style as was represented in that dress. Some have supposed that the very pattern given was the pattern that all should adopt. This is not so. But something as simple as this would be the best we could adopt under the circumstances. No one precise style has been given me as the exact rule to guide in their dress. But this I know, that the very same objections, only much stronger, exist today as when the short dress was discarded. The Lord has not indicated that it is the duty of our sisters to go back to the reform dress. Simple dresses should be worn. Try your talents, my sister, in this essential reform. SpM 91.2

The people of God will have all the test that they can bear. The Sabbath question is a test that will come to the whole world. We need nothing to come in now to make a test for God's people that shall make more severe for them the test than they already have. The enemy would be pleased to get up issues now to divert the minds of the people, and to get them into a controversy over this subject of dress. Let our sisters dress plainly, as many do, in having the dress of good material, durable, modest, appropriate for this age, and let not the dress question fill the mind.... SpM 91.3

The Lord has not moved upon any of our sisters to adopt the reform dress. The difficulties that we once had to meet are not to be brought in again. There was so much resistance among our people that it was removed from them. It would then have proved a blessing. But there must be no new branching out into singular forms of dress. SpM 91.4

There have been plenty of strange doings in Battle Creek with the bicycle craze, which has greatly displeased the Lord and greatly dishonored the cause of present truth. God holds those responsible who have expended money in this direction. They have greatly injured the influence of the work and cause of God. Let there be no tests manufactured now to absorb time and minds, to bring in new reforms. We have now to face tremendous issues, and all the time and power of our thought are to be called to the living issues before us. I know that the voice raised to create something new in the matter of dress now should be quenched. Put all there is of you into working to get as close as possible to perishing souls. See if you can not by consistent, harmonious, all-round character, by the presentation of truth to individuals who are out of Christ, save some souls from ruin. SpM 92.1

I beg of our people to walk carefully and circumspectly before God. Follow the custom of dress in health reform, but do not again introduce the short dress and pants unless you have the Word of the Lord for it. Each of my brethren and sisters has a safer guide than any human agent. Let them understand that there is an individual duty for them to perform. This is but feebly understood by a large number of the members of the churches. There is far greater need in this day of deception and false claims of heeding the proclamation of John “Behold the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sin of the world.” SpM 92.2

There are those who with all the light of the Word of God will not obey his directions. They follow their own tastes and do as they please. These give the wrong example to the youth, and to those who have newly come to the truth, who have made it a practice to copy every new style of dress in trimmings that take time and money, and there is little difference between their apparel and that of the worldling. Let our sisters conscientiously heed the Word of God for themselves. Do not begin the work of reform for others until you do; for you will have no success; you can not possibly change the heart. The working of the spirit of God inwardly will show a change of dress outwardly. Those who venture to disobey the plainest statements of inspiration will not hear and receive, and no human efforts made will avail to bring these idolaters to a plain, unadorned, simple, neat proper dress, that does not in any way make them odd or singular. They will continue to expose themselves by hanging out their colors to the world. SpM 92.3

To get up a different style of dress will not change the heart. The difficulty is that the church needs converting daily. There are many things that will come to try and test these poor, deluded, world-loving souls; they will have deep trials. Let there be no human-made test; for God has prepared to prove them and to try them. SpM 92.4

E. G. White.